Each of the books on this list has something in common. It features a main character who is either lost in life or going through a sort of mid-life crisis. Each of these characters is really struggling. And most of the time, the struggle is his own fault. These men have made a bad decision or a series of bad decisions which has brought them to where they are now. For some, it is something small (a failed relationship, perhaps or a life that just didn’t go as planned). For others, it’s a much bigger issue, such as one character who is literally fattening up a child to feed to the monster in his attic and another who sold his soul to the devil. That being said, despite their motivations and short-comings, these are characters we cannot help but root for (at least a little). They are complicated, messy, and sometimes desperate, but at their hearts, these are good people (yes, even the one with the attic monster). And if nothing else, they are certainly interesting enough to keep our attention. So, keep reading to find out more!
Crisis: His ex-boyfriend is getting married.
Arthur Less is a middle-aged, mediocre writer stuck in a real pickle. His longtime boyfriend is getting married. To someone else. And Less is invited to the wedding. He can’t go, of course. How embarrassing–the older, rejected ex-lover showing up at the wedding. Imagine how people would talk! But, of course, he can’t not go either. Imagine even more gossip– about how Arthur Less was too heartbroken or too humiliated to show up at the wedding and wish the happy couple well. So, what is Less to do? He decides on a completely hair-brained scheme– he will accept every single invitation he has received (and left unanswered) for talks, interviews, book signings, and more. He can’t come to the wedding (most unfortunately) because he’s going to be out of the country. For months. What follows is a whirlwind, globe-trotting tour as Less attempts to run from his past (as well as his feelings) in order to avoid the biggest embarrassment of his life. Along the way, he’ll nearly fall in love, nearly fall to his death, and he’ll turn 50.
This book is beautifully written, with an anxious, vain, and utterly loveable main character. Arthur Less deserves everything that he has coming to him (both good and bad). And we can’t help but love him anyway.
Crisis: He’s getting older.
Ebenezer Tweezer is 511 years old, thanks to the beast that lives in his attic. In return for feeding it whatever it asks for (from rare birds to antiques), the beast gives Ebenezer small gifts, including potions that keep him young and handsome for another year. So, instead of looking his age, Ebenezer appears to be about 20 years old.
Just days away from his 512th birthday, however, the beast announces that it wants to try something new. Not something rare this time, but something rarely eaten. In short, it wants to eat a child. Initially aghast at the suggestion, Ebenezer is quick to say no. But, he’s also quick to cave when he learns that no juicy child means no youth potion. In a state of increasing desperation, Ebenezer decides that the best way to handle this situation is to find a child so rotten that they deserve to be eaten, and feed that child to the beast.
Enter Bethany. She’s a rotten brat who steals, breaks things, and stuffs worms up people’s noses. She’s terrible. If there ever was a child that should be eaten by a beast, it would surely be this one. But, as Ebenezer prepares Bethany as a feast for his master, he finds that he’s starting to feel guilty. And worst of all, he’s developing a sort of fondness for her. Perhaps Bethany is more friend-worthy than meal-worthy, after all?
Crisis: His career is going nowhere.
Poor Jason Fitger is a stressed-out, sarcastic, and overworked creative writing professor whose personal life and career are starting to come apart at the seams. Told entirely through letters of recommendation for a variety of students and colleagues, Dear Committee Members is a laugh-out-loud read that showcases Jason’s increasingly tortured state of mind, as he contends with damaged relationships, budget cuts, and a series of increasingly involved renovations to the Econ department upstairs (which results in increasing damage to the already struggling English department below). Jason is hilarious, brash, and prickly, sharing his honest and often painfully blunt opinions on a variety of topics and people. In fact, many of these “review “recommendation” letters can be described as less than glowing, while others are downright insulting. All in all, this book paints a fascinating portrait of a very complicated, difficult man. Jason Fitger may be hard to love, but he’s even harder to hate.
Crisis: Life is boring.
Walter Mitty is a vague, mild-mannered man, boring in the extreme. During his weekly shopping trip (and his wife’s regular visit to the beauty parlor), he daydreams about a more exciting life. Over the course of this short story, which consists of five heroic daydreams, Walter lives out his fantasies of being someone exciting, daring, and brave. In other words, someone different from himself. But, life has a way of creeping in, as those around him break up his daydreams and bring him back to reality. From fantasies of being a famous surgeon to a Royal Air Force pilot on a suicide mission, Mitty becomes the hero of his own mind.
Crisis: He made a deal with the devil.
Luck has been hard on Jabez Stone lately. HIs crops are failing, his fields are full of rocks, and he’s becoming desperate. So, when the stranger arrives at his home with a deal he can’t refuse, Jabez signs on the dotted line. Soon, his luck changes for the better, but its hard to enjoy good fortune when you know the price you have to pay at the end. After a few desperate attempts to extend the time before he has hold up his half of the bargain, Jabez is out of options and out of extensions. So, he hires himself the best lawyer he can get his hands on, one Mr. Daniel Webster, to help defend him in a diabolical court. But, will even the greatest lawyer in America be a match for a court chosen by the Devil himself?