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 }

1001 Caegan April 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Whisper of the River – Ferroll Sams
First of great trilogy depicting growing up on
in rural community through adulthood.
This author is one of best wordsmiths I’ve ever read.
Also add A Far-Off Place by Lauren Van der Post — fabulous book

1002 Caegan April 4, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Art of War .. by Sun Tze
Is being used by a 4th grade teacher as text for course on resolving global conflict, creating world peace. Changed the students’ lives in many ways.

1003 Caitlin April 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

1004 Larry Miller April 5, 2013 at 9:04 am

The Tue Believer by Eric Hoffer, The only book I would make mandatory reading for all H.S Seniors and again when they become Collage Srs or 30 years of age..whichever comes first.

1005 Chris Ross April 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Patton’s Principles

1006 Rebecca April 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Anthem by Ayn Rand

1007 drHoward April 9, 2013 at 12:53 am

Lots of famous and historical books but not necessarily all of them are good reads. I could read them all if I had too but it would not be fun. There are too many great books out there to read, so don’t waste your time on the drudgery of reading thru some of these.

1008 Sir April 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Solid list. Kudos
I have 2 issues and 3 suggestions.
1. There are a lot of novels from Steinbeck here. ( 4? more than anyone else)
2. There are also a lot of works from Dostoyevsky. (3-4?)
I’ve read around half the ones on the list by them and more by them not on this list. I don’t think they are the greatest even in their fields. That said, my suggestions are:
1. In classic American literature: Faulkner. Who didn’t appear even once.
2. Tolstoy. If you don’t have the time for war and peace you could at least read the death of Ivan Illych. Leaving him off any list of essential reading is surprising.
3. The Winds of War- Herman Wouk. (completely unrelated to the previous 2 although certainly manly)

1009 Dylan April 13, 2013 at 6:03 pm

The Old Man and The Sea!

Or anything ever written by Hemingway, Steinbeck, or Fitzgerald.

1010 Anirudh Shekhawat April 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

List of books is really analytic and helpful.I read and added to my library somewhat ten books out of this list and all are worth reading.

1011 Ryan H. April 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

A resounding ‘amen’ to Blood Meridian and East of Eden. Pretty much anything by Steinbeck and McCarthy fits the bill.

1012 Julieta Perez April 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I agree with the above in that many good books are not on this list, but then if all the great books were, the list wouldn’t be just 100 :) I think it appeals to a wide range of tastes, and I LOVED the comment on “Ulysses”. Kudos!

1013 Conor April 21, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Sometimes A Great Notion
Ken Kesey

1014 Justin April 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

The book you should add to this list is Wild at Heart. It is a book on what it looks like to be a biblical man.


1015 Augustin April 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

I’m currently reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt! Best decision I’ve ever made.

I’ll tackle this list soon and I’ve read some of the books on it.

1016 Dale P. Johnson April 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I came across your site sort of by accident, and enjoyed looking at your list of books and movies. At the risk of suggesting something that is already on your list I would add as essential BOOKS 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, Lords of Discipline, Prince of Tides, Beach Music, The Ninth Wave, The View from Pompey’s Head, Couples (Updike), World Enough and Time (Robert Penn Warren’s “other book”), The Rich Boy (Long short story) (FItzgerald), The Winds of War, Harry the Rat (long short story by Jules Fieffer) MOVIES The Gardens of the Finzi Contini, A Place in the Sun, A New Leaf, Dale P. Johnson Dallas

1017 Dorian Gray April 30, 2013 at 10:30 am

Solipsist – Henry Rollins

1018 Elliot April 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Given the tenets of manliness are universal, I thought I would add wo books by Australian authours that are worth investing some time in.
A Fortunate life – A.B. Facey
This autobiography chronicles the extrodinary life of Albert Facey. From his tough unbringing in rural Australia, teaching himself to read, working in a travelling boxing troupe, his time serving in the Australian Imperial Force in WWI (including the battle of Gallipoli), and raising a family. He was a man in every sense of the word and he lifed an epic life. Although he became quite famous after the book was published, he said he had merely lived a simple life and he “couldn’t see what all the fuss was about”. A true Australian man.

Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
An Australian version of “To Kill a Mokcingbird” which examines the racism and justice through the eyes of children.

The other book I would strongly recommend (although not Australian) is the autobiography of Romeo Dallire – “Shake Hands with the Devil”. Dallaire was the Force Commander for the UN Peacekeeping mission in Rwanda in 1994. It is a harrowing read, but gives insight into how men react in the most extreme circumstances.

1019 John May 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

Heart of Darkness anyone?

1020 Grey May 2, 2013 at 4:09 am

No Joseph Conrad?! There should be a list of honourable mentions I think, there are a lot of books worth mentioning that aren’t on the list, and definitely should be, such as Lord Jim.

1021 Sean May 2, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Great List! I would add All the King’s Men (Robert Penn Warren)

1022 André Vilaça May 3, 2013 at 8:59 am


It is a very good list, although I would add to it 2 more books:

“Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill


“The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason

1023 Tommy May 8, 2013 at 9:19 am

Charles Bukowski

1024 Jeff May 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I find the list very interesting and have been an avid reader since my childhood so was surprised to find I am 58 books short of completing this list and plan to remedy that immediately.

1025 Matt May 9, 2013 at 1:10 am

Don’t Forget : Nathaniel Philbrick is a great non-fiction history writer who penned several award winners including: Into the Heart of the Sea, Sea of Glory, The Mayflower, and the Last Stand. His books are all-American, readable yet incredibly informative, and incredibly well written.
If you love American history (or books about seamanship), then you simply must read Philbrick’s works.

One book of his I have not read is Bunker Hill. I think it’s Philbrick’s newest one, but I am 99% certain it’s also an awesome read because that’s just how good an author he is.

1026 Benny May 10, 2013 at 6:24 am

The Way of the Superior Man by David Deider

1027 Filip Farag May 12, 2013 at 6:17 am

Robert Greene – Mastery

1028 Peter Pan May 12, 2013 at 8:02 am

Psycho Cybenetics is the only book you need for success in any field

1029 Chantelle B May 14, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Flyboys:A true story of Courage by James Bradley, in my opinion REQUIRED reading by everyone on the planet.
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach.
Another brilliant book that gives an intriguing insight into doing what’s required of us vs. living for ourselves. Of course, I’m a lady, so maybe my idea of manliness is different ;)

1030 Helen May 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

Two of the greats that come to mind are are (1) The Good Earth (2) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

1031 Rob Scalfaro May 21, 2013 at 12:56 am

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.
Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann

1032 Bugenhagen May 21, 2013 at 2:14 am

A little obsessed with Theodore Roosevelt, are we?

1033 Sal May 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I am interested in reading authors who distinguish themselves by their extensive use of the rich vocabulary of the English language. Does anyone have suggestions for me ? Thanks.

1034 Ben_1980 May 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Nice list.

I can also recommend any of Evelyn Waugh’s novels — especially A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisitited. Superb stories from a male perspective.

Happy reading

1035 TJ Blease May 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Great list! Its awesome to see men read fiction, dress well, cook awesome food and not avoid it because it is typically associated as “womanly” I am just starting to read the Great Gatsby and can’t wait to read more classics from this list. Speaking of typically “womanly” things I loved your post on Pinterest and only found it after I wrote my own post (http://www.tjblease.com/1/post/2013/05/a-mans-guide-to-pinterest.html) and when I tried to see where it showed up on Google saw you wrote the same kind of article! Keep up the good work Brett

1036 Louisovich May 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm

A few to add…

Horse and Buggy West -Jack O’Conner
Death in the Long Grass – Peter Hatherway Capstick
Hell I Was There – Elmar Keith

1037 Ahmad June 1, 2013 at 1:54 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about must read books. Regards

1038 Ender June 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Ender’s Game because what’s the worst that could happen? You lose. Yes.

