Fiction for Men as Suggested by Art of Manliness Readers

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 21, 2013 · 281 comments

in Books, Travel & Leisure

Just over a year ago, we wrote a post on why men should read more fiction. I asked readers to suggest their favorite pieces of manly fiction in the comments so I could create a master “AoM Fiction for Men” list. We got a really good response, and we finally finished compiling the suggestions into a list. If you’re looking for some ideas on what to read this summer, check it out. The list has a nice mix of genres so you’re bound to find something that suits your tastes. I’ve added several of them to my own “to-read” list. If you have any more recommendations for books you think an AoM Man would enjoy, please share them in the comments, and we’ll add them to the master list. Enjoy!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Shadow Moon tries to rebuild his life after being released from prison, but gets caught up in a showdown between the old gods who came over to America with the country’s early immigrants and the new gods “of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” Musings about the role of technology in modern life and the meaning of death, set in the real and mythical American landscape.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. This long novel leaps between the story of a secret WWII Allied unit who try to keep the Nazis from discovering they have cracked their Enigma code, and the cryptanalysts’ grandchildren who seek to create a secure data haven in the modern age, and discover a far-reaching conspiracy in the process.
  A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Readers said that the Princess of Mars is much, much better than the blockbuster movie-version flop John Carter. This book is the first in the Barsoom series, consisting of ten novels, the first five of which, it should be noted, are available for free at Project Gutenberg. This sci-fi adventure is said to have inspired some of the science fiction greats like Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and others.
  Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. This historical novel is a fictionalized account of real-life Samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi as he seeks to master not only the Way of the Sword, but the path to honorable, spirited manliness. Musashi is famous in Japan for being a master swordsman and also writing the philosophy/tactical work, The Book of Five Rings, which is still studied today.
  The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. This book received a ton of accolades when it was published in 2011, including being named in the NY Times Top Ten of the Year and Amazon’s Best Book of the Year. USA Today said this about it: “The Art of Fielding belongs in the upper echelon of anybody’s league, in this case alongside Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Scott Lasser’s Battle Creek, and W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe.” I read this book earlier this year and really enjoyed it. It’s a coming-of-age story with baseball serving as the backdrop. One of the better modern novels I’ve read in a long time.
  Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. This well-known fantasy favorite was unsurprisingly recommended numerous times by readers. Follow Frodo Baggins and his trustworthy friend Samwise Gamgee and learn about friendship, loyalty, dedication to a good cause, and many other manly virtues. You’ll also find one of the wisest characters in literature in Gandalf. J.R.R. Tolkien had one of the greatest imaginations of his time and created an entire LOTR universe, complete with new languages, maps of various lands, and even histories of how these lands came to be. If you’re interested in some of the Middle-earth back story, get your hands on The Silmarillion.
  From Here to Eternity by James Jones. I read From Here to Eternity this year at my father-in-law’s suggestion. One of the best war novels I’ve read. The movie adaptation from 1953 happens to have made it onto our Top 100 Movies list, so be sure to check that out as well. Set in Hawaii, the novel is loosely based on author James Jones’ own experiences.
  Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This is a behemoth of a book, coming in at over half a million words, but from what people say, the effort is well worth it. Wallace took the title from a line in Hamlet (another work that all men should read), and although he committed suicide in 2008, has lately become regarded as one of the more influential writers of the latter part of the 20th century. As this is his magnum opus, it’s a great place to start.
  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré. le Carré is considered the greatest spy novelist of all time. Check out his most lauded work and what is often called the greatest spy novel of all time, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. This particular novel was influential in informing the public about common Cold War espionage practices. Whereas James Bond novels and movies romanticize the world of spies, le Carre gives us brutal realism.
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Many readers suggested checking out the work of Sir Walter Scott, who James Bowman called “the man who did the most to resuscitate honor for the modern era.” This work from 1820 is a great adventure story set in medieval times and deals with knighthood and chivalry. We also see appearances from Knights Templar and Robin Hood (Locksley, in this novel). What fella doesn’t want to read about that? Available for free as an ebook.
  Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. This book was recommended to me by small town advocate, Uncle Buzz. Turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time. A book about the life and unrequited love of a rural barber named Jayber Crow. From his barber chair, he learns about listening, community, life’s tough questions, and much more. The book really made me want to move to the country to become a barber.
  World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. This popular book is a fictional account of the zombie war, told from the point of view of a journalist who is conducting interviews many years later. It’s not so much blood and gore, but about the political and sociological ramifications of such a catastrophe. It’s set as a series of interviews, so it somewhat lacks a cohesive plot, but it’s still riveting. I’ve also heard the audio version of this is fantastic. You’ll want to read/listen to it before this summer’s release of the film version starring Brad Pitt.
  The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O’Brian. Reader Tom Smedely said this of the 20+ volume series: “Patrick O’Brian’s novels probe the mysteries of manliness. 20+ volumes starting with Master and Commander take us into a lost world of wooden ships and iron men. Even a patriotic American will find himself grieving the setbacks of the British navy during the War of 1812!” Even more awesome is that the series closely follows the heroics of real-life captain Thomas Cochrane.
  Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. One of the best novels on what it means to get in touch with your inner Wild Man. The narrator is a young intellectual who is in love with his books. After a stinging encounter, he decides to leave his books behind for a while, and do some self-discovery. You’ll be dancing and shouting “Opa!” like Zorba by the end.
  All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. This 1947 Pulitzer winner is one of the best pieces of political fiction ever written. It’s loosely based on the career of Louisiana governor Huey P. Long. Interestingly enough, the author said it was “never meant to be a book about politics.” Indeed, there are larger lessons about humanity to be learned, and this is a great example of how hubris can destroy a man.
  Independent People by Halldór Laxness. Reader Jordan explains this pick: “Iceland’s Laxness won the Nobel Prize in Literature the year after another great manly fiction writer, Hemingway. Independent People is his most important work about an Icelandic farmer who strives to be his own independent man when all else is against him. Laxness’ prose captures the harsh beauty of the Icelandic way of life and poetically blends myth and reality in this moving epic.”
  Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison. You’ve seen the movie, now read the novella that it’s based on. Here’s what dannyb278 had to say about Harrison: “Nobody writes better concerning the 20th century male. Ignore the movie, the novella Legends of the Fall is one of the greatest works in modern American Fiction.”
  Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I kicked off 2012 by reading this classic Western. It’s a new favorite of mine, and I can’t wait to read it again in a few years. Another Pulitzer winner here, this is the third installment of the Lonesome Dove series of four novels (although the first published). This story of some retired cattle drivers carries lots of insight on what it means to be a man (look for a post in the future on that very theme!).
  Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. This oft-suggested sci-fi classic is supposedly one of the funniest books ever written. It’s been on my to-read list for while. Think I’ll get to it next. This wildly successful franchise includes six novels, video games, stage acts, TV series, movies, comic books, etc. Must have somethin’ going for it!
  Masters of Rome Series by Colleen McCullough. If you’re a Roman history buff, reader Evan M. suggests checking out the Masters of Rome series. It chronicles the end of the Roman empire and the lives and careers of Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Pompeius Magnus, and Gaius Julius Caesar. There are seven books in the series.
  For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Naturally, several readers suggested “anything by Hemingway.” If you’ve never read Hemingway, start with For Whom the Bell Tolls. In the novel, we follow the experiences of a young American dynamiter in the Spanish Civil War. Much of it is pulled from Hemingway’s own experiences as a journalist reporting on the war.
  A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Thanks to HBO, many gents are now discovering this series. A Game of Thrones is the first of the five-part series (with more coming) which is a classic fantasy epic set in a world invented by Martin. The series is known for killing off main characters to keep you on your toes.
  Blood Meridian or The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Lots of commenters said, “Anything by Cormac McCarthy,” and I couldn’t agree more. Blood Meridian explores the violence between Native Americans and the white settlers in the 19th century, while The Road follows a father and son as they walk through a post-apocalyptic America. Both terrifying and touching — one of the only books that has ever made me cry.
  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver. This collection of short stories by Raymond Carver center on uneducated, seemingly normal American people. They have problems, and they aren’t all shiny and polished. His writing is often compared to Hemingway’s in its simplistic style. Anything compared to Papa is good enough for me!
  Raise a Holler by Jason Stuart. If you’re a Southern gent, Nick suggests Raise a Holler. According to Jedidiah Ayers, “It’s, more or less, The Hobbit re-imagined as a series of southern-fried crime misadventures.”
  Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett. While it’s a young adult fantasy series, several people suggested the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Its 39 novels will keep you busy for a very long time, and there are supposedly more to come. As the title suggests, this world is a flat disc that is set upon the backs of four elephants. The books often focus and speak to a specific theme, such as religion, business, current events, etc. They also parody many common elements and cliches of fantasy and sci-fi literature.
  The Plot Against America and American Pastoral by Philip Roth. Reader Hal said, “Philip Roth is good and comes with the added benefit that you can then say you have read Philip Roth. The Plot Against America is a good way in.” American Pastoral won a Pulitzer for its portrayal of life in the Lyndon Johnson years, and The Plot Against America is an alternate history novel in which FDR is defeated by Charles Lindbergh in the 1940 election.
