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

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 14, 2008 · 1,240 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

1984

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

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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

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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

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(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

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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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{ 1217 comments… read them below or add one }

601 Airiana May 7, 2009 at 6:29 am

The book “Death by Latte” is a great book….its about a girl named alphra lies to her dad and says she is flying to san deigo or somethin like that and she actuallly went to another state and her da d doesnt know….do u think she is going to get caught? read the book and you will find out!

602 Joe May 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

A big hellyeah to Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance… book changed my life, I literally read it cover to cover without ever putting it down. I have to say two of my other biggies aren’t here though, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Both changed my outlook on the world in very important and very different ways.

603 Kalevi May 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm

“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.”

Man has never been more capable of evil than within the order of civilisation. The holocaust was not a momentary lapse into barbarism but the very image of modernity (Zygmunt Bauman: Modernity and the Holocaust). In any case, I don’t think this novel is about the consequences of being cast outside civilised society. I think it is a study in human nature. The two tribes to which the boys are eventually divided represent two sides of human nature. We are capable of living peacefully with each other and with the environment, but the will to power incites men to wield war against all that is living. The peaceful tribe can be seen to symbolise the pre-civilised, pre-domesticated state in which human beings lived for more than 99 percent of their existence as a species, while the barbaric tribe represents the shift towards hierarchy and power which eventually lead to the birth of civilisation. The peaceful tribe spends its time playing and collecting fruit, but the barbaric tribe, which is organised around a single tyrannical leader, becomes obsessed with death and war.

604 James May 14, 2009 at 8:43 pm

You can’t critique a man for writing “The Catcher and the Rye” instead of “The Catcher in the Rye” and spell remarkable incorrectly yourself, that is, unless you’re giving us an example of irony.

605 Annemarie May 15, 2009 at 6:21 am

Eh…it’s probably just me that’s rather irritated by this…The Essential Man’s Library? I’m sorry? The majority of these books transcend such things as class, gender…so many things. They’re hardly restricted to men! I’ve read and enjoyed several on the list and plan to do the same with many noted. An excellent list, but hardly a man’s list.

606 Greg May 15, 2009 at 6:55 am

The Great Gatsby is probably one of my favourite books.

607 Becky May 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Why isn’t One Hundred Years of Solitude on here?

608 David Joseph Schmulbach May 18, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I enjoy the irony of having a site for gentleman and half the posts are by arrogant and surely rude people. Anyways, I have already read about a dozen already but I will definately read the remaining books, thank you for the time and effort.

609 PNTFVM May 22, 2009 at 5:03 am

Ottobre, 2008
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October, 2008
Introduced at the same time with the United States the last frontier of the science fiction: the Eternal man! On purpose produced in three years for a future cinema transposition. Seen the wide gotten consent, today the second edition. In exclusive only on www. lulu.com
http://www.luluhttp://.com/content/5735522

610 mark May 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

LOLITA!!!!!!

611 Cutter May 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

It should really also include a work by Joseph Conrad. Strong writing, spartan characters, and themes with which any man may identify. And written in beautiful English by a man who didn’t even learn English until he was 21.

Good to see the American Boy’s Handy Book in there. I didn’t think anyone else had ever heard of it.

What about The Godfather by Mario Puzo?
The Dirty Dozen?
Papillon?
The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich?
Where Eagles Dare?
The French Connection?
The Official Report by the Lewis & Clark Expedition?
Kon-Tiki?
The New York State Report on the Attica Uprising?
or even the Chilton Automotive Guide to the 1971 Dodge Challenger?

All contenders, I would think.

612 LS May 25, 2009 at 5:11 pm

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

Why would you do this? Did you just get lazy and choose the last few lines of the book? You seriously couldn’t find any better quotes? You ruined the book for me, you dick. Why would you do this to me? For the sake of your other readers, change the quote, please. You’ve already done enough damage. Asshole.

P26, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.”

613 RM May 27, 2009 at 7:07 am

Good list! Have read many of the books and totally agree.
I picked up a new book the other day that is a perfect edition to the list. “The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide” by Frank Miniter. I think it just came out has very useful information for a man’s library.

