There are some books that every man should read. As men, many of us make a conscious effort to keep our bodies fit and toned. We eat healthily and exercise frequently to look good. Unfortunately, what with busy urban living, we tend to neglect the intellectual aspect of things, and let learning (outside of work at least) fall by the wayside.
So, the question is this: how exactly can we develop our intellect? Well, one of the easiest and arguably best ways is to read more, and read widely.
There are benefits to being well-read, for sure. According to various studies, women are more attracted to intelligent men… and it’s not hard to see why. Read more, and you could strike up a conversation on virtually any topic with anyone, plus sound smart while you’re at it. Knowledge is impressive!
With that in mind, we have curated an updated list of 50 books every man should read at some point in their lives. Note that this list is in no particular order – all the titles here are equally good. Challenge yourself to read a book a week and you’ll be done with this list in a year.
1. The Republic by Plato
Starting the list off is a classic from one of the most renowned philosophers ever: Plato. The Republic is structured as a dialogue between Socrates and several others. Through these dialogues, Socrates expresses his views on justice, governance and the morality of Man. Definitely one of the better books every man should read out there. Lovers of philosophy should pick up this book today.
2. The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli
The Prince is a political treatise by Niccolò Machiavelli. Machiavelli – one of the great early thinkers – writes about the characteristics of a prince that every man should aim to espouse. Amongst these are reputation, generosity and prudence. While written in the 16th century, much of what Machiavelli writes is still applicable today. The gamers amongst us might know that Machiavelli appears in the Assassins Creed series. Much of that game’s philosophy and moral code can be lifted from The Prince. Check it out to learn more.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald is regarded as a literary classic. Although it initially sold poorly, it has come to be seen as a cautionary tale regarding wealth and opulence. It makes the list of the books every man should read to remind us to never be complacent. While a movie adaptation has been released, nothing beats the experience of reading the actual book.
4.1984 by George Orwell
A story set in a dystopian future, 1984 communicates what George Orwell envisioned to be the future. In this society, your every move is watched. It makes the list of the books every man should read because it challenges you to look at the world you live in and the control authority figures have over you. For the rebels among us, it’s a must read.
5. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Another amazing novel by George Orwell, this is an allegorical account about the rise of communism in Russia. It’s important to read and understand this story to understand the circumstances and mindsets that can lead to an abuse of power. Read it if you’ve been considering a career in politics – perhaps it’ll help you avoid some major pitfalls associated with the industry.
6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Written by Aldous Huxley, Brave New World is another dystopian novel on this list. While dystopian novels often seem bleak and depressing, they have the secondary effect of opening your eyes to potential injustice in the world. This book has elements of the Matrix in it – be sure to check Brave New World out if you’re a fan of the former.
7. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This book by Kurt Vonnegut has been hailed as a work of unmatched moral clarity and an antiwar novel. For those reasons alone, it definitely makes the list of the best books every man should read. If you’re looking for another reason to pick this up, Vonnegut writes in a brilliantly satirical manner that is sure to keep you hooked, and leave you wanting more.
8. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Regarded as one of the first fictional novels to be published, Robinson Crusoe tells the story of a shipwrecked man who overcomes the odds and survives. It teaches determination and power of will and is a must read for any Man. Perfect for survival enthusiasts.
9. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Similar to the above, Swiss Family Robinson emphasizes family values as well as individual strength of character. The book also presents lessons in the forms of natural history and physical science.
10. The Iliad by Homer
A masterclass in epic poems, the Iliad is a story set during the Trojan War. It details the discourse between the King of Greece, Agamemnon and the Warrior Achilles. It is an epic tale that gives much of the background we know of the conflict in Troy in the first place. Whether you’re into history or not, the power struggle between the two individuals is something we can all learn from.
11. The Odyssey by Homer
Another epic poem by Homer, the Odyssey is counted as the second oldest work of literary fiction, with the Iliad being the oldest. It recounts the tale of Odysseus and his return to his homeland after the battle of Troy. Themes of power and manliness are prevalent throughout this wonderful tale.
12. Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
A different take on the “stranded on an island” theme explored by the Robinson genre, Lord of the Flies explores what happens when things go wrong. It’s a gripping take on the primal instincts that every man possesses. Fans of survivalist themes, this one’s for you.
13. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged is definitely one of the best books for men. Objectivist Ayn Rand, author of the book, describes it as a story exploring “the role of man’s mind in existence”. The book explores various philosophical themes. It challenges the reader to think objectively about the world we live in and the decisions we make. It’s a tough read but worth it for the lessons within.
14. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Another novel by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead explores the nature of Man. It makes the reader contemplate the difference between pride and ideals, and the compromises one must make when caught between the two. It’s on the list of the books every man should read because it’s also a secret romance. If you’re into guilt free romances with undertones of philosophy, this is for you.
15. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Meditations is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius was a Roman emperor and this series is a record of his thoughts on himself and the philosophy of Stoicism. The philosophy makes heavy use of logic and ethics. It is considerably important for men to be aware of this philosophy and apply it to our daily lives. Read it for lessons you will never forget.
16. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
Another novel about a Roman emperor, this book is interesting as it takes the form of a letter written by Emperor Hadrian to his grandson Marcus Aurelius, whom the above entry is by. This book contains Hadrian’s thoughts on his military victories, poetry, music, philosophy and religion. It is masterfully written and will surely enrich the mind of the reader.
17. Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
A welcome change from the typical self-help books we are used to, the Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck argues that life’s struggles give it more meaning and that it is fine to not constantly be happy. One of the books every man should read, especially if they’re going through a hard time.
18. Fahrenheit 451 by Rau Bradbury
Another dystopian novel on this list, the novel is both a critique of mass media and censorship. It challenges our views on the role that the media plays in our lives today. If you’ve ever been confused by the barrage and onslaught of the mass media industry, read this and experience catharsis (yes, it’s that good).
19. Dune by Frank Herbert
Hailed as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Frank Herbert’s Dune guides the reader on an exploratory journey through the fictional cultures and traditions. It takes you on a journey to a new universe. A mind-broadening experience that’s perfect for both sci-fi and philosophy enthusiasts.
20. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
A work of renowned author John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath details the struggles people faced during the great depression. It follows the journey of a family of migrants who were trying to find jobs elsewhere. It uses real gritty language to encourage the reader to empathize with the plight of the protagonist. Definitely a book every man should read, especially for those into period pieces.
21. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Another novel by Steinbeck, this too follows the story of displaced migrant workers. The novel deals with themes such as discrimination and moral ambiguity. Add this to themes of friendship and dependence, and Of Mice and Men is definitely a contender when it comes to the books every man should read.
22. Treasure Island by Robert Stevenson
One of the first proper pirate novels, Treasure Island tells the story of a young boy and his inadvertent adventure with a group of pirates. It appeals to the sense of adventure in every man and reminds us not to let our inner child die. Reconnect with your childhood through this engaging read.
23. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
A self-help book written by Stephen Covey, this book encourages you to align yourself and your goals to your character. In essence, the best way to achieve your goals is to ensure that you care about them. The habits introduced by Covey are also important for any man to internalize. Perfect for those on track to success.
24. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
A cautionary tale on the folly of playing god, this tale by Mary Shelly shows us that we have to balance our desires with logic. Just because we can do something does not mean we should. Truly an ideal read for a man progressing in his career.
25. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Written by acclaimed author Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray is another cautionary tale. It warns against self-indulgence and hedonistic behaviour. As men, we must learn to live in moderation and this novel conveys just that message.
26. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick is a story about the determination of Man. The story follows whaling ship captain Ahab on his quest to land the eponymous white whale. The captain and crew encounter many challenges and hardships along the way but they never desist in their goal. A great lesson in perseverance.
27. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain. The book can be seen as a satire against racism. It is often considered one of the Great American Novels. It is also a sequel to Twain’s earlier novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Great for your inner child.
28. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is considered a masterpiece of American literature. It contains one of the most popular scenes of literature where Tom Sawyer convinces neighbourhood children to do his work for him. The entire book is a mind-broadening read for men.
29. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Another novel that’s sometimes considered one of the best literary works of all time, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is an endearing comedy that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. Live and let live!
30. Ulysses by James Joyce
Written by Irish Writer James Joyce, Ulysses parallels Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey in terms of structure. It is regarded as one of the most important works of modernist literature. It’s one of the every man should read as the author fills his writings with many statements, puns and observations – a refreshing change from other books in the market.
31. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Despite its title, this book has little to do with either the concept of Zen nor motorcycle maintenance. The novel takes the form of a conversation between a father and son during a 17-day motorcycle journey. Topics such as epistemology, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy of science are discussed at length throughout its 418 pages.
32. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Set in the near future, the society in A Clockwork Orange is filled with violence and lawlessness. The entire story is a satire on Man’s propensity to commit acts of violence. It’s a good read as it warns the reader to not give in to their baser instincts.
33. IT by Stephen King
Stephen King’s IT is known for being a horror novel. But buried between the horror are themes that are important for every man to internalize, such as friendship, trust and independence. Read it for the relationships King describes and you’ll be surprised.