  The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Reader Caleb S. suggested anything by Graham Greene. “He is a twentieth-century writer of novels and short stories, and his works are filled with men faced with complex moral conflicts. All of his novels are both entertaining and literary, which is a rarity these days, and perfect for someone looking to begin a fiction-reading habit.” Check out The Power and the Glory, which deals with the power struggle between the Roman Catholic church and the Mexican government, to get started with Mr. Greene.
  The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Several readers suggested Raymond Chandler. If you like detective stories, you can’t go wrong with this master of the genre, who is praised as being the most lyrical of crime writers, as well as having some of the best dialogue in the genre. The Big Sleep (his first) is a favorite of mine.
  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My favorite of all time. Read it again (yes, I’ll assume you’ve already read it at least once) before you go see DiCaprio take on the iconic role of Jay Gatsby at the movies. We learn about the fallacy of the American dream in this short 1920s classic.
  Deadwood by Pete Dexter. Marc has something in common with my dad. They both recommend western author Pete Dexter’s Deadwood, a fictional narrative of Wild Bill’s last days.
  Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Reader Tom G. likes sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein. “His characters have, in a very large part, defined what I conceptualize ‘manliness’ to be.” If you’re a man who likes to think deep, Tom suggests Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s considered to be essential sci-fi, and tells the story of a Martian human who comes to Earth in early adulthood.
  Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Several recommendations for Ender’s Game. I finally got around to reading it this year. It’s a kid’s book, but it tackles some pretty adult themes. Another sci-fi classic, this novel is set during Earth’s future, when kids are trained for battle in preparation for an expected attack. It is still suggested reading in many military organizations, and has ballooned into a series of 12 novels and 12 short stories.
  David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Dickens had several votes, and is widely considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. That means you should read his works. You can’t go wrong with David Copperfield, which Dickens himself called his favorite. It’s a semi-autobiographical work that tells the life story of a boy who grows up in poverty in London, but escapes his miserable childhood to be become a successful novelist. Available free as an ebook.
  Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. A fictional account of the Spartan 300. Manly. This book is a military favorite and is taught at West Point, the Naval Academy, VMI, and Marine Corps Basic School. If those guys read it, so should you.
 HowFewRemain(1stEd) Southern Victory Series by Harry Turtledove. Gabe recommended alternate history writer Harry Turtledove. Find out what would have happened had the South won the Civil War, all the way through 1940, in the eleven novels of the Southern Victory Series. Hint: The world is a very different place; your globe would not have the same boundaries.
  Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. Hearty recommendations for anything by Rudyard Kipling, author of the manliest poem ever written, “If.” Most people suggested starting off with Kipling’s Captains Courageous. The story tells of a wealthy young boy’s transition to manhood after being saved from drowning by a fishing boat in the North Atlantic. Fun Fact: This novel was written while Kipling was living in Vermont, which is our favorite vacation spot. Free as an ebook.
  Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. An insomniac finds relief in a secret club. No explanation needed for this one. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s time to read the book. It’s also interesting to note the author’s intent in writing: “…bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to Make an American Quilt. These were all novels that presented a social model for women to be together. But there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives.”
  Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Reader Jake Warner suggested Russian post-apocalyptic novel Metro 2033: “It’s a bit hard to find in English, but Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 is an excellent post-apocalyptic novel.” The name comes from survivors of a nuclear holocaust retreating to metro train tunnels, in which they begin their new way of life. The book has spawned a very popular video game as well.
Water Music by T.C. Boyle. Water Music follows the wild adventures of Ned Rise, thief and whoremaster, and Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer, through London’s seamy gutters and Scotland’s scenic highlands, to their grand meeting in the heart of darkest Africa. Sounds good.
  The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith. Kent said everyone should check out the The Rediscovery of Man, a collection of sci-fi short stories by Cordwainer Smith. “His science fiction explores the nature of humanity after mankind has spread out among the stars and begun to diverge.”
  His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Grumpy Typewriter (fantastic pseudonym, by the way) is a fan of the His Dark Materials trilogy. You’ve probably seen the movie the book inspiredThe Golden Compass. Grumpy Typewriter says the books are much better. Always are, always are. The epic trilogy is a coming of age story of two kids who travel through a series of alternate universes, and is said to be a re-telling and repudiation of John Milton’s classic, Paradise Lost.
  Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Several readers suggested anything by Joseph Conrad. ”He speaks to the masculine in all of us to some extent,” said commenter Graham. If you’ve already read Heart of Darkness, try reading Lord Jim. There are also expanded versions of Heart of Darkness based on Conrad’s notes if you just can’t get enough. Conrad’s works are available free as ebooks.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. A few suggested Flannery O’Connor, a female author known for her Southern Gothic style. Her stories are pretty raw and highlight complex ethical and moral questions. For a good sampling of her work, pick up the collection of her short stories entitled, A Good Man Is Hard to Find.
  The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. This is a novel about a failed novelist turned sportswriter who experiences an existential crisis after the death of his son. Its sequel, Independence Day, won a Pulitzer, and there is also a third installment.
  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. You might be surprised, but several readers suggested Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. LG, a ninth-grade English teacher, said this about the book: “Although all of Austen’s novels are great, I think Pride and Prejudice especially is worth a man’s time to read for its examples of good, noble, self-sacrificing men from every social class, as well as its counter-examples. On the ‘bad guy’ side, you’ve got a womanizing manipulator, a father who shirks his duties and lives to regret it, a pompous moral weakling, and a man whose arrogance blinds him to his own faults.” If you still think Austen is too girly for your tastes, Chris suggests Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
  The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. Several recommendations for Hammett’s Sam Spade detective novels. Couldn’t agree more. Start off with The Maltese Falcon. If you need convincing, the New York Times calls Hammett the dean of the school of detective fiction.
  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. A book that begins with a boxing match and explores what it means to be an independent man when you feel pushed to conform to others’ stereotypes and expectations.
  Dune by Frank Herbert. Several readers suggested books by Frank Herbert for those who love sci-fi. Dune is a good place to start. Set in the far future, the Dune universe finds planets controlled by individual noble houses. The story focuses on the Atreides family as they gain control of a planet with a very valuable commodity. Although not confirmed, it is said to be the bestselling novel of all time in its genre. Like many sci-fi series, prequels and sequels have been added both by Herbert and others for a total of well over 20 novels.
  The Richard Hannay Series by John Buchan. Trev recommended the Richard Hannay series. “They were written during and about WWI and are great adventure stories.” There are five novels that star Richard Hannay, the first three of which are available for free as ebooks.
  The Stand by Stephen King. Lots of people suggested Stephen King, and The Stand got several recommendations. Find a more recent, uncut version. At first publishing, King’s editor forced him to cut nearly 400 pages. You’re getting into a 1,200-page book, but seeing the literal fight of good vs. evil in post-apocalyptic America is well worth it. His non-horror books are good too (e.g. The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption).
  The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl. A novel about a young lawyer who tries to solve the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe’s death. All of Pearl’s novels deal with some kind of literary mystery. So if you like classic literature and modern mysteries, his works will be a win-win.
  The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. If you like learning about the Civil War, then you can’t go wrong with The Killer Angels. You’ll get to experience the Battle of Gettysburg from the point of view of General Lee. General Norman Schwarzkopf called it “the best and most realistic historical novel about war that I have ever read.”
  Call of the Wild by Jack London. Lots of hearty recommendations for Jack London. He wrote some pretty manly stuff, and his life is just as interesting as his prose. You probably read The Call of the Wild in middle school, but it won’t hurt to read it again. Also try White Fang and The Sea-Wolf. All of London’s works are available for free in the public domain.
  The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is one of the most haunting things you’ll ever read, and a must-read as perhaps the most well-known short story in American literature.
  The Professional by W.C. Heinz. A book about boxing that’s more than a book about boxing. It’s considered one of the greatest sports novels ever written. Ernest Hemingway himself said it was “the only good novel I’ve ever read about a fighter, and an excellent novel in its own right.”
  The Jack Reacher Series by Lee Child. If you like thrillers, several readers suggested the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. Reacher is an ex-MP and drifts around the country with not much more than his heavy-duty boots and a pack. There are currently 17 novels, with another due out this summer.
  Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. A story about the perils of obsession. I think men relate to this book so much because we have a tendency to put up the blinders like old Ahab. It’s also frequently referenced in culture, and is regarded as one of the great novels of all time. For those reasons alone you should have this book in your bank of cultural knowledge.
  Hondo by Louis L’Amour. Several suggested “anything by L’Amour.” The man cranked out Western novels like a machine. Granted, his books aren’t Pulitzer material, but they’re definitely enjoyable and pretty darn manly. Great for road trips. Hondo is one of L’Amour’s most well-known novels. But with over 100 other works, you can stay busy for a good long while.
  The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell. James recommends the Warlord Chronicles. It’s a trilogy about how King Arthur became a great warlord of Britain, and eventually brought peace and unity to the nation as they battled other foreign armies.
  The Leopard and the Cliff by Wallace Breem. Alex said this about The Leopard and the Cliff: “It’s about a British soldier in turn-of-the-century Afghanistan. Duty, honor, loyalty, courage under fire — powerful stuff that’s about as manly as you can get.”
  A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. Apparently this book inspired the movie Simon Birch. Our narrator is set in the present and telling the story of his childhood with his best friend, Owen Meany, as they grew up in New Hampshire. We also get themes of religion, social justice, and fate. Not too shabby. Irving also wrote The Cider House Rules, which turned into another popular movie.
