75 Books Every Man Should Read
We know some of you guys still make the time to read them.
And that’s a really good thing.
Why is reading so important?
That’s especially true if you seek out well-written, thought-provoking books to lose yourself in. These are the types of books we’ll be talking you through in this list.
Every man should have a library of his own. Or, more realistically, a bookcase of his own. Hey, even a shelf will do.
Fill it with the right kind of books and you’re on your way to becoming a better man and a better person. As long as you, well… read them.
We’ve drawn up a comprehensive list of literary greatness we think you need to know about.
Some contain useful practical information, others explore themes that might encourage reflection on the world or even a little self-improvement. Several are simply downright entertaining.
These are the 75 books that every man should read.
THE BEST BOOKS FOR MEN
75. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
We start with a true classic.
Moby Dick is huge. Literally and figuratively. It’s a giant of literature.
Action-packed, exciting and beautifully written, it tells the story of Captain Ahab’s mission to kill the whale that crippled him.
It’s based on a true story and explores powerful themes like the futility of violence and revenge.
74. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
You’ll no doubt have heard of the phrase, ‘a Catch-22 situation’.
Well, it comes from this World War Two-set novel. It’s a clever satire that lampoons the idea of war through pointing out its fatal flaws.
The action follows a young soldier who is told that if he flies dangerous combat missions, he can be deemed ‘insane’ and be relieved of his duties as a soldier. But if he ever actually applies to be removed from that duty, he’ll be classed as sane and ineligible to be set home.
A real Catch-22.
73. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Read merely superficially, this is a tale of a guy and a few pals on a long vacation in Europe, getting drunk and having fun.
But read with a more critical eye, it looks at how effective running away from things can be when you’re attempting to patch yourself up from true emotional pain.
72. 1984 by George Orwell
More politically relevant than ever before, the fact that Orwell wrote this in the 1940’s might surprise you.
A cautionary tale that humanity is singularly failing to heed, it warns against totalitarianism and police states, while also reminding us all to be brave, stand up for what’s right and exercise critical and independent thinking.
71. The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
This 400-page tome is hard going, but worth it.
The book dates from way back in 1927 and is probably best known for being the basis of a certain Martin Scorsese movie showcasing a riveting method performance by Daniel Day Lewis.
It’s a history of how New York City came to be and tells how it – like most of modern civilization – was shaped by pickpockets, prostitutes, pimps, thieves, thugs and murderers.
Few books for men are as a manly as this.
70. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Some find this tale of a couple of beat poets on a road trip a little pretentious and boring.
Others claim it’s the ultimate story of what freedom should really mean to young people.
We really liked it, but we’ve got a thing for the era.
69. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Set in the greediest city during its greediest time (New York City in the 1980’s), this satirical tale flags up just how vile a person can be when they’re seduced by the powers of ambition, social ascension, political ambition and, of course, greed.
68. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
It’s since become a bible for youngsters with teen angst, but The Catcher in the Rye was originally written for adults.
Its coming-of-age story has since been retold a million times by Hollywood, but its themes of alienation, isolation and how to connect with people and the world around us come through with unique clarity.
67. Oil! by Upton Sinclair
It’s a hefty and intimidating read, but as the basis for the best film of the 21st Century, There Will Be Blood, it’s almost essential reading.
This is especially the case with how cleverly it attacks its targets of aggressive corporations and government corruption. Oil! is a page-turner.
66. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
No, this isn’t a biography about the Canadian rock band behind the song Born To Be Wild.
Instead, it’s a tale of a man struggling to reconcile his two separate personalities – a mild-mannered man and wolf.
Plenty men out there will know how that feels, no doubt.
65. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
When it comes to motivational books, there are plenty of listless and wishy-washy self-help books out there.
But for inspirational business and marketing advice, Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point is unparalleled.
It uses real life cases to show how huge businesses went from small to big with just a little smart thinking (and application).
64. Into the Wild by Jon Kankauer
Into the Wild is a non-fiction book which tells of the travel exploits of a man called Chris Candleless.
It starts as a tale of a free spirit heading out into the world to ‘find himself’ and ends as a warning about the dangers of a man taking his ambitions too far.
63. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
This isn’t the easiest read and, admittedly, it doesn’t sound all that thrilling, either.
But political thinker Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel about an architect railing against convention poses some interesting questions about the idea that individualism is better than collectivism.
62. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey
You’ve seen the classic Milos Forman movie starring Jack Nicholson.
Now read the (somehow) superior source material.
Set in a mental ward, it critiques the idea of collective and faceless punishment and discipline and might just challenge the way you think about a few things the state does.
61. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Books for men don’t get a lot more classic than this.
A morality tale about what happens when you’re left to look after yourself in a harsh habitat, this is a book every man should read and learn from.
60. Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell
You might not be a boy anymore, but there are more than enough excellent tips in this guidebook to make it earn its place on any list of top books for men.
59. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
True, you don’t have to search far for classic books about war or even ones that criticise it.
But there aren’t many that do so while having their protagonist abducted by aliens.
58. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Literature at its finest. Simple, easy to follow, allegorical, seering.
This is just a tale about some farmyard animals. Except, of course, it isn’t.
It’s a thought-provoking political tale that might just challenge the way you think about how the world is governed.
57. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Ask 10 different people to name an inspirational book they’ve read and Dale Carnegie’s ultra motivating bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People will get plenty of mentions.
And rightly so.
It might be a few decades old now, but its simple tips on how to present yourself to the best of your ability hold up, making it one of the ultimate self-help books for men.
56. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
If you’ve seen David Cronenberg’s movie adaptation and think that’s nuts, then you ain’t seen nothing yet!
The book is ‘non linear’ and ‘surreal’, to put it mildly. But it’s a stone cold classic and an American literary great.
55. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Like The Bonfire of the Vanities, the principal theme here in this staggeringly violent and imaginative tale is that greed and capitalism are not necessarily good things.
And nor is killing prostitutes.
54. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
A second entry for Mr. Hemingway here.
Set during the Great War, casual readers might sense that this epic is a critique of war, but it’s not really.
Instead of merely condemning war, Hemingway treats it as a necessary evil and instead reflects on the nature and ramifications of courage and bravery in tough times.
53. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The importance of what we’re talking about here – literature – is the main theme in Fahrenheit 451.
The novel’s set in a dystopian future where books are routinely burned.
What’s Bradbury getting at? Keep reading, keep thinking, and don’t let The Man think for you, that’s what.
52. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The importance of what we’re talking about here – literature – is the main theme in Fahrenheit 451.
The novel’s set in a dystopian future where books are routinely burned.
What’s Bradbury getting at? Keep reading, keep thinking, don’t let The Man think for you, that’s what.
51. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Everyone should read this, regardless of whether you’re young or old, male or female.
It’s a book for the ages. If not exactly a cheery one.
50. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
You’ve seen the movie masterpieces, but have you read the book the trilogy is based on?
Spanning the events of The Godfather Parts I & II, Puzo’s tale of organized crime and family was just pulpy fun until Paramount took it on.
But on reflection? It’s a brutal breakdown of the importance of family.
49. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
This short novella of 1899 tells of a voyage up the Congo River and forms the basis for the classic Vietnam movie, Apocalypse Now.
Its moral lesson? The ‘savages’ of the book turn out to be no more savage than the ‘civilized’ Western types the book paints as its ‘heroes’.
48. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Another book which formed the basis for a movie you no doubt love. This 1968 effort inspired Blade Runner.
On the surface, it appears to be about the threat of nuclear war and what’s real and what’s fake. But deep down it’s a story of why it’s important to never lose your empathy.
It’s also a damn fine science fiction book.
47. The Kama Sutra by Vātsyāyana
Do we really need to tell you why owning and reading this book might improve your life a little bit?
Nope. Thought not.
46. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
It’s not quite Pride and Prejudice or Little Women, but The Bell Jar is about as ‘girly’ as books get.
And although on the surface, it might look out of place on a list of good books for guys, it’s still a vital tale of the effects of mental illness.
