The 16 greatest books about how to be a man

You’re never too old for a great book.

We’ve put together a list of our 16 favourite stories on growing up and what it means to be a man. They cover everything from how to live to how to be a leader to how people should handle crises.

Check them out.


“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig, from $US1.53
This book addresses the fundamental question of how to live life. The author suggests that no matter what a person is doing, he should do it with care and without external distraction.

“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, $US7.99 for Kindle, $US10.09 paperback

The leader of a Nigerian village, Okonkwo, deals with the question of what it means to be a man as he navigates the shift from tradition to modernity.

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, $US0.99 for Kindle, $US5.99 paperback

Siddhartha’s life is the classic tale of self-discovery. He pursues enlightenment and ultimately discovers that it is experience that leads to understanding. Moments alone, he finds, are meaningless.

“Night” by Elie Wiesel, $US5.99 for Kindle, $US6.00 paperback

Elie Wiesel writes about his imprisonment at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, and his struggle to maintain his faith during moments of absolute brutality.


“Palace Walk” by Naguib Mafouz, $US13.16 paperback

Mafouz’s novel is set in Egypt right before the 1919 revolution. He describes the daily lives of a tyrannical husband and father, his docile wife, and their sons and daughters.

“Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev, $US8.40 paperback

Anyone who goes home for major family reunions during Thanksgiving will completely relate to this book. The story details the relationship between liberal students and their old school fathers.

“The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, $US9.99 for Kindle, $US12.66 paperback

Dostoevsky debates the questions of morality, free will, law and science via four brothers. Albert Einstein reportedly said that this is “the most wonderful book I ever laid my hands on.”

“The Odyssey” by Homer, $US10.17 paperback

Odysseus comes home after being MIA for 20 years to find his son grown up and his wife fighting off suitors. He must reclaim both his family and his kingdom.

“The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli, $US6.99 paperback
Machiavelli declares that it’s better to be feared than loved in this 16th century text. Hundreds of years later, we still haven’t figured out whether that’s true or not — and that makes this a very relevant text for any leader.

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, $US0.99 Kindle, $US5.99 paperback

The major characters, including Caesar and Brutus, deal with the complicated questions of free will, public versus private life, and whether friendship or ambition is more important.

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, $US6.99 paperback

Sun Tzu believes that although people should try to avoid war, it is a necessary evil. He argues about the importance of strategic positioning and meticulously describes war tactics. Interestingly, many of his principles can be applied to the business world.

“The Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, $US11.99 Kindle, $US17.24 paperback
This text chronicles the first decade of the progressive era — a turbulent time full of reform and change — via the friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.


“For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway, $US10.56 paperback

Hemingway explores the value of human life and the atrocities of war with this mega-novel. Despite the pervasive cynicism, characters are often rejuvenated with romantic episodes.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, $US3.99 Kindle, $US6.99 paperback

Remarque, a WWI vet, writes about how soldiers truly feel in the war-zone — the incomparable stresses of combat and total detachment from civilian life.

“The Sevastopol Sketches” by Leo Tolstoy, $US4.74 paperback

If you’re can’t handle the extra 1,000 pages of drama and social affairs in “War and Peace,” this is for you. These three short stories chronicle what life was actually like in the Crimean war.

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, $US8.52 Kindle, $US9.92 paperback

“O’Brien’s meditations–on war and memory, on darkness and light–suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realised novel,” Publishers Weekly wrote during the first printing.


“The Iliad” by Homer, $US8.10 Kindle, $US11.54 paperback

“The Iliad” is the original adventure story where heroes like Achilles and Hector learn that true heroism is not determined by the number of enemies killed.

“Beowulf” translated by Seamus Heaney, $US10.17 paperback
Uber-hero Beowulf takes on a merciless monster, Grendel, by himself and kills Grendel with his bare hands. You don’t get anymore legendary than that.

“Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, $US9.60 paperback

“What is the true object of Don Quixote’s quest? … We cannot know the object of Don Quixote’s quest unless we ourselves are Quixotic,” writes the eminent Yale professor Harold Bloom.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” translated by Burton Raffel, $US6.95 paperback

Sir Gawain faces the choice of honorably showing up to an event in which he will be killed, or dishonorably shirking his responsibilities.

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