It’s our belief that reading is one of the most important pursuits that a young man can dedicate himself to. Reading a broad range of literature is, in our opinion, the best way to train your mind and to become a critical thinker. Engaging with literature and forming your own opinions is a sure way to improve your mind and to become a more interesting person.
This list was compiled with the young man in mind, that’s not to say that this list isn’t suitable for everyone, but that’s who we had in mind when deciding between books.
The young man to us is between the ages of 15 and 30 years old . This list started out with only 20 books, it’s taken around 60-hours to compile and we will continue to update it.
When making our choices we wanted to create a list that if completed would leave the individual with a range of perspectives that we allow them to come to educated conclusions about the topic. It’s very important to us that the recommendations we make leave you feeling educated far after you finish and can have a noticeably positive impact on your life.
This list is ordered by the surname of the author and is in no way suggestive of preference or superiority.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has earned it’s place as one of the greatest science-fiction novels of all-time. While it was written for teenagers it’s an excellent book that many men continue to re-read at all stages of life. If you haven’t read any science-fiction before then this is an easy entry-point.
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Once a Muslim who now identifies as an atheist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and is an activist against female genital mutilation, honor violence, and child marriage. Infidel is her autobiography and is sure to cause a reaction among any audience.
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Inferno tells the story of Dante’s journey through hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. It’s the first of a three-part 14th-century poem that details Dante’s path from hell to heaven. It’s vivid in its details of the torture that souls will suffer if they descend to the depths of hell.
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
Band of Brothers is better known these days as a miniseries produced by HBO, but it was based on the book by Stephen E. Ambrose which publicized the story of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne. They fought their way across Europe to protect the World from the Axis powers that threatened to take over. Their story is fascinating, gritty, tragic and ultimately a success. But at what cost?
Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
Anne Applebaum won the Pulitzer Prize for her groundbreaking history of the Gulag. Applebaum has been able to re-create what life was like in the concentration camps and give her readers a glimpse into the greater Soviet Union. For anyone who wishes to understand the twentieth-century and the history of Russia, this is a crucial book for you to read.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor and Meditations is a collection of his private notes on the topic of philosophy and is an interesting look into the mind of someone who had everything. He critically evaluates his own thoughts and the life that surrounds him. This is an excellent book for learning to think more critically.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice often separates people into two camps, hardcore fans and those who shake it off as a romantic novel for women. However, Pride and Prejudice is still popular to this day because it’s funny and the character development only thickens throughout the book.
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is the ultimate cookbook. Cooking is a fundamental part of being human and far too many young men go into their thirties not knowing how to cook anything of substance. This is an easy to read and simple book that gives you 2,000 recipes that you can cook from home. Learning to cook is an easy way to impress that special person in your life and is important to ensuring a healthy and varied diet.
The Boy in the Striped Pajam a by John Boyne
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas soared to Worldwide popularity, exploring a topic that strikes emotions in even the most conservative. The two main characters of the book are children, one a German child and the other a Jewish child in a concentration camp. We are allowed a glimpse into their interactions as they begin to understand their situation.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 has seen a recent surge in popularity following the 2017 US election. Bradbury creates a future society where firefighters are charged with finding and burning all books, instead, the citizens sit in front of the television like robots.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights is one of our favorite novels on this list. It tells the story of young lovers and challenged the views of the day because of the mental and physical abuse which was detailed. Brontë challenged sexual and gender equality of the Victorian era, made the reader re-think their own morality and insulted the idea of social class.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre is the story of a young woman growing into adulthood and exploring her love, sexuality, and morality. Set in England, Eyre is a determined Christian and throughout the novel, we see how religion plays a critical role in the everyday decisions of the characters.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code is a mystery novel that has since been adapted into a successful movie. The plot follows a detective as he becomes involved in a murder case that is intertwined with the search for the Holy Grail, the fall of the Catholic Church and a group that spreads across the continent.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People is the ultra-successful self-help book by Dale Carnegie which shows you how you can use social engineering to your own benefit. He uses personal case-studies and those of his disciples who have used his teachings to improve their own lives.