45. The Lost City of Z by David Grann
An awe-inspiring piece of non-fiction, The Lost City of Z tells of one man’s unending obsession to discover an as-yet undiscovered Amazonian tribe.
It charts the exact moment where a man’s drive and ambition can turn sour.
44. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
How should we live?
Often cited as one of the greatest novels ever written, every man should at least try to read War and Peace at some point in their lives.
Not all will manage to defeat it, but you’ve got to give it a whirl.
43. The Oxford English Dictionary
We’re sure you’ve got a superlative vocabulary and a nonpareil comprehension of the English language. But it always pays to know more.
Knowledge is power, after all. But remember, we don’t want you to show off with fancy words and pretend to be someone you’re not.
The purpose is to occasionally brush up on your understanding of the tools that allow you to communicate.
42. McMafia by Misha Glenny
We may all think we know how the world works, but we only really understand it on a superficial level.
The strings are pulled by corporations and organized crime bosses. McMafia is pretty involved and not the easiest read, but with a sub-title like ‘A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld’, you understand its scope.
A necessary read.
41. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Widely touted as the first piece of science fiction ever written, this book has gone on to inspire a thousand authors and a million filmmakers.
It’s not just a dark story of a crazed scientist creating a zombie, though. It explores themes of ego and pride, which are two things we men need to keep in check from time to time.
40. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Surely an inspiration for Bret Easton Elis’ American Psycho, this 1920’s-set novel paints a picture of the decline of a ‘dream’ decade and warns against the excesses of arrogance and the worthless pursuit of hedonistic pleasure.
39. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L Shirer
The rise (and fall) of the Nazis is something every man should understand, if only on a basic level.
There are lessons to be learned from any tragedy. And Shirer’s book details what happened in World War Two in tremendous detail.
38. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
One of the all-time great American novels, we follow the Joad family as they trek to California to find their fortune.
But, of course, it doesn’t run smoothly and they, like so many others, hit hard times indeed. The gap between the rich and poor is beautifully rendered on the page here.
37. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Another stone cold classic book you must read from the pen of John Steinbeck is Of Mice and Men.
You might have read it at school, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth another run now that you’re older. Be warned, though – it’s a pretty bleak picture of social isolation and loneliness you’re left with.
Be warned, though – it leaves you with quite a bleak picture of social isolation and loneliness.
36. The Bible
Plenty of people follow The Bible as a religious text. It is one, after all. Christians, quite literally, take it as gospel.
But even atheists and agnostics should read the world’s biggest-selling book. For two reasons. Firstly, half the world follows The Bible. It can be helpful to understand it more intimately when on a day to day basis you’re pretty likely to be engaging with people who are intimately familiar with it.
And the second reason you should read it is that it’s a series of thought-provoking moral allegories that provides you with insight into the thought patterns of our ancient ancestors.
35. The Prince by Machiavelli
Apart from The Bible, this may be one of the oldest books on this list. But Niccolo Machiavelli’s guide to achieving and maintaining power is a seminal work.
Read it as a chilling damnation on the headiness of power. Or as a ‘how to’ guide if you’re interested in attaining and asserting a little influence yourself.
34. Rat Pack Confidential by Shawn Levy
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.
Three of the coolest guys the world of show-business has ever produced.
They spent the ’50s, 60’s and 70’s drinking, singing and being adored. Want to learn what true style is? Read this.
33. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
If you can get past the frequent N-Word usage, this adventure story is actually quite a charming story of friendship.
Also, despite its seemingly dubious language, it’s a bit of an attack on racism and the ridiculous idea of slavery.
32. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The eponymous hero of this story, along with his sidekick Sancho Panza, is obsessed with finding dangerous situations in which the pair of them can be heroic.
They long to be recognised as knights, but at what cost? We’re sure you can all relate, right???
31. The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey
Inspirational books for men don’t get much more inspirational and motivational than this.
A best-seller now for thirty years, not only does 7 Habits… encourage you to up your game and achieve, it actually demonstrates how you should go about it.
30. The Fight by Norman Mailer
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s epic fight in Kinshasa, Zaire, back in 1974, was known as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.