614 Matt Sinning June 1, 2009 at 10:55 am

Bravo for undertaking a “can’t please everyone” topic. I find it disappointing that many are crouched waiting to pounce on someone’s opinion, rather than engage in respectful discourse about the topic.

Glad to see Raymond Chandler on here. Would suggest any collection of Raymond Carver’s short stories.

615 Tommy C June 2, 2009 at 7:31 am

One of my favorite books of all time is also a great tale of manliness.
Fulcrum, by Alexander Zuyev, is an autobiogrophy about the author’s escape from the USSR as a top fighter pilot. Simply put, an easy read and an amazing story.

616 Nic June 2, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Good list. Grammar just killed me though. Penelope Cruz tells me I shouldn’t criticize blog writers for bad grammar, but still:

America’s first self-help book. In edition to sharing his life’s story, Franklin explains how a man

“in addition” is probably what should’ve been written?

617 Sofy June 3, 2009 at 3:27 pm

HELLO THERE, this is a great list but i think that there are so many other great books out there that you cant just choose some. i plan to never die and read every book ever written!!

618 Curious George June 5, 2009 at 6:38 am

If you missed Kamasutra by Vatsyayana…you missed it all…

619 dol June 5, 2009 at 9:11 am

the planet does not consist of americans.
thank you

620 r chadwick June 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm

hah I like that i am a girl and I’ve pretty much read most of the recommended books. Excellent

621 Cristina June 6, 2009 at 1:52 am

Do you realise that the picture with the Karamazov book is a romanian version NOT A RUSSIAN ONE?!!??!?! And don’t see the connection: the writer was russian, romanian language is latin – nothing to do!!! Would you explain that, please!

622 Jen June 6, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Wonderful list, regardless of the reader’s gender.

Some people don’t realize there’s 4 pages to this. The Bible IS included (pg 4) as well as the Count of Monte Cristo, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

623 Fred June 7, 2009 at 10:00 am

At BW and MarshOutLaw:

After the Romans rose to power, they appropriated literally all of the Greek myths/epics, usually renaming their characters, although oftentimes not (Apollo, for example, is the same in both cultures). The works of the Iliad and the Odyssey were then encompassed by Virgil in “The Aeneid,” which he wrote under the patronage of the first emperor of the Roman Empire — Augustus Caesar, nephew of Julius. Most every character and every event of both Greek epics appear in “The Aeneid” and, in truth, they had been absorbed into Roman culture long before that.

Maybe you should get your facts straight before claiming to have knowledge on the subject. If you wish to argue this point with me, go ahead, I’m an English major with an emphasis on classical studies and spent twelve years studying classical mythology.

Aside from this, a great list gentlemen. Only thing I was surprised not to see was the aforementioned “Aeneid’ and “The Book of the Courtier” by Castiglione, which is all about how to be a Renaissance man. Aside from that: a very impressive list.

624 Kyle Bailey June 8, 2009 at 11:22 am

No mention of Fight Club, Iron John or Wild at Heart?

625 schmusedecke June 9, 2009 at 7:39 am

This is a great list! =) It’s sad that I’ve read only few of them.

I would like to share my favorite book. It’s called “A Tree That Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. =)

626 RC June 10, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I’ve read a chunk of these books, but of all of them I’m happiest to see Steppenwolf’s showing. Literature is my major area of study, and I’ve never benefitted more from a novel; the book changed my life.

627 JC June 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Thank you for the list. I will be recommending some of these to my husband. Time to turn the TV off!

628 Dominic Svatos June 12, 2009 at 3:37 pm

The 20 or so books on this list I have read are all among my favorites. So I definitely must read the rest, fantastic job..

629 rob June 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I look forward to reading the books that I have not yet, which happens to be many of them. Thanks

630 club penguin June 15, 2009 at 11:41 pm

I must say I was surprised by the omission of Patrick O’Brian – I know you guys are great fans of Admiral Nelson, and one of the two protagonists in O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series models himself on Nelson. And of course O’Brian is a fantastic prose stylist to boot.

