The 36 Best Books All Men Should Read

Whether it be a novel, essay or self-help book, there are always books that can change the course of your life. Here is an extensive list of 36 must read novels for men.

The “7 books every man should read” is a list of 36 books that all men should read. The list includes classics, modern day and classic literature.

Vintage two men reading book while walking.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Ryan Holiday.

If there’s one thing all of history’s great men have in common, it’s a love of literature. They are voracious readers. On his risky tour of the River of Doubt, Theodore Roosevelt brought a dozen books with him (including the Stoics). Lincoln read everything he could get his hands on (often writing down favorite sections on scrap boards since he didn’t have any paper). At St. Helena, Napoleon possessed a library of 3,500 volumes, and before to that, he had a portable library that he brought on campaigns. “I owe more to my father’s books than to any other educational and directional influence,” said Ambrose Bierce, a Civil War soldier and underappreciated contemporary of Mark Twain.

The argument is that successful individuals are avid readers. Quite a bit. What about those of us who are young and madly ambitious and wish to follow in their footsteps? We have that passion, drive, and hunger. What should we read, specifically? What will assist us in following the road that has been set out for us — and all that it entails?

Many of the best suggestions are now domain-specific. There are some novels that you should read if you wish to be a writer. If you want to be an economist, you’ll need to study a variety of genres. There are alternative options if you want to be a soldier. Even so, there are a number of books that everyone who wants to leadership, mastery, influence, power, or success should read.

These are the books that both prepare you for the top and warn you about the perils that come with it. Some of these are from the past. Some of them are made up. Some of them are epics or masterpieces. These are the books that every man’s library should include. Best of luck, and enjoy your reading.


The Power Broker book cover Robert A. Caro.

Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker It took me 15 days to finish reading all 1,165 pages of this behemoth about Robert Moses’ climb to power. I was 20 years old at the time. It’s one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read. In addition to the Statue of Liberty, Moses was responsible for almost every other important contemporary building project in New York City. The people couldn’t stop him, the mayor couldn’t stop him, the governor couldn’t stop him, and the President of the United States could only stop him once. But you know where the cliché must lead us in the end. Robert Moses was a complete jerk. He may have had more intelligence, ambition, and strategy than other guys, but he lacked compassion. And, in the end, power transformed him into a terrible creature.

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. book cover Ron Chernow.

Ron Chernow’s Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. Despite his image as a robber baron, I found Rockefeller to be curiously stoic, immensely resilient, and modest and kind. The majority of individuals deteriorate as they get more successful, and many more deteriorate as they become older. In reality, Rockefeller started tithing his earnings with his first job and continued to do so as his fortune grew. The older he became, the more open-minded he became, the more charitable, devout, and committed to making a difference he became. And it was Rockefeller’s capacity to stay calm in the face of hardship and anchored in accomplishment as a young man that set him apart. He was always on an even keel, never allowing excessive passion and emotion to rule him.


The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life book cover Robert Evans.

Robert Evans’ book The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life. This is the book you must read if you want to break into the entertainment industry. It’s the rags-to-riches story of Robert Evans, one of Hollywood’s most infamous people, and his rise and fall. His journey from trousers salesman to CEO of Paramount Pictures (and producer of The Godfather) is one that every visitor to Los Angeles dreams about. When I initially began working in the industry, it was one of the first books I read. I believe it demonstrates how much hustling, buzz, and heat contribute to success. And how they may lead to your demise and expulsion.

Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office book cover Zack O'Malley Greenburg.

Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office. This is a business book that also serves as a biography. It demonstrates how, as a young guy in Brooklyn, Jay honed his hustling skills in the music industry and developed his empire. Jay controlled each industry, always acting on the same principles, like a genuine hustler. From music to fashion to sports, Jay dominated each field, always operating on the same principles. “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, dude!” he says. I also suggest The 50th Law, which relates the tales of many such people and will stay with you for the same amount of time.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King book cover Rich Cohen.

Rich Cohen’s book The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King. This book chronicles the extraordinary tale of Sam Zemurray, a destitute Russian immigrant who rose to become the CEO of United Fruit, the world’s largest fruit firm, via sheer hard work and determination. As author Rich Cohen puts it, Zemurray’s brilliance “lies in the fact that he never lost trust in his capacity to rescue a situation.” No matter how grave the situation seemed for Zemurray, there was always a countermove, always a way around it.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley book cover Malcolm X.

Malcolm X’s Autobiography: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X I don’t recall who said it, but Catcher in the Rye was to young white guys what Malcolm X’s Autobiography was to young black boys, according to someone. Personally, I prefer the second option over the first. I’d much rather read about and aspire to be like a man who is born into adversity and pain, struggles with criminality, serves time in prison, learns to read through the dictionary, finds religion, and then becomes a Civil Rights activist before being assassinated by his former supporters when he tempers the hate and anger that had long defined parts of his message. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass’ epic story are both tremendously emotional and inspirational.

Personal History book cover Katharine Graham.