Four plus decades on and it remains the most famous boxing match in history. This account is essential reading for any man who likes sport, modern history, and/or the power of man’s will.
29. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Lists of top books for men won’t often include works of literature more commonly thought of as musicals you’d take your mom to.
But Les Miserable is different. Sure, it’s now a musical you’d take your mom to. But it’s also one of the greatest books ever written.
28. Women Are From Mars, Men Are From Venus by John Gray
This book is hardly new and many people have since decried it, but many of the principles it espouses about the differences between the genders, including our respective strengths, weaknesses and characteristics, are accurate.
Plenty can be learned from it. Just hide it from your girl.
27. The Watchmen by Alan Moore
This graphic book may, to the untrained eye, look like nothing more than a hefty comic book.
But its dark, philosophical nature belies its format. It’s been described by one literary critic as “The moment comic books grew up.”
26. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Another bleak entry from the legendary Cormac McCarthy.
This time, it’s a sweeping and violent novel set in the Wild West that paints a depressing picture of the brutal and often animalistic nature of mankind.
25. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Here’s another novel that’s been adapted into a classic movie you’ve probably seen.
But it’s a great read too. It’ll make you think about our fates. Are they pre-determined? Do we determine them?
Or do we end up where we do because of external factors and people manipulating us?
24. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela
If you’re looking for an inspirational read, then why not just head for the autobiography of one of the most inspirational men to have ever lived?
There’s very little chance that Nelson Mandela’s account of his incredible life won’t touch you or, hopefully, motivate you. Anything is possible, you quickly learn.
23. A Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
Anyone who fears the aging process can take a few pointers from this inspired work of greatness.
Oscar Wilde’s book isn’t the longest, either. And, as you might expect, it’s packed full of wit.
Read it and then reflect on how important those grey hairs really are.
22. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Similar to Of Mice and Men, you might well already be familiar with this text from your school days.
This study of how dangerous inherent and unchecked racism can be is an important lesson for men and boys alike. It’s worthy of repeat reading.
21. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Now, you might wonder why we’d recommend a 6th Century book all about the strategy of warfare in a list of the top books for men.
But bear with us on this. Its principles are still practised by politicians and business leaders today.
If you identify with (and perhaps even employ) some of these techniques, it could influence the direction of your life.
20. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
A Founding Father and polymath, it’s not surprising that Benjamin Franklin lived an interesting life.
When you’re an author, politician, postmaster, political theorist, scientist, activist, inventor, statesman and diplomat, you might just have a story to tell or a lesson to share.
It’s a highly engaging autobiography documenting the birth of the American dream from Franklin’s iconic’s perspective. Give it a go.
19. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
This crime novel might be from 1934 and have a disappointing lack of postmen in it, but it’s got plenty of lurid sex and violence.
It may be 83 years old, but it still holds up today and serves as a reminder that steadfastly following your baser desires can be a one-way ticket to self-destruction.
18. The Art Of Deception by Kevin Mitnick
Mitnick’s ‘The Art of Deception’ is a series of real stories that all help throw some light on the dangers of social engineering in the modern world.
We’ve included this as required reading for any man intrigued by the murky worlds of computer hacking and security.
17. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
One of the archetypal books for men, Jack London’s classic tells the story of a dog named Buck and his ‘call of the wild’.
A domesticated pet, the book follows Buck as he effectively ‘breaks bad’. That’s right, it’s basically the Walter White story. But written in 1903. And with wolves.
16. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden
Sometimes it pays to go along with people and not cause waves. Sometimes it pays to go with your gut and trust your instincts.
But other times it pays to challenge everything you think you think and completely re-evaluate the world.
That last idea is the basis of one of the best and most truly useful self-help books for men out there.
15. Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson is credited with the invention of the Gonzo literary movement, and while he may be overrated and a proven liar, there’s no denying that the man could write.
But forget his dalliance with politics or the mescaline-fuelled ramblings of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Seek out his portrait of the Hell’s Angels. It’s so much more fun.
14. Deliverance by James Dickey
An infamous book that was turned into an even more infamous movie, this is one powerful work of literature.