631 Transguide June 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Some books interesting, and thanks for original a selection of a photo

632 reader June 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Hey,
good list of books, but in the blurbs the story is written. i.e. for ‘the pearl’ by john steinback it tells the reader that the son is shot and killed!

633 Alfred Smith June 17, 2009 at 5:21 pm

A list, by its very nature, is incomplete. 100 “Must reads” is by its very nature, subjective. I continue to be amazed by those who rail against inclusions and exclusions of such a list.

As for those of you discounting the Bible, please read on.

I am a Christian, and yes, it is narrow minded. Christ said “narrow is the path that leads to salvation, and few find it, But wide is the road that leads to destruction, and many follow it.” Those of you who don’t understand it is a story of SALVATION from Evil, and not a controlling device, simply have closed your hearts and minds because you don’t want to go through the process of developing or following a moral code. Look at where non-belief has brought us.

It takes more faith to believe we evolved from primordial soup to an upright, intelligent organism over millions of years of random selection, on a planet that has impressive odds of supporting human life, said planet resulting from a random shot of an explosion that took place millions of years ago, than to say that we were created by a deity who sent His Son to sacrifice Himself for us to make us reconciled to our Creator. Anyone ever heard of a Christian suicide bomber?

Here’s a story for you. “The scientific community went to God one day and asked Him to remove Himself from the picture, as they now had everything under control. God answered, “I’ll do it if you can make a better man than I can.” The scientists agreed. God scooped up a handful of dirt. As one of the scientists bent down to get his handful, God stopped him. “Oh no, ” God said, “make your own dirt.”

634 peter odonnell June 18, 2009 at 7:47 am

In my mind you omitted Clockwork Orange and Earthly Powers both by Anthony Burgess

635 Paddy June 18, 2009 at 9:18 am

- Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
- Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
- Old man and the sea – Ernest Hemingway
- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

636 William Hoffman June 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Gravity’s Rainbow is notably missing. There are several I would replace with this book.

637 C June 20, 2009 at 9:25 pm

no John Irving?

638 Michael M Doherty June 21, 2009 at 4:20 am

Darwins’ Origin of the Species, and a newer book The Dangerous Book for Boys is an essential guide book to life.

639 fithri June 22, 2009 at 3:09 am

I’ve read 3 out of all in the list

640 freddy June 24, 2009 at 11:48 am

Ayn Rand?????

641 Mickey Bricks June 25, 2009 at 8:29 am

You didn’t include the 48 Laws of Power. This book is a must have for men in this world of atrocities. It teaches one to be Machiavellian in nature. If that’s not your thing it at least will teach you how to avoid being had by someone that is.

642 James June 25, 2009 at 10:24 am

The Zurich Axioms – Max Gunther
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
Silent Power – Stuart Wilde
The 36 Strategems

643 Domagoj Peharda June 25, 2009 at 1:51 pm

James Clavell – Shogun
Great insight to Japanese mind, and a great story to boot.

644 Paul (same as @May 17th, 2008 11:48 pm) June 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I’d add Fifth Business by Robertson Davies.

645 Ari June 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

Great books, but all lean heavily on the side of the bestsellers cannon. What about Dos Pasos? What about Nabokov for god sakes?! Cowley??? Falkner??? Burroughs??? Pynchon??
MARX? BRECHT? BENJAMIN? Where’s Goethe?? Maupassant? Flaubert? DICKENS!!!! Get real. Have these visionaries been forgotten? Are our reading lists written by the CEO’s of Barnes and Noble and Boarders?
Good list but quite preliminary and lacking a huge amount. I wouldn’t ever place Tom Robbins or Jack Karouac before Nabokov or Pynchon. No way no how.

646 eraserhead July 1, 2009 at 6:12 pm

i couldnt see finnegans wake in the list… it’s a perfect match for a “manly” literary brain and also a book with such a strong masculine theme cant be ignored…

647 joseph melhem July 2, 2009 at 7:13 am

Good list, obviously, but vey American-oriented (obviosuly, too?!)
As a European reader of your site, I can obviously recommend many unlisted authors such as:
Celine (Voyage Au Bout De La Nuit),
Charles Bukowski,
Jean-Paul Sartre (La Nausee),
Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness),
more Heningway,
more Vonnegut,
more Heller (Something Happened),
just off the top of my head.