Katharine Graham’s personal history. If there’s one thing you can count on on your journey to success, it’ll be hardship. Fate will play a role in your life in unexpected ways. That is why you must read Graham’s autobiography. Following her husband’s sad death as the publisher of The Washington Post, which they jointly owned, Katharine Graham, at the age of 46 and a mother of three, found herself in charge of the newspaper during its most turbulent and difficult years (think Watergate and the Pentagon papers). She eventually rose to become one of the top CEOs of the twentieth century. She persevered with a strong sense of purpose, perseverance, and courage from which we may all learn. In a similar vein, read Eleanor Roosevelt’s two-volume biography to see how she transformed a worthless White House post into a strong platform for change and impact.


How-and to’s Suggestions

The 48 Laws of Power book cover Robert Greene.

Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power It’s difficult to adequately explain this book. However, if you want to live life on your own terms, rise as high as you want, and avoid being ruled by others, you must read this book. Robert is a fantastic researcher and storyteller, with a unique capacity to convey timeless truths via tale and illustration. Even if you read the classics, you may not always comprehend the teachings. But if you read The 48 Laws, I guarantee you’ll walk away with not just practical advice, but also an indelible feeling of what to do in a variety of difficult and perplexing circumstances. One of the most essential rules to learn as a young child is to “always speak less than required.” “Am I saying this to show how brilliant I am, or am I saying this because it has to be said?” you should always question yourself. Don’t forget to read The Prince, The Art of War, and all of the other needed strategic books. And, of course, no matter how brilliant you are at the game of power, it’s useless without Mastery.

Steal Like An Artist book cover Austin Kleon.

Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist” is a book on stealing like an artist. Modeling yourself after people you want to be like is a part of ambition. Austin’s concept of mercilessly copying and remixing the greats may seem to be heinous at first, yet it is the essence of art. Working with these resources allows you to learn, become more creative, and challenge yourself to be better. Austin is an incredible artist, but he also explains the spirit of writing and producing art better than anybody else I can think of. It’s a manifesto for every young, creative individual wanting to build a name for himself. Combine with Show Your Work, which is also fantastic.

Status Anxiety book cover Alain de Botton.

Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety. Ah, yeah, the want to be better, larger, have more, and be more. Ambition is a positive trait, but it can also be a cause of stress and unhappiness. Alain de Botton, a philosopher, examines the drawbacks of the urge to “be someone” in our world in this book. How do you deal with your ambition? How do you deal with envy? How can you avoid falling into the same pitfalls that so many others do? This book serves as an excellent introduction to the philosophy and psychology of the subject.

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars book cover Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan.

What I Discovered Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan wrote the book Losing a Million Dollars. There are several books on the subject of striving to something. There is very little from real individuals who strived, succeeded, and then failed. Jim Paul, who rose to the position of Governor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, was persuaded that he was unique, exceptional, and beyond the rules with each successful move he made. When the markets went against him, he lost everything: his riches, his job, and his reputation. That is why this book is so important in learning how allowing arrogance and ego to get the best of you is the beginning of your downfall. Instead of learning from your own mistakes, you may learn from tales like these. Consider it the next time you think you’ve got it all figured out. (Tim Ferriss has released an audiobook version of this, which I strongly suggest.)


Classical Wisdom & Philosophy

Meditations book cover Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations This is, in my opinion, the finest book ever written. 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.

Cyropaedia book cover Xenophon.

Xenophon’s Cyropaedia (in Xenophon’s Cyrus The Great: The Arts of Leadership and War, a more accessible translation is available). Xenophon, like Plato, was a Socrates disciple. For some reason, his work is not nearly as well-known, despite the fact that it is significantly more useful. This is the most comprehensive biography of Cyrus the Great, one of history’s greatest commanders and conquerors known as the “Father of Human Rights.” There are so many valuable lessons in this book, and I hope that more people read it. As this book influenced The Prince, Machiavelli learnt them.

Lord Chesterfield’s Letters book cover Lord Chesterfield.

Lord Chesterfield’s Letters are a collection of letters written by Lord Chesterfield. This is a private communication between Lord Chesterfield and his son Philip, similar to Meditations, which was never meant for publication. We should definitely be grateful that this man was not our father, but we may be grateful for his insight. In a long time, I have not marked as many pages in a book as I have in this one. Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son is, of course, a classic in this genre of letters. These letters between John “Old Gorgon” Graham, a self-made billionaire in Chicago, and his son, who is coming of age and starting the family company, date from 1890. His letters are a sharp and instructive primer on business, accountability, and leadership. Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke is both emotional and insightful. These brief letters, sent to a 19-year-old former pupil seeking Rilke’s criticism, are less concerned with poetry and more concerned with what it means to live a meaningful and full life as an artist and as a human.

Plutarch’s Lives (I & II) book cover Plutarch.

Plutarch’s Lives (I & II) Plutarch’s Lives (I & II) Plutarch’s Lives (I & II) Plutarch’ Plutarch’s chronicles are among the most important and widely read texts in Western civilization. He was one of Montaigne’s favorite authors, apart from being the inspiration for most of Shakespeare’s work. Pericles’, Demosthenes’, Themistocles’, Cicero’s, Alexander the Great’s, Caesar’s, and Fabius’ histories and sketches are all great — and full of compelling tales. These are moral biographies meant to teach lessons about power, greed, honor, morality, destiny, responsibility, and everything else kids forget in school.