And there’s more to it than the scene where a man’s made to ‘squeal like a piggy’ too.
It’s a stark reminder of how close most men are from being animals when the stars align in a certain way.
13. Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
If you think you know the full story of Pablo Escobar and his huge Medellin drugs cartel of the 1980s from Netflix’s ‘Narcos’ and few online articles, think again.
The full story of the world’s most infamous criminal is laid out in complete rampaging glory in Bowden’s page-turner, and it’s absolutely riveting.
12. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
This sweeping tale of Ned Kelly and his men, Australia’s most famous outlaws, might appear to just tell the story of some criminals.
But it also charts the country’s history and it’s all done in a very clever ‘fictional’ style.
It’s a great read, especially if you’re a guy who’s into history. Or homemade metal suits.
11. Dispatches by Michael Herr
‘Dispatches’ is an account of Herr’s experiences in Vietnam working as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine.
As one of the first books to offer a no-holds-barred insight into the horrors of the Vietnam war, there are plenty of lessons to be learned here about the brutality of armed combat.
10. How to Think Like a Neanderthal by Thomas Wynn & Frederick L. Coolidge
We might dismiss Neanderthals as a gang of knuckle-dragging caveman with monobrows, but this book shows us how they were smarter than we might think, and as you’ll find out, not all that dissimilar to modern man.
9. The Shining by Stephen King
We’ve featured quite a few books for men on this list which were later adapted into classic movies.
But for us, the best book/film combo has to be Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick’s Shining double.
Noticeably different from the big screen version, the book is no less creepy or thought-provoking. It’s well worth a read.
8. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
Like many classic works of literature, this essay can be read one of two ways. To some, it’s a bible, almost.
Proof that the use of mind-altering hallucinogens like LSD can expand human consciousness and ‘open the doors of perception’.
To others, it’s proof of their danger and inherent risk.
Hippy breakthrough or misguided idiocy? The debate rages on.
7. How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World by Harry Browne
Life can seem constrictive at times.
Financial responsibilities, bosses, rules, they can tend to make you feel boxed in.
But this book asks you to reframe your life to make the choice to be free. With the right mindset, it’s possible.
6. 100 Deadly Skills by Clint Emerson
Who better to teach you how to survive in the wilderness that a retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson? Well, quite frankly, there’s no one.
And boy does the dude know some skills. 100 of them, in fact.
From how to evade capture by the enemy to how to kill your dinner, read this and you’ll instantly become twice the man you currently are.
5. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent
This meticulously-told story of how and why America briefly went mad and barred alcohol and how organized crime grew from the ashes is a fascinating read.
And enough to make you really appreciate that bottle of beer in your hand.
4. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
A flawed man but an almost flawless entrepreneur and businessman, there haven’t been too many figures as driven and smart as Apple boss Steve Jobs.
He wasn’t even all that technical, yet he achieved what he did through his near unrivalled understanding of people and marketing.
This book charts his life through almost forty interviews. A fascinating study of ambition and success.
Beneficial reading for any man.
3. A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman
Hey, we’ve all got one, haven’t we? We might as well get to know the guy.
Friedman’s dedication to his research comes across right away here. You’ll pick up a host of new facts about sociology and philosophy, and his unique style of humor will have you chuckling throughout.
2. Mate: Become the Man Women Want by Tucker Max and PHD, Geofrey Miller
This is THE book we wish we had as a teenager.
Max’s straight shooting comedic style blends perfectly with Miller’s scientific insight to provide an engaging yet informative guide to not just dating, but to becoming a better man.
1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcom X & Alex Haley
Malcolm said it best when he said: “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.”
We’ll leave it at that.
Well, even if you’re a bookworm at TV-boycotting level, we trust that you’ve found a new read here.
Is there a book that you feel deserves to make the list? Chat with us in the comments, we’d love to hear about it. We’ll be updating this list regularly and so your suggestion may make the next cut.
Now, get out there and hit that bookstore.
Not done bettering yourself? Click here for our rundown of the best self-help books for men. Also, check out our list of the best TED talks for men where we break down the lessons you can learn from 26 exceptional talks.