This is an unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of great works of fiction, non-fiction, and self-help that every man really should read by the time he’s a grown up (and why).
1. “Man’s Search for Meaning” — Victor Frankl
A read that makes the one-dimensional case for the simple, inarguable meaning of life — you need goals that genuinely matter, and it’s entirely up to you to reach them.
2. “How to Tell a Story and Other Essays” — Mark Twain
The craft of storytelling comes with its own set of rules — such as artfully getting people’s attention instead of demanding it — by which every man should abide.
3. “Bartending: The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks” — David Embury
Knowing how to fix someone their drink, whether it’s his or hers, correctly, is an exercise in classiness that few have any real practice with. This book will set you up with that knowledge.
4. “The Way to Cook” — Julia Child
You can’t go through life by microwaving ramen noodles and ordering pizza. If there’s one reference book that will enable you to cook just about anything, anywhere, this is it.
5. “Moby Dick” — Herman Melville
Perhaps the greatest, American masterpiece. Captain Ahab felt that learning was at its best when done from direct experience, rather than relying on institutions.
6. “Lonesome Dove” – Larry McMurtry
The epic tale of two old men and a herd of cattle try to cross the gut of a vast, unformed nation.
7. “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” — Toby Young
A great lesson in how not tackle your first move to the big city.
8. “The Great Gatsby” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is a true American novel that captures the self-indulgence of the 1920s, while telling the story of a man who has desperately reinvented himself to win back the woman he loves. Relatable for anyone who ever obsessively chased their first love.
9. “A Sport and a Pastime” — James Salter
Remember your college, buddies girlfriend — the one you were in love with.
10. “All the Kings Men” — Robert Penn Warren
Deception, greed, betrayal, and lots and lots of whiskey.
11. “Slaughterhouse Five” — Kurt Vonnegut
A powerful antiwar novel that any man, any person, no matter what their walk of life may be, will be affected by it.
12. “The Portrait of Dorian Grey” — Oscar Wilde
Self-indulgence, vanity and the selfishness of youth are key in this book in understanding the powers that be.
13. “Deliverance” — James Dickey
Other than that one particular scene — an in-your-face reminder of how close we are to animalism.
14. “The Brothers Karamazov” — Fyodor Dostoevsky
Everything you ever needed to know about life, and how to live, is in this book.
15. “Tropic of Cancer” — Henry Miller
So dirty and grotesque it’s strikingly simple and beautiful.
16. “This Boy’s Life” — Tobias Wolff
The true version of A Million Little Pieces.
17. “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest” – Ken Kesey
Sometimes, in order to stay sane, you need to get a little crazy.
18. “The Fall” — Albert Camus
A look at that great preoccupation — how we want others to see us.
19. “The Fountainhead” — Ayn Rand
Being an individual is much more than how you look and what you say.
20. “On the Road” — Jack Kerouac
A first-person account of the ultimate road trip across America in the 1950s. It excites you enough to make you want to grab a backpack and follow him, but frustrates you to wits end with its pretentiousness.
21. “Men Without Women” — Ernest Hemingway
An introduction to Hemingway’s short stories to better understand his style. It should hone one’s senses to better tackle his major novels (specifically For Whom the Bell Tolls).
22. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” — Ernest Hemingway
An everlasting lesson in manhood — even when you’re lost, and ruined, you press on until the very end.
23. “Women” — Charles Bukowski
It’s about women. And sex. What more do you need?
24. “1984” — George Orwell
A book that drags you from your adolescent self-involvement to the harrowing awareness that politics and the wider world can, and will, impact your life.
25. “The Call of the Wild” — Jack London
A book about dogs is essentially a book about men.
26. “The Grapes of Wrath” — John Steinbeck
Yes, it is long (very long) but understanding the struggle, the hardship, and the desperation is something that every man fears, but every man should know.
27. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin” — Mark Twain
It would be an utter shame if anyone has not read this as an adult.
27. “War and Peace” — Leo Tolstoy
It’s “War and Peace,” what else is there?
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