The Boss and Me

It’s hard to say when my relationship with Bruce Springsteen’s music first began. It could’ve been in 1999, when my dad bought our family tickets for the E Street Band reunion tour at Earl’s Court. Perhaps it was in 1995, when I first picked up a guitar, my brother took up the drums, and together we began to play off-key versions of ‘The River’, ‘Atlantic City’ and ‘Thunder Road’ in the loft of our family home.

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Why a new breed of writers are putting masculinity in the spotlight

Is being a man harder today than it once was? Or is it just more complicated?

If you are reading this, the chances are that you already know about some of the more complex issues around masculinity today – issues that suggest our nation's men are in trouble. We're talking here about the high suicide rate among men (a man under the age of 45 is more likely to die at his own hand than for any other reason). We're talking about the poor performance of boys at school, the gender gap in university applications, and the lack of friends men retain later in life. And we're talking about sex, where men and boys' perceptions are increasingly skewered by pornography.

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How to finish that novel you always meant to write (unlike George R.R. Martin)

Last week, acclaimed fantasy writer George R. R. Martin revealed that he is human, just like the rest of us.

Martin has sold over 60 million books and is estimated to earn $12 million in a single year, thanks in part to the rampantly successful TV adaptation of Game of Thrones – but it seems that he too is troubled by something as simple as a deadline.

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What Charlie Brown from Peanuts teaches us about being a man

This Christmas a new, computer-animated, cinematic version of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts comic strips will  introduce millions of youngsters to Charlie Brown and his friends. For the first time they will get to know Linus, Schroeder and Lucy van Pelt, finding out why they have been a fixture of life for over 60 years.

For me, however, it will be a chance to meet some old friends. Those I first encountered at the age of eight, when my Dad passed down a dusty stack of the 1960s books to my brother and I.

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Why High Fidelity is still just as important 20 years on

"What came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music?"

It’s a good question. One that will be familiar to almost everyone who has read (and, if you’re like me, reread) Nick Hornby’s classic novel High Fidelity, a book that celebrates its 20th birthday this week and remains as vital, entertaining, funny and important as ever.

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The 10 best fictional fathers

October saw the publication of Us by David Nicholls, the follow-up to the wildly successful mega-seller One Day. As with One Day, Us has elements of the romantic comedy, albeit moved on somewhat from boy-meets-girl formula. But the central theme in the book is family, specifically the relationship between frustrated father, Douglas Petersen, and his stroppy teenage son, Albie.

As the book takes us on a European grand tour with the Petersens there is fighting, rebellion, embarrassment and heartache, with Douglas battling to hold his family together. Every father wants to be friends with his son and seeing the deterioration of the relationship between Douglas and Albie is hard. The apple rolls further and further away from the tree - although Douglas's love and affection for his son is never in doubt.

Fathers are often given a bad rep in novels. They are absent, ineffectual, or the source of a lifetime’s worth of psychological problems. But there are some good ones out there, Douglas in Us among them.

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Why does cycling attract so many snobs?

It was inevitable that with the rapid growth in cycling, factions would emerge. Sub groups of cyclists who define themselves by how seriously they take the sport, their kit, their observance of cycling’s heritage; gangs and coteries who jostle to adopt the lifestyle to a greatest degree. Reach a critical mass of humans who enjoy a shared interest and lines will inevitably be drawn. The peloton rarely sticks together.

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Box set binges are a damaging addiction

Look at your Facebook profile. I’ll bet good money you have at least one friend who has recently mentioned a box set binge.

It probably takes the form of a subtle boast about watching an entire television series in a remarkably short amount of time. You know the kind of thing: ‘OMG. Weekend gone. Just watched the ENTIRETY of Breaking Bad in three quarters of an hour’. The tone of it suggests that a marathon session in front of the box is some kind of achievement, something to be celebrated. 'Look at me guys. I am dedicated to consuming popular culture,' it screams between the lines.

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Why don't young men read novels any more?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that men read fewer novels than women.

Or, at least, that’s my experience, based on over ten years of working in the book industry. Take a look around your next Tube or train carriage if you don't believe me. Almost none of the male passengers will have a book in their hand, but a few of the females will. It’s a disturbing truth, but is the reason for it that men simply don’t like novels as much as women, or is it because there are so few novels published for them?

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