  The Corps Series by W.E.B Griffin. Several suggested The Corps series, which includes 10 novels for your indulgence. It follows a tight-knit cast of Marines in the WWII and Korean War years. As would be expected of a series about the marines, the ideas of sacrifice, honor, and brotherhood come through in a major way.
  Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. For you Christian gents, Randy recommends Safely Home. It’s about the friendship between two Harvard roommates, one American and one Chinese, who reconnect in present-day China after 20 years. 100% of the proceeds for his books go towards missions work.
  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Alexandre Dumas got a manly vote of confidence from several commenters. The Count of Monte Cristo is a good place to start. It’s an adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, and forgiveness. At around 1,500 pages, prepare yourself.
  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It’s about a single day of a prisoner in a 1950s Soviet labor camp. It was a major literary event in Russia, as it opened people’s eyes to the horror of Stalinist camps in a way that had never been so openly done before.
  The Rigante Series by David Gemmell. If you like fantasy, Jamie suggests checking out the Rigante series. It includes four novels published between 1999 and 2002. One reviewer on Amazon describes it perfectly: “The main characters are typical Gemmell: passionate, resourceful and proud. Full of revenge and destiny, envy and greed. Gemmell’s plots often revolve around simple passions and motivations. Not one dimensional, but just driven by basic human nature.”
  Magician by Raymond E. Feist. Mark Sweeny said this about Magician: “The best fictional read I had had is Magician by Raymond E. Feist. It was recommended to me by a chance conversation with the man sitting next to me on a long flight from the U.K. to America. I took a chance and read it, and I was not disappointed. I don’t think you will be either. Go on, take a chance!” The story is about Pug, an orphan boy who becomes the apprentice of a magician. As aliens invade their world, Pug gets caught up in the battle. This novel is the first part of a trilogy, and is often published in two parts: Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master.
  The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Lots of recommendations for Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov seemed to be the most suggested novel to start off with. Its Amazon description says it better than I can: “Three brothers, involved in the brutal murder of their despicable father, find their lives irrevocably altered as they are driven by intense, uncontrollable emotions of rage and revenge.” This was Dostoevsky’s final novel, and was intended to be an epic series, but he died four months after publication.
  King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Several said, “Anything by Haggard.” He was one of the best adventure writers of all-time. King Solomon’s Mines is a classic. Tromp through Africa and find, as the title suggests, King Solomon’s fabled treasure. Haggard supposedly wrote this piece over the course of just a few months because of a wager with his brother. Available free as an ebook.
  Day of War by Cliff Graham. Day of War is a fictional account of King David’s epic battles that are recorded in the Bible in 2 Samuel 23 and 1 Chronicles 11. I read this a few months ago and enjoyed it.
  Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh. Joe Bones had this to say about the Sword of Honour trilogy: “I cannot recommend Evelyn Waugh enough. His Sword of Honour trilogy is a complex, insightful and hilarious study of a man’s motivations in war. It is solidly rooted in the temporal but illustrated by the spiritual. It also features an exploding portable toilet and a one-armed Brigadier with an eye patch…”
  The Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard. thserry likes the Chronicles of Conan. “Most people write off Conan as being a silly Arnold movie, however, the original stories are masterpieces. The stories consist of everything from short 3-page (‘Frost Giant’s Daughter’) stories to full novels (Hour of the Dragon). My favorite of all the stories is ‘The Tower of the Elephant.’ Beautiful works, and life lessons on being your own man.”
  Joe Ledger Series by Jonathan Maberry. If you like zombies, and plenty of people do these days, you’ll like the Joe Ledger series. Start off with Patient Zero. The series currently has four installments, with three more planned through 2015.
  The Trilogy by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Harland likes anything by Henryk Sienkiewicz. “His works, especially The Trilogy, are fantastic novels of pride, repentance, honor, and epic love stories all set in the time when Poland was a democracy and set upon from outside powers.” Available free as ebooks.
  Heaven Has No Favorites by Erich Maria Remarque. A novel by the same guy who wrote All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s a story of passion and love with the backdrop of automobile racing.
  Mitch Rapp Series by Vince Flynn. The Mitch Rapp series follows a CIA assassin who focuses on thwarting Middle Eastern terrorist attacks on the U.S. Like Jack Bauer, Rapp is often willing to take extreme measures that go beyond allowable protocol. There are currently 14 Mitch Rapp novels.
  Shane by Jack Shaefer. Gary recommended anything by Jack Shaefer for those who like Westerns. Shane is good novel to start off with, and focuses on a mysterious gunslinger who arrives into town to help out a group of homesteaders in 19th century Wyoming. It’s a classic struggle for land and honor in the wide open expanses of the west. A great film too.
  Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy. Several commenters recommended anything by Tom Clancy. You’ve probably seen the movies and played the video games based off his work. It’s about time you read the novels. Great summertime reading. The Sum of All Fears is about a 20-year-old lost nuclear warhead that gets reconstructed by terrorists and set to be detonated at the Super Bowl. Can hero Jack Ryan save the day? You’ll have to find out yourself.
  The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. A few suggested The Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s about a disguised superhero living in the aftermath of the French Revolution. This novel inspired the masked superhero genre and ultimately led to the likes of Zorro and Batman. Available for free as an ebook.
  2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. Lots of recommendations for the works of sci-fi great Arthur C. Clarke. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic (and a darn good movie). The movie and book were created in conjunction, with the book actually being released after the movie. A manned spacecraft is sent to Saturn to investigate an ancient mystery. The crew, however, must deal with the self-aware HAL 9000 robot in order to achieve their goals. Themes of technological dependency, nuclear war, and space exploration in general are heavy here.
TheAlchemist The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Journey with a young man through Egypt who is searching for treasure. Ultimately, the treasure he’s seeking ends up being much more valuable than gold. Learn about accomplishing your greatest dreams and how gold isn’t as valuable as it may seem. This allegorical tale has been translated into over 50 languages, a rarity.
Ludlum_-_The_Bourne_Identity_Coverart The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum. Jason Bourne is about as manly as it comes on the screen. He’s even more so in the books. The action and intrigue never stops as Jason Bourne tries to figure out who he is, and why several different groups of people are trying to eliminate him. That’s a recipe for great reading. The series started with three novels, but has been continued on by a new author with an additional seven novels. I’ve only read the originals, so I can’t vouch for the new ones.
AlasBabylon(1stEd) Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. SG from the AoM community has this to say about it: “Read it in High School and I have gone back to it over the years. It is about surviving a nuclear war in the late 50s, based on what was out there then and what was ‘known.’ It is a good book even if some of it looks dated now. The hero really becomes a man in the course of leading his family, and later the town.”
DaVinciCode Robert Langdon Series by Dan Brown. Several recommendations for this uber-popular and also controversial series of books. Langdon is a professor who ends up in some ancient mysteries, mostly involving religious themes. The Da Vinci Code is the most well known, but start with Angels & Demons, the first of the series. The fourth novel, Inferno, came out this month and revolves around Dante’s Inferno.
Early_Autumn Early Autumn by Robert Parker. This one got a couple recommendations. A detective is charged with looking after a boy who is mired in a custody battle. We see what a true mentorship can look like, and how important role models are for children. There’s some detective stuff in there as well.
James-Cooper-The-Last-Of-The-Mohicans Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper. This pentalogy is best known for its second installment, The Last of the Mohicans, which takes place during the French and Indian War in which France and Great Britain battle for control of the North American colonies. Available for free as ebooks.
425px-Jurassicpark Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. The movie that won three Oscars pales in comparison to the book that spawned it. All of Crichton’s novels are known for their heavy scientific research that often make the outlandish seem possible. Crichton, sadly, died much too young and won’t be able to give us any more novels. Start with Jurassic Park (which has some wild twists and turns that you don’t see in the movies) and read all of his other novels as well, which range from Viking lore to global warming.
TheShadowOfTheWind The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A young boy is taken by his father into an old library of forgotten and lost-in-time books that have been preserved by a select few. The young boy is allowed to select one book and take care of it for life. You get a story within a story as you also get to read parts of the book the boy selected.
tumblr_lodi733lXy1qg79p6o1_400 Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. Lewis is more well-known for The Chronicles of Narnia, but I’ve always heard rave reviews about his Space Trilogy, where he takes a stab at sci-fi. Jump from Mars, to Venus, and back to Earth again. One reviewer likened it to a combination of Tolkien (for creating an imagined reality) and Stephen King’s The Stand (for its portrayal of good vs. evil). Not too shabby!
n26567 The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason. Learn about redemption when a young, cowardly soldier quits the army but redeems himself through acts of courage. As with any good adventure novel, there’s also a gal involved. Available for free as an ebook.
high-country-333w High Country by Willard Wyman. A good friend told me this about it: “High Country takes readers back in history to a time when men could still explore the mysteries of America’s rich natural lands. The story follows the life Ty Hardin, who learns the trade of packing in the Montana Rockies from a seasoned mentor, and in the process, evolves from boy to man. This book is for any man who appreciates the tradition of hard work, exploration, and enjoys stories of America’s expansion into The West.”
Fall_of_Giants Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. This is the first part of Follett’s epic Century Trilogy. Winter of the World came out last year, with the third installment slated for 2014. At 1,000 pages each, it’s quite a ride. Fall of Giants starts in pre-WWI Europe and takes us all the way through the war while following a cast of unrelated characters who end up crossing paths in various ways. Beyond being just entertaining fiction, you get a real history lesson of World War I, and how folks from each side were likely feeling. Great read.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Another spot-on recommendation from Uncle Buzz and a personal favorite of both Kate and I. When 11-year-old Rube’s older brother goes on the lam, Rube and his father and sister set out in search of him and must decide what to do when they find him. Full of clever references to historical and literary characters, and beautifully and almost magically written, the book touches on faith, family, and fatherhood and will stay with you for a long time after you read it.