1039 Taylor June 3, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Martin Eden by Jack London.

1040 Ryan June 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Great list of books here, as if I didn’t have enough on my shelf already. I would also recommend anything by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

1041 Kevin Williams June 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Hi. Fun website, thanks. A helpful note about your booklist regarding Walden; I haven’t read the book since I was 12 but I did just check and Thoreau was AT Walden (Pond) IN Concord which is ever so slightly different from in Walden cabin near Concord. Now to find my copy of that book…

1042 Ted June 11, 2013 at 1:54 am

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. This is Stoic philosophy (with which every man must have a nodding acquaintance) written by a successful Roman Emperor. A must read.

1043 Mario June 12, 2013 at 5:38 am

The Bible – probably the best instruction manual ever (take the Book of Proverbs for instance).

The others in this list are also cool though. There also some really great South African authors Herman Charles Bosman (Unto Dust, Cold Stone Jug) and Andre P Brink available from Amazon.

Another good read is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Nice site Brett, keep it up!

1044 Allan Cole June 13, 2013 at 3:13 am

That’s a huge , but interesting list. I am happy to say that I’ve read some of them already, and others are in my to-read-next list. The last few books that I manage to read this year are “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “King Solomon’s Mines” (read it also when I was a teenager) and the last was The Island of Dr. Moreau by Wells

1045 Alex June 13, 2013 at 10:25 am

No Dune or Ender’s Game? Also, a spoiler alert would have been great (especially of The Count of Monte Cristo).

1046 Stephen Duarte June 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm

The Conduct of Life – Emerson

1047 JP Kamand June 13, 2013 at 11:32 pm

It pleases me that I have read a book from this list, and of course with the plans to read more.

Please consider: Robin Sharma – Leaders without a title

Best regards,

1048 Sara June 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Knut Hamsuns – Hunger
Henrik Ibsen – The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler


1049 ScottyVII June 25, 2013 at 6:24 am

“Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield

1050 Andrew Mulvenna June 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

American author biased, therefore lacking several literary icons (Dickens?), but a good start nonetheless.

1051 Steve June 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

I’ve made it a life goal to read as many of these as possible and I made a checklist to print out and keep track. If anyone else wants to use it go ahead and print it here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkNtuAK_EmtkdHVLZDVzR2s1b2JqRGFCRnpDWU44LXc&usp=sharing

1052 Ed Tully July 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm

“Raintree County” by Ross Lockridge, Jr. – It’s the story of a man who grows up in a rural county in Indiana from the 1830s to the 1870s. It begins when he is a small boy and ends when he is in his mid 50s. Johnny Shawnessy is kind of an everyman character of life in rural America in the mid 1800s. It is a very moving and poignant tale of a lifelong quest to understand and fulfill his life’s destiny.
Ross Lockridge, Jr set out in the late 1930s to write “The Great American Novel”. Upon it’s release in 1946 “Raintree County” was highly praised (and criticised in some circles) and the novel’s screen rights quickly scooped up by Hollywood. Due to a thoroughly awful, failed movie released in 1956, the length (1056 pages) and density of the book and the fact that this was Lockridge’s only publication, it has faded from the literary scene. I’ve read it 5 or 6 times over the years and recommend it highly, especially to men. You may have a hard time finding a copy.

1053 Ryne July 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

“The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” by Leo Tolstoy is an admittedly daunting read but well worth it.

1054 Mike63 July 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm

“A Higher Call” by Adam Makos. The amazing true story of a Luftwaffe Ace fighter pilot who escorted a crippled U.S. B-17 bomber crew out of Germany to the North Sea where the bomber returned safely to England. The former enemies reunited 46 years later. Honor, courage and integrity and a story with some surprising twists and turns about WW2 Europe.

