100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 14, 2008 · 1,239 comments

in Books, Travel & Leisure

Written by: Jason Lankow, Ross Crooks, Joshua Ritchie, and Brett McKay

Photo by the nonist

There are the books you read, and then there are the books that change your life. We can all look back on the books that have shaped our perspective on politics, religion, money, and love. Some will even become a source of inspiration for the rest of your life. From a seemingly infinite list of books of anecdotal or literal merit, we have narrowed down the top 100 books that have shaped the lives of individual men while also helping define broader cultural ideas of what it means to be a man.

Whether it be a book on adventure, war, or manners, there is so much to learn about life’s great questions from these gems. Let us know in the comments which of these you loved, hated, and the books that meant a lot to you and should have made the list (you can even get really indignant about your favorite book). And without further ado, this is our list.

To see a list of just the titles and authors names for easy printing, click here.

Amazon Listmania: The Essential Man’s Library Part I

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set on the East Coast in the roaring ’20s, this American novel is a classic. From it we learn that often the wanting of something is better than actually having it. It is relevant to every man’s life. Furthermore, one true friend is worth infinitely more than a multitude of acquaintances.

“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles… It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.”

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Considered by most to be the authoritative text on statesmanship and power (how to obtain it as well as an illustration of its trappings), although certainly a shrewd one.

“From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.”

Essentially, Machiavelli advocates letting your people have their property and women, but making sure that they know what you are capable of doing if they step out of line.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut

Through the beloved Billy Pilgrim, we see the central themes of Vonnegut’s humanism along with his satirical take on how disgusting it is when humans don’t use their (limited) free will to prevent simple atrocities. A great example of how we use humor to deal with hardship, and the conflict between the way heroism is conveyed through stories for actions in situations that perhaps could have been avoided altogether.

“So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry. She didn’t want her babies or anybody else’s babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies.”

1984 by George Orwell


If you are already worried about the information that your computer is collecting from you, re-read this one and you will feel much better! Or, perhaps, you will throw your computer in a river. This is the classic text for the will of the individual to maintain his privacy and free will, and how easy it is at the end of it all to just try to blend in and go with the flow to avoid making things even worse by speaking out.

“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

The Republic by Plato

Since every man can use a fair portion of philosophy in his literary diet, the origin of legitimate western thought might be a good place to start. Plato’s most well known work breaks down topics of which you should have a fundamental understanding such as government, justice, and political theory.

Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The final work of Dostoevsky (commonly accepted English spelling of the name) has a lot of meat to chew on…it strikes at the core of who we are and what drives us. Ultimately, for all of our strength and wisdom as individuals, we are often frustrated by our failures to do what we know we must do (or at least think we should do) and need the power of forgiveness in our lives. Many important thinkers consider this to be one of (if not the most) important masterpiece of literature, including Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka (who did not think quite alike, to say the least).

“So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find some one to worship.”

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Holden Caufield, if nothing else, should serve as a point of reference for the angst and cynicism that you perhaps once had, or ideally never had. If you thought like him when you were 16 or 17 years old, you are forgiven. If you still identify with him, you need to find some more joy, somehow…fake it ’til you make it. Do something.

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith


The fundamental work on free market policies: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.” Want an education in economics? This book is a great start.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Set in the Spanish Civil War, this novel explores who man becomes when faced with the prospect of his own death. It is worthwhile for all of us to consider what we would give our lives for, as this defines what and who we truly love. This is one of the great examples of how war has shaped men, past and present, and has in part defined the image of a true hero who is courageous even when it has brutal consequences.

“You learned the dry-mouthed, fear-purged purging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world against all tyranny, for all the things you believed in and for the new world you had been educated into.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Arguably the best work from the ever-quotable Wilde, this novel is a guide for how to live a life of pure decadence. It is packed with impeccable wit, clever one-liners, and an excessive amount of egotistical vanity. At the very least, this book will show you the glory and the pitfalls of being the best looking chap around.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

One of the most controversial books of its time, the Joads are “Okies” who head west to the fertile valleys of California during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. Because of the social solutions that the book proposed, and its depiction of work camp conditions, some groups attacked the novel as communist propaganda. However, it was widely read as a result of the national attention, and is a classic example of a man doing what he had to do for his family and persevering through all plights and conditions.

“Fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live – for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken…fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.”

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

With a revolutionary and controversial view of the future, Huxley’s satiric take on the “utopia” of tomorrow has provoked reader’s thoughts for decades. Depictions of genetically enhanced embryos predisposed to a specific social class cast warning signs for technological interference with human life.

