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

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 14, 2008 · 1,241 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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{ 1218 comments… read them below or add one }

401 Tin Novakovic July 25, 2008 at 6:55 am

Great list but its too western

402 clock July 28, 2008 at 10:36 am

Real men use proper grammar and do not discount ANY book.

403 Bruce Debore July 31, 2008 at 9:52 am

no Les misérables by Victor Hugo. That is my favorite book of all time.

404 Irep August 2, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Good List. A good chunk is familiar but would not have known about the rest.

A not to all those who say “Great list, ….. I will START reading this summer”

1) You are just a procrastinator.
2) If you already not have read many of these books, sorry to say but you really cannot count yourself as literate.
3) If you have poor reading habits, its very unlikely you will start reading all of a sudden. It takes a real commitment (like exercise).
4) Don’t just keep praising the author for the GREAT LIST, just read them, that’s the best favor you can do to the author.
5) You can barely manage a conversation outside sports/presidential debates.

Now if you really want to start reading books (even if your reading speed is very low)
1) Get a library membership tomorrow
2) Start with a small book (simple language and small content length)
3) Carry the book everywhere.
4) Finish the book over lunches, commute etc. etc
5) Repeat steps 1…4 for more recondite, longer books.

405 MattzCumings August 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Survivor -Chuck Palahniuk

Isn’t altruism manly? I’d like to think so, I abhor Rand. I did read Atlas as a testament to my dedication to understanding all people.

The Four Agreements -Don Miguel Ruiz

Rules of Golf -USGA/R&A

406 Irepisanidiot August 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Thank you Irep on the previous comment for those words of wisdom. I have rarely come across a greater fool than Irep on the internet. “A ‘not’ to all those…” Thank you for that ‘not’ Irep. “2) If you already not have read….” It is difficult to take someone seriously who has such awful grammar or terrible proofreading skills, whichever it happens to be. Irep’s entire comment is a condescending assumption that no one is as intelligent or literate as he/she is and that he/she must tell us our flaws and educate us on how to read. The irony is that leaving such as comment reveals what an utter moron Irep really is.

Great list!


407 Mandy August 6, 2008 at 6:28 am

This list is the owner’s opinion of which books all men should read. It is not meant to be an all inclusive list for everyone and their opinons. If you don’t like it, go start your own website and list.

For those bitching and whining about America – this website is written by an American in America and while for all men, is geared towards men of the United States who are becoming as pussified as the European men. YOU get over it.

If you don’t like America, be sure to write your government(s) to refuse all protection, monies, foods, etc. from America. Until the rest of the world stops being protected, supported and fed by the US, you have absolutely no right whatsoever to bitch about us.

408 Robert Loy August 8, 2008 at 6:37 am

I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt or two and go along with 99 of them — although 4 bios of TR seems excessive and Ayn Rand is a moron — but “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” really belongs on the list of 100 worst books, or maybe 10 most overrated. I’ve tried to plow through it three times and it’s so ridiculous and poorly-written that one of the great joys of my life is knowing that I will never have to try and read that thing ever again.

409 David C August 8, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Good list, boyo’s! but I have a few MANDITORY additions:
The old man and the Sea – Hemmingway
Farenheir 451 – Ray Bradburry
White Fang – Jack London
The Dog who wouldnt Be – Farley Mowatt
The Moon is Down – John Steinbeck

I can be reached on my website ( my email adress is there)

410 Stephen C. August 11, 2008 at 1:53 pm

good list…very glad to see The Killer Angels up their. but one correction. In the Killer Angels caption you said it speaks the minds of General Lee (CSA) and Colonel Longstreet (CSA)…when you should have General Longstreet(CSA) or Colonel Chamberlain (USA)

411 Diana August 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Suttree Cormac McCarthy
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
Hard Times Charles Dickens
The Mill on the Floss George Eliot
A Good Man is Hard to Find Flannery O’Conner
Colonel Chabert Gustave Flaubert
Any or all Dostoevsky, Faulkner, and repeat

Two women, for those who discount such, and technically two short stories. I agree with many of the blog suggestions that I did not repeat here, but felt compelled to repeat Ellison’s best work, best American novel had to be by a black man, didn’t it? I can’t fathom why Steinbeck and Hemingway are so revered; they are blathering egotists, their simplistic structure is so boring… might as well read the bible if you like that sort of trash (even for edification).

