Reading Pathways

READING PATHWAYS: Jonathan Tropper

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

Reading Pathways is a regular Book Riot feature in which we suggest a three-book reading sequence for becoming acquainted with certain authors. Check out previous entries on Toni Morrison, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck John Irving and David Foster Wallace.

If you have an author you’d like us to feature here, write us at community (at) bookriot (dot) com. 


Nobody, and I mean nobody, captures the plight of the modern man as spot-on and hilariously as Jonathan Tropper. He didn’t invent the “dude lit” genre, but he has become the best purveyor of it. Dudes (me included, of course) who read Tropper are amazed at how accurately he’s translated that voice in their heads to the page. And for women — and it’s an incontestable fact that there are many more women who love Tropper’s novels than men who love, say, Marian Keyes or Sophie Kinsella — reading Tropper is an opportunity to “glance behind the curtain” to see what we fellas are truly thinking. That’s not always pleasant, but it is always enlightening.

Tropper has published five novels in the last 10 years. Here is a suggested pathway for navigating the works of the winner and still-champion of the dude lit genre.

How To Talk To A WidowerDoug Parker is a 29-year-old “every dude” whose older, sugar-mama wife dies in a plane crash. What now?! This exploration of how ironic and funny and ridiculous grief can be is a great introduction to how Tropper renders his Character. I use capital-“c” Character because the protagonist in all Tropper’s novels is pretty much the same guy. But that’s not a bad thing at all. Even though his name and life circumstances change from novel to novel, you’re always happy to see him again.

Everything Changes — About an early-30s Manhattanite who wakes up one day and pees blood, this is actually my favorite Tropper novel. I’ve recommended it approximately 329 times, always describing it to the intrigued recomendee as “dude lit with heart.”

This Is Where I Leave You — Finally, this 2009 novel is the one that vaulted Tropper into literary prime time. It’s about a mid-30s fella named Judd who returns to his childhood home to sit Shiva for his father. Also, he’s just caught his wife in bed with his boss. Hilarity ensues. The novel’s a virtual cornucopia of one-liners, such as “He is the Paul McCartney of our family: better looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead” and “My marriage ended the way these things do: with paramedics and cheesecake.”

One final note: Tropper’s first two novels Plan B (2000) and The Book of Joe (2002) are good too, but it’s clear that Tropper hasn’t quite hit his stride yet. Start with the three above, and come back to these if you’re still starving for Tropper.