The 50 Books Every Man Should Read
Groucho Marx once said: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” We’re not quite sure what he meant either, but what we do know is that books are an essential for any man.
So, whether you’re heading off abroad and need a page-turner, or just want to have something other than Harry Kane’s ankle injury to talk about on a Tinder date next week, here are the 50 books that’ll broaden your horizons (and bulk out your book shelf).
Men of Style – Josh Sims
Best For: Brushing Up
Style guides can be more coffee table decorations than useful tomes, but this book by fashion journalist Josh Sims profiles the best-dressed men of the past century, with fascinating insight and tips that you can actually steal.
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Best For: Wartime Wailing
A life-affirming wartime love story without a hint of Christian Grey, this contemporary classic tells the tale of an English butler employed by a Nazi sympathiser during WW2. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says it’s his favourite book of all time.
Men Without Women – Ernest Hemingway
Best For: Getting Back On The Horse
Been dumped? Missing your mum? Hemingway’s ode to the fairer sex shows how masculinity without a softer touch can be a dangerous thing. It’ll make you reconsider giving up on women, regardless of how brutal the break-up.
Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine – Antonio Garcia Martinez
Best For: Wreaking Havoc
An adrenaline-fuelled exposé of life inside the tech bubble, Chaos Monkeys lays bare the secrets, power plays and lifestyle excesses of the visionaries, grunts, sociopaths, opportunists and money cowboys who are revolutionising our world.
Long Walk To Freedom – Nelson Mandela
Best For: Human Hope
The story of an epic life; built on hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader. Richard Branson says it inspires him to push harder for what he believes in every day.
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
Best For: Belly Laughs
Following Sedaris’ attempts to learn French when he moves to Paris, this book also details his brother who insists on talking in hip-hop slang to their elderly father, and other day-to-day annoyances. You will laugh out loud.
Competing Against Time – George Stalk
Best For: Strategic Business
Time is the equivalent of money, productivity, quality and innovation according to Stalk, who lays out the foundations for a strategic business plan in Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s favourite book. We think it might be working.
A Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde
Best For: When You’ve Found Another Grey Hair
The story of a handsome, innocent young man who sells his soul to keep his dashing good looks – until it all goes pear-shaped. It’ll make you feel better about skipping the gym, and you’ll be smug when you quote Oscar Wilde at the dinner table.
One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest – Ken Kesey
Best For: Breaking The Rules
You’ve probably seen the film, but there’s nothing better than being able to say ‘I think it’s better in print’. Evil Nurse Ratched rules an Oregon mental institution with an iron fist until McMurphy arrives to cause chaos and blur the boundaries of sanity and madness.
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
Best For: Brutal Beatlemania
When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend, Kizuki. Delving into his student years in Tokyo, Toru dabbles in uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire.
The Damned United – David Peace
Best For: Changing Room Politics
In 1974, the brilliant and controversial Brian Clough made perhaps his most eccentric decision: he accepted the position of Leeds United manager. A successor to Don Revie, his bitter adversary, Clough was to last just 44 days.
Ripper: The Secret Life Of Walter Sickert – Patricia Cornwell
Best For: Knowing Jack
As one of the world’s most famous (and richest) crime novelists, Patricia Cornwell turned her attention to the crime that’s baffled the world for over a century – Jack the Ripper. Using her own money to finance a brand new investigation into the serial murders, here she uncovers a suspect that seems to fit the bill.
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Best For: Apocalypse Later
Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse in a tale that will make you consider the futility of war.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best For: The DiCaprio Nod
Leo rarely puts a foot wrong, but even he couldn’t capture the magnetic Jay Gatsby as well as Fitzgerald did on page. Set in the summer of 1922, the Roaring Twenties are in full swing, exploring themes of decadence, social change and excess. Much better than you remember from school.
Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
Best For: Team Spirit
Why do some people achieve so much more than others? Are they really that extraordinary? Looking at everyone from rock stars to athletes, software billionaires to scientific geniuses, to show that no one, not even a genius, ever makes it to the top alone.
How To Lose Friends & Alienate People – Toby Young
Best For: Working Your Way Down
The true story of British journalist Young, who left London to become contributing editor at Vanity Fair in New York. Within two years he was fired, barred from the best hangouts in the city and blacklisted for dates. A tale from the inside on how working your way down can be just as funny as climbing the ladder.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Best For: Going Hungry
The most effective way of cutting your carbon footprint since Compare The Market, this tale of a post-apocalyptic dystopian future follows the journey of a man and his son through a barren land towards the south to survive – without falling victim to cannibalism or starvation on the way.