648 Patrick R July 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

It really is shocking that some of the descriptions give the endings away. You should at least have spoiler alerts when you have spoilers. It’s only courteous, and the lack of the courtesy seems to show that you haven’t really thought about etiquette even though you recommend some books on manners.

I, too, am incredibly surprised at the number of books by certain authors or on certain persons. Four books by Steinbeck? Four books by/about Teddy Roosevelt, esp. when one is total mythmaking? The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which is a complete lie from start to finish?

The list is pretty much middlebrow anyway….

I’m going to list some books that have already been mentioned and some that haven’t, all of which should have been considered.

-Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan
-Your God is Too Small by J. B. Phillips
-anything by Richard Feynman (besides, you leave any books by scientists or about them completely off, which is a heinous mistake)
-The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
-Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
-The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (an unforgivable omission)
-The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence (another surprising omission)
-The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
-Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
-David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
-The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort (or a similar sex/how-to guide)
-some sort of men’s health book
-The Last Days of Socrates (three dialogues) by Plato
-Treatise for the Emendation of the Intellect by Baruch Spinoza
-Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle
-Diaries of Casanova
-Three Guineas & A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
-The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
-Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
-Fires on the Plain by Shohei Oka (You should substitute this for The Thin Red Line.)
-Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
-Sanshiro by Natsume Soseki
-Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
-Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (another surprising omission that should take the place of a TR book)
-Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin
-The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
-Poetry of Charles Bukowski
-Poetry of Robert Frost
-Samuel Johnson by W. J. Bate
-The Red and the Black by Stendhal
-How to Shit in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer
-Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie
-something by Hunter S. Thompson! (another unforgivable omission)
-Selected Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (not just “Self-Reliance”)
-The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
-The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
-The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
-War is a Racket by Smedley Butler
-The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (in the newly discovered complete version, which adds ~25% more to the familiarly known text)

I’m very surprised you picked Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil over Thus Spake Zarathustra, which is much more a “philosophy of life” and a journey toward manhood.

You vastly overemphasize kids’ books here. Are Treasure Island and King Solomon’s Mines really better books for the formation of manhood than some of the above books? And Swiss Family Robinson? If you’re going to include the non-fiction books about surviving in the wilderness, then leave it out.

And others are right about a book like Tarzan, which portrays manhood in a ridiculous outdated way (including the book’s racism). King Solomon’s Mines is also guilty of racism. Why not try Riders of the Purple Sage by Louis L’Amour? At least it’s not nearly as primitive.

In any case, your fixation on a number of books and personalities from ca. 1900 and your selection of The Dangerous Book for Boys show that you have a fixation on that time as the apotheosis of “manliness.” But that’s a completely historically bound concept.

649 Marty July 3, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Black Hawk Down, Band of Brothers, War As I Knew It, and We Were Soldiers Once…and Young should have been in this list.

650 Augusta Bryant July 6, 2009 at 11:46 pm

The World According To Garp

651 EvilBelgian July 7, 2009 at 9:54 am

I must say, that although I am not nearly as well read as mr Patrick R. I am far more inclinded to trust his opinion than that of this list. I also believe that this list is missing one book which should be on any must read list. I am talking about the Hitch Hikers guide to the galaxy. Not because it Offers any lessons on how to live but because it is a book which very much opens up the imagination of the reader and we all need an imagination.

P.S. I am referring to the whole trilogy in 5 parts.

652 Daniel July 10, 2009 at 3:28 am

You should definitely have “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on that list.

653 Zoltan - self-esteem dude July 16, 2009 at 1:19 am

It makes your mind goes with the speed of light. I have read many of them,but of course not all of them.
What I love on the top of it?