The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects book cover Giorgio Vasari.

Giorgio Vasari’s The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects Giorgio Vasari sat down in 1550 and produced biographical profiles of the individuals he knew or had inspired him. He was essentially a friend and peer of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and all the other brilliant brains of the Renaissance. It’s doubtful that someone forced this book on you unless you had a degree in Art History, which is a pity. These great individuals were not just artists, but also masters of their political and social environments. This book has a wealth of information on both craft and psychology. What’s the greatest part? It was written by someone who understood what he was talking about, not an art snob or critic; he was a real artist and architect of the same caliber as the folks he was recording.


The Book of Five Rings book cover Miyamoto Musashi.

Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings This book is much more than a manifesto and guidebook on swordsmanship and martial arts, and it is widely regarded as a classic. It’s all about having the right mentality, discipline, and perception to triumph in life or death circumstances. Musashi fought largely by himself, for himself, as a swordsman. As a result, his knowledge is mainly internal. He teaches you how to outsmart and outmaneuver your adversaries. He teaches you how to fend for yourself and follow a set of rules. Isn’t it exactly what so many of us need assistance with on a daily basis?


This Boy’s Life book cover Tobias Wolff.

Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window You couldn’t do much better than Catcher in the Rye if you wanted to read a book that would help you become a successful, well-adjusted person. For the young guy wrestling with who he is and who he wants to be, Tobias Wolff’s book is a considerably better alternative. I also recommend matching it with Totto-Chan, the feminine equivalent. The latter is the autobiography and memoir of one of Japan’s most renowned and accomplished ladies (akin to Oprah). It’s a moving narrative of someone who didn’t fit in and viewed the world in a unique way (sound familiar?). Instead of making her tough, it made her compassionate, sympathetic, and kind, not to mention creative and unusual. (The first is a work of fiction, however it is based on a genuine story.) The latter is based on a factual story but reads like fiction).

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz book cover Mordecai Richler.

Mordecai Richler’s Duddy Kravitz Apprenticeship. Duddy is the quintessential Jewish hustler, constantly working, always plotting, always searching for a bargain, and despised by everybody for his unbridled ambition. Duddy is relentless in his quest of real estate so that he might “be someone,” remembering his grandfather’s adage that “a man without property is nothing.” But things don’t turn out the way he had hoped. The hustler — the striver — loses everything in the end if he can’t prioritize and has no morals, according to this book.

What Makes Sammy Run book cover Budd Schulberg.

Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run. The novel follows the rise and fall of Sammy Glick, the rags-to-riches lad from New York who makes his way via deceit and treachery, as a composite character based on some of Hollywood’s earliest moguls. Sammy is essentially Ari Gold without the least semblance of human decency. He’s trying to avoid self-reflection and finding purpose. Fear is pounding on his door, which he is desperately attempting to shut with successes. Sammy is a successful guy, but not a great one, as far as ethics, purpose, and ideals are concerned. Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men is a similar narrative – a fictionalized version of The Power Broker — about the impact that power and ambition can have.

The Disenchanted book cover Budd Schulberg.

Budd Schulberg’s The Disenchanted and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack Up & The Great Gatsby Both The Disenchanted and The Crack Up are about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s demise, one from the first person viewpoint and the other from the fictitious perspective of a buddy watching his idol crumble — precisely like the narrative of Gatsby itself. The Crack Up is a collection of writings, many of which are off-topic but had to be since no one can look at their own wounded soul so frankly and honestly without looking away at times. Fitzgerald’s Crack Up has always struck me as illustrative, and it’s something I’ve pondered a lot. You pity and feel for a guy with so much knowledge and insight but was unable to apply it to himself. I call it the Second Act Fallacy.


A book is the soul’s medication, according to Liber medicina animi.

Of course, the books mentioned here aren’t all you’ll need to be healthy and happy. This is just the beginning. They do, however, provide a good foundation for your collection.

Have fun and be cautious out there. The path to the peak is treacherous.

Listen to Jim Mustich on our podcast on the 1,000 books you should read before you die:


Listen to Jim Mustich on our podcast on the 1,000 books you should read before you die:

Ryan Holiday is the popular author of three books, including The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumphs. He maintains a popular monthly book suggestion newsletter with over 40,000 members.



The “100 books every man should read” is a list of 36 books that are thought to be the best in their respective categories.

Frequently Asked Questions

What books should I read as a man?

A: I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you a detailed answer.

What books every person should read?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. There are so many books out there, and each one provides an experience that could be different from the last. However, I would recommend reading The Great Gatsby, War of The Worlds (H.G Wells), or any other book by H.P Lovecraft if youre into horror novels

What books should everyone have in their library?

A: There are many great books that all people should read. Some of the best include The Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter series, and Pride And Prejudice.

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