When the world falls, you need a list of books that will make it easier for you to survive. Here are 100 Books Every Man Should Read.
“100 books everyone should read” is a list of 100 books that every man should read. The list was compiled by the author in order to help men find their own personal reading pleasure.
To receive a PDF list of the 100 books that every guy should read, click here.
“100 Must-Read Books for Men” was one of the first pieces we published on the Art of Manliness. The article was the product of a cooperation between the AoM staff and a few guest contributors.
Although the list was adequate, several of the guest selections were not books we would personally suggest. We’ve also read several extra novels worthy of consideration during the previous nine years.
As a result, we’ve updated our list of 100 novels that every guy should read throughout his lifetime. It’s a library that focuses on works that expand mind and spirit, construct new mental models, and help you to become more culturally literate and so better equipped to engage in the Great Conversation (though you’ll find that as well). These are the books that will stay with you long after you’ve done reading them (even if, or maybe particularly if, you disagree with their beliefs), leaving you with cognitive leftovers to gnaw on for years, if not decades.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
This novel is regarded one of America’s great literary productions for a reason. It is set among New York City aristocrats in the roaring ’20s. Nick Carraway, the narrator, befriends his enigmatic rich neighbor, Jay Gatsby, and proves to be a vital connection in Jay’s bizarre fixation with Nick’s cousin, Daisy. The Great Gatsby is worth reading again and again because of the analogies, great language, and lessons about reliving the past. Listen to our chat with Maureen Corrigan of NPR. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Survives is her first book. We spoke about her investigation into why a story set in Jazz Age New York is still relevant to Americans almost a century later.
Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince
This famous advice on how to achieve and preserve political power (even if such means are occasionally distasteful) — a so-called “primer for princes” — was written in the early 1500s. Its principles are straightforward, if not unsettlingly chilly in their practicality. It poses the age-old dilemma of whether “the objectives justify the methods.” Any guy who wants to better understand the reasons and acts that seem to control contemporary politics should read this book.
Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers
Stephen Ambrose, who died much too young, left us with some of the greatest WWII history, with Band of Brothers being the best of the group. Ambrose chronicles the extraordinary tale of the soldiers of Easy Company from their grueling training in Georgia until the conclusion of the war. They were warriors who went hungry, chilled, and died for one another, and whose amazing narrative has been told in scores of books and, of course, on HBO’s blockbuster miniseries.
Plato’s Republic is a work of philosophy.
Plato’s Republic is a Socratic discussion about the notion of justice and how a fair city-state should be organized and described, published about 380 BC. It is the most well-known book of the great philosopher and has proved to be one of the most significant works of philosophy and political theory in history. Socrates and his numerous interlocutors debate the nature of justice and whether a good man is happier than an unjust one, as well as the theory of Forms, the immortality of the soul, and the philosopher’s function in society.
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
“We do not anticipate our meal from the butcher, the brewer, or the baker’s compassion, but from their consideration for their own self-interest,” says the foundational text on free market principles. We devote ourselves to their self-love rather than their humanity, and we never speak to them about our own needs but about their benefits.” Do you want to learn about economics? This book is an excellent place to begin.
Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild
Buck, a domesticated dog forced to adjust to a life of labor in Alaska during the Yukon gold rush, tells his story in his own words. As he learns the harsh truths of the cold, his gentle veneer and demeanor hardens. Survival takes the place of comfort, and toughness takes the place of laziness. Plus, Jack London’s writing is some of the most incisive and virulent you’ll ever read.
Edmund Morris’s Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy
Edmund Morris walks us through the life of AoM’s patron saint, President Theodore Roosevelt, over the course of three volumes and around 2,500 pages. TR was the only person who achieved more and lived as full a life as he did. Morris covers everything from his early days as a weakling who learnt to develop his physique to his ultimate ventures into politics and across the Amazon. While brutal, this trilogy is definitely worth the attention of any guy who has ever felt restless; reading about TR will convert that restlessness into action!
George Orwell’s novel 1984
Our protagonist, Winston, is a classic everyman who works for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history to the government’s party lines rhetoric in a future dystopian world of unending conflict and constant government monitoring. He discovers a hidden group that tries to destabilize the state, and he joins the struggle against Big Brother with the help of a fascinating lady. Despite the fact that it was written in the late 1940s, it is still as relevant now as it was then. Will you succumb to the lemmings? Will you be a self-contained thinker and actor?
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
Similar to 1984, but instead of predicting changes in government policy, Aldous Huxley’s 1931 classic examines technological changes that would alter society — babies are born in laboratories, entertainment is formulaic rather than narrative, individuality is frowned upon, and society is highly stratified. Bernard Marx is at the pinnacle of society, yet he doesn’t appear to belong. As a result, he takes an ill-advised vacation, only to find some frightening aspects of the world he left behind.
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People is the granddaddy all people skills books, with advice that is still good and useful 80 years later. Carnegie talks on how to make people feel respected and appreciated, how to avoid coming off as manipulating (which occurs more often than we think! ), and how to “win” people over to your perspectives and ideas. While the title may seem a bit deceptive, these are skills that individuals use on a daily basis, and this book is an excellent resource for honing your social skills.
