Tough Guy Book Club: What does it actually mean to be “tough”?

Tough Guy Book Club: What does it actually mean to be “tough”?
Kaylah Joelle Baker

The words tough and book are not seen together all that often, but for the Tough Guy Book Club that is precisely the point.

Having a name that sparks so much conversation allows for the members to get to the crux of the meaning and expectations of the word and serves to represent that it is a space where tough open conversations can be had.

As the president of the Southbank chapter of the book club, Matt Shaw said while there was a particular book focused on each month within the meetups, the ultimate goal was for “good quality conversations”.

“Tough Guy Book Club provides an opportunity for guys to get out of their house, away from work and their commitments, to find a social connection and have conversations on tough topics,” Mr Shaw said.


It’s not a space to have intolerant views or to be misogynistic, and at the end of the day we are a book club that entertains and challenges the idea of what it means to be a man in today’s society.


Tough Guy Book Club first started around 10 years ago in Collingwood, and was founded by Shay P Leighton, after he and some friends simply wanted to combine conservations around books and famous authors while relaxing at a pub.

From this, the book lists have grown as rapidly as the members and numerous locations of Tough Guy Book Club chapters.

As well as having chapters based all around Australia, Tough Guy Book Club and its message of encouraging reading, building comradery, fighting isolation, and improving mental health in men has grown, stretching all the way over to New York, Portland, Seattle, London, and Oamaru in New Zealand.

And while it is commonly known for being a book club, Mr Shaw said “reading the book is not actually a requirement”.

“We have guys who read the book every month, and we have guys who won’t even open the book but choose to show up for the conversations and the comradery,” he said.

While the club is not one bound by many rules, it is strict on members not being allowed to talk about work.

“We don’t talk about work because we don’t want to identify ourselves by our work, and we want to break the societal norms around the first thing we do when introducing ourselves is stating our job title. Plus, there is all the baggage that comes with that,” Mr Shaw said.

“So, if you are looking for a free club where you can meet new people and choose to come for the book discussions or for a casual chat or deep conversations, then we are always looking for new guys to join.”

Southbank’s Tough Guy Book Club meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 7pm, at Hophaus in Southgate.

To read more about the Tough Guy Book Club, and how to get involved in one near you, visit:

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