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Crucial Update

10 Books Hot Guys Read in Public That They Probably Should Have Tackled in High School

You know that well-styled twenty-something on the train, projecting an air of eruditeness by reading an Important Book? And that book is probably Catch-22 or Catcher in the Rye? Here are ten other books he'll conspicuously read in public.

Are you familiar with Russian novels?
Are you familiar with Russian novels?

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1. No Exit and Three Other Plays, Jean-Paul Sartre

Originally assigned by Mrs. Krucoff, tenth grade

He's getting really into existentialism. This modern world is so crazy and effed up, man, and Sartre is a fucking genius. He really relates to the theme of being stuck in a room with people he hates because his coworkers are stupid! He finishes No Exit over the course of two hours and three iced green teas, but never quite gets around to those three other plays.

2. The Stranger, Albert Camus

Originally assigned by Mr. Chilton, twelfth grade

He identifies with the protagonist because they both smoke cigarettes and spend a lot of time and care explaining their profound sense of alienation to people. Like Mersault, he loves his mom a lot, which he'll tell you to give you a better sense of his sensitivity. Plus, organized religion is an oppressive institution, and he thinks that's somehow gotta be part of this book, but he's waiting until he gets to the end to make a definitive statement.

3. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

Originally assigned by Mrs. Peters, eleventh grade

Rand is the only female author he's ever heard of besides E.L. James, who he thought was a gay dude for most of 2014. (For what it's worth, he believed Evelyn Waugh was a woman for awhile.) He loves train travel for its romantic aspects, like in The Darjeeling Limited and Her. And like Roark, he loves working with his hands. Unlike Roark, he turns found objects into coffee tables instead of doing manual labor. It's more like the b-plot of Magic Mike.

4. Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse

Originally assigned by Mrs. Clarin, ninth grade

He's experimenting with Eastern medicine for pain related to a high school sports injury and he did a headstand at Cardio Vinyasa Flow last week, so he totally relates to Siddhartha at the river at the end of the book. He's, like, two months away from enlightenment, tops. He's kind of pissed at one of his buddies because he had a man bun first and now he needs to grow it out. He signs off of gchat with "Namaste."

5. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Originally assigned by Mrs. Krucoff, tenth grade

He's been Wikipedia-ing In Cold Blood conspiracy theories all night and can't wait to tell you about them. He didn't know it was based on a true story. This book kind of reminds him of a podcast he is obsessed with called Serial. He totally thinks podcasts are the future since they were invented this fall. He ordered a "Free Adnan" t-shirt off of Etsy. He went on Reddit for the first time to post a decades-old theory about Richard Hickock and Perry Smith he just thought of. He also thinks that website has some potential.

6. On the Road, Jack Kerouac

Originally assigned by Mrs. Clarin, ninth grade

He listed On the Road as one of his favorite books on OK Cupid a few years ago, but if he's being honest with himself, this is the first time he's really read it. If anybody asks, though, it's his favorite and he's just re-reading it. He even took the effort to dog ear pages at random. Like Sal Paradise, he's dreaming of going west (he moved to New York City after liberal arts college and finds it noisier than he envisioned). He loves this book because it's about male friendship, and he doesn't see that represented enough in fiction.

7. 1984, George Orwell

Originally assigned by Mrs. Peters, eleventh grade

He uses "It's like we're living in 1984!" as an indignant topical reference when referring to cybersecurity and red light traffic cameras because he's heard people say that a lot and he's extremely perceptive. He also called his mom Big Brother when she mentioned that she noticed that he'd put a few bar tabs on his emergency credit card. Thus, he understands many of the themes and motifs in this book. He double-checked them online just to make sure. He thinks he'll name his new rescue puppy Winston Smith.

8. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

Originally assigned by Mrs. Chilton, twelfth grade

He's never read a book that wasn't chronological before and it's blowing his fucking mind. He's a little freaked out by Owen's scary voice and all the war and god stuff, though, and doesn't like to read this one before bed. He reads it in fifteen-minute increments while waiting in line at Just Salad to maximize visibility.

9. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

Originally assigned by Mrs. Clarin, ninth grade

He picked this one out because he liked the beach village scene on the cover. It's "A Classic." (He's ninety pages in and still has no fucking idea what this book is about, but he says "a classic" when anyone asks him how he's liking it.) He's really bored, almost as bored as if he were truly fishing. Instead, he has to read about an old guy doing it. At one point, he concealed his iPhone inside the book on a crowded commute and read a Slate article.

10. A Separate Peace, John Knowles

Originally assigned by Mrs. Krucoff, tenth grade

This is actually the only book he finished reading in high school, but just really likes it, okay?

Claire Carusillo lives in a bedroom in New York City. Follow @clocarus for an open discussion of books, bread, and eyebrows.