There are surveys and studies galore out there that point to a reality most of us are aware of: men don't read books, especially fiction. There are also theories out there as to why. Some theories sound valid while others feel like opinion, otherwise known as “we really don’t know.” This is not an attempt to dispute the surveys or discuss the theories, but rather to deliver a challenge to you, a man who likely doesn't read many, if any, books, especially fiction.

 I dare you to read one, just one. Whether you read any more after that is up to you, I don’t care. But I do challenge you to read one. Just one, right now, at whatever age or life stage you find yourself – single, married, divorced, out of work, gainfully employed, kids, no kids, happy, sad, or furious. Now you’re probably thinking, “this must be some book” or “this must be some idiot.” Let’s lean toward the former, and here’s the book – Plainsong by Kent Haruf.

 Jeff Giles of Newsweek called Plainsong “a moving look at our capacity for both pointless cruelty and simple decency, our ability to walk out of the wreckage of one family and build a stronger one where it used to stand.” The setting for the book is the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, a somewhat composite of the small towns Haruf grew up in as the son of a Methodist minister. The characters in Holt are exactly that – characters. There’s the crotchety McPheron ranching-brothers. There’s the young, unwed mother those two eventually take under their wings. There’s the father in town who tries to raise his sons in the shadow of a sorely depressed wife. In these lives and a few others, Haruf tells a flesh and blood story of the ongoing struggle we’re all involved in between sin and forgiveness and redemption.

-John Blase