{ 281 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Nathan May 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

Game of Thrones on HBO is basically porn. They do no justice to the books which have less sex scenes in them. They added so many on the show. Its the. Books that are really worthwhile.

102 A. Ferguson May 22, 2013 at 9:32 am

This list is all over the map with very few truly great books (ie. timeless: to be read over and again with enough intellectual fat to chew on for a lifetime taking on new meanings as life goes on.)

For a great list start with Alder’s Great Books for a Western educational primer.

Where’s Homer?
Where’s Thucydides?
Where’s Lucretius?
Where’s Machiavelli?
Where’s Montaigne?
Where’s Voltaire?
Where’s Gogol?
Where’s Whitman?
Where’s Twain?
Where’s Camus?

Instead we get recommendations for quick sci-fi and fantasy reads. How about books that challenge and alter your perceptions, spur cultural and spiritual renewal, and grow in power as you grow over time.

Just an opinion.

103 chris May 22, 2013 at 9:36 am

Wow A+ on the Water Music recommendation. I didn’t think anyone else even knew about that book! Easily one of the best adventure epics I’ve ever read.

104 Jason Barker May 22, 2013 at 9:36 am

Hi Brett,Glad to see Jayber Crow on the list.Wendell Berry is a great writer both fiction and non fiction.

105 Jon May 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

Any of the series by Allan Eckert beginning with “The Frontiersman”. Historical fiction.

106 Chad May 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

Some good suggestions…….some not so good suggestions. I’ll give a couple of examples:

“Stranger in a Strange Land” is an excellent book, but certainly does not portray in any way what a man should be. The only character who could be said to represent this is Jubal Harshaw. Many of Heinlein’s other books, especially some of his short stories, are more serious in the ideas that they present.

Dan Brown is a horrible writer. Angels and Demons was one of the worst wrote books I have picked up in the last 10 years. The Da Vinci code is nothing more than a cheap thriller, good for a plane flight, nothing more. Furthermore, if you look past the surface level, he is advocating world views that see men as the problem and which is critical of manliness.

Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is not a coming of age story, it is a direct assault on religion aimed at children and young adults.

Excellent suggestions include anything by Hemingway. But Hemingway is much deeper than the surface level themes. Start with The Sun Also Rises to get a real taste of what Hemingway is about.

Dostoevsky is another excellent suggestion. However, there is one Russian that is glaringly absent; Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

107 Matt May 22, 2013 at 9:53 am

As others have pointed out, this list is missing some biggies, namely Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

I prefer Atlas over the Fountainhead, though it is good as well.

108 Michael May 22, 2013 at 10:00 am

I would recommend author Stephen Coonts. He has three series:
Jake Grafton series – Follows a Navy pilot from the Vietnam war through his career.
Tommy Carmellini series – A spin-off from the Jake Grafton novels follows a CIA officer on his missions.
Deep Black series – Follows a team of NSA black ops operatives. Uses very cool tech (“All of which is either currently in use or in development. You’ll have to guess which is which.)

109 Nate May 22, 2013 at 10:09 am

I have read several of the books on this list and I look forward to reading many of the others.

One recommendation that I would make is “The Contender” by Robert Lipsyte. I really enjoyed this book as a young man and I think it would be a worthwhile read for adults as well.

110 Mark G May 22, 2013 at 10:10 am

I’d also +1 the Stephen Hunter Bob Lee Swagger books, as well as the ones about Bob’s father, Earl.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is the story of a young boy growing up during South Africa during WWII, and how he learns to box and defeats his bullies.