1055 Ashley Hoober July 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

What an amazing list of books, great work! I’ve tackled a few the them but not as many as I hoped to. Looks like my reading list is growing.

Many thanks!

1056 Carl July 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Small Correction – I didn’t read all of the comments to see if this had been mentioned before – The Long Goodbye might have been the last written by Philip Marlowe when he was alive but Poodle Spring – completed after his death in 1959 – is a good read as well.


1057 Sandra Goldstein July 8, 2013 at 9:44 am

This is one great resource for guys. No tedious DIY guides here. It’s serious stuff and your top 100 is going on my literary playlist, so to speak. I loved The Hobbit as a kid. It spoke to my love of adventure in ways that detective stories or war books never did. I guess it was the dragon. Something about fighting a supernatural or otherworldly foe always excites me. That said, I have Emerson under my Have Read list too. He’s been gone a long time and the world he knew was very different from our own. But he was made of the same stuff and his wisdom is as relevant as ever. My suggestion? I’d put Batman in there. The Dark Knight Returns is a graphic novel rather than the usual sort, but it’s 100% man material. Hard choices, courage, facing up to the past – it boasts plenty of decent themes. Plus, great villain.

1058 David Chalmers July 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Great list – already got all the books I hadn’t read before and started reading

1059 Dave July 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

My uncle turned me onto this series…Try
John D. Mac Donald’s “Travis McGee” series of books. They all have a color in the title. Excellent adventure fiction. You will learn something about the world and its people that you did not know with each book you read. “The Deep Blue Goodbye” is the first one. Stephen King and John Grisham are among many contemporary famous fiction writers who consider John D. MacDonald to be a God of fiction writing. Also, try John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley”. A great “road trip” book.

1060 Larry Albertson July 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Terrific list and great ideas from the comments sections. Instead of spending all of my retirement time on Fantasy Baseball, APBA baseball and the wife’s honey-do list – I now have these wonderful choices of books to read and enjoy. Thank you, all, for your suggestions.

1061 Michael July 9, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Great list. How about Robert Parker’s Spenser novels? And ANYTHING by Patrick O’Brian, especially his Aubrey /Maturin stories?
Keep up the good work.

1062 Adam July 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm

The Count of Monte Cristo, and the The Three Musketeers are a must. Alexandre Dumas is amazing, funny, educational, and give a window in to life 200+ years ago.
Washington: A Life and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow are also incredible works.

1063 Charlie July 11, 2013 at 1:07 am

Just started the Great Gatsby. A few I would add to this list from personal opinion would be Macbeth by Shakespeare. Its a great comment in the desire of power. Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa is a great fictional account of the life of the author of the Five Rings. Finally The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury is a wonderfully writen expose on the Gangs of the five points. Just a few thoughts.

1064 Alejandroomi July 11, 2013 at 7:15 am

Liked many of these books in my younger years. But, how about all of those works of Jules Verne! THye opened my mind with the gift of ‘wonder’ and a longing for the 21st Century!

1065 Chris L. July 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

Ayn Rand… ugh. Helping make people act more like selfish a-holes since 1957.

I’d add anything by historian David McCullough, but Mornings on Horseback is my favorite.

1066 Sam H July 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Think and Grow rich —Napoleon Hill. Absolute Must

1067 barry July 12, 2013 at 12:28 am

The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova

You may have to keep a dictionary on one knee.

1068 Taylor Church July 12, 2013 at 4:06 am

Epic list. Unfortunately I read almost exclusively non-fiction. But I was chastised by an English Lit. major who was reading this list over my shoulder. So i suppose I should go read a few classics to ameliorate my manliness. Go check out my blog post on the importance of reading http://billymoney.blogspot.com/2013/03/if-you-dont-like-reading-youre-doing-it.html

1069 Taylor July 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Has anyone suggested The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen? It’s an autobiographical foray into the Himalayas to photograph the elusive, titular snow leopard. Involves solitude, confronting the pain of loss, surviving in an unforgiving climate within a foreign culture, spiritual reflection, etc..