412 Taylor August 13, 2008 at 10:42 pm

This is Worthless.
There is not a single Mario Puzo book here, and you dare to put a book of streaming thought up. Who are men to deny the mafia!! or the omerta!!!

Seriously TOP 100 I would at least think. Also maybe its just me. But before I would own a history of Herodous. I think thats the correct spelling Id rather own a full copy of Euclid’s Elements.

The Bible is a must, but lets be realistic, if a man needs a library The first edition boy scout handbook need not be a part of his collection. He should have it memorized able to draw the pictures at a whims notice by only having been told a page number and edition.

I am shocked I thought this was the Man’s Library not the sissy collection.

Just Joking I was suprised that so many were not mentioned. I would add several autobiographies before Ben Franklin and not include the fedralist papers at least in the top 100

I was amazed and reminded of some books I need to pick up for my library.

Thanks Again

413 Mark Lawton August 15, 2008 at 5:53 am

Interesting selection, but I was frustrated by some of the commentators who clearly mistake machismo for true manliness, character and inner strength, and who seem to believe that manliness is something you subscribe to and fall into line with, rather than fight for and define on your own terms.

For this reason, I suggest that “The Naked Civil Servant” by Quentin Crisp should be on any such list.

This self confessed “Stately Homo of England” lived a flamboyant and unapologetic life as an effeminate homosexual when such behaviour was effectively criminal in the UK, and his memoir describes his willingness to stand alone and be true to himself in the face of violence, hostility and social annihilation.

Without shedding an ounce of grace, charm and his typically English stiff upper lip, he went from being a pariah to a demi-god both in the UK and in the Upper East Side in NYC where he spend his later years, simply by refusing to submit to what the world expected of him.

There were two great icons of manhood in the twentieth century: Mohammed Ali was one, and Quentin Crisp was the other.

414 xxx August 16, 2008 at 12:07 am

can we afford not to mention in this list of the “great books”, one of the phenomenal products ever written- “oh jerusalem”

415 Gary Hammontree August 16, 2008 at 8:10 pm

A great list, but what about Gabriel Garcia Marquez? One of the greatest writers I have read. Further, the only writer I know of that can routinely craft a sentence of as many as one hundred words, AND be coherent.

416 Paul August 17, 2008 at 4:00 am

I recently returned from a month of traveling throughout Europe.

The scooter was a necessity. TravelScoot served me well.

many folk have asked me about it and I tell them your website address.


… and the video


Sincerely yours,


417 redwasp August 18, 2008 at 12:13 am

Great list, but I’m honestly a little disappointed that Fear and Loathing,
Notes of a Dirty Old Man (that or any Bukowski), or Les Miserables weren’t on here.
Oh well – just finished On The Road, and this’ll make picking the next book easier.

418 Daniel August 18, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Excellent list. As with any, it’s going to be incomplete and have a host of must-reads that were left off. The good thing about any “Best of” list is it sparks reasonable (for the most part) discussion that contributes to the list at hand. A few to add:
-100 Years of Solitude
-The Fountainhead
-The Lord of the Rings
-War and Peace
-Anna Karenina
-A Tale of Two Cities
-Augustine’s Confessions

419 Tom Leo August 19, 2008 at 5:01 pm

I have read a few of thoughts, and enjoyed them. For this reason I will defiantly have to write some of these down and find some time to read them. Looks like a solid list.

420 Kris August 20, 2008 at 4:10 pm

48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene. Easily as good a guide to gaining and weilding power as all the others. Read it and than add it as the 101st book.

421 Sougent August 20, 2008 at 7:25 pm

This is a great list, if I could have one wish it would be that if it was downloadable as a pdf so it could be easily saved and printed.

422 Chris Holland August 20, 2008 at 10:37 pm

So, 50/50 on the Bible haters/Bible lovers.
As in life, take what you will from what you read and leave the rest. You must ask yourselves,” Why are some folks so butt-hurt about certain books?” If something draws such strong emotion should you not experience it for your self (for better or worse)? I LIKE “The Bible”. I LOVE The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I am an agnostic, I don’t fault those who need/want the structure their faith brings them. I just do not, myself, require religion.

The author is not requiring you to read the entire list nor to pile all these books on your shelf. Stop acting like teenagers whining about an assignment they don’t like.