How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie


This is not a Dr. Phil self-help book. Citing intimate examples from the likes of Rockefeller, Charles Schwab, and FDR, this comprehensive guide is all about how to get ahead in business, relationships, and life. Read one chapter a day for the rest of your life. It will make you a far better man than you would ever be without it.

Call of the Wild by Jack London

The tale of a domesticated dog forced to adapt to a life of work in Alaska during the Yukon gold rush. Most of us can recall rooting for Buck in the ferocious battle to be the leader of the pack. Make sure that you embrace the benefits of competition to push yourself to become better in your work, but do it without biting and/or killing co-workers.

“…men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal…These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.”

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt shows what made Theodore Roosevelt the great man he was. Reading this book will inspire you to get off the couch and start moving in your life. Harvard graduate, New York Assemblyman, rancher, historian, author of several books, New York City Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, and commanding officer of the Rough Riders are all titles that TR had before he became president at 42.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

Every boy can stand to learn a bit of old fashioned resourcefulness from their pops. Finding yourself on a deserted island is surely the way to learn these skills in a hurry. Tree forts, treasure hunting, and constant adventure mark the Swiss Family’s 10-year run. Lesson number one? Shipwrecks make for some good literature.

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

An idealistic vision from the man who fueled the Beat Generation, a life on the road without concern for wealth or even stability, rather an enjoyment of surroundings, whatever they may be. This is a great book for reminding us to get away from technology, at least for a day, to appreciate nature and some of the more simple pleasures of life. Don’t feel inferior to the beatniks if you still like driving your car…don’t ever let hipsters give you guilt trips.

“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream…”

The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer


(2-for-1 special) Though the authorship is disputed, the place of these two epics in the man canon is not. Roughly based around the events of the Trojan War, these poems are likely a great collection of common Greek folklore surrounding the events in those days of fierce political turmoil. It is rumored that there were 10 epics in all, and 8 were lost over time. This may be a blessing in disguise, because, if they were around, you would never get to the rest of this list.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The logic here is simple: any book which has the influence to have coined terminology commonly used in our society for decades on end should be perused based solely on principle. Nothing is worse than a man being caught using language of which he is unfamiliar with its proper meaning or origin. Also, it is a great book.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

A bit of isolation never hurt any man. Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days writing this book in Walden, a cabin tucked deep in the woods near Concord, Massachusetts. This work of non-fiction describes the changing of the seasons over the course of a year and was intended to give the author an escape from society in order to achieve a more objective point of view. A real man would take this sabbatical himself, but the book should suffice for those of you who are employed.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding


Primal instincts. With only the most basic of needs to consider, human nature takes a different approach. A fictional study of the struggle for power and the unspeakable things that man (or child) will do when taken outside the order of civilization.

The Master and Margarita by by Mikhail Bulgakov

There is nothing more manly than a bout with the Devil. An entertaining commentary on the atheistic social bureaucracy in Moscow in the 1930s wherein Lucifer himself pays the town a visit to make light of their skepticism regarding the spiritual realm.

“As a result he decided to abandon the main thoroughfares and make his way through the side streets and back alleys where people were less nosy, and there was less chance that a barefoot man would be pestered about long johns that stubbornly refused to look like trousers.”

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

Written as the autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, of course with Vonnegut’s own war experiences drawn upon as inspiration to the aging artist who narrates his own story. It is a hilarious take on abstract art, and takes jabs at both the inflated self-importance of the artist and the people who simply refuse to look beneath the surface.

“My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things.”

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Exploring the “virtue” of living for ourselves, this monster of a book (1,084 pages in my version) is certainly worth plowing through as it is simply a great story. The fundamental concept is that our world falls apart when individuals stop seeking their own satisfaction through personal achievement and feel a sense of entitlement to the accomplishments and work of others. This book challenges us on many levels…you may find it conflicting with your value of other people, her treatment of God, or any other beliefs you already hold. Yet, who can argue with, “The most depraved type of human being … (is) the man without a purpose.”

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Photo by Celeste

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.

None of us want this to happen. Well, most of us don’t. Kafka employed terms from law and politics, and was always concerned about some vague, oppressive bureaucracy that sought his ruin, though seeming cool and detached. We can take something from the very approach of Kafka to his work and find a balance between reading too much meaning into an event and, on the contrary, caring too little and being completely disillusioned.

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{ 1216 comments… read them below or add one }

901 Noah December 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm

To Burt level- ‘The Trail’ is Kafka, not Camus.

Also I think the stranger is a great pick- I’d say it’s the best philosophical work if for no other reason the narrative is very accessible.

