Best Books About Manhood and Masculinity

The word “manhood” is often used to describe a broad range of masculine identities, behaviors, and attitudes that are considered culturally normal for males. While masculinity has been much discussed in contemporary culture, books exploring the topic have not enjoyed similar attention. In this article we discuss some texts about manhood from various genres and eras of history that provide insight into how it may be understood today: classical literature like Homer’s Odyssey; literary classics such as Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet or Walt Whitman’s Leaves Of Grass; and more recent works like Theodore Roosevelt’s The Winning Of The West.

The “fiction books about masculinity” is a genre of literature that addresses the social construction of gender. The best books about manhood and masculinity are those that explore the question of what it means to be male in society.

World best books about manhood and masculinity.

Men have been fascinated by the subject of what it means to be a man throughout history and throughout the globe. Some of their replies came naturally as a result of seeing their peers and mentors, while other qualities of manliness were directly and openly taught to them.

The “hidden wisdom” of masculinity was handed down from elders to boys in elaborate coming-of-age rites in prehistoric times.

Philosophers pondered the characteristics and attributes that formed the accomplishment of arete — a term that meant “excellence” and was occasionally interchanged with andreia or “manliness” — in ancient times.

Men now have few knowledge-transmitting rituals of passage, and the idea of manliness is hardly debated by modern thinkers. Sadly, the cords of intuitive masculinity — mentor connections that provide an opportunity to acquire manhood via example — are all too frequently destroyed or nonexistent.

As a consequence, many men are confused about what it means to be a male, how they vary from women, why they behave the way they do, and what qualities and behaviors they should develop in their lives in order to understand who they are, reach their full potential, and live a fulfilling life.

I know that when I first began the Art of Manliness in 2008, I had no clue what manliness even meant. My thoughts were basically unintentionally taken up from many streams of popular culture and assimilated without much scrutiny.

I’ve spent the previous eight years immersed in learning about the meaning and nature of masculinity. I’ve studied hundreds of books on the biology, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy of masculinity in the hopes of coming up with a multi-faceted response to the major issues about the male experience: What is manliness and where does it originate from? Why do we identify masculinity with violence, risk-taking, and bravado? How did ancient societies use masculinity’s attributes for good rather than evil?

The majority of the books I’ve read on the topic have been adequate, but a select handful have excelled in explaining the solutions to these concerns. Below are the novels that I believe are the finest for males. They’ve had a huge impact on how I handle the issue of manliness on the blog, and they’ve given me new perspectives on my own life and role in the world. These books provided a lot of the research for my series on honor, the three P’s of masculinity, and masculine standing, and I’ve found myself returning to them year after year, frequently re-reading them only to discover fresh insights.

Some of the works concentrate on a single facet of manliness, such as the evolutionary roots of male physical and psychological qualities or how men interact in groups, while others examine manliness as a cultural imperative or a collection of virtues in its whole. I don’t agree with all of the findings reached by the majority of the writers. And that’s just OK. It’s healthy to have your beliefs questioned, and even if you don’t agree with the author’s ultimate conclusion, you may still learn something from a book.


These books provide you insights into history, society, and knowing more about who you are at a time when ideals about manliness are frequently hazy or conflicting, if they’re even mentioned at all. They’ll help you find a “hidden wisdom” that’s mostly been lost in the previous few decades. Give these books a chance if you want to learn more about what it means to be a guy.

The Men’s Way

Book cover, the way of men by Jack donovan.

The contemporary classic on masculinity, in my opinion. Jack Donovan strives to eliminate any culturally/religiously related conceptions of masculinity in order to get to the essence of what makes men, men. These fundamentals, which he refers to as “tactical qualities,” are strength, bravery, mastery, and honor.

While Donovan’s amoral view of masculinity may make some uncomfortable, it is, in many ways, its greatest strength. When my thoughts on manhood get complicated by all the conflicting definitions and claims out there, I go back to The Way of Men to re-acquaint myself with the essence of masculinity. It’s a short, easy-to-read book with snappy, strong style — there’s no reason why every guy shouldn’t read it and think about its powerful and difficult concepts. Once you’ve done that, you can either accept Donovan’s image of masculinity’s base and leave it at that, or you may add a moral/philosophical element to it. I’d suggest the following book for that assignment.

Listen to my chat with Jack Donovan on the podcast.

Love, Courage, Pride, Family, and Country are all part of the Man Code.

Book cover, the code of man by Waller newell.

The Code of Man is a philosophical picture of masculinity, while The Way of Men is a book about the biological/anthropological essence of manhood.

Dr. Waller R. Newell claims in The Code of Man that contemporary men have lost touch with the principles and characteristics that have characterized manhood for thousands of years. As a result, many men (especially young guys) feel disoriented, perplexed, 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 aims to lead men along the road of having a “manly heart” by using Western books and intellectuals such as Aristotle and Plato.

Newell’s vision of honorable and virtuous manliness is almost identical to the definition of manliness that we support here at AoM. I’ve read this book numerous times since the first time I read it a few years ago, and I still find it as moving and important as I did the first time.