As for the “anti-American” comments, I don’t care about what you think of us.
You wouldn’t even have an internet or be free to express your opinions if ” we hadn’t saved your butts in WWII” ( tongue in cheek, for you hard-cases). America leads the way. We also lead the way with our arrogance and lack of understanding of other cultures. So let’s call it a “push”?
I wish the world was a happy place where we didn’t have to go out and kick @ss,
but hey….. Love us or hate us we kill a lot of people to keep you safe.

Here are some books I like, not TELLING you to read them. Not saying they should be on this list either.
“IT” – S.K.
“High Fidelity” – Hornsby ( Brit )(as with “IT”,don’t judge it by the movie)-
“The Fifth Profession” – Morrell (Canadian)
“Boot” – non-fiction about U.S.M.C. boot camp in the ’80′s
“Mona Lisa Overdrive”- Gibson
“The Chronic-what?-cals of Narnia”
“Infidel” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The entire Douglas Adams Catalog

DON’T PANIC-(it’s just a list)

423 Tholaris August 24, 2008 at 8:31 am

To those of you that actually liked Dan Brown’s abomination: wtf?

You could try and argue that I’m just another ticked Christian, but you’d be wrong.

That book was just poorly written. The only reason it sold so well was a) the controversy (and remember if it burns it earns), and b) the release of the movie (which was even worse than the book).

The story was also very predictable.

If I could add any one book to the list it would be “The Creep” though I can not recall the author’s name.


424 Brandon August 24, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Overall a great list, I have read around a dozen of the books on this list so I still have a lot to go. I do think you could drop one of the T.R. books for Anthem or The Fountainhead. Other than that, superb!

425 EvilRoy August 25, 2008 at 11:21 am

Great list–though the omission of the manliest book ever, “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius is a deal-breaker. Also i bit short on humor and poetry; may I suggest “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Phillip Roth, and Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”

426 Bart August 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm

If you liked the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, “The River of Doubt” is a great book to follow it with. It tells of the story after Roosevelt lost the 1912 election and journeyed through the uncharted Amazon jungle. Pretty serious adventure, very manly.

427 Triffan Van Wijk August 26, 2008 at 10:07 am

Douglas Adams? Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy?

428 Stephen E. Andrews August 27, 2008 at 7:01 am

Interesting that your 100 Must Read appeared shortly after my forthcoming book ’100 Must Read Books For Men’ was announced online. Coincidence or can I claim an inspirational role here?

You’ve picked some different books to me – and in some cases the same ones -and overall I laud your judgement, you’ve selected some great stuff here.

My book isn’t published in the States until April 2009 (but it comes out in September 2008 in the UK and much of the rest of the world) and naturally has a more British take on things – we have plenty of great writers in the UK who are very strong on manly themes. Incidentally, my book was conceived and pitched at my publishers in April 2005, so I’ve been thinking about it for a long time – the idea came to me while I was standing behind the counter of the bookshop I used to manage then and decided I wanted to recommend more books to men, who are somewhat neglected by the British literary establishment in my view.

I’ve included non-fiction as well in my selection. Many of the books you;ve covered here are included in other titles in the ‘Must Read’ series I’ve been contributing to for some years. I hope some of you will pick my book up in future, as it will make an interesting comparison with your selection here. The debate on the greatest books for men truly has begun !

Best wishes, Stephen E. Andrews, author ’100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels’, ’100 Must Read Books For Men’

429 Lauren August 27, 2008 at 12:18 pm

This is a very good and broad list. There is a little something for every type of reader. Since it is named ’100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library’ and I am not a man but have read many of these books couldn’t the list just be called ’100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Library’ ? and if not then what are the 100 must read books for a woman’s library? If there is a list i just hope its not filled with crap.

I have to agree with Daniel that the following should also be on this list
-100 Years of Solitude
-Anna Karenina
-A Tale of Two Cities
-War and Peace

430 Nofmeister August 28, 2008 at 9:37 am

Someone actually suggested Douglas Adams Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy? Really?

That can’t be part of any essential mans library.

431 Pranav August 29, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Good job! One must mention:
The Story of My Experiments with Truth – M.K. Gandhi
This book gives a penetrating insight into the quality of truthfulness in spirit and purpose

432 AMManess September 1, 2008 at 9:23 am

Great list… I have read some on the list, but not all. I am currently reading “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt”. It is great.