All the Hap Collins and Leonard Pine novels by Joe R Lansdale. Action-packed and hilarious.

111 Cody Ackermann May 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

Anything by O. Henry

The Sherlock Holmes series

The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway

James Bond series

Starship Troopers

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Hopalong Cassidy series, Clarence Mulford

The Man Who Was Thursday and the Father Brown series, Chesterton

Anything by George Macdonald


A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Horatio Hornblower series

112 Ben May 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

May I suggest as well the sci-fi novel, “A mote in God’s eye,” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle? Some great storytelling there, and some good reflections on the nature of prudence in public affairs.

113 Jeff The Bear May 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

I strongly suggest the Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton. (Forget the Dean Martin movies.) Not strictly necessary but they are better read in order. Much better than the James Bond books.

Another vote for Atlas Shrugged.

Two others by Robert Heinlein: Glory Road and Time Enough For Love.

114 Jedediah May 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

I humbly submit the following:

“City of Thieves,” by David Benioff. The story of a teenager in Leningrad during WWII, who is sent on an impossible mission. Along the way he learns who he is, and possibly more important, who he is not.

“Captain Alatriste,” by Arturo Perez-Reverte. This is the 1st book in a series that follows a band of Spanish soldiers during the 30 Years War. They have nothing but honor, and yet that is enough.

This book has the best opening line I’ve ever read: “He was not the most honest or pious of men, but he was courageous.”

“The Judas Gate,” by Howard Bahr. Third in a loose series of Civil War books (though each is a stand-alone novel). Tells the tale of a former Confederate soldier who, 20 years after the war, is asked to retrieve the body of his commander from the Franklin battlefield. Totally haunting, about the price we pay for our choices.

Favorite line: “They might live or die or be broken according to the chance that befell them, but alive or dead or broken, the one thing they would all be was mad.”

115 Brennan May 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

A fantastic fantasy story with a very manly knight is the Elenium trilogy by David Eddings

116 Iain May 22, 2013 at 10:43 am

Anything, or rather everything, by Charles Dickens would have been a better listing!

I would add ‘We The Drowned’ by Carsten Jensen. An epic story of one sea faring village in Denamark through 1848 to 1948.

Surprised buy the lack of any recommendation to read Jack Kerouac. ‘On The Road’ may have been butchered by editors but it’s still a bloody good book.

117 eatlotsabeef May 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

Mark Twain
Marcus Aurelius

118 Velich May 22, 2013 at 11:02 am

If you’d like to know specific title of book from Discworld series, I would recommend the “Night Watch”. Truly one of the best titles.

119 Jordan May 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

Anything from Nelson DeMille. Amazing author, and it’s all fiction based in reality. Rather surprised to not see any of his books, but understandable.

120 K. Williams May 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

When the Lion Feeds.
Wilbur Smith.

One of the greatest adventure novels.
Once read you will read the entire series.

121 Chad May 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

The only Louis L’Amour book I would recommend (and it is a great read) is The Walking Drum.

122 Jaredd Wilson May 22, 2013 at 11:29 am

One that I would have to put on this list is “Brave New World.” By A. Huxley. All the male characters in the book are dealing with what being human means to them. John the Savage really feels this struggle. What I got out of the book was, how do we live in a world where all our needs are prescribed and met? John’s answer is we don’t.

123 Shawn May 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

Although they are pulp fiction, ERB’s Mars series are among the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. He was world-building long before Tolkein. Aside from Princess of Mars, Chessmen of Mars and A Fighting Man of Mars are my faves.

Dumas is brilliant. He can make a simple conversation between two people alone in a room more riveting than a battle scene. The Man In The Iron Mask is a moving finale to the Musketeer saga.

Joseph Conrad’s The Rescue (set in Malaysia) is a great tale of cultures colliding and the man caught in the middle. Beautiful descriptions throughout. Just read the description of the burial at sea at the beginning of the story -so poetic!

124 Brandon May 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

I think the Parker series by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) are great. Start with The Hunter. The first sentence sets the tone wonderfully.

125 dannyb278 May 22, 2013 at 11:50 am

Thanks for including my suggestion of Jim Harriosons Legenss Of The Fall, a collection of tree novelas. Read Jim Harrison.

Also, do all you making recomendations or being critical of this list realize it ISNT a “must read” list of books, but a list of books that AOM readers through were missing from other lists? Many of the books your are suggesting can be found in the previous “lists” put out by AOM.

It helps to read the actual artical sometimes instead of jumping around looking for something to add or be critical of.
Some of the books suggested were not even fiction, which was the topic addressed in the article.

126 Debateg May 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

Great article, my reading list has just grown by a mile.

I’d add anything by Mathew Stover. Especially his Acts of Caine series. While violent, these books are incredible fiction and they follow the story of a man as he struggles to define himself while fighting the gods to save the people he loves. It deals with themes of fate, fantasy, friendship, family, time-travel, love, self-actualization, greed, and the human spirit. And it has some of the most well-written action scenes that I have ever read. If you only read one, (there are four) start with Blade of Tyshalle.

Also a quick shout-out to Salvatore for the Drizzt series, great action and a long meditation on what it means to be a man in a changing world.

127 R. McKibben May 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

To answer A. Ferguson in post #102, this list encompasses ‘fiction for men as suggested by art of manliness readers’. Most readers are familiar with the great books of the western world and similar lists. This was a chance for some of AoM’s readers to post some of their personal favorite manly fiction. I agree that the list you are suggesting is important for education and enlightenment, but I also enjoy the lists that AoM posts as I always find new books to check out that I would never have heard of otherwise.

128 Con May 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Shame it’s so US-centric. We could have had Joyce, Camus or Kafka in there too…

129 Andy May 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I love that you included Le Carre. But I’m puzzled by the choice of, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” It is a fantastic story and very realistic of the spy world. But he has MUCH better ones.

For example, the “Karla” trilogy of , “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” “The Honoourable Schoolboy” and “Smiley’s People” is a true can’t miss if you are looking for real worl spies from the director of clandestine services all the way down to the assets.

And if you want to know who spies really are, read, “A Perfect Spy.” It is his masterpiece and a great piece of psychology.

130 Preston May 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I would add the James Bond series by Ian Fleming. These books will not win any literary prizes, but they are fun, simple stories which could easily be read in a day sitting by the beach or pool. Also, I would add “A Moveable Feast” by Hemingway, one of my favorate summer reads.

131 Atticus May 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

One series I had hoped would be mentioned was the Wizard of Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin. Now some may roll their eyes because it is considered teen fantasy. The books tackle many issues including faith in others and consequences to personal choices. What makes these books so memorable is that they are all standalone stories that encompass the life of one man the characters he meets and ultimately makes an impact on.

132 Larry May 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Gates of Fire has got to be the most manly book of them all. This book shows the true meaning of Honor through a story about the most manly civilization to ever exist. King Leonidas is a true martyr of how any king should act among his people.

133 Greg May 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

A list like this is bound to cause discussion and dissension, but since they’re my two cents to give, I kind of agree with A Ferguson. I don’t want to be a preachy, snobby, literary person (and I’m not, as I read 95% non-fiction), but to see such a ‘master list’ so devoid of true works of literature and poetry is saddening. One can not read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, but give Alas, Babylon a preference on any list (except “Books to Use for Starting Fires If It Comes to That”).

I love tales, like The Count of Monte Cristo, but such works pale against good literature and poetry like a shooting gallery game at the carnival pales against a true hunt. Literary works can connect one more closely to the mind of another human than any other medium, and when such a connection is made new ideas and insights are bound to happen. Popular fiction piggybacks on this experience and takes plaudits upon itself where none are deserved. King’s The Stand was a great read that helped me to pass a couple of trans-Pacific flights, but it’s not a fundamentally different experience from watching the mini-series version on TV.* The very pretense of exploiting the good-versus-bad journey-into-the-lion’s-den framework and executing for an audience stands in the way of communicating a thought, or a culture, or an emotion. To see that book standing on a list where The Aeneid of Virgil has no place kind of makes me want to pull my hair out.