Carlin Barton’s Roman Honor
Without a doubt, the finest book about honor. From the early days of the Republic to the collapse of the empire, Barton brilliantly analyzes how honor affected the lives of ancient Romans. She demonstrates how small, close communities are necessary for the survival of honor, and how imperialism destroys it. This is a difficult book to read, but it is definitely worth the effort. The ideas are almost shocking in their brilliance, and even the footnotes are jam-packed with intriguing asides.
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22
Catch-22 is a WWII film set in Italy about a scheming bombardier named John Yossarian. He’s a hero, but he’s also outraged by the thought that he’s being pursued by a slew of individuals he’s never met. Furthermore, his own army has established Catch-22, a bureaucratic regulation that declares that a soldier is mad if he willfully continues to fly perilous combat missions, but is sane and hence ineligible to be relieved if he requests to be released. As a result, a military comedy is formed, as well as a term that has become synonymous with the word “conundrum.”
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
This absurdist, unorthodox book depicts the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who is kidnapped by aliens and becomes unstuck from the confines of time. We watch Billy’s whole life, with an emphasis on his experiences as a POW in Dresden, Germany in 1945 during the notorious firebombing of the city (a story shared by Vonnegut himself). Vonnegut takes the reader on a sometimes difficult trip through the realities and absurdities of war, using a combination of science fiction, comedy, and autobiography.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
While the premise of the novel revolves on an aged, indifferent father and his three grown children, the content extends well beyond that. This book includes spiritual and moral dramas and arguments about God, free will, ethics, morality, judgment, doubt, reason, and more. It is Dostoevsky’s last and finest work. It’s a philosophical treatise disguised as a novel, which makes Dostoevsky’s complex ideas more accessible. The McDuff translation has received a lot of positive feedback.
Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises
Hemingway’s breakthrough work, which launched him to international recognition and prosperity. Jake Barnes and a bunch of ex-patriot buddies go around Spain and France, with lots of wine drinking and bullfighting. The work is semi-autobiographical in that the protagonist is attempting to cope with his combat scars — both physical and emotional — by escaping to the ostensibly romanticism of traveling and eating and drinking to one’s heart’s delight. Is Jake content with his life? To discover out, you’ll have to read.
Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls
In the Spanish Civil War, Robert Jordan is a teenage dynamiter. He’s an American who has volunteered to fight against Franco’s fascists, and he’s been sent inside enemy lines to destroy a key bridge in order to halt the enemy’s advance. He stays in a makeshift camp alongside anti-fascist Spanish guerillas, and he learns to love and respect them. There are also some fantastic fighting sequences, which were inspired by Hemingway’s own experiences as a war journalist in Spain.
Johann David Wyss’ Swiss Family Robinson
The Swiss family Robinson is stranded on a remote island after a horrific storm. The gang works together to overcome nature’s hurdles and establish some sort of community and civility in their new surroundings, using collaboration, inventiveness, and a dash of bravery. A legendary story of survival and adventure.
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
On the Car is a fictionalized but semi-autobiographical narrative of two friends’ road adventures throughout America, set against the background of a counter-culture of jazz, poetry, drug usage, and back-alley bar merriment. They’re looking for what many young guys are looking for: freedom, ambition, optimism, and honesty.
Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums is one of Jack Kerouac’s most powerful and important books, first published in 1958, a year after On the Road placed the Beat Generation on the map. The story follows two ebullient young Americans, Japhy Ryder, a mountaineer, poet, and Zen Buddhist, and Ray Smith, a vivacious, innocent writer, on a heroic odyssey that takes them from marathon parties and poetry jam sessions in San Francisco’s Bohemia to solitude and mountain climbing in the High Sierras in search of Truth.
Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey
These epic poems are among the earliest works of literature in the world. For good reason, they’ve been read, appreciated, and studied for thousands of years. They are not only pleasing to the ear, but they also offer lessons in valor, bravery, and manliness that every man may benefit from. The Iliad describes the heroic actions of both Achilles and Hector, as well as a number of other tales and events, and takes place over a few weeks of the last year of the Trojan War. The Odyssey is a type of sequel concerning the legendary warrior Odysseus’ return home after the Trojan War. In his return to Greece, he meets a number of challenges, and we witness how his family back home coped with his presumed death.
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
Walden, first published in 1854, chronicles Henry David Thoreau’s adventures in a cabin he constructed near Walden Pond, among forest owned by friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, over the duration of two years, two months, and two days. The book is a philosophical study on living simply and letting go of the societal connections that bind us. Separating oneself from the world of men, Thoreau adds, might actually awaken the sleeping self.
William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies
A narrative about basic impulses and self-governance told through the eyes of a group of ordinary boys trapped on a deserted island. While initially entertaining, things gradually degenerate when it comes to thinking about long-term survival. It’s a fable, political treatise, morality story, and apocalyptic warning all rolled into one. Despite the fact that it was first published in 1954, its teachings and feelings are still relevant today.
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
While this book has enough of political, moral, and economic theory, it is wrapped in an action thriller plot. Our characters are Dagny Taggart, the heir to a transcontinental railroad empire, and Hank Rearden, the CEO of a steel business who’s produced a breakthrough new alloy, and the story is set in the near future. Together, they fight to keep civilisation together against bad government officials and socialists, while prominent industrialists inexplicably vanish, leaving only the enigmatic statement “Who is John Galt?” Despite the fact that this book is connected with fervent libertarianism, the narrative is worth considering regardless of one’s political beliefs.
