So I tell you all, pick up a book! When it comes down to it, the effort to dress well, at least for me, is all a part of the pursuit of all those ineffable qualities that makes a man a gentleman. I don’t dress up for the ladies (or the fellas), I don’t do it to get attention, I don’t do it to try to fit an image. I do it for the same reason I have started to try to eat healthy, that I hold the door open and say please and thank you, that I talk to my mother at least once a week. I do it because I think it’s part of an overall package that makes me a better man. With all this effort that your putting into your outward appearance, sometimes it’s easy to forget to keep those mind-grapes of yours well fed and exercised. I think being well-read is an inherently vital factor of being a true gentleman. I know this is a fashion-focused blog, but I have to take this opportunity to promote the value of a rounded and balanced reading diet.
The key is to cover a variety of genres. First, keep up on a variety of general non-fiction. The daily news is an obvious go-to here, but go beyond that and read some books on science, or design, or history. These books will you keep feeling and sounding as smart as you look, and will give you interesting (key point here, interesting) things to talk about with all those people who are going to strike up a conversation with the well-dressed gentleman in the room. To keep things from getting too dry, try to pick something with a fresh and entertaining perspective. John Stewart’s Earth and America, for example put a wholly entertaining spin on world and national history, or Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt puts often overlooked aspects of the moden world into a whole new light.
A little more specifically, try out some solid memoirs or Biographies. Even if I’m not sure exactly how, I do know that I want to be considered a great man someday. Now, I won’t be heartbroken by a happy average life, but it’s a constant goal in the background of what I do, to achieve greatness, and nothing is more inspiring than the lives of other great men and women. Earlier this year I read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and have been talking big ideas and design ever since. Now I’m working my way through Jungleland, and am just about ready to drop my life and become an explorer in the jungles of the Amazon.
Next, give yourself a healthy dose of culture. Don’t be that ‘too-cool-for-school’ guy who rejects anything that might have shown up on a summer reading list as old and stuffy. Some of my favorite books are classics. They are considered that for a reason, and have stood the test of time. You might not apply anything from these books to your daily life, but the language and prose and spirit in those books will last and hopefully eventually reflect itself in you. My reccomendations here include Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby, which cover both the grit and the glamour of America in the early 1900’s.
Lastly, never underestimade a good, pulse-pounding modern fiction. After you give your brains all that aforementioned exercise, let them run rampant a bit. These are the books that will keep your imagination ready for that day you come up with the next big idea, or you need to entertain a small child, or just want an adventure for yourself. I cannot reccomend Prepare To Die, by Paul Tobin highly enough. It’s Superman meets Fight club, with a gritty combination of comic-book action and sexy intrigue.
I’ll also give a moment’s praise to the epic series. These include titles like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, my most recent obsession, or Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, and, while not for everyone, are awesome for the fact that there’s always the next book to look forward to (until you reach the end, at which point it is more than appropriate to wallow in a pit of despair for a few days).
Voila, my recipe for a hearty life-long literary meal. Doctors orders. Read up.