1984 – George Orwell
Best For: Creeping Yourself Out
No list of great novels would be complete without 1984, the dystopian masterpiece that seems to get more prescient as each year passes. Winston Smith rewrites the past to suit the needs of the ruling party, who run a totalitarian society under the watchful eye of Big Brother.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
Best For: Keeping Next To Your Loo
This short story collection is set in the mid-West and looks at the lonely men and women who drink, fish and play cards to ease the passing of time. It went on to inspire Birdman, and the short format means you can dip in and out.
Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture – Douglas Coupland
Best For: Sticking It To The Man
Underemployed, overeducated Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society beyond their means that’s run by advertisers. So they cut their losses and head out into the California desert to get drunk, buy IKEA furniture and work ‘McJobs’. Sounds familiar.
The Watchmen – Alan Moore
Best For: Picturing The Scene
Most critic’s favourite graphic novel of all time, The Watchmen follows a team of superhero vigilantes called the Crimebusters, and a plot to kill and discredit them. Packed with symbolism and intelligent political and social commentary, it also looks bloody cool.
Money: A Suicide Note – Martin Amis
Best For: Learning Some Restraint
Wealthy transatlantic movie executive John Self allows himself whatever he wants whenever he fancies: alcohol, tobacco, pills, pornography, a mountain of junk food – it’s never going to end well. This is a cautionary tale of a life lived without restraint.
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
Best For: Pub Quiz Champions
A guide to everything that’s happened since the Big Bang, Bryson somehow takes subjects that usually send us to sleep (geology, chemistry, particle physics) and makes them not just understandable, but eye-wateringly fascinating.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace
Best For: Laughing At Yourself
Essays have changed since most of us last wrote one. This smart, hilarious collection of non-fiction escapades by former pro-tennis player Foster Wallace document his time on a cruise liner, exposing the fault lines in our culture and how we’re all weird in our own ways.
The Sportswriter – Richard Ford
Best For: Knowing The Grass Isn’t Greener
Frank Bascombe has a younger girlfriend and a job as a sports writer. From the outside, he’s living the dream, but his inner turmoil and private tragedies show all is not always as it seems, even for those who seem to have it all.
Thinking, Fast And Slow – Daniel Kahneman
Best For: Mind Games
Why is there more chance we’ll believe something if it’s in a bold typeface? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast, intuitive thinking, and slow, rational thinking. This book gives you practical techniques for slower, smarter thinking, enabling you to make better decisions at work, at home, and in everything you do.
The 25th Hour – David Benioff
Best For: Clock Watching
Facing a seven year stretch for dealing, Monty Brogan sets out to make the most of his last night of freedom. His dad wants him to run, his drug-lord boss wants to know if he squealed, his girlfriend is confused and his friends are trying to prepare him for the worst. It’s a lot to fit in.
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
Best For: Questioning Yourself
Another one to tick off the ‘it’s better on paper’ list, Shriver tells the story of Eva. As the mother of Kevin, who murdered seven of his fellow high-school students and two members of staff, she’s coming to terms with the fact that her maternal role might have driven him off the rails.
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being – Milan Kundera
Best For: Philosophical Musing
This raucous tale of love, infidelity and sex follows Czechoslovakian surgeon Tomas across the globe in the 20th century. Intercepted with comments from Kundera himself, it questions the thought that if everything only happens once, why does existence sometimes feel so heavy? Deep.
American Pastoral – Philip Roth
Best For: Bursting The American Dream
The sixties was a time for sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and, erm, political mayhem. Swede Levov is living the American dream until his daughter Merry becomes involved in political terrorism that drags the family into the underbelly of society. Totally rad, and definitely bad.
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Best For: Monstrous Morals
‘You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style’, or so says Humbert Humbert, antihero and resident paedophile of the USA. Haunted by memories of his adolescent love, he meets his dream child in Dolores Haze and constructs a plot to take her – but she won’t make it easy.
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro – Joe McGinnis
Best For: Leicester City Fans
Football books rarely get past the one-dimensional autobiography, so this true David & Goliath tale of a tiny Italian town of 5,500 residents whose team masked an unparalleled prowess for the beautiful game and rose to Italy’s Serie B.
American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
Best For: Career Killers
The film is a contemporary masterpiece, but Patrick Bateman is even more evil on paper than he is on screen. An outright psychopath on Wall Street, this bitterly black comedy is a classic that’ll keep you in line should you become a desk drone.
The Catcher In The Rye – J.D.Salinger
Best For: School Days Nostalgia
In Bill Gates’ favourite book, the 16-year-old protagonist Holden Cauldfield gets expelled from school and feeds us wry observations that only teenage eyes can see.
