The Trouble with Men (Paperback)

Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (21st Century Essays)

By David Shields

Mad Creek Books, 9780814255193, 160pp.

Publication Date: February 25, 2019

List Price: 18.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


David Shields’s The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power is an immersion into the perils, limits, and possibilities of human intimacy. All at once a love letter to his wife, a nervy reckoning with his own fallibility, a meditation on the impact of porn on American culture, and an attempt to understand marriage (one marriage, the idea of marriage, all marriages), The Trouble with Men is exquisitely balanced between the personal and the anthropological, nakedness and restraint. While unashamedly intellectual, it’s also irresistibly readable and extremely moving. Over five increasingly intimate chapters, Shields probes the contours of his own psyche and marriage, marshalling a chorus of other voices that leaven, deepen, and universalize his experience; his goal is nothing less than a deconstruction of eros and conventional masculinity. Masterfully woven throughout is an unmistakable and surprisingly tender cri de coeur to his wife. The risk and vulnerability on display are in the service of radical candor, acerbic wit, real emotion, and profound insight—exactly what we’ve come to expect from Shields, who, in an open invitation to the reader, leaves everything on the page.

About the Author

David Shields is the internationally best-selling author of twenty books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice selection). The film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel was released by First Pond Entertainment in 2017. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times MagazineHarper’sEsquireYale ReviewSalonSlateMcSweeney’s, and Believer. His work has been translated into two dozen languages.

Praise For The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (21st Century Essays)

“I often found this book beguiling, and moving. There is always the temptation, in writing about sex, to sound superior, arch, immune to its power. But Shields writes from a place of genuine curiosity and confusion. He is ridiculous and brave, he never conflates sincerity with genuine candor, and he poses the kinds of questions that only ever bring trouble (and are the only kind worth reading about).” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

“By book’s end, we realize that Shields himself is a collage, coming to us in bits and pieces, slipping in and out of the words of others, offering up questions but few answers, forcing us to read between the lines. Many men operate this way, elusive, mute, masked. But Shields wants to be unmasked, to be real even if that means appearing weak or ugly. . . Shields’s brave honesty stands alone.” —Sibbie O’Sullivan, The Washington Post

“In the best Rousseauesque tradition of confessionalism, the person most shamingly exposed is the author. It’s brave of Shields to parade himself as cravenly as he does, and he covers a lot of ground along the way. . . . What gives the book its frisson is the sound of an intellectual talking dirty. High/low; private/public: the demarcations disappear. Above all, there’s his curiosity and his openness.” —Blake Morrison, The Guardian

“In this bold mixture of stark honesty and humor, Shields . . . ponders how sex, love, attraction, and power all coalesce to both fortify and complicate the human mating experience. . . . Entertaining and contemplative, Shields offers focused philosophy and effervescent wisdom on some of society’s knottiest topics.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[A] brilliant writer’s look into male toxicity. . . . Revealing and confessional to the point of exhibitionism, personal to the point of shock. [Shields’s] book is addressed to his wife about the most private things one could imagine, but he’s doing something incredibly rare in this book and doing it in a way that is undeniably powerful and thoughtful. Here [is a writer who has] found a way to face a tortuous historical moment squarely and with neither cowardice nor confusion.” —Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

“David Shields is one of the most interesting people around at the moment. . . . [He has written] a tender yet deeply unsettling book on sex and marriage. The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power can be read during one extended session in the bathtub, but the repercussions from Shields’s collage of ideas feel like a thunderclap. . . . [I]t burns down into your deepest and darkest places and remains there like wasabi for the soul.”—Dorothy Woodend, Tyee

“His honesty would be startling if we didn’t already expect just this from David Shields: a willingness to ask what no one wants to ask (but everyone longs to know) and say what no one will say (but everyone longs to hear).”—Sallie Tisdale