21 Great Books Every Man Should Read

The best way to become a better man is to read great books. Whether you want to learn how to be a better leader, how to manage your money, how to find your life partner, how to develop more compassion for yourself, or how to make your experience in the world more enjoyable, reading great books is one of the best ways to achieve these goals.

The problem is that our culture highlights men who lift weights and watch sports, not those men who spend their Friday nights immersed in a great novel or nonfiction book. But as a man who wants to improve his life, you don’t need to be confined to what society deems as “manly.”

Whether you’re an avid reader looking for new books or someone just getting started on their reading journey, below are 21 of the best books for men. These books will help you learn more about yourself, how to lead, how to date, and most importantly, how to live a rewarding life.

1. Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Peter Barton

“One of the peaceful things about being near the end of life is that I don’t have to flinch from mistakes I’ve made along the way. Truthfully, my mistakes don’t seem to have mattered very much. They were dumb, not evil, and dumb is part of every life.”

Why it’s Great: This is the beautiful tale of Peter Barton, a successful businessman and life enthusiast who got the most out of his brief time in this world. The book tells a parallel story of the tales of Peter’s life, alongside his process of dying from stomach cancer. The result is a beautiful memoir filled with insights that will teach you how to live more fully.

2. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt

“Since the strength of the chain is determined by the weakest link, then the first step to improve an organization must be to identify the weakest link.”

Why it’s Great: Through an engaging fictional story about a manager who has 90 days to turnaround his plant, author Eliyahu Goldratt teaches you the first principles of operating and improving a system. Reading this book will show you how to implement an effective and efficient process of ongoing improvement. His system is applicable to life and business.

3. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

“While desire naturally arises again, the wisdom of seeing that everything passes is liberating. Observing desire without acting on it enlarges our freedom to choose how we live.”

Why it’s Great: If you have ever struggled with self-compassion, this book is for you. Clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach, introduces a fantastic approach to better relating to your experiences and emotions.

4. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Caroll Tavris and Elliot Aronson

“Our convictions about who we are carry us through the day, and we are constantly interpreting the things that happen to us through the filter of those core beliefs.”

Why it’s Great: An insightful examination of how and why we self-justify everything we do and the dangers of this human tendency to self-justify. You will walk away with a humbling skepticism about the reliability of your memory, the source of your beliefs, and the motivations behind your actions.

5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

“And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom—and the responsibility—to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.”

Why it’s Great: The Power of Habit is a digestible and informed examination of why habits exist, how they work, and how you can change them. This book will give you the foundational understanding required to create new habits that will drive your success and break old habits that are limiting your life.

6. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

Why it’s Great: This book will help you navigate the peaks and valleys of life. Buddhist Pema Chodron shares a compelling philosophy of how to live in a fundamentally shifting world and introduces many concepts from Buddhism that you can incorporate into your life.

7. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

“Getting money requires taking risks, being optimistic, and putting yourself out there. But keeping money requires the opposite of taking risk. It requires humility, and fear that what you’ve made can be taken away from you just as fast. It requires frugality and an acceptance that at least some of what you’ve made is attributable to luck, so past success can’t be relied upon to repeat indefinitely.”

Why it’s Great: In the Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel teaches you how to have a better relationship with money and to make smarter financial decisions. Instead of pretending that humans are ROI-optimizing machines, he shows you how your psychology can work for and against you.

8. How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff

“The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify.”

Why it’s Great: A great reminder of the basic principles of statistics and how they are often violated in the data we use and see in work, the news, and our personal lives.

9. Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson

“…vulnerability is not a technique or tactic. It is a way of being. It’s not something you learn, it’s a mindset you practice.”

Why it’s Great: If you’re a man struggling in your romantic life, this book is a must read. Manson will help you understand how to be less needy, express yourself in healthy ways, and get comfortable with dating.

10. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke

“What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, is some variation of ‘I’m not sure.’”

