There are so many things conspiring against us to be great readers. Who can withstand the push notifications on our phones, whole arcs of tv shows on Netflix, and Call of Duty on our gaming systems, all at once? These 25 books that speak to the man in all of us can.
The great books stitch stronger seams on the soul, patching what has been torn, reinforcing what has been worn thin. They help you understand what it means to be human, and in that process they help you feel understood by humanity. Oscar Wilde once said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
Here are 25 books from the past 25 years that will help you be a better man:
1. The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete — Three days before Christmas 20-ton bus hit one of NY’s Finest on his bicycle, opening a fissure from his belly button to his rectum. Matt Long shows the psychological scars cut as deep as the physical ones, as his journey to finish the New York City marathon is one of the most moving examples of the power of man.
2. The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America — Because the most tumultuous time in our nation’s history also enabled the modernization of it.
3. A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams — It is Walden for the modern man. Michael Pollan turns his architectural day dreams into reality when he builds a writing retreat on his Connecticut property. Theoretical, practical, historical, and aspirational all at once.
4. Let the Great World Spin: A Novel — Column McCann’s masterful 9/11 novel reminds us that even though the Towers fell, we can still look up and see beauty in the void.
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao — “She was the kind of girlfriend God gives you young, so you’ll know loss the rest of your life.”
6. The Last Lecture — Because the man dying taught us all about living.
7. Mudbound — Ronsel Jackson. Ronsel Jackson. Ronsel Jackson.
8. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning — Most people suck at studying. Make it Stick teaches you the error of your ways.
9. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration — Forbes hailed it as one of the best reads on creative leadership, yet its true power is what it teaches us about humility, trust, and failure.
10. Steve Jobs — Even though he was a prick in his personal life, Jobs personally selected Walter Isaacson, author of biographies on Franklin and Einstein, to carve a legacy worthy of the Mount Rushmore of American icons.
11. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph –Ryan Holiday’s book on stoicism illuminates the transcendent power of struggle without blame because “the impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
12. On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft — The master, at the height of his powers, reminds us that is all about the tools in the toolbox.
13. Fight Club: A Novel — “You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”
14. Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior — Less a basketball book, more a treatise on human relationships, harmony, and self-sacrifice for the greater good.
15. Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself — Remember that triathlon you always told yourself you wanted to race? Rich Roll did five on five Hawaiian islands in less than seven days. That was after he wrapped his car around a tree,
16. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear — No writer today is more encouraging of and eloquent about the sould of a creative being than Elizabeth Gilbert.
17. Outliers: The Story of Success — I don’t know if Gladwell is a brilliant self-help evangelist, a pop-scientist sovereign, or coy distiller of practical wisdom, but this book will have you rethinking how your raise your children.
18. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich — Who doesn’t want to be in the Caribbean, running an online business, and outscoring all those pointless emails to a freelancer overseas?
19. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles — Because men need to be reminded to wake up, get to work, and cut through all the other bullshit that gets in the way,
20. Looking for Alaska — Yes, it is a YA novel. And yes, you do need to go back to that time in your life when “I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
21. Into the Wild — There is a bit of Chris McCandless in all of us. He just had the bigger set of balls to do it.
22. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail — It opens with bears and ends with failure. Everything is America at its most harrowing and most beautiful.
23. Five Against One: The Pearl Jam Story — It puts a human touch on the fucked-up backstory of Eddie Vedder, cutting open his past so that we can all soak in the poetry of his despair.
24. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer — Its coming for us. Better to meet the devil known, than the devil unknown.
25. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon — Because we all need to know the backstory of the man that will one day rule us all.