11 Books All Men Should Read At Least Once

Some books are so good you can read them many times and never get bored, and this list of books all men should read contains more than a few of those timeless classics.

However, even if you’re not a repeat reader, all men should read each of these books at least once.

In my life, books have brought me knowledge, entertainment, comfort, and challenge.

Really, just about all that life has to offer I have either read first and experienced later, or experienced first and read (and learned more about) later.

Reading a book is a crutch that allows me to run into worlds both known and undiscovered.

Below are ten such vehicles (plus one) to help you do the same.

Keep scrolling to discover the 10 books all men should read (at least once, if not more!)

#1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

One of the best books for men in love with a woman who has a habit of loving one man, until she falls in love with a different one.

There are also some of the most epic bullfight scenes in literary history in the novel.

Hemingway considered himself an alpha male in real life.

But this book chips away at the masculine ideal one economical sentence at a time, creating, in Jake, his main character, a more vulnerable and certainly more realistic, masculine ideal.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

#2. The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s final (and never finished) novel, as he succumbed to an alcoholism-induced heart attack halfway through (it was completed by his publisher based on his notes).

A peek into Hollywood storytelling genius and falsehood, and a glimpse into what F. Scott was becoming as a maturing writer.

The aforementioned notes, available in some texts, are really worth the price of admission, as they reveal Scott’s process: his struggles to understand the characters, streamline the plot, and even encourage himself to keep on writing.

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It’s a good example of how one can be at the top and the bottom at the same time.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

Somerset Maugham

Maugham was one of the first celebrity writers, a social gadfly of the most debauched order in the early 1920s and extending well into the century.

In his day, he never got the respect of critics for his work (probably because it was popular), but his prose, the cleanest and purest I’ve ever found, continues to gain and hold fans.

For men who are prone to talk before listening, Maugham’s writing style, as evidenced by his characters, is a model of restraint and decorum, reactive and in tune with the conversation of humanity.

He wrote three of the books all men should read.

These books demonstrate his unique take on the male psyche in progress:

#3. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

An abusive woman has a stranglehold on a young man’s emotions – until she doesn’t.

They say Maugham wrote this novel based on events in his own life, although it might have been a man and not a woman who served as his real-life torturer.

Either way, it is one of the best books for men to read if you’re walking barefoot on eggshells in a relationship, and you’re deciding whether to put on steel-toed boots or not.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

#4. Ashenden by Somerset Maugham

The stories that inspired Ian Fleming to create James Bond.

If Flaubert was the first king of realism, Maugham did it best with the spy genre.

Maugham himself was a spook for England during World War I, cashing in on his proximity to society dames and counts and other upper-crust vagabonds to gather and pass intelligence under the guise of researching books and plays.

The stories of Ashenden at work are without pyrotechnics, but strong on common sense, with wry humor that looks with delighted disgust at the intrigue and deception brought on by war.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

#5. The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham

Two movies were based on the book, including one starring a young Bill Murray testing out for the first time his serious acting chops.

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A tightening-of-the-screw exploration of the impact battle trauma has on young men.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

6. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

A white journalist in the early 1960s darkens the pigment of his skin and disappears into the fractured South to experience first-hand the damage racism does to the victim and the racist.

Not only does this book demand one to be empathetic in the reading, building skills and igniting a mindset crucial to a healthy, balanced life, but it also reinforces the old proverb – “before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes”…or in this case, his skin.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

Graham Greene

Greene, like Maugham, worked for a time as a spy for England, more on behind-the-scenes intelligence gathering and analyzing, particularly during the early days of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

But this was very much a side vocation.

Greene was a writer’s writer, prolific in output and personality, creating vivid scenes balanced with a delicate psychology of character which, when balanced out, seemed simplistic and comprehensible.

He felt like a man and wrote what he felt, not afraid to take a side and then undermine it.

Here are three of my favorites from this juggernaut, which make numbers seven through nine on the list of books all men should read at least once.

#7. Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

A confirmed bachelor, a stagnant funk finds liberation and adventure traveling with a wild aunt through Europe and South America.

A good read for any man who thinks he is either too old or too removed from life to start living it.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

#8. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Infidelity is a touchstone for the exploration of morality, religion, and fate.

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One of the top books all men should read, or for anyone who needs a kick in the behind to love without convention, judgment, or control.

#9. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

A story of heroism perpetrated by a coward.

If anyone wants to explore the importance of faith, or the importance of freedom to have faith, this is the book for you.

#10. Follow the Joy by Jason Kurtz

A memoir about a young man who buys a one-way ticket to India to find answers and purpose to a life unmoored.

This book shows that the power to change and find purpose in life requires one to change and explore life; meaning, to move away from one’s comfort zone can bring lasting comfort to the soul.

And, as an indulging extra, my debut novel…

#11. The Book of Ash by John McCaffrey

Set in an undefined future, a man struggling in a difficult marriage must decide if the new lover in his life is worth losing his life…or his soul.

I started this book wanting to make sense of human violence after 9/11.

But while writing, it took more of an absurdist bent, which, if you think about it, is a good way to consider human violence.

Either way, pacifism is an underlying theme, and so is sticking up for oneself no matter the cost.

So it’s full of contradictions.

I also like to think it’s funny and, at times, sexy.

Perhaps not in a Fifty Shades of Grey way, but more in the understated, underhanded, and unhinged manner that befits most romantic relationships.

Books All Men Should Read about Life, Love and Happiness

What do you think about these books all men should read? 

Would you read them, too?

For a change of pace, you can check out the best blogs for men as well.

Do you have other books for men that you can recommend?

Put them in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!

Originally from Rochester, New York, John McCaffrey graduated from Villanova University, and later received his MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. His stories, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines and anthologies. His short story collection, Two Syllable Men, will be released by Vine Leaves Press in April 2016.
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