The Boy Scout Handbook is a resource for Boy Scouts (1st Edition)
The Boy Scout movement began with the publication of this book. When compared to today’s Scout manuals, the quantity of relevant material in the first edition handbook will astound you. The first edition features tales of adventure, courage, and virtue that will fascinate and inspire any man, in addition to teaching vital scouting skills. True first editions may be difficult to come by and quite costly, although reproductions are widely accessible.
Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air
The 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest was one of the deadliest in mountaineering history. Jon Krakauer, an author and journalist, went to Everest to write a story and landed himself smack dab in the heart of a severe and unexpected storm. The book is not only a spectacular adventure narrative (made all the more dramatic by the fact that it is true), but also a story of mountains and the immense ordeals individuals go through to reach to the top of them, even while facing death.
H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines
Allan Quatermain, a fictional adventurer, is conscripted into a search and rescue mission that takes them into the wide unknown of undiscovered Africa, where whole civilizations are unearthed and legends of the location of King Solomon’s mines lead the crew on one of literature’s greatest adventures.
Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It
While there are three tales in this book, the title story stands out as a love letter to the sport of fly fishing, with metaphysical and philosophical concerns sprouting while knee-deep in the water. While technically fiction, they are profoundly steeped in the author’s actual experiences, as are many of the other tales on this list. Connecting fishing to life and philosophy has become a popular theme in pop culture since its first publication 40 years ago.
Malcolm X: An Autobiography
Malcolm X is regarded as one of the most divisive characters in the Civil Rights Movement. His autobiography reveals him to be a multifaceted person. His transition from ignorance and despair to wisdom and spiritual enlightenment is shown in it. His focus on self-reliance and standing up for one’s rights may speak to every man, particularly in these difficult political and social times.
Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo
The ultimate betrayal and vengeance story. Edmund Dantes is cruelly betrayed, jailed for treason, and imprisoned on an island off the coast of France just days before marrying his beloved Mercedes. The narrative continues with his escape from jail (don’t worry, it’s early in the book and won’t spoil anything) and his rise to fortune and re-entry into society as a smart and educated Count. He plans his vengeance, his eyes recovering his love, and in the end…well, you’ll have to read it to find out.
Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front was banned in Germany immediately after its release because it tells the dismal narrative of German troops in the trenches during WWI. We can see the immense physical and emotional hardship they endured during the war, as well as the disconnection from civilian life that many of these soldiers felt when they returned home. It was one of the first books to illustrate current combat brutalities and how technical advancements had shattered war’s noble romance.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen’s writings have a reputation for being “chick lit,” but they are also valuable and delightful readings for guys. Start with Pride and Prejudice, which covers the narrative of the Bennet family, particularly Elizabeth, the second daughter. She’s under increasing pressure to marry, and sparks fly when she meets the dashing and upper-class Mr. Darcy. But, like with any relationships, things aren’t always as they seem on the surface, and nobody seems to be who they claim to be. This novel is extremely accessible and approachable because to Austen’s humor, sarcasm, and insights on life’s hypocrisies.
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
The Art of War is still considered the standard work on strategic warfare. Since its publication in the sixth century, it has influenced military commanders, businesspeople, and politicians, among others. Its topics and concepts have been studied and re-examined for ages, and a man in all walks of life would benefit from reading over the book’s proverbs on a regular basis as a refresher on tactical brilliance.
You must learn from great guys if you want to be a great man. Reading biographies is one of the most effective methods to do so. Plutarch’s vast compilation, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, profiles some of history’s greatest characters up to that point in time, illuminating their common qualities and flaws. His Alexander the Great biography is particularly fascinating.
Despite being one of the most religiously advanced countries in the world, America’s religious literacy is severely lacking. What’s the issue with it, you may wonder? Well, at least half of the works on this list (possibly more) have Biblical allusions that the reader must be familiar with in order to completely comprehend the message. If a Western man wants to grasp the culture that surrounds him, he must first master one of the works that inspired it the most. Aside from that, the Bible contains a wealth of old wisdom and guidance that may be applied to any contemporary man, whether he is a Jew, a Christian, or not religious at all.
Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove
Lonesome Dove is perhaps the finest Western book of all time. On a cattle drive from the Rio Grande to Montana, two long-time friends are followed. They run with robbers, Indians, and old flames along the route. This book is a beast, so be warned. It is, nonetheless, well worth reading (and re-reading). Make sure to watch the mini-series when you’ve finished.
Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue
The language of virtue and a real grasp of morality have been lost to us in the contemporary period, according to MacIntyre, a Scottish philosopher; although we believe we know what morality is, we’re only riffing on the fragmented parts that remain. As a consequence, we have an illogical, nonsensical jumble in which moral debates are strident and hard to settle. Aristotelian philosophy provides a unity of virtues and a why — an unified ultimate purpose of human existence — which is exactly what is required. The book is dense and dense, and it will take numerous readings to fully comprehend and mine the rich ideas. However, after you’ve done so, you’ll find yourself thinking about it often as you witness contemporary culture’s immobility and entanglements.
Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon
There’s nothing like a good hard-boiled detective story to get you in the mood. Moral complexities abound, as they do in every great work in the genre. The primary character, Sam Spade, is a hardened and cynical private detective who follows his own code of ethics. Add in a thief, a gorgeous lady whose loyalties flip on a dime, and a priceless missing falcon statue, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic adventure.
Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s iconic work is continuously given in schools for a reason. Scout and her elder brother Jem, both six years old, spend their days riding bikes, spying on neighbors, and hanging out with their pals. When their widower father, Atticus, arrives in town to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl, things in town become much more serious. Kids are suddenly forced into an adult world, and they rely on their father to help them put things in perspective.
Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels
The Killer Angels is a historical fiction about the Battle of Gettysburg’s four days. It tells the story of the deadly incident from the views of the men who played major roles in it. Shaara tries to get inside the heads of General Lee and Colonel Longstreet in order to figure out their motives and thoughts leading up to the pivotal fight. We witness all of the emotions that a soldier and commander could experience in the days leading up to and during the terrible battle.
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
Many believe this autobiography to be America’s first self-help book. Franklin, in addition to discussing his own tale, illustrates how a man might achieve success, in part by sharing his own strategies. Franklin starts the narrative as a little child, barefoot and with rolls in his pocket, and finishes with as a famous businessman, scientist, and politician. Numerous suggestions for effective productivity and personal improvement are woven throughout.
Herodotus’ Histories are a collection of writings by Herodotus.
We are destined to repeat history if we do not learn from it. The Histories of Herodotus is regarded as the first book of history in Western literature, establishing the genre as we know it today. It serves as a chronicle of Western Asia’s, Northern Africa’s, and Greece’s old customs, politics, geography, and conflicts of civilizations. The Founding Fathers turned to history to learn from the ancient Greeks’ democratic faults and avoid repeating them.
James Jones’s From Here to Eternity
James Jones describes the heroism, aggression, and emotions of men and women who live by unwritten conventions and with unutterable misery in this wonderful but cruel classic of a soldier’s life. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a welterweight champion and an excellent bugler, but he refuses to join the company’s boxing squad. First Sergeant Milton Anthony Warden is a master soldier, but he’s jeopardizing his career by having an affair with the commanding officer’s wife. On the surface, Hawaii seems to be a paradise, but it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
James Jones’s novel The Thin Red Line
During WWII, James Jones created a fictitious account of the Guadalcanal Campaign. The troops of Charlie Company are ready to arrive on the Pacific atoll of Guadalcanal, grim and white-faced. “This is their narrative, a shatteringly realistic voyage into hell and back,” one critic said. Some warriors get medals, while others do all they can to avoid being buried. And they all discover that the sane and mad are separated by a narrow red line.
Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Zen has the dubious Guinness World Record for being rejected by 121 publishers before being released and becoming a perennial blockbuster. It was published in 1974 and tells the story of a 17-day motorbike trip from Minnesota to California by a father and son. Our narrator (together with his son) explores numerous philosophical topics during the voyage, with the major subject being the meaning of quality and what excellent labor looks like in today’s environment – notions that still hold true 40+ years later.
Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye
Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe detective series concludes with The Long Goodbye. In it, Marlowe meets Terry Lennox, a down-on-his-luck military veteran with scars to show it. Then he learns that Terry has a very affluent wife, with whom he has divorced and remarried, and who is later found dead. Now that Lennox is on the run, the detectives are on the lookout for Marlowe. This is a hard-boiled story at its finest, full with gangsters and attractive femme fatales.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance and Other Essays
The most renowned of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s concepts is found in “Self-Reliance,” which emphasizes the need of each individual avoiding uniformity and personal inconsistencies and following their own instincts and thoughts. You’re supposed to depend on yourself rather than the ebbs and flows of society as a whole. Friendship, history, experience, and other topics are covered in other articles in the book.
James Joyce’s Ulysses
This famously difficult-to-read tale follows main character Leopold Bloom’s meandering appointments and meetings around Dublin on a typical day, June 16, 1904. Ulysses is a Latinized version of Odysseus, the famous Homeric hero, and Joyce makes a link between the two characters and their experiences. It’s almost certain that you won’t understand it on the first read since it’s written in a stream-of-consciousness style with lots of puns and references. Just give it your all and you’ll be fine.
Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
Nothing says “manly” like a battle with the Devil. During Stalin’s rule, Mikhail Bulgakov published this amusing parody on the social bureaucracy in Moscow. Lucifer himself makes a visit to the atheistic metropolis in order to ridicule the people’s mistrust in the spiritual world. The tale also takes place in ancient Jerusalem under the reign of Pontius Pilate. Even non-religious people will find something to think about in this book.
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
Some have described The Road as a love tale between a father and a son, and nothing could be more accurate. The novel brilliantly contrasts the joys and sorrows of fatherhood, expressing paternal love at its most intimate level. An anonymous father and son make a trek through a desolate, desolate, post-apocalyptic America, dragging a shopping cart full of goods and scavenging for their next meal. While the father keeps an eye out for the “bad guys” (savage tribes of baby-eating men that roam the countryside), he instills in his kid the importance of being one of the good ones — to always carry the torch.
Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf
One of Herman Hesse’s best-known novels, Steppenwolf, portrays an unhappy and lonely academic who finds no pleasure in life. Harry Haller is both a sensible man and a wild primeval wolf, and he struggles to reconcile the two sides of his personality. But then he meets Hermine, a freewheeling and mysterious lady who proves to him that life’s joys aren’t always as shallow as he previously thought.