As great a list as this is, there are a few books I am wondering why you did not include on the list. Most importantly is “The Sun Also Rises”, “Old Man in the Sea”, and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Hemingway. One book about bull fighting, another about fishing, and the last about an Africa Safari. On top of which, each deals with issues of being a man. When ever I think of books for men, these are the first books I think of. Those two books and “On the Road” which you included.

For a more modern read, I suggest “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk. One of the better examinations of being a man in today’s society,

For the business or military professions, along with “Art of War” and “The Prince”, another must read is “On War” by Clausewitz.

Finally, I would also recommend “Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield. Not historically accurate and, yes, Sparta is not a model society; however, the book does portray great examples of duty and honor and doing something greater than oneself.

433 cash boy what September 1, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Very good list of books to read. You have some incredible classics listed here. Everyone reading this post, if you havent read these books yet you should!

434 Ashley September 2, 2008 at 9:55 am

I do believe you have both a Teddy Roosevelt and a Boy Scout fetish.

435 Brett & Kate McKay September 2, 2008 at 10:08 am

@ Ashley- Yes. Yes we do.

436 matt September 4, 2008 at 1:49 pm

way to ruin the end of A Farewell To Arms

437 Jim September 7, 2008 at 1:58 am

I’d like to add two more: Democracy In America and The Road To Serfdom. I bit academic maybe but necessary to form your manly mind.

438 Zelda September 9, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Read “Sometimes a Great Notion” by Ken Kesey, the author of “One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest”.
Estranged second son Lee returns home to his logging family to revenge himself on his brother. And that is just one of the plots.
The descriptions are out of this world; you really feel as though you are in the old growth forests of Oregon.
Give it one hundred pages and you will not be able to stop!

439 James September 9, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Your list is excellent, and for those works which I have not yet had the pleasure to read, I thank you very much for bringing them to my attention; however, I consider it a great oversight that you did not include the Iliad or the Odyssey, two of the crowning literary achievements on the deeds of great men. They should both be on every man’s reading list.

440 Litzner September 14, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Great list, but one thing that really got me was that The Federalist Papers are on here, but not the Anti-Federalist Papers.

It is always important to have both sides of an argument presented. That includes these two books. They go hand in hand. To have one and not the other is a disgrace!

441 ASMODEAN September 21, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Lewis B. Puller Jr. – Fortunate Son
Ken Follett – Pillars of the Earth & World Without End
Dalton Trumbo – Johnny Got His Gun
Frank Herbert – Dune
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Silmarillian (read that then go read L.O.T.R.)
Robert Jordan – Wheel of Time Series

442 Mark September 21, 2008 at 5:44 pm

With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge – I assigned it as summer reading to my U.S. history class and Sea Wolf by Jack London both deserve places on this list.

443 Rabenstrange September 24, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Thanks for compiling a great list., but how can you make a list of 10 manly books, much less 100 without including Rudyard Kipling(particularly when you plug Steinbeck 4-5 times)?

444 giday gebrekidan September 25, 2008 at 1:02 am

I Saw your list with envy for those who actualy got the chance to read them.

445 Kate October 1, 2008 at 8:18 pm

I’ve read a few of the books on this list; Animal Farm, Beyond Good and Evil, Frankenstein, Hamlet, A Confederacy of Dunces, Fear and Trembling and Paradise Lost.

Mostly I agree that they belong on the list… except for Paradise Lost. I suffered through that book and I’m someone who loves to read and loves the English language. But mostly what made it so difficult to like was Milton’s premise for writing it, ie. to absolve God of any blame for the fall. So… God needed absolving?
“I did not trick that woman into picking that apple!”

From my own reading list I would add Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Talk about good use of the English language! And it’s particularly impressive since English was not his first language but his third.
Also Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods because it’s very funny and about the “manly” pursuit of hiking in the woods.
Finally I would add The Picture of Dorian Gray because Oscar Wilde is a fantastic wit and should have written more novels.

446 Lucas October 2, 2008 at 10:52 am

I found it interesting that there was very little from the sciences. I see a lot of classical works, a few of the “most recommended” books from english, a bit of fetishism concerning Rossevelt, some religious works, and a number on war. There are some good ones there, but the subject areas seem somewhat limited.