Thomas Mann: Magic mountain
Hermann Hesse: Siddhartha
Truman Capote: In cold blood
Leo Tolstoy: War and peace
Rabindranath Tagore

654 Jon Jay July 18, 2009 at 5:07 am

It is Nexus, Sexus, Plexus: A Rosy Crucifiction by Henry Miller, who is an outstanding author. For many “men”, reading beyond the weekly Sports Illustrated is a challenge. Those who have added books have also been a great help. Thank you. If I may add a couple: Running Scarred by Tex Maule (who, ironically, was a writer for SI), Casino Royale and the short story The Hildebrand Rarity by Ian Fleming. (Yes that Ian Fleming, who may have affected our modern culture more than any 20th Century author, and please don’t mix the author up with some of those bastardized movies that carry his name.) and either Herzog, More Die of Heart Break, or Humbolt’s Gift by Saul Bellow.

655 Jon Jay July 18, 2009 at 5:09 am

And also, to the poster who added Riders of the Purple Sage by Louis L’amor, it was written by Zane Grey. But the Haunted Mesa by Louis L’amor was an incredible novel.

656 PW July 20, 2009 at 11:40 am

This is the most unoriginal and uninspired list I have seen. It just looks like a high school book list. Everyone has read, or at least were assigned to read, all these in high school.

657 bookshelves July 22, 2009 at 9:39 am

I really enjoyed your post. it makes me happy to see that most of these books are on my bookshelves.

658 Steve July 24, 2009 at 7:30 am

I found the book list very intersting as I was looking for a good classic to pick up next. I do wonder, however, if the compiler has read The Grapes of Wrath as they assert that it is about “a man doing what he had to do for his family” when it is actually Ma Joad that carries the family. Pa Joad has to be carried with the rest.

659 Loren July 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm

One book that is a little off of the beaten path but I would like to add “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks. It is not what anyone would consider a “classic” but worth a read. Also his book “World war Z” would add some nice apocalyptic fun to the mix. Just my two cents.

660 storage4 August 4, 2009 at 7:59 am

If you can imagine, I have most of these books in a self-storage unit. Reading is my passion..

661 Lyn August 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Nice site. I’m a female and a book nerd to boot. :) (Not to worry…I’m not adding any books from the “essential female” list.)

I would just echo some of the earlier sentiments.

I think “a” measure of a man is his desire, or lack thereof, to understand another. And while there are some classic books on this list, the overall sociocultural perspective from which the stories are told is somewhat narrow.

“The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manners for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in heaven, where there is no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another.” -George Bernard Shaw-

662 John Duncan August 7, 2009 at 11:27 pm

This is a updated and full list. There is a little something for every type of reader. Since it is named ‘100 Must-Read Books: The title caught my eye and started me reading on this. This is such a great headline..

I have to agree with Daniel that the following should also be on this list
-100 Years of Solitude
http://awarenessanesthesia.blogspot.com

663 Chris August 8, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I loved the list, but I am abhorred by the number of ego-centric whackjobs that posted here that feel either a) they need to correct you on matters of plot or b) they have their own pertinent additions, that many of them seem nearly offended you left out. In short, the list kicks ass. It affirms some of my all time favorites, intrigued me with a few new reads, and certainly has me thinking about what I want my son to read one day. Thank you.

664 D-rek August 10, 2009 at 8:05 pm

To all you people hating on the Bible’s placement on this list:

I am one of the most open-minded, skeptic people you will ever meet. I was raised in Southern California where religion is scarce. It’s quite rare that I go to any sort of church or place of worship. I’m a college student at UCLA, a predominantly atheistic/agnostic campus, majoring in a science that goes against everything taught by Christianity. However, last year I picked up the Bible and realized that there is more to it than religious blabber. It is full of countless life lessons that every man should know and live by. Not only is the Bible referenced more than any other piece of literature/art in our society, but the stories are quite interesting as well. So before you hate, pick it up and give it a quick (ha) read.

665 Steve S August 11, 2009 at 12:24 am

Very interesting looking selection, and a large chunk of them appear to be old classics and now in the public domain (and thus can be had for cheap-to-free). I’ve got several bookmarked that I’m downloading in audio form for free from LibriVox to listen to while at work, starting with the classics that it seems like everybody but me read as a young boy.

666 Sarah August 12, 2009 at 1:31 am

My favorite book of all time is Catcher in the Rye, these books pertain to humanity, not to sexual orientation. Thanks for the list!!!