Christine de Pizan’s Book of Deeds of Arms and Chivalry
You wouldn’t necessarily anticipate a novel about battle to be written by a woman in any age. You may be even more astonished to find that such a guidebook was written and published in the early 1400s by a woman called Christine de Pizan. It tells a great deal about medieval combat strategy, tactics, and technical advancements. It contains essential source material on early gunpowder weapons, as well as several reflections on the concept of Just War. The Book of Deeds of Arms and Chivalry is a famous work that doesn’t receive nearly enough recognition. It merits a place on your bookshelves.
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote
Being a dreamer is admirable, but a guy must also be anchored in reality. It’s a lesson Don Quixote learns in the 17th century novel of the same name, often regarded as the world’s first novel. Quixote traverses the globe with his squire Sancho Panza in pursuit of big adventures and heroic acts that would earn him the title of Knight. Against all odds, and in some situations, against all logic, he persists. It’s amusing, remarkably simple to read for a book that’s nearly 400 years old, and can teach a guy a lot about heroic goals.
Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man
The narrative of an unnamed black guy in New York City who grew raised in the South but moved north to join the Brotherhood, a purportedly equitable and equalizing society. However, he quickly recognizes the movement’s political goals and flees in an effort to find out who he is as a black man in white America. It’s a book that everyone should read on race, identity, acceptance, and being comfortable with who you are.
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)
Huck Finn is a famous American novel that is often assigned reading in middle schools, and with good reason. It may be seen as both a stinging satire of the antebellum South and a coming-of-age narrative for the young Huck Finn, since it was one of the first novels written in vernacular (regional language). As they travel by raft down the Mississippi River, Finn, a white youngster, hooks up with runaway adult slave Jim, and the two go on many adventures together.
Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan
Hobbes’ book is one of the most authoritative sources in political philosophy, having been written during the English Civil War in the mid-1600s. The core issue of the book is the sovereign state’s concentrated capacity to preserve order and peace. What is the best way to organize society? What is the best way to rule people? It’s a well-known example of the social contract idea, which claims that people agree to give up certain rights merely by being a member of a community in order to preserve others. Any classic book of sociological thought is worth reading in light of our current political instability.
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
It is the major work of Aristotle’s ethics, detailing how a man should live his best life. Virtue, good acts, and particular attributes men should aim for, such as bravery, justice, magnanimity, temperance, and so on, are all discussed. A great philosophical text that every guy should be familiar with.
Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac
The story of French cadet Cyrano de Bergerac is told in this 1897 drama. He’s a poet, a musician, and a skilled swordsman – the epitome of the Renaissance Man. Cyrano, however, has a terribly huge nose, which undermines his confidence to the point that he is unable to express his emotions to Roxane and believes he is unworthy of anyone’s affection. In such a position, what is a guy to do? Find out by reading.
William Manchester’s The Last Lion Trilogy
This is, without a doubt, the finest biography you’ll ever read. Manchester is a three-volume epic that takes you on a fun and enlightening journey through Winston Churchill’s remarkable life. Because you know what happens, it’s difficult to call any biography a page-turner, but The Last Lion comes close. Manchester tragically died before completing the last book, and another author stepped in to finish it. As a result, the third book falls short of the previous two, yet all three are well worth reading.
Norman Mailer’s novel The Naked and the Dead
The Naked and the Dead, like many WWII books produced in the late 1940s and 1950s, draws heavily on author Norman Mailer’s personal experiences as a soldier in the Philippines. The plot revolves on American forces battling the Japanese on a fictitious south Pacific island in order to march into the Philippines. We get a genuine view of being an American combatant in WWII’s Pacific campaign thanks to character interaction and “time machine” sequences that concentrate on troops’ backstories. It’s typically not a pleasant image, as it is in most of the era’s works.
Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life
A famous adolescent memoir about growing up without a parent. Tobias Wolff’s parents split, and he finds himself in his mother’s care, moving across the nation and always on the move. They have a deep bond, but when a new stepfather enters the scene, Wolff must battle to establish his own identity and self-respect. He discovers a road to self-invention via teenage frustrations and plots, which finally alters his life.
Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet
The fundamental storyline is as follows: While flying in a bush aircraft, an adolescent city kid called Brian Robeson crashes in the midst of the Canadian countryside. The pilot is killed, but the kid survives. Brian is left alone in the forest for 54 days and must learn to live in the wild with just a hatchet. There are no genuine twists and turns, but the lessons on survival and self-reliance that a man may learn are as entertaining and informative to youngsters as they are to mature men.
Eric Greitens’ Resilience
Resilience is a collection of letters sent by Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens to a former SEAL comrade who was battling with alcoholism, job loss, and PTSD after coming home from duty. Greitens draws on his philosophical background to provide his buddy guidance on how to cultivate resilience in the face of misfortune. This is a book that everyone who could use a bit more resilience in their lives should read, re-read, and re-read again should read. To put it another way, everyone.