I might suggest a few for those of us with more than just an interest in the liberal arts (after all, it is manly to understand the underpinnings of the physical world):
The Feynman Lectures, GEB, The Principia, and something by Hawking perhaps?

447 eric e October 2, 2008 at 3:29 pm

This really is a collection of fabulous books. Many of these books have been the influential in my life. However, i was disappointed not to see my favorite fahrenheit 451

448 ty wenzel October 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Take this to heart, as I am a woman and an author commenting here. Men are pussies if they have not read Henry Miller. Duh.

449 Max October 4, 2008 at 10:43 pm

“Education of A Wandering Man” by Louis L’amour was very influential to me. I read it when I was sixteen or seventeen. “In Search Of The Warrior Spirit” by Richard Strozzi-Heckler is one of my newfound personal favorites. It is how the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program came to exsist. “The Marines Of Autumn” by James Brady is Korean War from an officer and family man. “The Great Santini” by Pat Conroy was an inspiration for me and funny.

I would like some recommendations for exceptional works on boxing, music, martial arts (practiced and meditations) and dogs. I’m working on getting Jake LaMottas book as a start for boxing. Musicians I enjoy are Steve Earle among many others. Generally, some books that would be considered “Lowdown, rough, and folkish”.

The list itself pointed me in a direction but these comments and recommendations showed me the way. Thank you. Anyone interested in getting an online club of sorts amassed my address is maxrdenny@yahoo.com

P.S. If anyone can tell me where to find or acquire to sell me copies of “A Rifleman Went To War”; ” The Short-Timers” by Gustav Hasford please give me a shout or offer at maxrdenny@yahoo.com

Thanks again.
“In Search Of The Warrior Spirit” is excellent.

450 Max October 4, 2008 at 11:06 pm

“The Mosquito Coast” by Paul Theroux

451 Marshall October 7, 2008 at 3:26 am

you’ve got some good ones on that list but one book you failed to mention (and it is by far the most important) is the Holy Bible. The Bible is the roadmap to salvation, and if it is the only book you ever read, than you are much better off than having read plato or steinbeck.

452 Jack October 12, 2008 at 3:21 am

I think Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is incredible. In a post-apocalyptic setting, a man tries to make his boy safe. My boy is about the same age as the child in the book. I cried when I finished reading it.

453 Jimmy October 12, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Excellent list indeed.
But..I believe “My Bondage My Freedom” the autobiography of Frederick Douglass should be near the top of your list.

454 altazor October 12, 2008 at 3:54 pm

amazing, i’ve jsut reaf a couple for each page…

455 Vanessa October 13, 2008 at 7:42 pm

You forgot the Inkheart series! It may be a fantasy book, but it’s rich with beautiful sayings, people, and things! It’s very, very interesting. Inkeart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath are wonderful books. They’re appropriate enough for a child, but interesting and sophisticated enough for an adult!

456 Brucifer October 13, 2008 at 8:07 pm

As Bukowski’s fiction elevates the misguided modern ideal of a man’s-man as boorish, inebriated, slobby, anti-social, mysoginist, I cannot recommend inclusion on this list.

And as the Bible is largely a byzantine hodge-podge of often contradictory advice and dubious myths, I cannot recommend it either. A most tedious and puerile read. It could use a good editor.

457 Ed October 14, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Wow. Guy’s these all look like really good books; granted they are a little old, for my age. Seeing as how im much younger than everybody else that reads. Heh. I’m getting back into books, so yeah. Thanks for the suggjestions. :D PLUS!
If you’re reading this, im only 13 :D.

458 S Dey October 14, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Great selections.

I find all the classics listed here (and not the modern books, no misunderstandings please) are collected already in my website WebLiterature.Net – readers are welcome to enjoy them.

459 River Fae October 15, 2008 at 5:53 am

@Anonymous – I just read this book – unabridged – this summer and am wondering who are the “Two innocent people died because of his attempt at revenge” you refer to?

460 Kevin H. October 15, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I don’t know if anyone will see this comment since the thread is quite long, but here it goes:

Anyone wanting a good book on manliness can put this one in front of all the others ones listed in this posting (though I must say I am a fan of the classics and advocate reading them all): Atlas, by Teddy Atlas. Teddy was a one time trainer for Mike Tyson and the trainer for heavyweight champion Michael Moorer. The book follows his upbringing and the struggles he had with his father to his run-ins with the law and how boxing set him on his life’s course. TRUST ME, GO GET IT!!!