I used to be a grand vocalizer for popular fiction, until I read Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why (apparently Adler’s How to Read a Book is the classic in choosing-a-reading-list instructional books). After reading some of the works suggested in that book, I can’t contort myself into reading books like Jurassic Park any more.

Thanks for reading this long post! It’s only my opinion, it’s true, but an opinion that I have cultivated with experience, research, and discussion, so make of it what you will.

*I’ve heard it said that “You make the characters your own” when you read fiction, or illustrate things your own way, and for that reason it’s different than TV. Nobody is making a list of “Most Meaningful Coloring Books”, though arguably they should, because they’re more interactive and imaginative than most popular fiction for the reader/colorer. My point is that ‘getting to imagine things your way’ is a pretty weak defense of popular literature as a psychically-elevated pursuit compared to video games or television.

134 Brian McElfish May 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I have to agree with above, Sherlock Holmes for man’s use of the mind is excellent, also the original James Bond series. They are completely different from the movies, except Dr. No, and actually discuss man’s roles in situations.

Plus I really enjoy Clive Cussler’s stuff. It may be fantastical and the male characters a bit over the top in their maleness, but I think that’s the point of your list. Things to think about being. Following your passions. Perseverance. And I actually appreciate their chivalrous attitudes towards women.

And Terry Pratchett is a genius. The more you know about Pop Culture, the funnier the books become. He makes series within his series, just choose one and begin.

135 Destroy3r3 May 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I would like to suggest James Ellroy to everyone who loves good crime stories. His hard language, fast pace and crude scenes suck you literally in the book.

136 Preston May 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Quick addition to my earlier comment where I suggested “A Moveable Feast” by Hemingway. This is not fiction, and I know that fiction is the literary category about which today’s post is written, but it is still a great book. “A Moveable Feast” is about Hemingway’s days as a young man living in Paris after WWI.

137 tjwasik May 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I would recommend the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, the first book of which is “Storm Front”

The books are classic Detective novels, with a twist, the main Character, Harry Dresden, is a wizard Private Investigator. The books are quick reads, but don’t be too critical to dismiss them based on they’re subject matter, they have some excellent manly themes. Dresden is a classic Gentleman, trying to keep chivalry alive in an age that has dismissed it. He is not a perfect character, and makes mistakes but always struggles to rise above it. He struggles to do the right thing, even if it’s unpopular, and often at great personal sacrifice. The series has everything from Investigation, to horror, to full on Military style Combat.

138 Tim May 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Some good recommendations here! I always enjoy your booklists.

Fathers and Children by Ivan Turgenev is a good one. Sometimes it is translated as Fathers and Sons.

139 Joe M Jnr May 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

In response to Alex about books for the 20-something-year young man, non-fiction is great; and the best is the Old Testament! But we’ve to read between fiction’s lines cos as the say, “writing it is not just about the fiction, but the facts!”

And the Richard Bach classic, JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL, is a great little read for life…

So is:

THE HORSEMEN by Joseph Kessel (with a classic flick adaptation)

And what about NARCISSUS and GOLDMUND by Hermann Hesse…

All were recommended to me by my eldest brother–he is also called Alex– at a time in my early 20s when I was wild and lost, kid you not, these three titles woke me up. True story!

And they are superb works…

140 apd148 May 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Just a suggestion on “The Stand” – I’ve read both the edited and the unedited versions. The edited version (IMHO) is VASTLY superior. Stephen King should have sent a “thank you” note to his editor.

“No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy would have been a great addition for this list. Good story of good vs evil, and the struggle of good men to do the right thing.

141 Andrew May 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I recommend “The 5 People you Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom. An inspirational work about a review of a man’s life and how different people and events shaped the character’s life

142 James May 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Thumbs up to Ivanhoe, The Karamazov Brothers, and Conan. Thumbs down to Dune and A Game of Thrones (two of the most lousy and overrated books/series in the history of mankind – avoid at all costs).

Have to agree with A. Ferguson and another person’s call for Chesterton.

143 Leland May 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Excellent list. Maybe I’ll checkout a couple of these books even though I don’t much care for fiction.

Has AOM considered doing (or have you done) a similar list for non-fiction?

144 Nathan May 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Isn’t there also only 5 books in the Hitchhikers series?

145 Emil May 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Cool list!

I saw at least one person mention it, but it deserves more mentions. We The Drowned by Carsten Jensen is the greatest book i’ve ever read. You can practically feel your beard growing while reading it. Epic story of a small Danish town, and the evolution of seafaring.

Thomas Pynchon has several awesome books. I loved Against the Day, but it takes a really long time to read. Gravity’s Rainbow is easier to handle, and maybe more manly (there’s war and rockets going off with erections).

Underworld by Don DeLillo is another great book. Broad in scope, but still personal. Also, very American, at least in the eyes of a foreigner like myself.

Yukio Mishima also has some really bad ass books, the Sea of Fertility cycle is a brooding tale of the Samurai way of thinking in a modern age.

146 LREKing May 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm

In addition to Early Autumn, almost any fiction by Robert B. Parker. His protagonists — Spenser, Jesse Stone, Virgil Cole — all deal with the issues of maintaining honor and simplicity in a complex world.

147 Topher May 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Second Infinite Jest. Google “Sierpinski Gasket” and that’s essentially how the plot is structured. But extremely funny, and extremely deep the way it ties in themese to a wide cast of characters.

One worth looking at is White Noise by Don DeLillo who was one of DFW’s major influences.

148 Jim Powers May 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I recommend anything by Andrew Vachss, he’s one of the greatest living crime novelists. He’s also a lawyer that represents abused children for little or no money and has been employed in many “frontline positions” of combating child abuse. From his experiences as a social worker, and running a juvenile prison, he’s written some very gripping novels.
Try his debut book “Flood” which is the first book of his famous “Burke Series”

149 Tim Sergon May 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

This is a pretty good list. My recommendations would be the following…

Michael Ondaatje – The English Patient, Divisadero, and any of his other novels as well.
John Le Carre – Absolute Friends, Our Game. The George Smiley novels were brilliant, but his non-GS novels have been on par with them.

Lastly, I also echo the recommendations for the Sherlock Holmes series, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

150 Ken May 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I’ve managed to read several of those. Here’s a few more to add to a long list.

“Bleak House” by Charles Dickens. I’ve read several of his books and I think this one’s the best of those. Some of the characters are taken from people Dickens knew.

“A Town Like Alice” by Nevil Shute. A young English woman is captured by the Japanese in Malaya and leads a party of interned women and children on a march to find a place to stay. After the war she uses a legacy from an uncle to revive a dying Australian town. Based on two actual WW2 stories and sold in the USA under the title “The Legacy”.

Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness” and “Nostromo”.

Mervyn Peake. “Gormenghast” and :”Titus Groan”, Fantasy without the swords and sorcery. The vast castle Gormenghast is probably based on Beijing’s Forbidden City

Terry Pratchett “Unseen Academicals” and “Going Postal” I believe are the best of a very long series.

151 Andrew Rich May 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm

What? No Vonnegut?

152 Jonny May 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm

To anyone complaining that this list doesn’t contain enough Great Literary Works, please refer to the title of the post.

153 Greg May 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

The problem is then not with Brett’s tastes, but with the blog readers themselves, and the complaint still stands. As far as my own earlier post goes, it still makes me pull my hair out to think that there was a strong enough conviction among men that a Tom Clancy book should make the list, but they failed to include To Kill a Mockingbird.

I suppose by its very definition, though, a list determined by popularity will have popular books on it. I just wish we weren’t taking our literary manhood in the hands of dime-store novelists like Dan Brown and inspirational schlockers like Paulo Coelho. If you’re going to read a success parable, at least make it The Richest Man in Babylon, it’s shorter and more applicable.

154 Dean T. May 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I recently read Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”. Amazing book!

