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#MENtalHealth: Five books that redefine masculinity


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As part of The National Student's MENtal Health project, we have detailed five must-read books which redefine masculinity and promote something different to the stereotypical.  

From Peep Show's Robert Webb's Sunday Times Best Selling book to Ben Brook's stories for young boys - rewrite your ideas on what it means to be a man. 

Robert Webb - How Not to be a Boy

A witty manifesto urging readers to rewire archaic expectations of men; Robert Webb’s ‘How Not to be a Boy’ is a triumph.  

Humorous and heartbreaking, the book is a sucker-punch to the gut.  You will laugh, you will shed tears and more importantly, you will be proud of the person you are right now. 

Webb dares to be different, making ‘How Not to be a Boy’ an immediate addition to your To Read pile. 


Grayson Perry - The Descent of Man

Build your own ideal man.  

Would he be cut from the same cloth as Apollo - toned with a towering frame and a penchant for women and ale? 

Or, would beauty be found instead within his soul, seen in his tears, heard through his giggle and even in his questionably dyed ruby-red mullet?  

Grayson Perry’s ‘The Descent of Man’ terrifically rips apart the ‘ideal masculine man’ by prolifically urging the reader to upgrade the machine.  Build your own ideal man - there is no more room for Apollos. 


Ben Brooks - Stories For Boys Who Dare To Be Different

If an idealised ‘level' of masculinity is rooted in a back-catalogue of generations, then expel negativity from the ground up. Start at the boys.

There are no white-washed muscles slaying dragons, nor tyrannical males entrapping damsels in distress in Ben Brooks’ ‘Stories For Boys Who Dare To Be Different’.

Instead, the book is a symphony, championing men who do not fit fairytale expectations. Find men who have used their mind, discover inventors who laughed in the face of scorn and of course, find somebody you can truly call a role-model. 


Mychal Denzel Smith - Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching 

America for black boys is a landscape riddled with brutality, danger and a chance that they will never really begin to gush about their heart. In a world so raw with pain and anguish, Mychal Denzel Smith’s ‘Invisible Man, Got The Whole Word Watching’ has never been so important.

Formed with his own experiences and personal reflection, Smith’s coming of age story is both unflinching and moreish.  Deafening yet addictive, ‘Invisible Man…’ is one book we all must engulf. 


Jack Urwin - Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity 

Unflinching, transparent and in possession of an Irvine Welsh-approved literary voice; Jack Urwin’s writing on modern masculinity is unrivalled.  

‘Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity’ (Urwin’s first book) pins down the problem with the ‘stiff-upper-lip’ generation and documents how to survive and thrive under stereotypical pressures.  

A call-to-arms against silence, ‘Man Up’ is a bookcase essential. 

This article is part of The National Student’s MENtal Health series which is led by Laura Brown. You can see more from the content series here.

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