The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
The Power Broker is the story of Robert Moses who was notorious across the East Coast and would stop at nothing to build. Caro won the Pulitzer prize for the biography which details how Moses used his power in local and state politics to design and build projects that often negatively impacted the very people that he served.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the greatest thrillers of all-time. This protagonist of the book is an aging spy who attempts to unearth a Soviet mole within the British Intelligence department. Le Carré brilliantly critics the cold-war society of the time of the publication but remains grounded and refuses to deter from his goal of creating a classic thriller.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Titan is the biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. who is often quoted as the richest man to have ever lived. Rockefeller was an oil entrepreneur who at one time was able to refine over 90% of the oil in the US and built many of the libraries and universities that we use today. For anyone who is interested in creating a legacy, this is a must-read.
And Then There Were Non e by Agatha Christie
This mystery novel by Agatha Christie is often thought of as her best work. A group of people are lured to an island under different pretexts, all of whom have committed crimes that have gone unpunished. Now it’s time for them to pay.
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
The Hunt for Red October is one of Clancy’s best novels in our opinion and follows a CIA operative who is charged with taking control of a defecting Russian nuclear submarine. The only problem is that Russia isn’t going to let them go easily.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is often disregarded as a self-help book but it’s a deep novel that challenges our societal preconceptions. It’s set to become a blockbuster movie starring Idris Elba.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a highly-successful self-help book that teaches the reader how they can create habits that will allow them to take what they want from the world. Whilst it’s not ground-breaking, it’s a great book for younger men to read who may be worried about reaching their goals.
The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Passage is the story of a six-year-old girl who is abandoned in the forest and then pursued by members of the Government who are conducting an experimental that threatens to destroy the very world as we know it.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is an excellent discussion of the mind-blowing truth of evolution. He is able to describe complex scientific ideas in simple terms that make evolution exciting rather than scary.
The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco
Try and move beyond the title, after all, it’s likely that the publishing company chose the title! The Millionaire Fastlane has changed thousands of lives and created countless million-dollar companies across the globe. Rather than get rich quick schemes, DeMarco looks at the fundamentals of how you can get rich in a short period of time. This is a great read for any would-be entrepreneurs or even those in corporate world who wish to improve their chances of wealth.
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld is the story of those who are locked behind bars and a critic of societies pre-conceptions of the incarcerated, Denfeld’s characters are able to connect through their common humanity despite their vastly different circumstances.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris around the time of the French revolution and tells the story of the relationship between the peasants and the aristocracy of France during a time of social upheaval. Dickens uses this story to draw parallels between France and his city of London.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment discusses morality and the rationality of crimes and their associated punishments. The protagonist of the novel plans to commit a crime that he justifies in his own mind.
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Less than Zero follows the life of Clay, a young college student who returns to his hometown on his break and finds that he is increasingly alienated from those he was once closest to. His friends have changed and his morals no longer align with theirs. This is an interesting novel, at least, in that it’s something most of us will go through when we leave our hometown.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss is how many of us were introduced to the idea of a nomadic lifestyle and online businesses. Ferriss discusses how you can design your life and business in such a way that you can live the life of the “rich” and only work 4-hours per week. Most critics would agree that Ferriss oversimplifies that creation of a business but would concede that the theory is true. Ferriss has inspired countless men and women to leave the 9-5 routine and to travel the world, funded by small online businesses that give them enough money to live in foreign countries where the cost of living is low.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a romantic novel that follows Jay Gatsby and his passion for Daisy Buchanan. The novel explores the excess, romance and social upheaval of the 20’s, despite this the book is overwhelmingly a cautionary tale of the American Dream, showing a realistic side of class and social mobility.
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Casino Royale is the first James Bond book and the first novel by Ian Fleming. The book was adapted into a movie starring Daniel Craig in which James Bond plays in a private poker game in an attempt to bankrupt Le Chiffre, a man who was funding a global terrorist group.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
Anyone who is interested in American History or the legacy of its great men will surely be fascinated by Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. Although they give little insight into what made the man, they give us an excellent first-person view of the events of the time and his reaction to them.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Corrections is a novel about an average family who faces a depressing decline, representative of the economic decline of the time. The book deals with the complex reality that the old begin to fade
and the power and wisdom must be passed onto the younger generation.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay is a personal collection of essays detailing her struggle with feminism. Whilst she is clearly a feminist, she discusses through this book her own struggles with topics that would go against the image of feminism that the media portrays. This is an excellent book for any young man to look at feminism in a more humanized way, hopefully this will help men who are instintively against the feminist movement to reconsider their opinions.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Most of us were made to read Lord of the Flies in school but if you haven’t you should give it a go… come to think of it, even if you already have you really should try it again. We promise it’s far better when you’re not being forced to read it!
