50 Books Every Man Should Read Once in His Life

This is an article by Cool Material

We’re decently active readers here so we thought we’d compile and share a list of books we think every man should read at least once in his life. They’re not presented in any particular order, so feel free to jump around, but try to get to these before you die.


The Odyssey – Homer

Teachers like to think they’re introducing their students to , with this book, but really what they’re giving them is one of the most violent, ridiculously unscholarly books ever written. People are bitten in half, smashed on rocks, lured to death by women things with sexy voices, do so many drugs they stop caring about existing, and have sex with goddesses. This isn’t history, it’s HBO in tunics. Link

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien

There’s a reason Middle Earth has stuck around as long as it has. Its history is almost as rich as our own real Earth’s, which is impressive, since it took billions of people to make ours and, like, two (mostly one) to make Middle-Earth’s. Tolkien’s linguistic expertise is the reason the books feel as rich as they do, seeing as how he invented one whole speakable language and pieces of half a dozen others. Instead of the cobbled together feeling of lazy fantasy, Middle-Earth has rhyme and reason as its bedrock. Not only is the trilogy and amazing piece of writing, but by the end of your time with it, you’ll have a much greater appreciation for history, fiction or non. Link

Dubliners – James Joyce

Joyce is hard to get into if you don’t have the patient guidance of a tenured literature professor to lead you through the rough patches. Dubliners is on the list because it’s a great introduction to Joyce’s major themes and characters, plus reading it will make it that much easier to pick up Ulysses and/or Finnegans Wake, if they’d be something you’re into. Not that Dubliners is any slouching steppingstone. There’s some pretty heavy shit hiding behind the friendly Irish facade of early 20th century Dublin and Joyce isn’t afraid to explore it. Link

Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton

It’s surprising that a novel that relies on science as much at this one doesn’t show its age. Crichton knows his stuff, but one of his smarter moves is only giving as much sciency talk as we need to suspend disbelief. That way, we’re not distracted from the real substance of the story, the struggle between capability and culpability. Just because mankind can do something doesn’t mean mankind should do something. The book makes a pretty solid argument for ethical science, especially since not-ethical science means having your intestines pulled out by velociraptors. Link

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Watching R.P. McMurphy antagonize his way through a mental hospital is as glorious as watching a train crash into a dying star. Everyone knows this won’t end well for anyone, but there it goes happening anyway. If there’s a moral here, it’s gotta be “buck the system, but don’t buck it too hard and know when to lay low. You can always come back for more later.” Which, knowing what we do about the 60s and how they turned out, sounds like a decent way to sum it all up. Link

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

If you can find a better father/son relationship in literature, tell us, because we haven’t seen one that beats the one between the Man and the Boy. They are the spine of the story, and everything that happens in the book is viewed through the lens of their relationship. Yeah, there’s a movie and yes, the movie is very good, but pick the book up. It’ll stick with you in a way the movie doesn’t. Link

1984 – George Orwell/Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

We put both of these in the same entry because everyone likes to talk about them as if they’re mutually exclusive, but we like to stay open minded with our crushingly depressing alternate history global dystopias. Both make timeless observations about the public’s relationship with its government and itself and it’s easy to think of them happening in the same world in different cities. We would also suggest reading them as loose warnings and not explicit predictions. It gets a little bleak otherwise, and don’t think the world’s all that bad, no matter how hard it tries to convince us otherwise. Link Link

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 could be dismissed as the writings of a technophobe, but that wouldn’t be entirely correct. Bradbury saw the potential for abuse and placation present in television and, after seeing what’s become of popular programming and a good deal of the internet these days, it’s hard not to agree with him. We’re not saying it’s all bad, but maybe we could have listened a little better and been more discerning about what we made popular. We’ll keep it in mind going forward. Link

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five is excellent, don’t get us wrong, but God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater feels a bit more relevant these days. Centrally, it deals with a man who puts others above all else and the effect that has on different members of his family and community. Short version, they’re not happy and decide to do something about it. For us, all of Vonnegut hits hard, but the ending to this book hits hardest.

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