Dr. Waller Newell was the subject of my podcast interview.

Masculinity in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Manhood

Book cover, manhood in the making by David gilmore.

You’ll want to read the book that inspired our 3 P’s of Manhood series if you loved it. The most informative book about masculinity I’ve ever read is Manhood in the Making. In it, anthropologist David Gilmore discusses the findings of his global cross-cultural research on manliness. Gilmore discovered that the desire to be masculine and the concept of being a “true man” is not a culturally specific, social norm-based phenomena, but is shared by practically every society in the globe, past and present.


While each society’s definition of a “true man” is shaped by its own history, environment, and prevalent religious beliefs, Gilmore discovered that virtually all of them have three fundamental imperatives or moral injunctions — what I call the 3 P’s of Manhood: a man must protect, reproduce, and provide.

Despite its scholarly nature, Manhood in the Making is a rather simple and entertaining read. I couldn’t put it down once I began reading it, and I felt a light bulb go out over my head multiple times.

Is There Anything Positive to Be Said About Men? Men’s Exploitation Helps Cultures Grow

Book cover, is there anything good about men by Roy f baumeister.

Professor of psychology Roy F. Baumeister reverses the feminist argument that women have been oppressed and exploited from the beginning of time in his book Is There Anything Good About Men? Baumeister claims that males are “exploited” by society in numerous ways (even if they accept their responsibilities willingly). He looks at how males have been considered as considerably more disposable than women throughout history; they’re the ones that went to battle, did the dirty work, and gave their lives to develop civilization.

To some, this may seem to be a contentious argument, but Baumeister presents it in a style that is logical, plain, non-inflammatory, and ultimately difficult to refute. To explain why civilizations have exploited males in the ways they have, he draws on research from the burgeoning disciplines of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology. He also discusses how and why some characteristics of male and female behavior are hardwired, and how these differences could be utilized to complement rather than to foment gender warfare.

Dr. Roy R. Baumeister was the subject of my podcast interview.

Groups of Men

Book cover, men in groups by Lionel tiger.

“Male bonding” is a term you’ve undoubtedly heard before. This is the book from which it came. Lionel Tiger, an anthropologist, examines the inherent male proclivity to join and behave in gangs in his book Men in Groups. Tiger examines primatology, sociobiology, and anthropology to show that human men are good at building male-only coalitions in order to conquer anything — whether it a rival tribe, a competitive enterprise, or even nature itself — by examining primatology, sociobiology, and anthropology. He claims that human men’ predisposition to form male-only coalitions is an evolutionary feature, noting that comparable male grouping patterns can be found in our nearest ape cousin, the chimp. He goes on to say that men across cultures typically connect via intra-group rivalry, and that this intra-group competition might be a strategy to prepare for inter-group competition with other teams/gangs.

Men in Groups was published in 1969, therefore most of the research is obsolete. Nonetheless, the book’s fundamental argument is still relevant today, and many current sociologists and anthropologists have expanded on Tiger’s pioneering work.


Also, Tiger’s The Decline of Males is a fascinating look at how the introduction of birth control has altered contemporary masculinity.

Listen to my chat with Dr. Lionel Tiger on the podcast.

Courage, Manliness, and the Impersonal Good in Plato’s Hero

Book cover, plato and the hero by Angela hobbs.


Because I’m a classics buff, the ancient Greeks and Romans influence a lot of my beliefs about what it means to be a man, especially how they connected manliness with living a moral life. Professor of philosophy Angela Hobbs has written one of the greatest works I’ve read on how the Greeks understood manliness as intertwined with virtue. Hobbs delves into Greek themes relating to manliness, such as andreia (courage), thumos (spiritedness), and time, in Plato and the Hero: Courage, Manliness, and the Impersonal Good (honor). She focuses on Plato’s apprehensions about these wild, male Homeric qualities, demonstrating how part of his philosophy was an effort to harness them for the greater welfare of society.


Listen to my chat with Angela Hobbs on the podcast.

Why Men Fight and Why We Enjoy Watching Them Fight: The Professor in the Cage

Book cover, the professor in the cage by Jonathan gottschall.

Men are lured to violence, whether it is criminal or sports in nature, according to research. What is the reason behind this? Jonathan Gottschall, an english professor, takes us on a personal and multidisciplinary trip to address that issue in his book The Professor in the Cage.

Gottschall claims that males are both created and conditioned to fight, based on his experience training as an MMA fighter and studies from biology, anthropology, and sociology. We all have a fighting spirit within of us that may be channeled for good or evil, depending on how it is utilized. Gottschall does an excellent job of bringing all of the data on masculinity and the male fighting impulse together in an easy-to-read, educational, and amusing book. If you loved our honor and masculinity series, you’ll appreciate this book as much as we did.

Listen to my chat with Jonathan Gottschall on the podcast. 

Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village: The Poetics of Manhood

Book cover, the poetics of manhood by Michael herzfeld.