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
The Intelligent Investor is the mother of all investing books. Warren Buffett was a student of Graham at Columbia University and he credits Graham with a large portion of his success. In the book Graham describes how the average person can use value investing principles to increase their chance of superior returns. I’ve read this book countless time and also Graham’s Security Analysis, they are both excellent books that are still just as relevant today.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene attempts to create a checklist for success and power based on the elite of today and the most powerful figures throughout history. It would be our advice to take this book with a grain of salt, some of the laws can seem contradictory and only applicable in isolation but none the less is an interesting read that can prove insightful at times.
Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office by Zack O’Malley Greenburg
The story of Jay-Z is inspiring to many young men and tells the story of a young disadvantaged boy who was able to overcome enormous barriers to become one of the most successful men of our generation. Empire State of Mind is the story of how he got there.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens tells our own story, the history of humans within a scientific framework. Harari considers how the biology of humans has allowed us to populate and dominate the world, and how culture has shaped that progression.
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris was met with outrage and large amounts of criticism from many religious leaders. The book is in the form of an open letter to Christians in the United States where his aim was to “demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms”. Open your mind and give this one a try.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkin
A Brief History of Time is a fascinating book about science, astronomy and how we came to be. Hawking tells the story of the big bang and is able to explain complex topics in a way that is simple to understand. Through this book Hawking is able to bring science to the everyday person and has hopefully helped to dispel some of the fear around the idea of the big bang.
The God Delusion by Richard Hawkins
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is the exploration of the realistic possibility of the existence of a God, given the understanding of science that we now have. Dawkins contests that it is highly unlikely that a God exists and that we don’t need to be religious to be moral, therefore, religion has no place in the modern world.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises tells the story of a group of Americans and Brits who travel from Paris to Spain to watch the running of the bulls. The novel is set just after the first World War and explores the growth, adjustment, and excess of those who served in the war. The bullfighting is used to represent death as we see each character reacting very differently to it.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of the Spanish Civil War from the point of a character called Robert Jordan who is tasked with the demolition of a bridge. The book is based on Hemingways own experiences and uses fictitious and real characters throughout the novel.
God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens makes the argument that the Abrahamic religions are violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and sexism, hostile to free inquiry and invested in ignorance. It was met with mixed reviews and harsh criticism from some scholars. Regardless, I think it’s as good a book as any to learn about the claims of atheism and to understand the arguments against organized religion.
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
Hitch-22 is the memoir of Christopher Hitchens, the author of God is Not Great. It tells the story of his life and gives the reader an insight into how he was able to become the man that he will be remembered as. The stories including meetings with Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Martin Amis.
The Iliad by Homer
The Iliad tells the story of the battles and events of a number of weeks during the ten-year-long siege of the City of Troy. The book is based on two characters; the great warrior Achilles and King Agamemnon. They proceed to argue, fight and eventually kill. The Iliad is received well by most scholars and is able to tell the entire story of the Trojan war in just 15,693 lines.
The Odyssey by Homer
The Odyssey is to some extent the sequel to The Iliad and tells the story of Odysseus, a Greek hero who must travel back to his homeland after being defeated in the Trojan war. The book deals with themes of homecoming, acceptance, and destiny.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner tells the story of a young boy in Afghanistan whose best friend is his fathers’ servant. The novel recounts the relationship between the boys as the Soviet army invades the country and the Taliban gains prominence. Overall, The Kite Runner has strong father-son themes throughout as the main character deals with remorse, guilt, and acceptance.
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Les Misérables is known worldwide now because of the popular movie and stage show that was adapted originally from this book. The novel follows a few characters in Paris before the June Rebellion, it examines how law and punishment plays a role in society, French politics, love, and morality.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is the biography of Jobs life. For anyone who admires the entrepreneur and creator, they may be surprised to learn how cruel and often idiotic Jobs could be. This is an honest look at the life of the man and the sacrifices that were made in the name of progress.