667 Matty H August 12, 2009 at 2:07 am

Wow… good, thought-provoking list. A few comments:

One of the authors has a serious hard-on for Teddy Roosevelt. Yes, he was great, but you only have room for 100 books. Pick one and move on, people.

One of the authors has a serious hard-on for classics that seem a bit obvious on a best-of list like this. (Plus, you picked Benjamin Franklin and passed over Thomas Paine’s Common Sense?)

But all in all, I’d agree with 65-75% of the choices. Good work acknowledging award-winners from 20 years ago (not sarcastically at all… White Noise, Bluebeard, and others mentioned were tremendous). They fall into a black hole with a lot of lists like this.

Still, sci-fi and alternative lifestyles are greatly under appreciated. A true man appreciates the world for what it could be and for what it truly is.

668 Matty H August 12, 2009 at 2:35 am

I read though a few hundred posts since my last comment… I love lists like these for the discourse they generate. That nominating the Boy Scout Manual can get us to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or the Kamasutra is nothing short of a miracle. Thank you, authors!

669 popcorn August 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

only a man would make a list like this, maybe all of you men should be figuring out how to actually please your women, isnt that what being a man is really all about…

670 Queequeg August 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Thought you might appreciate this Twitter adaptation of Moby-Dick: http://twitter.com/tweetmeIshmael

671 Brett August 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm

That’s pretty awesome!

672 Mukesh from India August 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

This is good some more i want to know

673 Edward Hopper Paintings September 7, 2009 at 4:13 pm

James Clavell’s Shogun, I dare you to try to put it down once you start reading it!

674 siddhartha September 23, 2009 at 8:52 am

must read

675 Aaron September 23, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Unintended Consequences by John Ross

I feel this fictional piece of literature should be included in the list. Although the book tells a fictional story, the historical background and legal issues that the books i based off of are entirely true. A large portion of the history that is conveyed in the book seems to be little known. If for no other reason, men should read this book to open their eyes to some little known truth’s about the American government. Although the book is expensive and hard to come by, it’s a worthwhile investment, not only the money you’ll spend purchasing it but the time you’ll spend reading it’s 800+ pages.

676 Evan September 26, 2009 at 4:39 am

Reading is good, this book list is gooder (he he).

677 sir jorge September 26, 2009 at 9:01 pm

it’s true, these are top notch selections

678 Lica Brasi September 27, 2009 at 4:25 am

I would add “The Godfather” of Puzo to this list. I believe, the novel changes everyone in some way. It is the book about wisdom, toughness and dedication to family.

679 Anonymous September 27, 2009 at 5:27 am

WHY IS THIS CALLED ‘the essential MANS library’
wat about us females
tsktsk

680 Steve-O September 28, 2009 at 6:02 am

This is a fantastic list!! Thanks for writing it!

On a side note, the book, The Killer Angels, was also the inspiration for Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse) to create what is one of the greatest shows of all time: Firefly (and later the movie Serenity).

Show only lasted 1 season before being cancelled by Fox, but still just as enthralling as ever to watch on DVD. Must check it out.

681 Tim October 8, 2009 at 10:24 am

Ladies can read whatever they like, this is just a list for men to read. Go make your own list, sheesh.

Also, Firefly was the best and I weep daily for it’s unlikely return.

How about a book on straight razor shaving? That’s manly.

682 Cedrick October 12, 2009 at 4:14 am

This was a pretty good list of books to read. I’ve read some of them back in high school, like The Catcher in the Rye and The Hacthet. However, the 2 best books on this list was 1st: The Holy Bible, because it does have valuable life lessons in their and plus I’m a christian. 2nd: The Autobiography of Malcom X. It’s amazing what this man went through early in his life and to make such a dramatic 180 turn is such a inspiration and it show how dedication and motivation can make you a better man.

683 Michael October 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Great list, but COME ON – Puzo’s il padrino – The Godfather

684 David October 22, 2009 at 5:44 am

I just have your book opened at page 266, ‘one hundred books every man should read’ and I wonder. Did you only rearrange the list or have you replaced some titles?