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein is a great read concerning the confusions of feeling “foreign” and separate, as well as dealing with the responsibilities coming with power and influence. It was ill-received by the New York Times as well, making it inherently manly.

Very pleased that Kerouac’s Dharma Bums made the list.

1070 Gerry July 13, 2013 at 11:31 pm

This article is based on OPINION! Not all of us have the time or interest to read fiction-novels; I think that non-fiction (informational) reading should be more important…Such as Military field-manuals, “how-to” books and even Instructional-manuals (like the ones that come with appliances you purchase)…Just my rusty-nickel opinion!

1071 Jerry July 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Life After Doomsday (by Duncan Long) should certainly be a “man’s-read” list …If you can find that book… Released in 1980, I remember when my local-Library used to have it.

1072 Nick Mongo July 14, 2013 at 1:52 am

A Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I believe every American should read this book. It’s a look at our nation’s history from the perspective of the working people. Starting from the times of Columbus to post Vietnam, you see alternative sides of some figures we were taught in grade school to be Gods among men.

1073 Paul Attwood July 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Good list. I will get started on the ones i have missed. I suggest The Law By Frédéric Bastiat be added to your list.

1074 Nick July 15, 2013 at 12:22 am

These aren’t just manly books. These are GOOD books. If a girl sees my bookshelf (containing many of these classics) and hasn’t heard of any of them… I can tell you our relationship will be short lived.

This is with exception to the Great Gatsby. I read it in english class, and I loved that class, but frankly I still don’t see what all the fuss is about. But that is just my personal opinion, and it is certainly still a well written work

1075 Omar A. July 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm

The Razors Edge by W. Somerset Maugham anyone?

1076 Kevin Kelly July 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm

The 48 Laws of Power
By Robert Greene

Want to figure out politics quick? have a go at this book.

1077 Dave July 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm

The two most profound books that I have found in my life are…”Passionate Marriage” and “Intimacy and Desire” by David Schnarch, Phd. If you really wish to learn about how to “grow up” and really love yourself and another then consider these two books. They have become my “personal bibles” that I go back to time and again. They never let me down.

1078 Ben July 23, 2013 at 7:56 am

Might I suggest “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose. The story of Lewis and Clark.

1079 Dan July 24, 2013 at 11:48 pm

1) The Long Goodbye is not the last Philip Marlowe novel (though it ought to have been); Playback is.

2) I can think of roughly 10,000 books a man ought to read before pissing his time away on anything by Tom Robbins.

3) The lack of poetry on this list is pretty disappointing (notwithstanding The Divine Comedy). My suggestions, for what they’re worth:

- Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
- Beowulf, Seamus Heaney (translator)
- Howl and Other Poems, Allen Ginsberg
- The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot
- The Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes

1080 Chelee July 27, 2013 at 1:38 am

I would also suggest reading
“Shane” by Jack Schaefer

1081 Liz July 28, 2013 at 1:03 am

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

1082 rhoneil manansala July 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm

What ever happened to “Leaves of Grass” by
Walt Whitman and “The Prophet” by Khalil
Ghibran? Anyone Gentlemen?

1083 Evan August 1, 2013 at 12:02 am

Pretty good list, however I do have to say that I was a little disappointed. There’s a lot of fiction there. I strongly believe The Art Of War should have been on that list, as well as the Ashley Book of Knots. A good cookbook should grace that list, possibly Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.

1084 john August 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

The Bible

1085 John August 7, 2013 at 8:39 am

Yes that is correct.

“Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield

1086 Marcus Morales August 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Excellent article and suggestions! I have noticed a few people suggest “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene… But, might I ALSO suggest “The art of Seduction” and “Mastery” also written by Robert Greene. Also, I strenuously suggest reading Paolo Coelho, in particular “The Alchemist”, “The Devil and Miss Pym”, and “The Zahir”… absolutely excellent reads. and lastly… if you are to recommend The Bible, and there is nothing wrong in doing so, you should also include The Koran and the Talmud and even the I Ching… Stay Manly, everyone!!!