Also, for nietzsche, ‘Thus spoke Zarathustra’ is his magnus opus. Though it’s laden with references to other works and told in allegories and metaphors (Or if you’d rather it’s a very high level read).

One more, while Ulysses is a great book and definitely belongs on and top 100 list… holy hell talk about an over-rated book. It is not the “hands down’ best book of all time.

And finally, I think Cormac McCarthy belongs in there (either Blood meridian, his best work imo, or The Road, his most recognized). He is the best American current author, or at least one of (though I can’t think of any real competition).

902 steve December 10, 2012 at 9:46 am

NO FAULKNER?????????

903 joshua December 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Good list, but how can you have an art of manliness book list without, With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge

904 Joaquin Lopez December 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Dude, you forgot the complete narrative of Jorge Luis Borges, or well, at least you may add The Aleph or Ficcions.

905 Garrett T. December 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

wait. no C.S. Lewis? i would have thought that “Mere Christianity” would be a good one and the chronicles of Narnia of course

906 D. Sanchez December 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

I realize that by the time someone gets around to the comment section it may be too late, but a couple of these summaries have plot points that really ruin the point of reading the book. Part of reading is creation and discovery. Don’t tell us how the book ends!

907 Elayne December 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Might a female join your group? Zorba the Greek is my favorite book, and I’ve read most of the books on this site. (Zorba changed my life.) Been looking for kindred spirits and finally found some on your web site. Thank you for renewing my faith in ‘manliness.’ I feared that it was becomng a thing of the past.

908 Johnny Dipp December 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm


909 Robert Eisner December 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Robert Frost’s complete poems
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
Sophocles’ Oedipus the King
T.H. White’s The Once and Future King
Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
Dickens’s Bleak House
Chekhov’s Stories
Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands
Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents
Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil
Schopenhauer’s Aphorisms
William Joyce’s The Dead
Jim Harrison’s After the Fall

910 Robert Eisner December 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Correction: Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall

911 Chris P. December 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Steve Farless I agree with you. The Count of Monte Cristo should absolutely be on this list. The story of Edmund Dantes and his transformation from boyhood to manhood serves as an excellent model for the development of masculinity and purposeful action.

912 Mr. Potter December 23, 2012 at 5:02 am

If you have not read Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” you have missed out on a great story that exemplifies the honor you wish to portray in your posts about bringing honor back to the world. Although I am not at all a fan of science fiction, I could not put this book down, and it changed my life.

913 William Jeffrey December 23, 2012 at 6:21 am

Though I admire him, this list has too much TR. How about replacing Jack Keroak with In Cold Blood? THere is also the Memoirs of US Grant to consider. If you are going to more than one Keroak you should have added the Last Picture SHow.

914 Will Wyatt December 24, 2012 at 7:30 am

Not a SINGLE book on science. Wow. Just WOW!!!!

915 Mr. Järvelä December 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm

A bit too American, a bit too right wing, a bit too religious list. Lacks many masterpieces and, as Mr. Wyatt stated, science.

Too much war. And Bible doesn’t really deserve a spot – it’s hollow by today’s standards.

The list could be easily reduced to 25 without losing anything essential. By reading more and from a wider spectrum it could serve as a kernel for 100.

916 Fred December 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I would add Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. Best book on being a man I know of. It takes grit don’t you know.

917 Jerry December 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I would recommend “Capitalism and Freedom,” by Milton Friedman. This one short book summarizes the economics of freedom, and instructs as to how to be a free man.

918 DeAngelo January 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Not sure anyone mentioned it but what about
Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich”
And I would also add Sidney Portiers Measure of a Man

919 JP January 5, 2013 at 12:05 am

This is a great list, and I’ll add a bunch of these to my list! However, I must say…you forgot Les Miserables!

920 Caleb January 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Some other great essential books to be read by every man
The Greatest Stories Never Told – Rick Beyer
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes – Bill Watterson
Common Sense – Thomas Paine
Invisible Man – Ralph Elison
Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
Sigmund Freud

921 Bob Lloyd January 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Great list. I would add a few others myself (out of personal reference) but i do think it is a bit americanised. Perhaps a little bit more philosophy (john stuart mill “on liberty”, Albert Camus “The Plague”, Bertrand Russell “History of Western Philosophy”for some).

922 Shane Etter January 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I’ve read 35 of the 100 on this list and several I haven’t read are in my study. As a published fiction author after starting a new writing career at age 55, I have learned much from reading many of these greats.

923 Raja Almukahhal January 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Any non-fiction? Why when someone mentions “books” it is alway assumed it is fiction. What about practical or philosophical books such as Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Newton’s Principia, Satre’s Being and Becoming or the Age of Reason. There are 100′s of serious nonfiction books.