(P.S.: Excuse my english, still studying it in school)

685 C. French October 29, 2009 at 1:03 am

There are just so many missed opportunities in this list. There’s too much that is trendy and too little that is of lasting literary merit. Kafka, Kerouac, Salinger, yeah, yeah. I’ll take Dante and Milton any day.

I have to agree with the previous poster who took issue with the three books related to Teddy Roosevelt. I mean, come on. Why not at least substitute in a book on Lincoln? Or how about David McCullough’s John Adams?

Also, why on earth would you put two works by Kerouac on there? Good God.

In fact, why are there so many duplicate authors on your list? Especially when they are relatively marginal authors? Two works by James Jones? Kurt Vonnegut? Are those necessary?

I’m sorry, but Ayn Rand is trash. If you want a defense of narcissism and selfishness, stick with the Nietzsche. Rand is just ubermensch theory for fifth graders. There’s a reason why CEOs are having to bribe universities to teach that tripe; if she were any good, we’d have been reading her long ago.

No Thucydides? What gives?

You chose Hamlet as your exemplary Shakespeare play? Oh, please. Good grief; have you read Coriolanus? Have you read King Lear? Shakespeare at the very least deserves more than one play, especially if Kerouac gets two worthless novels.

I would think the Aeneid at least deserves a spot.

Also, what about Faulkner? Flannery O’Connor? Conrad? All the King’s Men? T.S. Eliot? Orlando Furioso? St. Thomas Aquinas? St. Augustine? Chaucer? Evelyn Waugh? Tom Jones? Edmund Burke?

I mean, I realize this isn’t to be an exhaustive list, but the fact that not one of the aforementioned authors/works merited a spot is just shocking. I mean, my God, I count four Steinbeck novels. Is he REALLY that good? Hardly, I think: Consider other Americans such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James who are much more accomplished.

There’s also a serious dearth of poetry here: I see none apart from Paradise Lost, the Commedia, and Homer–epics all. What about Tennyson, Keats, Shelley, Pope, Dryden, Donne, Pound, Yeats, Auden, Marlowe, Sidney, Spenser, Ovid, Horace, etc., etc.?

My excessive querulousness aside, though, there are some rather bang-up choices here. I’m glad you picked a McCarthy novel. And I am adamant that the Handbook for Boys should be required reading for everyone, males and females both. Perhaps we wouldn’t be such a sissified nation if we did. But the classics are really most necessary to edification and the inculcation of virtue.

–A Mildly Disgruntled English Major

686 A struggling actor October 29, 2009 at 3:51 pm

hamlet was terrible should of used macbeth instead

687 Phillip Godwin October 29, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Good selection, except for Ayn Rand, and I will tell you why.

A man is someone who should be honest and strong in their honesty. She stated to the House of Un-American Activities, under oath, that she the playwright B. Brecht, and that he tried to make her join the Communist Party; however, her dates constantly changed and his location was nowhere close to her during the dates she mentioned to the court. She lied in order to seem significant, and “American,” to the court; therefore, she was not only dishonest, but in need to appease a higher power for personal gain. She does not even display her own theories.
A man should never listen to a hypocrite, further more a liar. Our country is based on strong truths that will not bend to the whims of stronger obstacles. If our forefathers were of the character of Ayn Rand, we would still be a part of Britain. She would just scream about how everyone should be radical-individualists while at the same time appeasing the powers that be. That is called being Spineless.
Replace her with the notes of something more manly. The letters of Thomas Jefferson. Now that was a man.

688 Matthew Cavanaugh October 30, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Those with political axes to grind about Ayn Rand should probably find a better venue. If you don’t want to read the book then move on. However, I assume that in order for you to have a serious discussion about the themes of the book you would have had to actually read it. It is asinine to attempt to direct people’s reading to those topics which you view to be pertinent.

English majors (as you can clearly see above) seem to have a problem with people reading books outside their comfort zone or personal beliefs. C. French was clearly taking the opportunity to name drop as many authors as he could to appear authoritative while presenting cliched critiques of well known authors. In fact, the post was so overloaded with every name they could think of, the argument’s thesis was lost.