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes
Over twenty sequels and numerous feature films have followed the immortal title character, who was initially presented here. Tarzan, who was raised by gorillas, searches for the truth about his origins and ends himself at conflict with the gorilla king who killed his father. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan brilliantly conveys the basic longings and powers that are generally veiled behind the trappings of civilisation.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra
God is no longer alive. The Übermensch. Eternal recurrence is a term used to describe the occurrence of something over and over again. Willpower is a powerful tool. This philosophical book follows a fictitious travelling prophet called Zarathustra and explores several of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most well-known and controversial concepts (named after the founder of Zoroastrianism). Nietzsche takes aim at current philosophy and morals in Zarathustra, and offers a conceptual foundation for living in a post-religious society. If you want to comprehend today’s cultural environment, whether you’re a believer or not, this is a must read.
The Federalist Papers are a collection of essays published by the Federalist Society
The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 pieces, were written to explain and urge the adoption of the United States Constitution. Alexander Hamilton wrote the bulk of the writings, which were first published in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet. While the Constitution sets out the rules of the nation, these articles serve as an 18th-century equivalent of the ballot/blue booklets that we get in the mail around election time, detailing the proposed legislation. It should be required reading for every civically conscious American (which should be everyone!).
Mario Puzo’s The Godfather
While the well-known films get more attention, the book is a masterpiece in its own right. Mario Puzo depicts both the positive and negative aspects of family and community commitment. While the Corleones do a lot of awful things, they’re also a bunch of guys who know how to be men. They will go to great lengths to defend their family, are very kind to people in their close circle, and never stop battling. Plus, it’s a very fun book to read.
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
The novel that spawned a slew of white whale analogies and actually doesn’t require an introduction. Here’s one that’s a little more succinct: As narrated by Ishmael, a sailor onboard Ahab’s ship, Moby-Dick is Herman Melville’s 19th century classic about whaler Captain Ahab’s obsessive desire to seek vengeance on the giant white whale that injured him. It’s also based on a genuine tale, which adds to its awesomeness.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
This brief, ever-popular story is about a young woman’s perspective on mankind and terror. When Frankenstein was originally published in 1818, Mary Shelley was just 21 years old, and the book is largely recognized as the first popular science fiction/horror novel. While you may be familiar with the monster and the narrative of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein’s attempts to bring him to life, the novel is more darker and more philosophical than popular culture has made it out to be. Science, ego, pride, and, ultimately, what it means to be human are all topics covered.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Every guy should read Shakespeare at least once in his life. Hamlet is an excellent place to begin. You’ve heard the phrase “to be or not to be,” but do you know what it means in context? Doubtful. The story’s cliff notes summary: When Prince Hamlet returns home from school to attend his father’s burial, he discovers that his mother has already remarried. Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, his father’s sibling, has married the Queen. Worse, despite the fact that Hamlet was supposed to be the heir to the kingdom, Claudius has anointed himself King. Hamlet is suspicious about the situation. *Insert dramatic music here.*
Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
Every man’s reading life should include Dickens, and A Tale of Two Cities is a wonderful place to start. It illustrates the hardship of the French farmers, their resort to violence against the aristocratic who excluded them, and the similarities to London society during the same era. It is set in London and Paris during the French Revolution.
Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road
This is the narrative of a relationship. In the 1950s, the Wheelers looked to be a perfect suburban marriage. But did they marry when they were too young? And is it too soon to have a family? Frank’s work is monotonous, and April never saw herself as a stay-at-home mom. Both of these self-absorbed spouses fight with impulses to escape and become their actual selves behind the placid surface, and they can’t find satisfaction in their daily lives as they are. Something has to give.
Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy
Dante Alighieri’s epic poem from the 14th century delves into his unique concept of the afterlife. Dante takes us on a journey to Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise (or Heaven) and describes what he sees. It also represents, allegoricaly, man’s journey to God and the numerous phases he passes through along the way. This text is worth reading if only for the cultural literacy of understanding where many of our current notions of paradise and hell come from.
Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer
What good is a man’s library if it doesn’t include any books on America’s favorite pastime? The Boys of Summer, dubbed “the best American book on sports,” is a chronicle of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ journey to the 1955 World Series championship. Kahn’s portrayal of some of baseball’s greatest icons, such as Gil Hodges and Duke Snyder, is enough to make a guy want for another chance at the game and join a local softball team. Don’t try to claim that we didn’t warn you.
John Knowles’ A Separate Peace
A Separate Peace is set in a boys prep school on the eve of World War II and revolves on Phineas and Gene’s relationship. Gene’s jealousy over Phineas’ seeming perfection leads to a catastrophe that will permanently affect both of their lives. A searing examination of friendship and humanity’s brightness and darkness. Every youngster aspires to be Finny, but he knows he’ll always be Gene. This is a novel that will stay with you no matter how old you are.
Albert Camus’ The Stranger
Perhaps the most well-known work of “existential” literature from the twentieth century. Meursault, a Frenchman, visits his mother’s funeral and gets lured into a senseless murder as a result of a chain of circumstances. Murder and guilt (or lack thereof), God and atheism, destiny and justice, and the absurdity of existence are all explored in The Stranger. You’ll remember a lot more than simply the main aspects after seeing this movie.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
The “autobiography” of a castaway who spent 30 years on a lonely tropical island is Robinson Crusoe. He has to deal with rough terrain, hostile locals, and a range of other challenges. Many people mistook it for a true story because it was depicted and written so realistically — the name Robinson Crusoe was even credited as the author — rather than a book by Daniel Defoe. It is still valid over 300 years later.
Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
For over three decades, this book has been a best-seller, and for good reason. It not only explains why living a life with purpose is important, but it also gives you tools to assist you do it. Countless global leaders, businesspeople, and important individuals have adopted Covey’s most famous work’s planning and goal-setting techniques, as well as millions of regular people whose lives have been improved by applying the 7 habits. Among them is the Art of Manliness team. Make sure to listen to my interview with Stephen’s kid on my podcast.
John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row
A man needs a healthy respect for the regular individuals who help make the world go round, regardless of his social level or life circumstances. In the late 1930s, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row illustrates a cross-section of this hamlet, which is set on a strip of sardine canneries. This neighborhood has its own personality and is as much a character in the novel as any of the residents. The work not only depicts a horrible period in history, but also provides honest, timeless insight into the human condition.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island
Almost everything we think of when we think about pirates originates from this book: treasure maps with a “X” indicating the location, uninhabited islands, peg legs, parrots, and more. American author Henry James complimented it as “excellent as a well-played boy’s game” when it was published as a children’s story (although an adult one).
John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to author John Kennedy Toole for this book set in New Orleans. Its ideal comedy of errors revolves on the figure of Ignatius J. Reilly, a lethargic and socially inept but very clever guy who, at the age of 30, still lives with his mother. A Confederacy of Dunces provides good amusement while also serving as a blueprint for what a man should not be.
Richard Wright’s Native Son
Bigger Thomas, a young African-American living in absolute poverty on Chicago’s South Side in the 1930s, is the protagonist of this book. He eventually (as the story argues) finds himself in prison for a crime he did not commit. Was it his nature, or society, that pushed him to it by putting him in a specific social stratum? This book explores race, identity, social position, and societal forces through the lens of the black experience.
Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar
Paul Theroux’s 4-month voyage across Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia aboard the continent’s renowned trains: the Orient Express, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, and the Trans-Siberian Express are chronicled in this travelogue. His well-documented and interesting exploits have earned him a place in the annals of travel writing. This diary fulfills the intrepid guy and encourages the vicarious traveler.
James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans is the second installment of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy, and it takes place in 1757 during the French and Indian War. The French were especially reliant on Native Americans for assistance in the battle. A colonel’s two daughters, Alice and Cora, need to be evacuated to a safe place in this story set mostly in the New York woods. A troop of frontiersmen and Indians, including Chingachgook (the last chief of the Mohicans) and Uncas, are among the caravan escorting the ladies. The portrayal of these heroes would go on to form part of the tropes of frontiersmen and Indians that are still prevalent in popular culture today.
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath is a classic American book set in the Dust Bowl period of the Midwest. Forced to relocate, the Joad family joins hundreds of other down-on-their-luck Okies on a journey west to seek a better life in California. Steinbeck’s masterwork is possibly the best representation of this era in American history. Furthermore, the closing scene will linger in your mind for a long time.
Louis L’Amour’s Education of a Wandering Man
Louis L’Amour, a Western writer, was one of the most prolific writers of all time, with over 100 published works (all of which were still in print when he died in 1988). His autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, may also be described as a love letter to study. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 to travel the globe. He’s worked as a train hobo, a Texas cattle skinner, a sailor in Singapore and the West Indies, and an itinerant bare-knuckled fighter, among other things. He taught himself to read and write throughout it all, and he was never far from a book. L’Amour’s example is inspiring, and it will make you wonder what you’re doing with all your spare time.
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables
Les Miserables, one of the greatest musicals of all time, was inspired by a fantastic book. After being released from prison, ex-convict Jean Valjean strives to reinvent himself and seeks vengeance on the powers that placed him there in the first place. Author Victor Hugo takes us on a rolling epic that will undoubtedly leave you fatigued — but optimistic — by the time you’ve finished it, thanks to a big cast of interesting characters and the backdrop of the French Revolution.
Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl was a psychotherapist and brain surgeon who specialized in treating depression, but he was transported to Auschwitz as a Jew in Nazi Germany. They stole the remainder of his stuff, including his clothing, his wedding ring, and the manuscript of a novel he was writing, when he arrived at the concentration camp. He survived to tell his experience, which is a lesson about the control one has to make a horrible circumstance not necessarily excellent, but survivable, by depending on his rich inner life and aiding other inmates, as well as some strokes of good luck. It will undoubtedly put your personal suffering into perspective and motivate you to live a more purposeful life.
S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders
The Outsiders is the narrative of two opposing gangs, the Greasers and the Socs, who are separated by their socioeconomic class. It was published while author S. E. Hinton was just 18 years old. It’s a classic coming-of-age story that paved the way for the modern young adult genre. Despite the fact that the people in the novel are just teens, there is a lot to learn about family, honor, sacrifice, and class relations from it.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude is an epic family saga that narrates the story of the town of Macondo’s fall, birth, and death. It is widely regarded as a classic of Spanish literature. Marquez takes us to seven generations of Buendias, the ancestors of the town’s founder. However, the family is unable to avoid their recurring disasters. Is history destined to repeat itself, or will the Buendias be able to break away from their family’s past?
Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire
The Spartan 300 and the Battle of Thermopylae, which put a few thousand Greeks against at least 100,000 Persians, are fictionalized. We watch the conflict through the eyes of a warrior called Xeones in Gates of Fire. Spartan life, training, discipline, combat tactics, courage…and more, much more are all revealed. It will fill you with macho thumos when you read it.