1087 Marc L August 9, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Norman Maclean has written two books, A River Runs Through it and Other Stories is terrific, but also Young Men and Fire is extremely well written.

1088 Jonathan K August 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Missing Last of The Breed by Louis L’Amour. One of the greatest books I have ever read.

1089 Stephen August 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

1. Journey to the End of the Night – Louis-Ferdinand Céline

2. The Kindly Ones – Jonathan Littell

3. Death on Credit – Louis-Ferdinand Céline

4. Young Stalin – Simon Sebag Montefiore

5. My Childhood – Maxim Gorky

1090 Simon Taylor-Spencer August 13, 2013 at 10:48 am

Any biography of Beau Brummel is highly recommended. He single handedly took on the established order of the day to recreate himself in his own image, an image which all “Chaps” aspire to today.

1091 Katarina August 14, 2013 at 6:09 am

The Quran ;)

1092 Jonathan August 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimoore Cooper is an extremely well written book. The character of Hawk-eye is a veritable well of manliness.

1093 jim August 17, 2013 at 11:36 am

There is a modern translation of the federalist papers called The Original Argument by Glenn Beck that is in modern English so you can understand it.

1094 Murdoc August 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm

The Writings and Musings of Marcus Aurelius

Collective Works of William Butler Yeats

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Trinity by Leon Uris

1095 Tom August 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I saw a suggestion for Last of the Breed by L’Amour. I highly recommend it as well. Not of the same provoking caliber as the rest, but definitely worth a few nights in a comfy chair.

Speaking of comfy chairs, Mein Kampf needs to be on the list as it’s authored by the most infamous madman of our time.

Finally, I recommend 1776 by David McCullough. It provides a fascinating window into the USAs first few months by diving into personal journals, political session minutes, and letters on both sides of the conflict.

1096 Alexei August 24, 2013 at 6:37 am

This list is very well-made. I have read most of the books and all of them had their own special tint. In my opinion a few titles could be added:
Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson”, Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”,
Alexandre Duma’s “The Three Musketeers”, Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”, Robert Heinlein’s “The Door Into Summer” and Ernst Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”.

1097 Rob August 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Great list. Suggestions:
The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway’s best IMHO)
Dune – Frank Herbert
The Godfather – Mario Puzo
Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond.
All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
Ishmael – Daniel Quinn