This list was a jumping off point for people who don’t read much and are looking to start. How about a little less boyish whining and less venom like gossipy wash women?

689 Vincent November 2, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Ehh, no Thomas Pynchon. Are you kidding me?

Definately the best American author of the last century, and arguably with Joyce the best in the world.

I mean, a top 100 with no mentioin of Pynchon at all! What about Gravity’s Rainbow? That is not really a top 100 at all. There are great book in there don’t get me wrong, but missing a great like that is shamefull. It would be like talking about the greatest athlete of the century and excluding Ali!

690 GG November 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Good list.. hard to narrow down any top 100 without leaving some gems by the wayside. Reading is a singular experience that cannot be shared. We can agree on masterpieces, but we cannot presume that our connection with one book or another will be the same for others.

I would add two books to this list that I think are worth mentioning from my perspective only :

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Thank you for your list. It is always a risk to share on the internet because so many revel in elitist, non-value added comments. It takes courage to put out one’s views and opinions.

~ Gabrielle

691 JD November 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Good list but so many more book one that i did not see is:
The Communist Manifesto

692 Ted November 7, 2009 at 10:57 am

I found this list of manly books to be not only excellent, but inspiring as well. If I were to make any additions to this outstanding list they would be “Real Fighting” by Peyton Quinn and “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” by Bradford Angier. After all, what’s the point of being brilliantly educated in manly reads if you don’t live to tell about it?

693 Jameson November 11, 2009 at 1:05 am

I’ve revisited this page after taking more than a year to read some of these. I just can’t believe it took me this long to read Lord of the Flies. It’s really such a tremendous book.

694 Tom November 15, 2009 at 11:16 am

And for any man that’s not entirely testosterone-driven or that wants to read a book that can also be read by his female counterpart then discussed I recommend The Lost Daughter by Daralyse Lyons. It’s one of the few books I’ve read and my wife’s read that we can talk about. Usually I find we have vastly different tastes but this had everything from sex to guns to violence to coming-of-age. It was both plot driven (for me) and character driven (for her) and it’s by a really obscure author. I loved it!

695 John November 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand certainly gave me direction as a young man. I still refer to it through the many years since I first read it and it continues to bear fruit in my life today. I am fascinated by her critics, it reminds me of a lesson learned in one of the philosophy courses I had in college where the professor observed in an intense argument: the “loser” will inevitably begin to attack the faults of the person and NOT the ideas. F. Nietzche was right when he said a true life is a difficult one. Interpreting this ultimately means that it is much easier to hold your beliefs (true or not) than to constantly adjust to what is the discovered truth (which almost always is close to what we already know i.e..common sense), hence Ayn Rand critics you are taking the easy way and lashing out when your comfort is disturbed. I have found this to be too true with those that are far left of center. Where is your “open mindedness?” where is your “tolerance?” Good luck
Thank you for the opportunity to post. I’ve got to get to the library to start on this fine list.

696 Danny November 29, 2009 at 3:58 am

The Book of Five Rings by Musashi should be on this list. Why? Because it teaches you battle strategies but those same strategies can also be applied in the business world…I kid you not.

697 Will D. November 29, 2009 at 9:17 am

Overall it’s a pretty good list. I’ve read most it and or have the others in que ready to go. BUT as someone mentioned here- No Thomas Pynchon? Surely we could do without one of those Teddy Roosevelt scribblings and make a nice spot for Gravity’s Rainbow.

Also, while most wouldn’t put William S. Burroughs on a ‘mans’ list.. Naked Lunch without doubt, is a perception changer. And lest we forget Norman Mailer’s ‘Executioner’s Song’? Now THAT is a novel worthy of comparison to Moby Dick.

698 Miriam November 29, 2009 at 10:35 am

Have you ever read ‘the darkroom of damocles’
It’s one of the greatest dutch books.
Thanks for the list!
Miriam

699 Carl Davis December 3, 2009 at 8:08 am

Great list…. I would highly recommend:

“One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Años de Soledad)” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize)

“No Ordinary Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Nobel Prize) Biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

700 warren December 3, 2009 at 10:08 am

Printable list?

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