4 Rogue Reads: Summer Books With Men Behaving Badly

Have a summer fling with a rapscallion—these troubled gentlemen are definitely not chick-lit material. Check out the four books from August’s Unpredictable Men special.


Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin (Penguin, $29.50)

The new Golden Age of television has viewers speaking of HBO and AMC’s sassy stick-up men, cruel drug kingpins and merciless mafiosos as if they’re treasured family members. Brett Martin illustrates through exhaustive interviews and hilarious anecdotes how the three mercurial Davids—Chase (The Sopranos), Simon (The Wire), and Milch (Deadwood)—turned TV into an artform where “difficult men” can flourish on basic-cable in Breaking Bad and Mad Men, thanks to borderline insane behavior like Milch lying prone on the ground dictating scripts to minions like some sort of cult leader or Chase mentioning wanting to strangle someone with his bare hands as casually as ordering a coffee. —Briony Smith


Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House by Boris Kachka (Simon & Schuster, $30)

Get a behind-the-scenes look at how ne’er-do-well Roger Straus, Jr.’s side project became the publishing powerhouse that shared T.S. Eliot, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and other storied authors with the world. Straus emerges as the Don Draper of the bunch with a list of mistresses as long as his list of authors (and an are-they-aren’t-they relationship with Susan Sontag), while other juicy bits include the spat between editor Robert Giroux and a maybe-stoned Jack Kerouac over On the Road (which went to another publisher as a result) and that whole Oprah’s Book Club debacle with Jonathan Franzen. Hothouse is classic Farrar, Straus and Giroux: high culture with mass appeal. —Michelle Higgins

Emancipation Day[1]

Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady (Doubleday Canada, $24.95)

Canadian bestselling non-fiction author Wayne Grady has written his first novel, a heartwrenching book that reads like the fiction version of Black Like Me. Jackson Lewis is a light-skinned Navy jazz musician born to black parents who chooses to pass as a white man in segregated World War II-era St. John’s and Detroit. Lewis’ self-loathing echoes in the book’s two other narrators: his stoic father William Henry and Lewis’ (white) bride Viviane, who gets the surprise of her life when she finally meets her new husband’s family. Such a nuanced portrait of a family near-destroyed by the prejudices of the day suggests that a successful career in fiction lies ahead for Grady. —Erika David


Going Home Again by Dennis Bock (HarperCollins, $27.99)

Can you ever go home again? The answer, as protagonist Charlie Bellerose discovers, is both yes and no. Toronto author Dennis Bock’s somewhat melancholic new novel follows the newly-separated entrepreneur as he moves back to his hometown of Toronto after years in Madrid, “coming off a strange year, a bit battered and bruised.” Leaving behind his ex-wife and 13-year-old daughter, he reaches out to his estranged brother, Nate—now navigating the breakdown of his own marriage—and runs into his university girlfriend, Holly. Initially buoyed by these reconnections, Charlie eventually realizes that all is not what it seems when it comes to his present with Nate and his past with Holly. —Maureen Halushak