While many of the works on this list focus on broad, general explorations of masculinity, The Poetics of Manhood delves deeper into the details. During the 1960s, anthropologist Michael Herzfeld lived among the residents of a tiny, hilly town on the Greek island of Crete, studying their macho culture. The book is chock-full of interesting tidbits on the nature of lived manhood, with insights on why men are drawn to meat, risk, competition, and improvisation. Herzfeld’s field study isn’t always the clearest or easiest read, but it is chock-full of interesting tidbits on the nature of lived manhood, with insights on why men are drawn to meat, risk, competition, and improvisation. The concept of “being a good man vs. being excellent at being a man” is derived from this book, however the Cretans employed it in a somewhat different manner than it is now understood in the contemporary manosphere.


The Hypothesis of Hunting

Book cover, the hunting hypothesis by Robert ardrey.

Robert Ardrey, a dramatist and paleoanthropologist, makes an impassioned argument in The Hunting Hypothesis that hunting is what made humans, people. Not only did hunting meat boost the growth of our early human ancestors’ brains, but it also served as a selection strategy for qualities that we now recognize as distinctly human. Speech, big group cooperation, abstract reasoning, and tool manufacturing, according to Ardrey, may all be traced back to hunting. Furthermore, he claims that males were chosen for hunting because of their bigger height, strength, and willingness to take risks. While Ardrey’s idea was contentious when it was initially published in 1976, many anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, and psychologists now embrace it.

The thing I like most about this book is how enjoyable it is to read. Ardrey’s skill as a dramatist and filmmaker shines through in his work, as he can take hard concepts like paleoanthropology and make them understandable to the average person.

The Territorial Imperative is another Ardrey book worth reading that is loosely linked to The Hunting Hypothesis. He examines the human need for territoriality and its consequences for property ownership and nation-building in that work. It doesn’t go into as much depth as The Hunting Hypothesis does on gender differences and why men are the way they are, but it’s still an interesting and important read.

Testosterone and Behavior: Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers

Book cover, heros rogues and lovers by James mcbride dabs.

We all know that testosterone makes males (usually) stronger and more aggressive than women, but what about other aspects of a man’s life? Cognitive psychologist James M. Dabbs (together with his wife Mary) emphasize evidence proving testosterone’s influence on conduct in the workplace, school, the bedroom, and even in utero in Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior. This is one of the most intriguing and captivating novels I’ve ever read. This book is the first to address the issue of testosterone’s impact on human conduct. Pick up a book if you want a better understanding of why guys act the way they do.

Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness in the Battle for Life

Book cover, fighting for life by Walter j ong.

Walter J. Ong was a Jesuit priest who devoted his academic career researching and writing on how humanity’s shift from oral to written culture influenced human awareness. Ong examines how competition, especially male rivalry, has molded human consciousness in Fighting for Life. From ancient Greece through the Enlightenment, he focuses on how the masculine need for competitiveness motivated philosophers and academics to develop an agonistic and competitive learning environment. According to Ong, education became considerably more “feminized” following the Romantic Era, and a focus on cooperation rather than competitiveness started to dominate classrooms. Fighting for Life was first published in 1981, but academics investigating how boys and girls learn have since verified Ong’s observations. Check out Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Males Adrift, which outlines data that shows boys excel intellectually when there is a competitive aspect in the classroom.


The Fire in the Bones of Roman Honor

Book cover, roman honor by Carlin barton.

We wrote a series in 2012 on the history and collapse of traditional male dignity in the West. When I was studying those blogs, I thought I had looked everywhere, but a few months later, I stumbled across Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones by Carlin Barton, an ancient history professor at the University of Massachusetts. When I was studying and writing my honor series, I wish I had known about this book. Without a doubt, Roman Honor is the finest book about honor I’ve ever read. 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 surprising in their brilliance, and the footnotes are jam-packed with intriguing asides.

Dr. Carlin Barton is the subject of my podcast interview.

Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues

Book cover, manvotionals by Brett mckay and Kate mckay.

I guarantee this isn’t a shameless promotion (at least not fully! ); Manvotionals is an anthology of letters, speeches, quotations, and other writings by some of history’s most illustrious men, so I can’t claim credit for any of the wisdom contained inside! I can only say that putting this collection together helped me clarify my vision and knowledge of what I regard to be the 7 masculine virtues: manliness (which is a separate virtue), bravery, industry, resolve, self-reliance, discipline, and honor (integrity). This is my favorite book we’ve ever published, and I still go back to it to renew my vision and strive to be the kind of man I want to be: one who realizes his full potential in body, mind, and soul, effectively uses his abilities to fulfill his life’s purposes, and overcomes setbacks and challenges to make a difference and leave a true and lasting legacy.



Watch This Video-

The “books on being a dominant man” is a topic that has been trending for quite some time. There are many books about being a dominant man and the best of them all is likely to be the book by Robert Greene, “The 48 Laws of Power.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Is manhood and masculinity the same?

A: Yes, in fact masculine is a synonym for manhood.

What are some books every man should read?

A: The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling, 1984 by George Orwell

What are the three Ps of manhood?

A: Provident, paternal, practical.

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