924 Maurice Thrower January 9, 2013 at 12:55 am

Great Books indeed! Also, The Art of Worldly Wisdom, by Gracian. The Art of War, Sun Szu. and anything Epictetus.

925 Hart January 9, 2013 at 11:10 am

agree with Steve..no faulkner??

926 Jeff January 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Empire of the Summer Moon by SC Gwynne is a newer book but the details about the Comanches in their heyday is very manly.

927 Lady Jane January 11, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I was looking for the next great classic to read, and came across this website. This is an excellent list! I’ve read most of these, but it’s given me ideas to pick up those which I have not yet had a chance to read. Thanks!

928 Heath January 12, 2013 at 5:39 am

Iron John by Robert Bly

929 Tim Miller January 13, 2013 at 5:21 am

Man!! All are really heavy books. I’m actually kind of interested to check out the one entitled “How to win friends and influence people”. One aspect that i’m really weak at. LOL!!

Thanks for the recommendation anyway.

930 Khuzashi January 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

I have to concur with Maurice Thrower…and add to the list any of the works by Seneca aswell as Panchatantra.

931 Mike O. January 17, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Time Enough for Love-Robert Heinlein
Origin of Species-Darwin
Philisophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica-Isaac Newton

932 merle January 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Maybe a little late for the adult, but of utmost importance to get to that end for a male “The Jungle Book” – Rudyard Kipling. Inspiration for the Boy Scouts. If you were in Cub Scouts you probably remeber reference to Akela – the Lone Wolf. Forget the stupid Disney destruction of this classic, that was blasphemous.

933 Jon January 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Some pictures are not working, Would love to see another 100 if it hasnt already been posted because out of the billions of books 100 cant really have them all :)

934 Kenza January 20, 2013 at 8:07 am

(surprised girl:) Wow! There really do exist real man? Did I really just discover a site only for man with great taste, with man who read books and are interested in culture ? Am I in heaven?

935 Robert Cook January 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I would remove ATLAS SHRUGGED from the list. While it offers an appealingly grandiose power fantasy for youngsters (saturated with appalling self-centeredness, self-pity and resentment by the “heroes” for everyone not as “superior” to the herd as they), it is a tendentious and crack-pot tale undeserving of its inclusion with the other books here. Its greatest offense is not its comic book story, but that it so badly written, inhabited by characters who bear no resemblance to real human beings, and takes itself with the utmost seriousness, and has not an ounce of humor. In short, it is junk literature and junk philosophy.

936 Hughie January 21, 2013 at 9:45 am

Some good books in here, but I probably won’t return to this list, due to the massive bias towards American literature, war and the western genre. Me thinks there’s more to manliness than worshipping the stereotypes of a bygone era.

937 Chris Madison January 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I have to say, as an avid reader of this blog, that this site covers essentially everything manly- even the topics you never knew were important to have in your arsenal of knowledge. But this is the first time I am thoroughly disappointed. Make no mistake that the books listed here are timeless classics (some I have read, others I have put in my to-read bookshelf on GoodReads) but I notice there are a few books listed here for fathers to read for activities and lessons to teach their sons and unfortunately, none for a father and his daughter. Now, I understand that many activities and lessons can be adapted to both genders, but I feel that it is just as necessary to inform men how to be great fathers to their daughters as well.

938 Jeremy January 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm

@Chris — Three books on this list stand out to me as being GREAT resources for fathers: Dangerous Book for Boys, American Boys’ Handy Book, and Boy Scout Handbook. All of these have practical tips and tools that fathers/sons AND daughters can do together. Admittedly, they aren’t GEARED toward girls, but a quick anecdote to share.

I was at an antique store just this last weekend and found a 5th edition (1950) of the Boy Scout Handbook that I bought for $10. I got to the counter and the woman at the register remarked that as a little girl she loved looking through her father’s first edition.

Huzzah! There is hope to be found for fathers within this list.

939 Bill Hunt January 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm

No list of great books for men should have Atlas Shrugged on it. And no great list of books for men should be missing Patrick O’Brian. Admired by the likes of Walter Cronkite, Charlton Heston, George Will and William F. Buckley, his Aubreyad/Master and Commander series is quintessential manly! O’Brian makes C. S. Forester look like a comic strip writer.

940 Frederic Bayer January 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Rand? Eugh. And Smith, but no Marx? Waaah. Anyone who’s read Atlas Shrugged or the Wealth of Nations but not Capital or the Manifesto of the Communist Party just can’t be taken seriously in debates on economic issues.