155 Slugger May 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I can’t believe there was no mention of the Horatio Hornblower series in that list. If Winston Churchill found him ‘admirable’, that’s good enough for me.

156 Jeff May 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

This is a great list of books. I have read many of them and now I am planning on adding a few more to my library. I read “Alas Babylon” in highshool. I did not know it was that well known of a book. The three books I feel that were missing were “Old Man and the Sea” “Huckleberry Finn” and “Treasure Island”

157 Pete May 22, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I appreciate this list. But honestly, who has time to read fiction? Between a day job, exercising,making time for 7-8 hours’ sleep, fixing broken stuff at the house, attending religious services, visiting family, spending signficant time with spouse and children, and working on manly skills (e.g. learning guitar), who has time to read? I sure don’t. I haven’t read for pleasure since college, 25-some years ago. I’d love to hear how any of you guys are able to squeeze it in.

158 Sean May 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm

For the McCarthy fans, may I recommend ‘Far Bright Star’ by Robert Olmstead. While obviously influenced by McCarthy, Olmstead has a grittier, darker prose. This book has some of the most violent and beautiful battles I have ever read. A story filled with incredible imagery and a way of writing that pushes the reader to think hard about the themes. Its also a quick read. Got through it in a few afternoons. I highly recommend it.

159 kirk May 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I like Louis Lamour’s westerns but his best novel is “The Walking Drum” which takes place in early medieval europe. I reread this one once a year.

Maybe dry for some but Mitchener’s the Source is very interesting journey through history.

Anything by Haggard is right. I’d say most of A.C. Doyle too. Challenger and Holmes being the first pics. But is medieval stuff is good too like “The White Company”

160 Patrick May 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm

The two additions I would make are the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and anything by Jack Kerouac.

161 Tim May 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm
162 Bryan May 22, 2013 at 8:42 pm

I would suggest replacing “Stranger in a Strange Land” with “Starship Troopers”. Both are by Robert Heinlein. Here’s why:
Stranger in a Strange Land is renowned for “breaking ground” in science fiction, but it’s mostly in the direction of immorality – for instance, it explicitly condones pornography. Thought-provoking, perhaps, and it is good to understand one’s values as more than assumptions, but I would feel more comfortable if I never read this book again, or my children never did. Meanwhile, there’s not a lot of story or plot behind all the commentary. The people and situations seem artificial. My mother describes the second half of the book as a “wet dream”.
Starship Troopers also asks interesting questions, but this time in the direction of government. Can punishment be effective if it is not cruel and unusual? What forces create and shape a soldier? What values are important for the soldier to have? I found the questions asked and ideas presented in this book much more valuable than those in Stranger in a Strange Land. Also, while the book is clearly a vehicle for political commentary, it feels a lot less artificial, and there are much more engaging story moments.

163 Nate May 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Would also recommend Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s the author’s (mostly) true story about how he escaped from an Australian prison, fled to India, lived in a slum, started a free health clinic, joined to Mafia, fell in love, and fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. He wrote the novel three times in prison, after the first two copies were destroyed by prison guards. How manly is that?

Whirlwind, by James Clavell is also fantastic.

164 Paul D May 22, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Wow. This gives me hope for the world, all these readers of books.
I would suggest most everything by John Steinbeck (if not suggested already),
The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon
The Three Musketeers by Dumas.
And thanks for the suggestions – I have some book-hunting to do.

165 Mike May 22, 2013 at 9:33 pm

+1 for the Ramage series, +1 for the Prey series. My recent favorite is The Mulligan by Nathan Jorgenson.Great story of starting over and living a new life. I dare you to read the passages regarding his dogs cancer without a lump in your throat!

166 dannyb278 May 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Greg- Once again, did you not read this article? I am sure to kill a mockingbird was previously mentioned in the many fiction books suggested to read by this website. Does it really need to be repeated again?

167 Ender Wight May 22, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Stranger in a Strange Land is one of the greatest sci-fis ever written. Ender’s Game is also amazing and is NOT a kid’s book.

BTW- where’s Tolstoy, or did I miss something?

168 Stephen May 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm

There are some great books on this list! I have a couple of reads that I will suggest. If you want something fun and entertaining that doesn’t tequire alot of analyzation, I highly recommend jimmy buffett’s A Salty Piece Of Land. A couple of Louis Lamour books as well, The Haunted Mesa, and The Last of the Breed. Not exactly your typical Lamour stuff, but definately in his style.

169 Darkness May 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm

This is good list of books. If guys are still hell bent over the selection, go to other Art of Manliness article from 2009 where it lists the 100 books every man should read.

170 Tom Osborne May 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm

It’s funny, before I began looking at your list, I thought to myself that if you recommended Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, then you would be in, in my estimation…and BINGO! And while books that are important to men can be very personal, you’ve got so many recommendations that I support–here, at random, Captains Courageous, Ender’s Game, C.S. Lewis’s Trilogy, The Killer Angels, All the King’s Men, Tolkien, Lord Jim. And several others. I haven’t read everything on your list, which is a good thing, because that mean’s I’ve got a lot to look forward to.

Also, I appreciate the recommendations offered by others in the comments. I like reader Cody Ackerman’s recommendation of the James Bond books, which I think offer a whole lot more than men who haven’t read them (and know only the movies) might expect.

Best of all, you obviously have so many readers who are thoughtful book readers and that is a very good thing!

171 Michael M May 23, 2013 at 1:57 am

I kept reading all the way down in comments anticipating that someone would list To Kill a Mockingbird. Finally someone did. Mercy! Atticus knew he was going to lose at trial, but he put up the best fight he possibly could just because it was the right thing to do. Talk about manly. Do the right thing even in the face of certain failure. It is not outcome that matters but doing. As Lao Tzu said, “The way to do is to be.”

172 Nathan May 23, 2013 at 3:52 am

I’d like to point out that you are missing Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. And anything by Kurt Vonnegut, especially Slaughterhouse-Five.

I’ll be adding several of the listed books to my “to read” list, which is already considerable long.

And since I saw some grumblings in the comments about being so American-centric, I would also recommend Night Watch by the Russian writer Sergei Lukyanenko. It’s the first book in a very interesting modern fantasy series about the battle between Good and Evil, Light and Darkness.

173 Jon May 23, 2013 at 6:57 am

For a narrative dive into the small wars fought across the world by the United States took a look at “The Savage War’s of Peace” by Max Boot. Boot breaks each war down from the strategic intent to the actions of the men and women on the ground. Eye opening and inspiring.

174 Steven of Chicago May 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

Three of my favorites:

Treasure of Sierra Madre by B. Traven

Big Sky by A J Gunthrie

Martin Eden by Jack London

Read these and you’ll have a perfect summer.

175 Jasoooon May 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

I heartily second any book by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake). These hard hitting crime novels are all muscle – no fat! They are so leanly and skillfully written that they are over before you know it. Plus who has time to invest in 400+ pages?

Also Discworld by Pratchett is not a youth series. It’s incredibly wry and funny British humor even for those like myself who aren’t into wizards and orcs and stuff. Comparable, or better than, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

176 idahobob May 23, 2013 at 9:36 am

All of the books written by Robert Ruark.

Under rated but magnificent author.


177 Dauvit Balfour May 23, 2013 at 10:09 am

Some that I’d add:

Michael Flynn’s Spiral Arm series (starting with The January Dancer is excellent Celtic flavored Space Opera.

Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc is easily one of my favorites of all time. If you’ve read the usual Twain and want something witting but deeply moving, check it out.

Stevenson’s Kidnapped and its sequel Catriona are also high on my list of adventure stories with classic characters.

178 Eric May 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

Here’s one by Larken Rose, a contemporary, and not-so-well-known, author, but a great libertarian thinker.

The Iron Web:

179 Justin May 23, 2013 at 10:35 am

I love these kinds of lists but hate how it brings out the critics and haters. So few people, men or women, find time to read and it’s a shame. Actually, they may well have the time, but they say “I’m just not a reader.”No, I may not be interested in every book here, but I found SEVERAL that I’m going to add to my list. I love the way my mother-in-law, who is an English professor and used to teach Jr. High English, explains it. Just read. Novels, non-fiction, comic books, anything.

