I hadn’t planned on delving into this particular topic, but the subject came up in conversation last night, and I was frankly shocked at the number of people in our group — all erudite, affluent, and very well-educated — who either derived the overwhelming majority of their news from television, or who never read a newspaper on even a periodic basis. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am well-aware of the fact that print media is dying, newspapers are dying more quickly than everything else, and very few people under the age of 40 (which would include all of last night’s group) ever even touch a print newspaper, unless it’s to discard the copies of USA Today that certain chain hotels inexplicably still leave outside of one’s room each morning.
I say all this because I fervently believe any man who wishes to consider himself a gentleman — and by that I absolutely do not imply anything whatsoever to do with socioeconomic status — needs to be well-read, whether it be the important issues of the day, subjects of personal interest (as you may have surmised by now, cars are one of mine), general happenings in pop culture (though do feel free to skip over anything containing the word “Kardashian” or “Lohan”), or simply topics that happen to intrigue. (While the full story is regrettably only available to subscribers, I recently found myself spending 90 minutes immersed in the New Yorker tale of the implosion of one of America’s most esteemed law firms, Dewey & LeBoeuf. Incidentally, lest you find yourself discussing the subject and don’t wish to embarrass yourself in front of strangers, the latter word is pronounced “le-BUFF.” As is Shia LaBoeuf’s last name, for that matter.) When I was 18 and headed off to my freshman year in college, my father — in one of several traditions passed down from father to sons, a process that originated with my grandfather — gave me a gift of a four-year subscription to my choice of two newspapers: The Wall Street Journal or USA Today. (If you’re wondering whether this was in some way a test: it most certainly was.) I picked the former, although I later switched to reading The New York Times daily — for many years after college, and on my own dime, mind you — after becoming disenchanted with the Journal’s unapologetically right-wing op/ed section. I still read The Times today, but like most people my age and younger, I read it online, generally via their nicely put together iPad app.
Anyway, all of this is a long-winded way of saying: you need to read shit. Good shit. As much as reasonably possible, taking into account the demands of work, social lives, family lives, and everything else. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- A daily newspaper. I read two: the aforementioned New York Times and The Guardian, the British newspaper. As of late The Guardian has garnered ample attention thanks to a certain Edward Snowden, a man whom I hope needs no further explication. I’ve been reading The Guardian since 2001, a year I happened to spend predominantly in the UK. (I returned to the States — through Boston Logan, no less — on September 10, 2001, in case you were curious.) Unlike the American media, British newspapers are unabashedly biased, and at the time The Guardian was the most lefty of the bunch. It became regular reading, even after my return to the States, for two reasons: unlike the American media, it was vastly more skeptical of the rationale for invading Iraq from day one — and in part because of what I read in The Guardian, along with other British media such as The Independent and even the BBC, I was opposed to the invasion from the beginning. The second reason was somewhat of a surprise: until I lived in London and read its media regularly, I honestly had no clue most of the rest of Western society is predominantly pro-Palestinian, which was, and is, unheard of in American media. Anyway, the point is that you should obtain your news on global affairs from at least one news outlet outside of the U.S.
- A proper men’s magazine. The two obvious choices here are GQ and Esquire, both of which I read (although these days they’re distressingly similar). If you know where to look, you can often find annual subscriptions to each on sale for something ridiculous like $6. Both have Web sites too, of course, and you can access at least some of their content there, but it’s just not the same thing. (To me, at least.) GQ has the advantage of offering print subscribers free access to their iPad app, as do a number of Condé Nast publications (I think). I’ll also throw in a positive word about Details, to which I also subscribe. It’s a much quicker read and nothing on the literary level of the aforementioned two magazines, but it’s witty and certainly informative.
- The New Yorker. Further explanation shouldn’t be required.
- A news weekly. Newsweek is dead (at least in print) and Time may as well be, but The Economist is certainly a worthy read, and you’ll find tons of subject matter you’d otherwise never encounter in American media. My mother is an ardent reader of The Week, even given its right-of-center slant (and she’s far enough left as to border on communism), if only to get an actually fair and balanced viewpoint to counter the “liberal media.” (And please don’t try to argue, even for a nanosecond, that Fox News is “fair and balanced.” Absolutely no one buys that shit.)
There are more I’d recommend, but let’s just start with these, shall we?