941 Chris Madison January 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

@Jeremy (1/26)- Thank you for the insight! I will definitely be looking into those particular books as well. After reading this article, I took the initiative to search for a number of Father/Daughter books. I will keep you guys updated if I feel any are worth sharing.

942 frankbb January 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Sticking to novels, may I offer 2 good ones for boys who want to be men:

Like me, you probably won’t understand it until long after you finished reading it, but ‘The Leopard’ (Il Gatopardo) by Giovanni di Lampedusa is the greatest book I’ve ever read bar none. It’s a very subtle shortish novel about power and authority, and how nothing ever changes, even when everything changes — and how to deal with it.

Martin Amis’s ‘Money’ is a very courageous masterpiece about being a man. And truth. And honesty. Go on, take a look at yourself in the mirror. It will make you sick or laugh or both.

You already have The Iliad and The Odyssey (by the way the Iliad is quite a tightly shaped narrative about Achilles, a half-god who has given up human immortality for eternal fame, his anger at being treated without due deference by Agamemnon, and the consequences of that anger – it even says that’s the subject in the first lines of the poem) but I would add the anonymous Icelandic saga, ‘Burnt Njail’s Saga’, which is much deeper than you might think. (Why does Njail get burnt?)

943 Eric January 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land.

944 Dan S. January 28, 2013 at 7:16 am

@ Robert Cook,

I completely agree. Atlas Shrugged is a garbage book. Ayn Rand is a horrible author. You put her up against these other authors, and the book looks even more ridiculous. Especially, considering the list is about being a better man. Rational self-interest (at least the way Rand portrays it) is one of the worst philosophies (outlooks) a young man can have. Maybe one should read it, but only as a sharp comparison to better authors and greater works. I know you can’t fit every book on this list, but I would add “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” by Michael Chabon and “Straight Man” by Richard Russo (and his critically acclaimed “Empire Falls”)

945 Justin January 28, 2013 at 6:21 pm

With the internet inundated with useless list articles, this is one of the few I’ve perused. Rather than criticize with a string of omitted books I choose to thank the author and contributors, this is a good list with some great works mentioned. …Some of the readers who commented seemed to have missed the context of the article. It’s not a list of the one hundred greatest works of all time, (which would be in large part subjective), but a “must read” list for the “essential man”. Let’s not allow ourselves to get too injured by the lack of anti-capitalist or anti-religious works or the nationalities of the authors. Doing so would probably be perusing this light-hearted list a little too intensly. Cheers, and happy reading!

946 Phil January 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I remember well reading these books and others during my high school and college days. I try to stir a curiosity in many younger people that I meet along the way to actually read a book!!!! Myself, I was quite fond of the works of IK Marvel………..

947 Lissa Wohltmann February 1, 2013 at 7:49 am

Thank you so much for writing this. As a kid, I should have been reading some of these, but I was too busy playing ball, riding bikes, and swimming. Now that I’m finished with graduate school, I finally have time to read the books all the world has been discussing for years. Thanks again for the education!

948 Steve February 1, 2013 at 8:04 am

In response to earlier criticism, Atlas Shrugged is one of my all time favorite books. True, it lacks humor and can drag at times, but her notion of human competence is inspiring!! The fact that her characters seem unreal is a shortcoming of man rather than one of the author. While I don’t really care for the philisophical side of Rand, I think it is a great book.

949 Spence February 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Wendell Berry…

950 baci February 2, 2013 at 6:45 am

i think there are thousands of books that are more essential and more relevant than any of ayn rand’s books-her books are plain right wing rubbish and a list calling itself “the man’s essential libary” can’t be taken seriously when it has “atlas unshrugged” on its list-sorry,but that’s an epic fail there…

951 Ek7oR February 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hey I really find this book list very well arranged and suited for a beginner reader but I highly recommend one of the best books ever written which is not on this list…

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo…
simply a fantastic book!

952 Mike S. February 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Obviously it’s impossible to make a list of books that everyone is going to agree with but still this is a little lacking. Maybe a narrowing it down with essential FICTION or all books “to make you a better man” specifically or something like that (although that may be the intention with these titles).
As it is it basically is a mix of highschool reading list and books everyone talks about ever anyways and as mentioned earlier no science…. hence adding fiction or something of the like to it….
Thanks to the authors for the compiling though, I know you can’t make everybody happy

953 rob February 3, 2013 at 3:34 am

Not read a single one of these books. I always laugh at “must read” lists. What’s going to happen when its time for me to die and I’ve never read a one? The world will not end if you don’t read one. I’m sure some of them are probably good but who has time to read these days? That and after a page, I usually doze off. Good on ya, if you do read some or all the books.