461 Elananor October 18, 2008 at 1:45 am

So if I read these books, I become more manly? :)

462 Kurt October 20, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I found this website looking for a hat and can’t believe what I stumbled upon. Since feminism, men HAVE become unsure of our role in society and in relationships. I discuss this often with my fellow peers and sometimes it is like beating my head against a wall. I applaud the creator and contributors of this website for an honest, intelligent and candid exploration of what a man is and should become.

This is a great list of books and I have read quite a few of them. I would also recommend

“Papillon” by Henri Charrière, and
“Warriors of the Way” by Harry Harrison

They are pretty bad ass books!

463 atom October 23, 2008 at 9:40 pm

where do i get these books?
i have read only few of these.

464 Annie October 24, 2008 at 10:11 am

NO TOLSTOY? Are you serious? Both Anna Karenina and War and Peace should be at the TOP of this list. Also, what is with Into the Wild beating out all eight of Pat Conroy’s genius novels?

465 Dave October 27, 2008 at 3:33 pm

@Al 2000
Wow Al, you are a real prick. For those of us that haven’t had our head shoved inside of a book our whole lives I’d say this list looks -at least- interesting. Aside from that, what is an apparently well read creep like yourself doing on a top 100 list anyway? I thought for sure you’d be at 1,000 by now.

466 Lico October 29, 2008 at 11:18 am

Nice collection! I strongly recommend The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian.

467 Vaida November 4, 2008 at 4:36 am



468 Liz November 4, 2008 at 7:29 pm

I read all these (most) in high school…and i am a female

separate peace and farewell to arms are really good tho

469 Marijana November 5, 2008 at 7:20 am

I don’t like this list. First of all, no gentleman who is a real gentle man would ever stop at 100 books. He would rather make reading a habit.

That said, read ALL of Jack London, read ALL of Ernest Hemingway. Don’t read Plato’s Republic, since it is just dumb and goes against everything we know about human nature, read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. [Insert long rant on Ayn Rand here] Read about humans, read sociology, read HISTORY.
Yea, read Tacitus, your eyes might bleed, you might throw up, but those things really happened, and still do whenever circumstances are like those back then.

And those who suggested that Narnia gets into first 100 essential books for MEN should really grow up. Like, read A Song Of Ice And Fire, if it has to be fantasy.

Oh, and do read Iliad. It’s just brilliant, amazing, and easily downloadable from Gutemberg.

470 Marijana November 5, 2008 at 7:27 am

@Ed – It only means we had a +15 year head start :) It’s not bad if those books are a little old. It means you will travel outside you time and place into an elseworld where things were different and people had some really strange opinions… Than you can compare what you read with what you see around you and you can change either your environment, or yourself, or you can sigh happily and thank goodness you live here and now.

But there are some books here you should stay clear of until you grow up (whenever you do, age matters not, maturity is everything).

471 Anon November 5, 2008 at 8:56 pm

@phauna – You’re an idiot. So many of these authors have nothing to do with America. Does Nietzsche /really/ sound like an American name to you?

472 Scott November 6, 2008 at 12:48 pm

On the road is one of my all time favourites! I tend to re-read it when I am going through really weird stages of my life…I guess I draw comfort from the fact that there are people that are stranger than me out there.

473 Max November 7, 2008 at 6:36 am

For a list of excellent books you probably never heard of, check this out:
Have fun reading!

474 Michael Shores November 8, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Some additional nominations:

Zorba the Greek or The Last Temptation of Christ
No Exit
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Leaves of Grass
The US Constitution
Stranger in a Strange Land
Invisible Man [Ralph Ellison]
Silent Spring
The Descent of Man
Why I am not a Christian
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address
Das Kapital
In Praise of Folly
The Name of the Rose
The Diaries of Lewis and Clark
Lives of a Cell
The Guns of August
A World Lit Only by Fire

475 Jon November 10, 2008 at 5:36 am

The Story of B by Daniel Quinn deserves to be on this list. It’s not as well known as those listed, but if you read and understand the message, you will be changed for life.

476 Christopher Neetz November 10, 2008 at 5:54 am

Amazing list! I think i’ve only read a tenth of this list but that tenth has definitely been some of my top reads! Another book I would suggest would be “Guns, Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond. I believe it’s every man’s pre-history answer to why we are here doing what we do.