John Milton’s Paradise Lost
The epic poem Paradise Lost depicts the Biblical tale of the Fall of Man in poetry, including Adam and Eve’s temptation, Satan’s participation, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Rather than just retelling what is found in the Bible, author John Milton investigates and speculates on the likely history. What was going on in the heavenly world behind the scenes, how did Adam and Eve respond to their transgression, and how did they feel when they were banished from the garden? Are you coming from paradise?
451 degrees Fahrenheit Ray Bradbury’s work
Ray Bradbury transports readers to a bleak future where books are outlawed and firefighters are tasked with eliminating any that are discovered. Our primary character, Fireman Guy Montag, is entrusted with igniting written material every day. He comes home at the end of the day to his house and family, where the television is fundamental to their mundane lives. Bradbury was worried about the impact of television and other kinds of mass media on humanity’s connection with books and literature even in the 1950s. Is it still relevant? You can bet your bottom dollar that it is.
Oil! Upton Sinclair’s work
If nothing else, Upton Sinclair’s book about the oil business in the 1920s should be read because it inspired one of the finest films of the century, There Will Be Blood. Bunny, the son of an oil millionaire, is the protagonist of the story. His sympathy for oil field workers and socialist leanings cause a lot of friction between him and his father. This book accomplished for oil what Sinclair’s The Jungle did for the meatpacking business.
Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling
Soren Kierkegaard, a philosopher, uses the (in)famous Bible tale of Abraham being ordered by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as a case study. He utilizes the narrative to explore the link between philosophy and religion, as well as the essence of God, faith’s relationship with ethics and morals, and the challenge of being really religious. It poses the key questions that every guy should consider at some point in his life.
Waller Newell’s The Code of Man
What does it mean to be a man, philosophically as well as biologically? In this book, Waller Newell provides one of the most persuasive responses to the topic of how a man should live. Many contemporary men, he claims, have lost touch with the ideals and characteristics that have characterized manliness for thousands of years, and as a result, they are lost, confused, and furious. Newell thinks that the five pathways to manliness are love, bravery, pride, family, and nation, and that these are the five paths to recovery. Newell gives crucial assistance on the route of acquiring a “manly heart” by drawing on Western authors and intellectuals such as Aristotle and Hemingway, among others.
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
The adventure of a man called Marlow journeying up the Congo River in the heart of Africa is told in Joseph Conrad’s novella. Conrad contrasts the “savages” of Africa to the so-called “civilized” inhabitants of London in recounting the story. Is there a significant difference? Race, savagery, colonialism, and first-world civilization are all prominent themes.
Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations
“I would call this the finest book ever written,” Ryan Holiday writes of the Meditations in his list of 36 books that every young and ambitious guy should read. It is the go-to book for self-control, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization, and strength. Every year, Bill Clinton reads it, as do many other presidents, politicians, and warriors. It’s a book on the lessons that power, responsibility, and philosophy teach us, written by one of the most powerful individuals in history. This book will help you become a better person and a better manager of your desired success.”
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
These four novels are included together on the list because they tell a single, epic plot. You’ve probably seen the movies, and although they’re excellent, the books are far better. Learn about friendship, loyalty, commitment to a noble cause, and many other masculine traits by following Frodo Baggins and his trustworthy buddy Samwise Gamgee. In Gandalf, you’ll also discover one of literature’s smartest characters. J.R.R. Tolkien possessed one of the most vivid imaginations in literary history, creating a whole world replete with new languages, maps of different regions, and even histories of how these lands came to be. No other author has come close to Tolkien’s world-building powers, which alone makes the trilogy worthwhile to read.
Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed
You may believe you know how gruesome the Pacific War was, but until you read With the Old Breed, you won’t be able to truly comprehend its atrocities. Sledge immerses you in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa with rich and disturbing writing, allowing you to feel the sights, sounds, and scents of the nightmare scenarios on a visceral level. This is without a doubt one of the finest books about war ever written, and it is a must-read for every American who want to fully comprehend the sacrifices made for them by their forefathers.
William George Jordan’s Self-Control: Its Kingship and Majesty
Personal development books were in vogue around the turn of the century. They’re straightforward, skillfully written, and full of insightful and difficult concepts that emphasize on the building of excellent character, in contrast to today’s self-help books, which are full of flattering, meaningless, formulaic platitudes. Even in this golden period, one author stands head and shoulders above the rest: William George Jordan. Many of our most popular manvotionals come from His Self-Control: Its Kingship and Majesty, which is packed of wonderfully penned knowledge about self-reliance, tranquility, thankfulness, and more.
Listen to Jim Mustich’s podcast on the 1,000 books he says everyone should read before they die:
To receive a PDF list of the 100 books that every guy should read, click here.
“100 books to read before you die” is a list of 100 books that every man should read. The list includes some classics, as well as some more modern classics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of books should men read?
A: One of the best books for men to read is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. This book speaks about relationships and love, which are often topics that interest both men and women.
What are the five books that everyone should read?
A: Pride and Prejudice, Crime and Punishment, The Great Gatsby, 1984, Lord of the Flies.
What is the #1 book in the world?
A: This is a difficult question to answer. I would say that the Bible, which goes by many names (The Holy Book of The Lord God Almighty and such), has some books with more depth than others… but nothing can top Shakespeares most famous play Hamlet.
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