King James Bible
The Bible is an important read for anyone who is interested in any part of culture, at all. Ipso facto, everything that comes after the Bible is in some way related and impacted by this book and therefore, regardless of your beliefs it’s an important book for you to read. Large amounts of modern culture are based upon the stories of the Bible and understanding them is important to understanding modern literature and film. The King James Version isn’t the most authentic version available but it is the most accessible and most critiqued. By reading this version you’ll have far more context of recent literature and will have a plethora of work to read from scholars that study this version.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. This is an intriguing book that looks at how we think and more importantly, how we can consciously change the way that we think so that we can prevent ourselves from making instinctive and emotional decisions when we need more logical reasoning.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air is an autobiography by Paul Kalanithi as he faces death from lung cancer. It is a memoir about his life and is a thought-provoking book for any young man. By design, as young men we often think ourselves invincible and reading this will make you cry, laugh and then cry again. When Breath Becomes Air is a sobering look at the fragility of life and is sure to change the way you think.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a famous novel by Ken Kesey that explores the life of a man who is confined to a mental hospital. This is a rollercoaster of a novel that challenges the idea of institutionalization of the time and celebrates the will of the human spirit.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air is an exciting account of the Mt. Everest disaster where many lost their lives. Krakauer created this nation bestseller that details his own decision to join the expedition and the circumstances that led to the death of eight climbers.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has since publication been turned into a movie that was a box-office hit. It’s a phycological thriller that follows the female protagonist, a talented computer hacker and a male journalist whose lives are about to become inseparably connected.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird has sold over 30million copies and won the Pulitzer Prize. This famous novel by Harper Lee tells the story of an innocent black man who is accused of raping a young white woman. The novel is able to deal with the complex topics of rape and race with the tone of a child who is watching the events unfold and shows a moral light beaming throughout the entire story.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt is a compilation of multiple short economic analysis of non-economic topics. For example; Levitt looks at the world of sumo wrestling, the Yakuza and gambling. This is an interesting, if sometimes questionable, look at the world around us that is sure to get your mind running.
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
The Big Short by Michael Lewis was a New York Times Bestseller and went on to be adapted into an award-winning movie starring some of the most famous actors in the world. The book recounts the story of the financial crash of 2008 and those who predicted it, despite being ridiculed and disregarded.
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow
Drift by Rachel Maddow is a commentary on the movement of the declaration of war from Congressional approval to the solitary power of the President. Maddow argues that the manner in which America goes to war has become more secretive and less democratic.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
The Long Walk to Freedom is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and subsequently the President of South Africa. The book details his early life, coming of age and the 27-years that he spent in jail.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck might be the most useful book on this list for young men. Too often, many of us overthink our actions and thereby make choices that are based upon the expectations of others rather than our own desires.
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Prisoners of Geography is a thought-provoking book by Tim Marshall that explains the complexities of contemporary politics using just ten maps. Marshall explains that these maps explain the conflicts, wars, and disagreements between countries over the past decades and will be useful in understanding on-going political issues.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin has been adapted into an ultra-successful TV series that took the fantasy books to the mainstream public. A Game of Thrones is based in a fantasy world of epic proportions and follows countless characters within the world as the leaders of different factions fight for the Iron Throne.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son as they travel across America in the search of something resembling a better life. But they aren’t alone and face marauders, cannibals, and wanderers along the way.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick is one of the great American novels, telling the story of Ahab, a captain whose sole goal is to hunt the whale who once bit his leg off at the knee. The story is told from the point-of-view of a sailor called Ishmael.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman is a playscript by the famous Arthur Miller and won the Pulitzer prize and the Tony award. It’s one of the most recognized and critically acclaimed playscripts of all time that cemented Miller as one of the greatest to have ever written.
Broken Glass by Arthur Miller
Broken Glass, also by Miller, is a personal favorite of mine that follows a Jewish family as the wife is paralyzed but without any physical reasoning. The play is a commentary on marriage in 1938, anti-Semitism across the globe and the sexuality of women.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita quickly divides readers when they learn about the premise of the novel which surrounds a literature professor and a 12-year-old girl with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. To this day it is controversial across the globe but has become a cult-classic.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story between a wife and her husband who has a genetic condition that means he will time travel without his desire and sporadically. His wife must come to terms with his disappearances and her loneliness.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell is a cult-classic that personifies the animals on a farm and depicts the events leading to the Russian revolution of 1917 and into Stalinism. Animal Farm was Orwell’s own critic of Stalinism which he believed was a brutal dictatorship and a disgusting representation of socialism.