34. Watchmen by Alan Moore
One of the greatest comic books of all time, Watchmen by Alan Moore is something every man should pick up in their lives. There are too many themes in the storyline to list but suffice to say, the story itself is brilliant.
35. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Considered to be in the running for the best selling book of all time, this is one of the must-read books for men. Written by Dale Carnegie, one of the core ideas in this book is that change begins with you: change your behavior towards others first, and they will likely reciprocate using actions.
36. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
A controversial book, J.D. Sallinger’s The Catcher in the Rye covers themes such as alienation and superficiality in society. When reading the book, one can’t help but empathize with the main character and see the world through his eyes. The book is alleged to have inspired assassination attempts as well so it’s worth reading just as a conversation starter.
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A science fiction classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy combines comedy and great writing to deliver a tale that is both absurd and compelling. Author Douglas Adams writes with wit and style that is unique. One of the few books for men that compel you to view the world with a comedic pinch of salt.
38.The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo is a story of grit, determination and a man overcoming insurmountable odds to achieve his goals. Written by Alexandre Dumas, the tale covers themes of betrayal, murder, pirate treasure, love and revenge. It is gripping and Dumas’ writing has cemented The Count of Monte Cristo as one of the most enduring literary figures in western literature.
39. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Brilliantly written by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club deals with many issues faced by the modern man. Insecurity, masculinity, rage against the patriarchal nature of society and more. There’s also a surprising twist at the end that we’re sure many of you are aware of by now. But – and just in case – we won’t spoil it here. Check it out for yourself.
40. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Author Hunter S. Thompson blends fiction and fact in this novel. It popularized the genre of Gonzo journalism. The novel contains themes of counterculturalism and anti-consumerism. Thompson’s unique style of writing alone makes it a highly worthwhile read.
41. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Acclaimed author Ernest Hemmingway writes descriptively about Paris and Spain, and explores themes of love, death, nature and masculinity. It clearly conveys the feelings and sentiment of the 1920s and is an excellent read for anyone wishing to experience life back then.
42. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird contains themes of Southern life and racial injustice. Its author Harper Lee wanted to challenge class status quos. Many messages are conveyed in this moving and poignant tale, but the main takeaway message would be: the most important factor in judging a person is their character, and not their social standing.
42. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is a delightful read. The author skillfully conveys each of the characters’ points of view in an engaging and entertaining manner. The novel is an allegory for the changing of times with importance being placed on different characters signifying different time periods. The novel has also been said to accurately convey the sense of anxiety present in post 9-11 America, despite having been written before the events of 9-11.
44. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Considered John Steinbeck’s magnum opus, the book uses metaphors and references from the bible to discuss themes like depravity, beneficence, love, the struggle for acceptance, the struggle for greatness, the capacity for self-destruction, guilt, and freedom.
45. Tony and Susan (Nocturnal Animals) by Austin Wright
An interesting novel, Tony and Susan is a story within a story. It deals with feelings of helplessness, rage and revenge. The structure of the story is interesting and of note as well. It’s a story within a story. An interesting book that every man should read.
46. There Should Have Been Castles by Herman Raucher
Frustration, love, romance, revenge and more. These are just some of the themes explored in this novel by Herman Raucher. Set around the Vietnam war, the novel follows two protagonists and their subsequent romance. The story contains many twists and surprises that are too good to spoil.
47. Dunn’s Conundrum by Stan Lee
Set during the cold war, the story follows a group of highly trained individuals.They work in an intelligence agency aimed at predicting when the cold war will escalate. The tale is intriguing and has the classic signs of a thriller interspersed with comedic elements. It makes MaximOnline’s books every man should read list because the underlying moral of the story teaches you to trust your instincts.
48. The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
A gripping adventure story written by Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast follows the tale of a family who are driven by their patriarch to leave their homeland and make their own living in an underdeveloped country. The takeaway from this is to always be aware that we are not infallible.
49. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog is a memoir by the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight. It provides many valuable business insights and tips for how to succeed in life. We can learn many lessons from the open and honest sharing of the author.
50. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Published by the Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens gives an account of human history within a framework provided by the natural sciences. It is an interesting take on the limits of biology and the shaping power of culture. The author advises humans to take things slowly as in the future with the advancement of technology, humans can essentially create new species, becoming gods. Good advice to keep in mind as society progresses.
No list such as this will ever be truly comprehensive. While we can recommend books that will broaden your perspective and enrich your knowledge, you as the reader must also seek out books that appeal to you and read them. Why not start with this list of books every man should read and build on it.
We must keep up our efforts to be developed in all aspects – whether they be mental, physical or emotional. The journey of learning is endless! Never underestimate the appeal of a sexy brain.