So many of the books suggested by the critics just aren’t very readable to some. Then if they try and just don’t like it, I see too many that just wash there hands of reading completely then. It can be great to challenge one’s self, but it doesn’t have to be constant. And what gives some the belief that they have the right to determine what is valuable to any person?

Just my opinion, though. Isn’t that what they all like to say at the end, to kind of gloss over insulting and attacking anyone that isn’t them or think/care like they do? Here is a fact for your book of life: we are smart enough to recognize that it is your opinion and making that blanket statement doesn’t make you any less of an ….well, you get the idea, I’m sure.

180 Manderson May 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

Longtime reader, 1st time commenter. Plenty of good suggestions but a GREAT one I don’t see is the Travis McGee series by John D MacDonald.

They are great low-brow/beach reading, and kind of cover the 60′s through the early Regan era. As for the main character, imagine if one of the Hardy Boys grew up to be a boozing skirt-chasing detective who lives on a houseboat,

181 Seth S. Huggins May 23, 2013 at 11:48 am

First I have to say many of these books are good, even great reads. Personally I am not a sci-fi fantasy guy, but there are a few that would appeal to a mass audience. Just to toss my hat in the Ring Alistair Maclean and Hammond Innes are two authors worth reading. Their books are true adventures. They are well written, teach you about manly skills and feed into your sense of adventure. I really am a fan of Clive Cussler as well. Dirk Pitt is a mans man and should at least get a nod.

182 Timothy Noone May 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Gonna second any Eco, DeLillo, Camus, or McCarthy recommendations. As opposed to a lot of the fantasy and sci-fi listed on here, Gene Wolfe, Jonathan Lethem and Ian M. Banks are much more likely to challenge your mind and provide you with insight as to how to think and interpret the world around you. That’s what a lot of light and entertaining genre fiction are missing. If it’s not challenging to your understanding and sensibilities, you’re not growing intellectually. I am fairly certain that’s supposed to be the objective of the books on this list. Here’s my recommendations:

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. This unimpeachable epic defies every convention you can find within fantasy and science fiction, as well as modern fiction, ascending to a level of literary achievement that is rare even for other Hugo winners. This is the fragmented journal of Severian, an emperor who was once an apprenticed torturer who set out on a journey through a medieval far-future. Unreliable memory, archaic terminology, and technology beyond the understanding of the narrator challenge the expectations of the reader and require critical thinking, but this series is infinitely rewarding for the effort. Full endorsement of the rest of Wolfe’s work as well.

Zeroville by Steve Erickson. This is the mind-bending tale of Vikar, a facially tattooed film editor who sees his first film in a theatre and is inspired to run away from the prison of his fundamentalist Christian father’s parenting. He hitchhikes to L.A. and becomes involved in the film industry, becoming a talented editor even through the upheaval of the film industry during the 1970′s. A mysterious retired actress and her daughter, a dictator, and the punk scene all come into play as Vikar begins to see the same pattern within every film he edits.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Probably the most famous of Calvino’s work besides If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler, Invisible Cities is a phenomenal series of transcendent and puzzling vignettes as Marco Polo and Kublai Khan discuss what Polo has learned about cities during his travels.

Additional Recommendations:

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges.

Culture Series by Ian M. Banks

Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem.

American Skin by Don DeGrazia.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

183 Keith May 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Glad to see a few of my favorites on here! I am actually currently rereading Lewis’s space trilogy (I read it in high school, 10-11 years ago), and it is fantastic! Great stories that really make you think.

I was surprised that there are few true classics. At the very least you could include Mark Twain or some Sherlock Holmes.

184 Michael Ponzani May 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Reily: Ace of Spies is good. Anything by Nelson Algren, Mark Twain–as fresh today as in the 1870s!
Larry Niven : his neomort series.

185 Michael Ponzani May 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm

PS: Cordwainer smith is a pseudonym for someone> Ther Cold Equations is a good short story as ios Oais.

186 Paul Bunevich May 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I read through most of the comments and have to add The Berlin Trilogy (and all his other Bernie Gunther detective/soldier novels) by Philip Kerr – definitely a thinking man’s author.
So many books, so little time……..

187 James May 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I’d like to add James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet and Underworld U.S.A. trilogies to the list. Novels of bad men doing bad things for what they believe are noble causes.

188 Jeremy May 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm

No Cormac McCarthy????? He’s got grit, dust, blood, character, dirt, and destiny.

189 Claude May 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm

My must-read list just got bigger. Thanks for posting this.

Again I have to disagree with “The Road” being on any man’s reading list. A father and son wandering aimlessly, when they’d be much better off staying put and the ongoing theme is “if things get tough, kill yourself”. No thanks.

190 Spence May 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Anything Wendell Berry.

191 Patrick May 23, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Excellent choices! I have read a good number of these books an enjoyed every page.

192 Jon May 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I recommend Ham on Rye and Factotum by Charles Bukowski. Run With the Hunted is a really good chronologically arranged collection of his prose and poetry.

193 Paul May 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Catch 22 is up and above anything else I’ve ever read which, going from the list, isn’t anywhere near enough.

Happy to see Joseph Conrad getting a mention for his ability with the English language was only more remarkable for that fact that it was his tongue’s third.

As a young man the book that I most enjoyed most was The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. It’s a book for men only; dark, reckless and very humorous.

194 Scott May 23, 2013 at 4:58 pm

One of the best books that I can suggest is Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Talk about a man’s book! Not just about rules of survival, but about rules of life. Enjoy

195 Anthony May 23, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye

196 Jon May 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I’d like to third James Ellroy’s LA Quartet and USA Underworld Trilogy. If you have a list with Hammett and Chandler on it, you have to include their successor.

197 JP May 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I’m glad that someone mentioned the Sherlock Holmes collection. If you like The Killing Angels, then I recommend the prequel and sequel written by Jeff Shaara (Michael’s son). I would strongly recommend Ralph Peters civil war novels Cain At Gettysburg (much grittier than Killer Angels, and in my opinion more compelling) and Hell Or Richmond. Most anything by Kipling. The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz deserves mention here too. The main character embodies many of the qualities this site strives for. But really, Dan Brown?

198 davo May 23, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Where in the bloody heck is Gilbert K. Chesterton? The Man who was Thursday, and Father Brown should be here. Also, Conan Doyle should be here and Twain.

199 GDS May 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Faulkner: As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, The Unvanquished, everything else…

Steinbeck: Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, everything else…

Cormac McCarthy: I love Blood Meridian, but it’s the wrong place to start! First thing to read by him (and far more about manly virtues) is The Border Trilogy–All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain. Quiet, determined personal responsibility is a big theme, and they’re beautifully written.

Forrest Carter: The Education of Little Tree — an orphan raised by Cherokee grandparents in the Appalachian mountains. It’s all about gentle strength and what matters most.

James Herriot: All Creatures Great and Small — delightful stories, and the life of a country vet in Yorkshire in the 1940s involved all kinds of manly virtues, chief among them finding beauty and value in trying circumstances.

Richard Brautigan: In Watermelon Sugar — a beautiful story, again involving the quiet strength of goodness.

Homer: The Illiad, The Odyssey (Fitzgerald translation is pretty good).

Knut Hamsun: Growth of the Soil

Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment. Everything really, but don’t start with The Brothers Karamazov (it’s awesome, but dense–C&P is more of a page turner, can’t put it down, wait is it 3 in the morning already?!).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: any of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

P.G. Wodehouse: anything. Jeeves, Wooster! You can’t go wrong here.

200 Nebraska Mike May 24, 2013 at 2:25 am

I found a great online journal, written by a real man just like you or I. It’s called the Union Creek Journal. It is about a post nuclear holocaust scenario and is gripping and should be out in full right now. I read it entry by entry, waiting week by week until the new entry would come out. A quick google search should bring it up…I think the hosting site was blogspot. Hope you enjoy, Mike

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