1984 by George Orwell
1984 has recently spiked in popularity following the 2017 US Presidential election, the novel is a political fiction set in a dystopian world with constant war, persistent surveillance and public manipulation. Orwell uses the book to critic the growing surveillance across the globe and his fears of a growing centralized power.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk was adapted into a cult-classic film starring Brad Pitt with has overshadowed the success of the novel. The book follows a man who suffers from insomnia who attends support groups pretending to be suffering from an illness. This man meets Tyler Durden and forms an underground fighting club as a form of alternative therapy.
The Republic by Plato
The Republic is Plato’s most famous work, he discusses the meaning of justice and how it should affect the happiness of a man. Plato uses the idea of justice to critic society and the political landscape, theorizing different cities and how alternate ideas of justice would impact them.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
In this book Pollan tries to answer the question of what we should eat. As omnivores we are extremely unselective about what we can eat and modern technologies such as refridgerators allow us to have far more options, creating a dilemma whereby we have a confusion around food. Pollan follows the history of food, the supply chain and in doing so is able to critic the American diet.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
God Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a fantasy comedy about the birth of the son of Satan. The book is witty and at times even hilarious, being nominated for multiple awards it’s clear that Pratchett and Gaiman did something right.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Godfather is better known as a film, but the original book has also been very successful. A cult-classic, the Godfather follows a Mafia gang headed by Vito Corleone as his son Michael takes over the family operation. Arguably, the book is just as good as the movie and is a must-read for anyone who enjoyed the movie series.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front was very successful from the moment it was printed but was etched into fame by being banned and burned in Nazi Germany. The novel tells the story of German soldiers on the front line in WW1 and the mental and physical stress that they endured in the trenches and also when trying to re-enter into society after the war.
Life by Keith Richards
It’s my opinion that one of the best genre of books for young men is autobiographies. It’s an opportunity to learn from others lives in a way that isn’t oppressive. Many of our parents tried to teach us from their mistakes but we ignored them, thinking we knew best. Instead, reading a memoir from someone successful who you admire can be a great opportunity to learn more about life and that’s what Keith Richards did for many of us.
Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe
Regardless of whether you want to look like Arnold or not, taking care of your body and doing physical exercise is imperative to living a healthy life. As far back as Plato intellectuals saw the need for physical fitness and Starting Strength is an excellent introduction to barbell training. Lifting weights is becoming increasingly common among young men and this book will teach you to do it successfully and safely.
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
How could I write a book list without including Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling has managed to create a series of books that entertain children and adult alike, the fantasy world is deep and the character development is excellent. You’re unlikely to learn anything profound from the series but you’re sure to enjoy them and you might just notice how Rowling is able to tell a story so intensely.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by Shakespeare is one of his most popular play and is seen by many as his most influential. This tragedy follows the young Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, as he follows the advice of his father’s ghost to seek revenge on his uncle Claudius for the murder of Hamlet’s father.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Written by Mary Shelley in 1818, this science-fiction novel surrounds the young scientist Victor Frankenstein as he creates a sapient creature in an unorthodox experiment. However, upon waking Victor is disgusted my the creature and dismisses it. In the novel, we see Victor battle with the idea of humanity, morality, and guilt.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
In the Kingdom of Ice is the story of the USS Jeannette which was trapped in the ice. Subsequently, the crew must abandon ship and trek across the polar ice to survive. It’s a story of the determination of humans to survive, the thrill of death and the grit of a group of adventurers.