954 badhorse February 4, 2013 at 3:54 am

Uh.. Jules Verne!!!!!

955 Brian February 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

You left out Conrad and Kipling for sure…

956 Lucas February 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

No Kierkegaard?

957 Aaron February 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm

To Mr. Jarvela,

The Bible is hollow? My friend, maybe you should add a book on the study of the Bible to your list. Might I also recommend Scaling the Secular City, by J. P. Moreland. This is a scientific viewpoint on the Universe.

958 Marguerite February 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Totally agree about removing Atlas Shrugged. It’s a book people grow out of by the time they’re twenty-five unless they’re morally and creatively deficient. Also agree re Faulkner – he should be here. It’s wonderful to find a community passionately committedto books. Love it.

959 Klebold Harris February 9, 2013 at 3:24 am

I would rather seek to occupy intellect intent while one seeks to better learn and understand thw philosophies of men mingled with scripture or a the Gentiles once beckoned mingled with obscure gerbils among the foundation. That with being said and not such withheld, may I introduce the book by Oliver Clothesoff, “To utter infamous practicalities shall be thy death”

A very well written humor filled book that provides a classical approach to the French colonial period and there occupation with the Zulu on the island that Dr. Morao was once a sexual deviant predator on in his classic.

960 Dean February 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I highly recommend anyone to read this book and reflect on their life in the complicated world!

The book of proverbs by Dejan Dejan

961 Nate February 13, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I’ve read through the entire list and hundreds of these comments, but can’t believe there’s not a single mention of the Alchemist. Amazing story about consciously choosing to follow one’s dreams. One of my favorites; I read it in five hours the first time.

1984 and Brave New World are nice inclusions, but in that realm might also suggest The Giver and Fahrenheit 451.

Also, some people really hate Ayn Rand, but there’s no doubt Atlas or Fountainhead should be on this list.

962 Darren Szwajkowski February 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

You cannot read Nietzsche without a rebuttal of his insanity by Gilber Keith Chesterton. Anything of Chesterton’s is good. Orthodoxy, Heretics, The Everlasting Man, The Ball and the Cross, Fr. Brown mysteries, The Man Who was Thursday, The Napolean of Notting Hill. If you want to really challenge your belief and faith, read Chesterton. Chesterton revived the popularity of Dickens. C.S. Lewis was converted to Christianity by reading The Everlasting Man. This influencial man of the early 1900′s has been pushed aside. Don’t forget Chesterton’s friend Hillaire Belloc.

963 Nick February 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Wheres the Bukowski? “Women” is a must read.

964 Brian February 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It’s the greatest western ever written. If you thought you were a man, take a look at Augustus McCrae and think again.

965 3 eyed johnny February 19, 2013 at 8:12 am

Amazed by how many people comment about books that are not on the list but actually ARE on the list. Go over it again, please!
If you want to denigrate the list then make up your own list. Except we don’t have tens of thousands of people flocking to our sites to see what we think.
Bible is hollow, that’s rich.
If the list was 101 I recommend True Grit by Charles Portis. Don’t let the campy JW movie fool you. This is a classic piece of American Lit.

966 titus February 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

Toilers of the Sea by victor Hugo.
Moonstone or Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, perhaps some of the first “detective novels.
Shibumi by Trevanian

967 Annon February 22, 2013 at 1:43 am

Maybe this is the essential book list for everyone?

968 FrugalFrigate February 23, 2013 at 9:30 am

In today’s culture of moral decay it hard to find a book by a contemporary author that will educate, uplift, and entertain, but I found it. The Sparrohawk series by Edward Cline is the best writing you will ever find.

969 Tony February 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Great list, I have already read most of those great works. Very happy that you included the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Not quite sure why, “War and Peace,” by Tolstoy was not on your list. “All is vanity, all falsehood, except that infinite sky.”

970 Sheldon February 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm

What about the Turner Diaries? Now that’s some good reading!

971 Nick February 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Bound For Glory, by Woodie Guthrie

You Can’t Win, by Jack Black (not the actor)

Ham on Rye, Bukowski

-otherwise this list re-affirms some of must-reads on my list, -thanks!

972 Bryn February 28, 2013 at 7:42 am

Good list…amazing how bent out of shape some people are about what book are included but shouldn’t be and which ones are left out…Good Lord grow up! Oh boo hoo, you hated Atlas Shrugged and the Bible is “hollow”, well I didn’t care for ‘Gatsby’ or Catch-22…, so what? Stop whining, like little girls, be men!

973 Steven March 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

No Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius? Really? And this is 100 (!!) books for *men*, and that’s without Marcus Aurelius?