Umbrella – Will Self
Best For: Moral Dilemmas
He might be one of the more controversial writers of our time, but Will Self’s novels speak for themselves. If you’re new to his work, Umbrella is a great starting point. It follows Audrey Death, who, after experiencing WW1 and living in semi-consciousness, gets a revolutionary treatment.
Brighton Rock – Graham Greene
Best For: Seaside Sins
Brighton wasn’t always cocktail bars and vintage shops. In 1938, a gang war raged, and ruthless 17-year-old Pinkie has just killed his first victim. Believing he can escape retribution, the story uncovers the murky relationship between sin and morality.
The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
Best For: Mother’s Day Appreciation
After 50 years as a wife and mother, Enid wants to have some fun. But as her husband Alfred is losing his grip on reality, and their children have left the nest, she sets her heart on one last family Christmas. Virtue, sexual inhibitions, outdated mental healthcare and globalised greed are all invited.
Now: The Physics of Time – Richard A Muller
Best For: The Big Questions
Perhaps one to avoid after a heavy night, Now: The Physics of Time explores our relationship with the present. By the time you’ve noticed it, it’s already passed – but why does time flow? Some physicists have said it’s all an illusion, but Muller explains it in a way that provokes thought without completely blagging your mind.
Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari
Best For: Human Error
The planet is 4.5 billion years old, and in a fraction of that time, humans have conquered it unlike anything before. What makes us different? Spanning the Stone Age to the Silicon Age, Sapiens takes us from apes to rulers, and the follow-up, Homo Deus, looks at how we might just end up back where we started.
How Not To Be Wrong – Jordan Ellenberg
Best For: Number Crunching
If the maths you learned in school seems to have slipped your mind, there’s something to be said for rejigging your memory to understand numbers – especially in a ‘post-truth’ world. This book explores methods of analysing everything you see in business and everyday life – and how early you actually need to get to the airport.
Happiness By Design – Paul Dolan
Best For: Life Changing
As figures show, we’re all stretched and stressed. So how can we make it easier to be happy? Using the latest cutting-edge research, Professor Paul Dolan reveals that wellbeing isn’t about how we think – it’s about what we do.
The Aeneid – Virgil
Best For: Going Greek
Your Facebook feed might be full of misspelt memes, but Mark Zuckerberg cites this epic poem that’s widely considered a masterpiece as his favourite read. It tells the story of Rome’s legendary origins from the ashes of Troy – and no, it doesn’t all rhyme.
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Best For: Bratchnys
Up there with 1984 as a contemporary classic, Burgess delves into the world of State control and ultraviolence. 15-year-old Alex and his gang rob, kill and rape their way through a dystopian horrorshow, communicating via their own teen slang.
Barbarian Days – William Finnegan
Best For: Surfing USA
A memoir of a life spent travelling the world chasing waves; this autobiography pushes the boundaries of sports writing – covering the edgy yet enduring brotherhood of the surfing community and the old-school adventure of man, board and water.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
Best For: Murder Most Moral
A group of eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a unique way of thinking thanks to their classics professor, which forces them to contemplate how easy it can be to kill when someone crosses you. More fun than it sounds.
The Circle – Dave Eggers
Best For: Learning Some Restraint
The world’s most powerful internet company begins to take over the real-life world – sound familiar? The contemporary fable is currently in development to become a Hollywood movie starring Emma Watson, so read it now for maximum smug points.
Hit Makers – Derek Thompson
Best For: Being Popular
Ever find yourself listening to the Top 40 and being baffled? Don’t understand why everybody loves La La Land? Drawing on ancient history and modern headlines, this book explores the economics and psychology of why things become popular and how you can cash in.
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World – Niall Ferguson
Best For: Building Your Empire
If money is the root of all evil, where did it sprout from? This fascinating history of our financial system will help you understand the game before you gamble it all. Coca-Cola cheif executive Muhtar Kent credits it with his understanding of the world’s relationship with wonga.
The Lost City of Z – David Grann
Best For: Jungle Fever
Now a film starring Charlie Hunnam and Sienna Miller, this is the true story of Colonel Fawcett. As one of the last legendary British explorers, this book documents his time exploring the Amazon in 1925, and his fateful last adventure trying to find the City of Z.
Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Best For: Mental Wellbeing
Aged 24, Matt Haig was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and contemplating suicide. An honest, moving and funny exploration of a true story of triumph, Haig’s battle with mental health that almost destroyed him makes an astonishing tale from the other side.