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith is seen as the greatest book on Economics ever written, by many. Smith describes in the book how and by what mechanisms nations have been able to accumulate great wealth and perpetuates the idea of an automatic market that is able to self-regulate.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men is the story of two ranch workers who travel from ranch to ranch looking for work during the Great Depression. George is an intelligent man while Lenny is strong but mentally disabled. The novel is all about the pursuit of the American Dream and the crushing reality of circumstance.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island is a classic pirate novel that has shaped the way we think about pirates. Treasure Island was the first novel to introduce the idea of “X marks the spot”, one-legged men with parrots and tropical islands. Not only is it an excellent novel, but it’s so powerful in the impact it’s had upon future literature. As a coming of age novel, it’s a must-read for any young man.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
What Stevenson did for pirates through Treasure Island, Stoker was able to do for vampires in Dracula. Although the idea of vampires wasn’t his, Stoker was able to popularize it and form an identity that would be perpetuated throughout modern literature. Dracula is the story of Count Dracula who moved from Transylvania to England in search of new blood and the Professor Abraham Van Helsing who would lead a group of men and women against him.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel became famous for his role in the creation of PayPal and later for the Peter Thiel foundation, a group that offers $100,000 grants to students who are willing to leave university and move to California to create a startup. While he has been criticized for his foundation, his book, Zero to One has been a success and is noted for its concise wisdom.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
No list of books for men of any age would be complete without a novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson embodied the dreams of many young men, a life of excess without regret or contemplation for the future. Thompson was renowned for using his own personal stories and real-life characters in his book, making them even more vivid for his readers and adoring fans.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
As with many of the great novels on this list, The Lord of the Rings has been immortalized in Hollywood through a series of movies that have arguably overshadowed what is an excellent novel. J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the most esteemed writers of our generation, created such an in-depth fantasy world in LOTR that has only been surpassed in popular culture by A Game of Thrones.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy chronicles the invasion of Russia by the French and the impact that it has on the country even during the years of peace. Tolstoy was quoted as saying that War and Peace is “not a novel, less a poem and still less a historical chronicle”. Instead, the book combines all three and also features philosophical discussion from the author, something very rare in Western literature. War and Peace is regularly noted as one of the greatest works of all-time and is universally admired.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn is one of Twain’s most famous works and is engraved in history as the first recorded novel written entirely in vernacular (local dialect or slang). The story involves a runaway slave and a younger white boy as they travel down the Mississippi river. The novel explores the topic of race, morality and social norms as Huck chooses the treat Jim with far more respect than was usual at the time. However, to this day the book still faces criticism of racism and is therefore especially interesting as it offers an opportunity for the reader to hear contrasting opinions and to form their own opinion.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The Art of War by Sun Tzu is a collection of military strategies and tactics. However, the reader should view them not as military tactics so much as universal tactics that they can employ in business, social situations and beyond. There is a certain element of philosophy behind each strategy and even more history, making this a fascinating if at times difficult read.
Black Flags by Joby Warrick
We decided to include Black Flags on the list in light of recent events in Europe. Black Flags details and explains the rise of ISIS and for his work, Warrick won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. It has faced surprisingly little negative response and overwhelming praise as a deeply reported book with remarkable clarity. For anyone interested in learning more about the current political climate this is a must-read.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde is an author that any undergraduate literature major will be very familiar with. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of his most popular works and tells the story of Dorian Gray, a model who is painted by Basil Hallward. Gray chooses to pursue a life of excess and while his appearance doesn’t change, the oil painting does. Wilde critiques the life of hedonism that many men lead and while they appear young, the consequences must be felt somewhere.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf is arguably one of the greatest novelists that we’ve seen in recent decades and To the Lighthouse is a book of philosophical introspection that is written in thoughts rather than as a story. Woolf is able to challenge the reader with themes of loss, beauty, and perception, more than anything it critiques human relationships.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
The autobiography of Malcolm X is sure to divide people in the same way that the man did. Published shortly after he was assassinated, the autobiography tells less of the man and more of his opinions and philosophy. Written by Malcolm X alongside Alex Haley, the book is a spiritual conversation between Malcolm X and the reader.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
In this book Howard Zinn appeared to have one clear goal; to revoke the traditional view of America and instead to pursue a more realistic history that involves exploitation of the majority within the country and abroad by a small but wealthy minority. It must be noted that the book has been heavily criticized by historians and sociologists for its omissions of opposing events, and biased sources that leave the book black-and-white, denying the country of its truly rich history. In my opinion, unless you wish to write a tome of a book, it’s impossible to include everything. Regardless, this book by Zinn is an important read for young men who should wish to break free of the dogma and explore critically what it has taken for us to create this country.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief by Zusak focusses on the life of a young girl in WWII Germany. Her life is narrated by Death as she tries to live as a child in the beauty and destruction of the war. Her foster parents risk harboring a Jewish man named Max and with him begins to steal books that the Nazi’s are trying to destroy, preserving them and learning from them. Her own act of rebellion is the little she can do to retain her humanity.