974 Matthew March 2, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Bryn, thank you very much for saving me from typing that.

With such a wonderful collection of books looking at the past, I was expecting more books looking at the -future.- Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was already suggested; alongside it belongs The Illustrated Man, as well as most of Philip K. Dick’s work. It is certainly wise to look at the past so we don’t make the same mistakes, but it is just as necessary to look at the myriad futures, many of which we are (horrifyingly) on the edge of.

A brilliant example showing this necessity is Bradbury’s short story ‘The Murderer’ wherein a man is thrown into a mental hospital for defying technologies that we know of now as cell phones and iPods, facebook updates and Foursquare (it literally mentions people “checking in” to every place they go); keep in mind, this story was written -20 years- before the first mobile phone was even created.
Line to remember: “[Silence is] a big bolt of the nicest, softest flannel ever made.”

975 Scott M. March 4, 2013 at 7:46 am

I’m glad you explain these are the books that changed your lives as opposed to books that are worth reading.

Your Atlas Shrugged book reminds me of the quote by John Rogers – There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

And the Wealth of Nations is too old. If you want a good book on economics, study Karl Marx’s Capitalism!

976 EditorJack March 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm

The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban
Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
There Are Doors, by Gene Wolfe
Little, Big, by John Crowley
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick
Ubik, by Philip K. Dick
Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
The Once and Future King, by T. H. White
The Bear, by William Faulkner
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot
The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

977 EditorJack March 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Candide, by Voltaire
Jurgen, by James Branch Cabell
A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay
20,000 Leagues under the Sea, by Jules Verne
The Golden Key, by George Macdonald
The Princess and Curdie, by George Macdonald
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Book of Mormon (yes, really; watch for the overall message)

978 EditorJack March 5, 2013 at 10:13 am

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann

979 Kit March 6, 2013 at 7:38 am

Where is Faulkner???

980 pete March 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm

is it possible to have a list of essential books that doesn’t include Catcher in the Rye? i read it last summer and i had to force my way through it. i’m pretty sure i’ve forgotten most of it.

981 JC March 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Although I agree with most of your choices, I can’t help myself to add a few.

Hitchens ~”Arguably: Essays”
Thomas Paine ~ “Common Sense”
Darwin ~ “The Voyage of the Beagle”
P.G. Wodehouse ~ “Something Fresh”
Marcus Aurelius ~ “Meditations”
Shakespeare ~ “Henry IV” (1&2)
“King Lear”
Burne ~ “The 100 Years War”
Poe ~ “The Raven”
Dickens ~ “Great Expectations”
Dawkins ~ “The Blind Watchmaker”
Anthony Everitt ~ “Cicero”
Zinn ~ “A Peoples History of the United States”
Anything by David Hume

982 JC March 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm

How could I have forgot one of my Favs.

Herzog ~ Saul Bellow

983 Tim March 12, 2013 at 1:11 am

No one should read Atlas Shrugged. Ever.

984 D. Jacobs March 13, 2013 at 5:10 am

I would highly recommend,The Compleat Gentleman, by Brad Miner

985 C. Johnson March 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Scott M. said, “And the Wealth of Nations is too old. If you want a good book on economics, study Karl Marx’s Capitalism!”

Wow! I never thought that central economic planning would be seriously touted over Wealth of Nations because “it is too old.” People really tout Marx and his Animal Farm socialistic idealogy? Wow!

Real men work, accumulate their own property through their efforts, and then give freely in a charitable manner to causes they want to support. Undead vampires, who are not men, instead scream, wail, nash their teeth, and make a ruckus that “true charity” is taking the fruit of other people’s labor (sucking part of their limited life), by force if necessary(including ‘legal’ government force) and dispersing it to others.

I see no good argument that socialistic/vampiric ideaologies/systems are manly. They are systems designed to suck the resources/lives of manly men who are inventing, building, working hard, and taking care of themselves, families, and communities. I would argue that those systems lack any sort of manly honor.

986 Rick Kelly March 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm

The best book I ever read is “War & Peace” by Tolstoy. Once you get past page 250 you won’t be able to put it down.

Kosinski’s “The Painted Bird” is a keyto understanding the Holocaust; “Being There” is an introduction to the presence of idiots in American politics – the movie and book are both excellent.

No Faulkner????

Tennessee Williams’ early plays are great. His short stories are preps for a number of his plays.

Milan Kundera, E. L. Doctorow and Michael Ondaatje have works worth considering.

The Library of America series is a great investment for U.S. authors.

987 Chris K. March 18, 2013 at 3:22 am

This is a great list of manly books, although “Wild At Heart’ and “The Way of the Wild Heart” by John Elderage ought to be on this list too. Especially, if the man has forgotten who he is as a man, and his relationship with what he believes in and his place in the world.