1098 miss piggy August 26, 2013 at 1:18 am

I’ve read some of the books aforementioned on this list. However, I couldn’t help but notice that some have complained about the lack of nonfiction. So, here’s my suggestion, and this is not just for the boys, either. I should also add that I think just as more women should read books that allows them insight into how men think, feel, experience things, etc. So, too, do I think that men should read more books that also allows them to get a little closer to the end of Sigmund Freud’s ultimate frustration with those of my sex (p.s. gents, you’re not alone- a woman’s ultimate frustration? “What was he thinking?!”) So, here’s my opinionated list:
1: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach- I LOVE this book. The woman is a known science writer with a very quirky sense of humor. And, yes, it is a Nonfiction read, and hilarious, read.
2: To The Bone by Ruth Reichl. Ms. Reichl is a known food critic and author of a few books. I’ve only read this one which is written in the style of an autobiography. Funny and oddly inspiring.
3: The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey by Spencer Wells- Around 60,000 years ago a man- genetically identical to us- lived in Africa. Every person alive today is descended from him~ from the blurb on the back of the book. Wonderful, wonderful read. Most especially if you are interested in human genetics and history. Consequently, this book had gotten me interested in linguistics. 207 pages long. Need I say more?
4: The First Word: The Search for the Origina of Language by Christine Kenneally. Obviously, I owe Mr. Spencer a humble thank you for getting me interested in linguistics. If you are curious about the subject of the science- and art- of the study of how human speech came about this is a fantastic book to start with. Not very opinionated. The beginning is especially beautifully written.
5: Going to Extremes by Joe McGinniss- this is a book about a man who sets off for America’s Last Frontier- Alaska. The copywrite is 1980, but still a very amusing read. Some guys just do it better, you know?
6: The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley~ This is a true story about an English family who hies it to Africa in the early 19th century, told through the eyes of the then young and precocious Elspeth herself. I found the sequel first, The Spotted Lizard, in a used bookstore, so read the sequel first which is quite uncharacteristic of me, but had no choice at the time. Both lend insight what life was like back during my great- granny’s time (Kentuckian who insisted and I quote, “Dammit, I am NOT a Yankee!”)
7: The Captain’s Wife by Douglas Kelley~ True story written by a stunt pilot (pretty crazy, huh?). Takes place in the 1850′s and is about a new wife who has to take over control of her husband’s ship (he’s just the captain of the ship, not the owner) after he falls ill. The voyage is from Boston to San Francisco prior to the building of the Panama Canal and so had to sail around the treacherous Cape Horn (tip of South America). The beginning is a little slow, but once it gets going, it gets going, so hang in there!
8: Longitude by Dava Sobel~ Along the same seafaring theme that gives us spoiled, uber- techno- co- dependent modern Westernized humans a very clear picture of just how dangerous the sea life was before the discovery of longitude in the late 18th century.
9: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson~ Used this book as an Excellent Example of why Dad shouldn’t take a camping trip along the Appalachian Trail (R.I.P. Dad). He wanted me to go with- ME! Hah! I’m not scared of spiders or even bears (have met one in while blabbing away to my father while on a nature trail and didn’t see him not ten feet ahead of me and, no, I didn’t freak out. I lowered my eyes and walked slowly backwards to behind my Dad who then planted himself- bravely, I might add- between me and this six hundred pound male bear- like any female all I could think was “Darn it, I wish I had my phone so I could take a picture for everyone!). Anyway, this book is fun, educational, and had me laughing practically the whole way through.
10: The Guerilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art by Gureilla Girls~ Okay, I know what some of you might be thinking at this suggestion, but honestly fellas… There is a lot of humanity in art. If you are ever so inclined to read a thin, introductory volume on the history of women in Western art, this is the best book to start with in my humble opinion.
11: Always Faithful: A Memoir of Marine Dogs in WWII by William Putney~ I am an unabashed dog lover. I am also very much into history, period. This book combines both of my loves into one. I couldn’t read this book without getting teary- eyed (okay, I cried in some parts- sheesh, I am a GIRL, after all). So, read this book. No, really. Read it. It’s a classic true story of a young marine fighting in the Pacific with both his two legged and four- legged fellow Marines. It has some life lessons in there as well. And, BTW, if you are a guy and get a little teary- eyed while reading this book, as a woman I think I speak for most when I say, “Awww…”
12: Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation by Roger Housden~ Forget Dr. Phil, first of all. Forget Oprah, second of all. In fact, forget TV altogether and crack open a volume of poems. It doesn’t have to be this one, obviously. But this one does have a nice, well- rounded collection of poems of love, reflection, revelation, and spirituality. As the title suggests, it is a thin, quiet, and thoroughly approachable volume. No need for cliff notes here, gents. Just be open and let it all in. That is what poetry- and love- is all about.
Well, there it is. My list. I have not mentioned some others because others have already made mention of them. Happy reading to all and to all a goodnight.

1099 Mike Loshe August 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

Thanks for the share! Another book I would recommend would be Probability Angels by Joseph Devon. It literally has everything from great characters, to a strong plot and smooth writing style. When it comes to horror books, this is definitely a must read!

1100 steffi August 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Thomas pynchon!! Gravity’s Rainbow. And many more.

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