477 Korben Dallas November 10, 2008 at 8:18 am

The only book on there that I feel should not be on that list is The Stranger by Alberto Camus. The story was extremely hard for me to read. The character is too unlikable and I don’t mean his actions. The writer keeps the Main Character sort of boring through out most of it. I like theme of the story but lets just say its not going to be on my bookshelf.

Three great reads:
Inherit the Wind
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy(SciFi isnt childish its merely taking a metaphor)

478 Caren November 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm

I love reading lists of the “best books.” Each list I read is slightly different, but all of them contain certain standards. I teach high school English, so this kind of a list is a “must have” for me as I am always looking for titles to assign for my kids as outside reading. Many of the titles on this list are already part of our curriculum, but there are some that aren’t built into the curriculum that I’d like my kids to read. I am a little disappointed not to see Of Mice and Men on this list. I think it’s a phenomenal book and recommend it for all to read — it’s short — just over 100 pages — and is almost perfectly structured. It’s also a darn good read!!!

479 Caren November 10, 2008 at 3:08 pm

@Korben Dallas
I’m not sure if it would be okay to include Inherit the Wind since it’s a play — not a novel. Regardless, it is one of the greats in American Literature. And, if you’re allowing plays, how about All My Sons and The Crucible???

480 ohplease November 11, 2008 at 4:39 am

@Robbie Cooper

If you went through a fraction of what Vonnegut did in WWII I might take your opinion into consideration but since it’s highly unlikely that you were a POW who survived the destruction of Dresden I’m going to have to say that you, sir, are full of horse apples.

481 RM November 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

@Concerned Citizen – How much credibility can be given to the ranting of a lunatic that has trouble even spelling the word – opinion?
and – please do your statistical homework again. North America’s 75% of population usage dwarfs even the next closest competitor, Europes 50% in 2008. God bless America

482 Lucas Lautman November 12, 2008 at 5:05 pm

The Art of War is missing.

483 Perry November 15, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Very good list. I would like to add two of my favorites that I didn’t see in any comments.

1) “Miles Gone By” by William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley’s autobiography provides an intimate look into his full and influential life. He discusses, among other things, his childhood, many trans-Atlantic sailing adventures, Yale, founding of Firing Line and National Review, proper use of the English language, and his influential and powerful friends. Buckley was very much a manly man and I think his life is exemplary.
2) “The Boy Who Sailed Around the World Alone” by Robin Graham. I read this as a kid and loved it. I read it again last year at age 30 and was fascinated once again. This is the true story of a teenager who voyaged around the world on a 26′ sailboat. In his five year voyage, Robin completed his education, met his wife, found his God, and weathered deadly storms. This is a very good book for kids as an example on growing up.

484 Faranya November 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm

I demand you consider The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Other than that, good list.

485 Rich November 17, 2008 at 3:56 pm

You put up a list of how James Bond teaches us manliness, but are unwilling to add any of Ian Fleming’s 007 books. Hmm…

As for a good Hemingway book, I much preferred Old Man and the Sea or Death in the Afternoon, both deal with what it means to be a man (the first in terms of proving our worth and doing what we do best, the latter an examination of man’s fixation on the aesthetics of danger and violence).

486 Adam November 18, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Excellent list. I am especially glad to see Dostoevsky get so much attention (if I am not mistaken he has the most books on the list) since he is often devauled despite the effect of his works. It was nice to see fear and trembling here as well.

487 booklover November 19, 2008 at 1:33 am

wow! really good collection and i’m happy to know that 7 of those are also in my bookshelf!

thanks for sharing this list

488 freshouttatime November 23, 2008 at 3:48 am

putting malcolm x’s book on the list, and in the theme of the website itself, I would add to the quran to the reading list.

What drew me to Malcolm’s account, was that he came to acquire all these high qualities of “manliness”- most notable his “moral” integrity. That played out in his honesty, his aspirations towards truth and justice as he saw it, and the ability to admit his mistakes and seek to rectify them. He attributed this to many things, but not in the least to his spiritual state: being a muslim.

alot of what your articles contain, i’ve seen resonating with islamic principles found in the quran. your site above all else calls on people to realize and uphold their moral integrity, and that i found first in the quran, and somehow led me here a few weeks ago.


Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; But turn away from the ignorant. Quran 7:199

489 Jim Bianchi November 24, 2008 at 11:03 am

You should stay with your own terrorist buddies web sites and leave this one for those who value the manly ideals that made America great – and she still is.
@Concerned Citizen -

490 energyguy November 24, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Great list! I would add

Letters to Phillip by Charlie Shedd; (great advice to a young man on how to treat his wife)

How to Father by Fitzhugh Dodson; (excellent for fathers who may not have had a good male parental role model in their lives)

PT 109 by R. J. Donovan; (true story of J.F. Kennedy’s herosim and the PT 109 in WW II)

The Analects of Confucius; especially Chapter 5, “At first, I listened to a man’s words and trusted him to act accordingly; Now, I still listen, but I watch carefully what he does.”

491 TheGr.Dictator November 28, 2008 at 4:49 am

fuck, and where is j. joyce’s Ulysses?!

492 Pinto Flounder November 28, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Magister Ludi ( aka “the glass bead game”) by Herman Hesse should be on the list. If you’re a victim of the paralysis of analysis, this will help straighten you out.

493 Manny November 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Funny how, as a man-baby(and proud of it),I don’t give a damn about being well-read/literate, well-rounded, or manly these days. I’ve experienced more than enough typical examples of manliness, and the highly educated man, to give me pause in taking their advice concerning anything.

Think I’ll be lowbrow and stick with Stephen King, a lil’ Peter Straub, and other various Fantasy/Horror authors here and there; this is simply so I don’t die of boredom and eye strain.

494 Steve Ritter November 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Great list, but I’d have to have Rabbit, Run on there and maybe some Tobias Wolff and My Name is Asher Lev, the fantastic Chaim Potok book.


495 James December 1, 2008 at 9:10 am

Looks like I have some reading to do, thanks!

I suggest: The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

496 David Evans December 1, 2008 at 9:03 pm

I loved the list (agree with many of the books I have already read- A Confederacy of Dunces I was truly overjoyed to see on the list for example): and loved the comments about the list, both critical and laudatory. In particular I found that one person’s wonderfully articulated posting critiquing the list as unimaginative and pedestrian made me think perhaps they had a point. Another posting made another great point that we need to really think about what should go into “the essential man’s library”. If it is solely war books and chest beating crap then it is true that although that certainly is an aspect of being male- the desire to overcome through power or to dominate- it is by no means the only one and spirituality and humor and such also need inclusion (and they are in your list I think) . Another post makes mention of Science. That scientific books were left off or given short shrift. I agree with one post that said Richard Feynman (am I getting his name right) the Physicist has written some great accounts of his life work and experiences. I also think as popular as it was a book called The People of the Lie by the author of the Road Less Travelled (Scott Peck) would be a worthy addition.

One book I thought I’d add to the could’ve should’ve department is The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (I believe I’ve got the title and author right). An adventure but an essentially true account, filled in with some speculation. I also think that a case can be made for The Sheltering Sky – as a great and indelible “travel novel” with deeper, darker intimations which I admittedly do not ultimately understand but which are still unforgettable evocations. Lastly I would nominate –
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, The Painted Bird (by a great author whose name I am forgetting at the moment) (Jerzy Kozinski I think?) and Deliverance by
James Dickey. OK. I’ve said my piece!

497 booklover1020 December 2, 2008 at 6:14 pm

include CHASING DAYLIGHT by Ervin Raphael McManus! it’s really good.

498 chris December 3, 2008 at 7:23 pm

what about the color purple? great book about women’s rights and how o stand up for yourself. everyone can accomplish great things!!

499 TRUECRHISTIAN December 4, 2008 at 5:53 am

just don’t understand this fascination with BOOKS. It’s a
> waste of time. TV is a much better alternative. I haven’t read a
> single book since about 6th grade or 7th grade.

500 jules3000 December 4, 2008 at 7:01 pm

a very american list with a few obvious classics which in reality would bore. i found catch 22 very tiresome for example and never completed it. instead i think you yanks might enjoy a fantastic bookfrom a scottish writter, ian (iain) banks “the Wasp Factory”. written in the 80s starting a fantastic career this is a short book involving a young lad on a scottish island doing sadistic things, with twists and great story telling you shoulg read it. also dont know if it was there but american pshcho;s a great book and fear an loathing would make my top 200!

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