988 Noxx March 19, 2013 at 1:37 am

It’s unfathomable to me that this list does not include “Night”

989 Carl March 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

The comments are almost better than the books. On the theme of continued learning, from which I linked to this list, these are really just some CHOICES that we have. Part of learning is accepting differing opinion so we may challenge ourselves. To everyone ‘Well said’.

990 jeff March 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

In case anyone is still reading comments on here, I have a few selections for inclusion, or for further reading.

Old man’s war – John Scalzi – accessible and interesting sci-fi
The Machine Gunner’s – cant remember the author, epic story of becoming a man during war torn London during the fortunes, and that manliness requires difficult choices.
My Side of the Mountain – can’t remember the author again, but essential escapism reading of boyhood, with working illustrations on setting snares and wilderness survival, set in the Appalachian wilderness.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle – needs no further explanation.
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card – easily accessible sci-fi again, morals, growing up a man, self reliance and military culture.

And too many others to name. This was an excellent list however, and I’ll build a good read shelf based on it so I can work my way though. Please excuse my poor formatting and any weird spelling issues, typing on an android is obnoxious.

991 Mike Windrim March 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm

I agree with Mr. Järvelä. Way too much war reading for my taste and nothing about science, music or the arts. Also, some of the best modern fantasy and science fiction contains all the thought provoking meat of Dostoevsky and others, without being impossible to read. Just sayin’…

992 Jeremy March 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm

What’s with the “you forgot about…” comments? The list is about books to read, but by no means is the author suggesting that they are the only books worth reading. It goes without saying that there are more than 100 “essential” books in existence, and it should also go without saying that one man’s classic is another man’s toilet paper.

As for myself (commenting about what’s on the list): I found Catch 22 to be rubbish. I also agree with previous comments that there is too much “Teddy” on the list; surely there are many other great leaders in the world worth reading about. I would not have included any of the economic/political books to make room for other literary classics: it seems strange to list texts from authors who think that they have found “the answer” that will solve humanities problems when they – like their predecessors – are invariably ignoring the complexities of the nature of humanity which will eventually cause any “perfect” idea to go awry. And I think the literary classics none too often remind us of this.

There are quite a few books from the list above that I haven’t read, and I’ve selected several for my reading list, so I would like to thank the author for the post.

993 Nic March 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm

What an expansive list and thanks for the post. Looks like I’ll be catching up on some reading.

I can’t help but mention a favourite author of mine:

John Buchan

If anyone is into the chase-thriller genre then read the Richard Hannay series. He is the quintessential tough guy – strong, smart, and self contained. Basically an earlier version of the fictional British Secret Service agent: James Bond. Anyway, a great character to be admired by all men. Give it a read.

994 Chris March 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I saw a comment that said “Ender’s Game” should be on the list, and I could not agree more. It may not be profound philosophy, but the political ideas and raw emotion can really hit home. (side note: the sequel/corollary “Ender’s Shadow” is just as good, if not better)

995 Ryan Stoyer March 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm

As a young man studying literature in college, I’ve got to say this list does a fine job of attempting what many would consider an impossible task. I appreciate that this article is titled “100 Must Read Books” and by no means claims to be a complete list or even a list containing any sort of “best” books. That being said, were I to amend the list I would add Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe was considered by Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald to be the best novelist of their generation and his loosely auto-biographical first novel is an absolute must read for every man as a reminder of our own ability to derive sheer wonder from every day life as we learn and grow into ourselves. Wolfe’s mastery of language is insuperable and leads to countless breath taking scenes of self-discovery.

996 Jon R. April 1, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Dont Know if anybody have said it,but two important books, and my favorites are: The richest man in babylon, and the prince. (last one is on the list)

997 James O. April 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Much appreciation for both the list and the additional suggestions. I was surprised how many of these I HAVE read. My own suggestions…Little Big Man, by Thomas Berger. The prose is fantastic, and I find that each page brings a chuckle, or a nod of affirmation at some truth revealed, or a phrase so deftly turned as to make me sit up and take appreciation. True Grit or Dog of the South by Charles Portis are both in that same vein.

998 Travis Gery April 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm

While I would certainly advocate for the inclusion of C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, and ALL the Narnia books), and Upton Sinclaire’s The Jungle, all in all, a GREAT list, and one that I will recommend to my just-turned 18-year-old son.

999 akh baba April 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm


1000 Larry Miller April 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Many that I recommend to the younger members of our clan but one that I consider that should be mandatory to any thinking person is; The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

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