Why it’s Great: Professional poker player Annie Duke explores how we can all become better decision-makers in an uncertain and challenging world. She helps us understand how to disentangle the role of luck and skill in determining outcomes, ultimately helping us make better bets that lead to better outcomes and a better life.

11. Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

“If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve.”

Why it’s Great: If you are a man who wants to gain more mastery over your mind, body, emotions, and financial life, this is a must-read. If you do the work, you will develop a stronger understanding of yourself and learn how to operate in the world to get closer to where you want to go.

12. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

“The greatest mistake physicians make is that they attempt to cure the body without attempting to cure the mind; yet the mind and body are one and should not be treated separately.” – Plato

Why it’s Great: In this time-tested book, Dale Carnegie shows us how to conquer worry and anxiety. Via engaging stories that reveal helpful lessons and practical frameworks, Carnegie arms you with an array of tools that will help you start living more fully and without the harmful effects of worry. Even though this book was written in 1936, the deceptively simple lessons from this book will help you better navigate the noise of the modern era.

13. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

“Action requires courage, not brashness—creative application and not brute force. Our movements and decisions define us: We must be sure to act with deliberation, boldness, and persistence. Those are the attributes of right and effective action. Nothing else—not thinking or evasion or aid from others. Action is the solution and the cure to our predicaments.”

Why it’s Great: A practical and actionable philosophy on how to perceive, act, and thrive in an uncertain and changing world. Leveraging the wisdom of the Stoics, Holiday explains how we can deliberately improve the way we perceive the world and find the opportunities in the obstacles we face.

14. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.”

Why it’s Great: What a wonderfully heavy and moving read. In it, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi confronts the question of what makes life meaningful in the face of death. He wrote the book after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the peak of his career.

15. The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

“Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns, nor merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world, but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible, for the enlargement of man’s understanding, control, embellishment, and enjoyment of life.”

Why it’s Great: A concise, thematic account of history that covers the core biological, social, economic, and philosophical lessons of history. The Durants introduce you to everything from the 3 fundamental biological lessons of life to the origins of racial antipathies.

16. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Health

“The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern. Humans adapt incredibly quickly to consistent patterns. Consistent sensory stimulation makes us tune out.”

Why it’s Great: This is a crash course on how to make your ideas understood and remembered by other people. Whether you want to write a book, sell a product, or become a better storyteller, you’ll learn a useful playbook for understanding what makes an idea good and how to cement it into the mind of others.

17. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

“Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns, nor merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world, but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible, for the enlargement of man’s understanding, control, embellishment, and enjoyment of life.”

Why it’s Great: This book will reshape your understanding of what drives success. With an engaging body of research, Wharton professor Adam Grant demonstrates how, combined with motivation, ability, and opportunity, being a giver in our attitudes and actions towards others can fuel our long-term personal and career success.

18. Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer

“Some men learn all they know from books; others from life; both kinds are narrow. The first are all theory; the second are all practice. It’s the fellow who knows enough about practice to test his theories for blow-holes that gives the world a shove ahead, and finds a fair margin of profit in shoving it.”

Why it’s Great: This book is from a 19th century self-made businessman who tries to shape the thinking of his son. While much of the language and ideas are outdated and insensitive, much of what Lorimer has to say is just as applicable to today as it was to the late 1800s. I found his advice about how to be a good manager and motivate people particularly useful and timeless. At his core, Lorimer is trying to prevent his son, who was born into much more abundant circumstances than himself, from becoming a spoiled brat.

19. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”

Why it’s Great: Phil Knight recounts his struggles, victories, and lessons learned from building Nike from a small startup to a billion dollar shoe giant. He tells engaging and inspiring stories that highlight his personal philosophies on life. Knight encourages us all to seek and pursue a calling, even if we don’t yet know what that means.

20. Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life by Luke Burgis

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.” – Milan Kundera

Why it’s Great: Wanting is a transformational deep dive into the origins of desire. In it, Luke Burgis shows us how we come to want certain things in life and how we can transform our relationship with desire in ways that allow us to live a more aligned, fulfilling existence with other people. Burgis’s work builds off of the philosophy of René Girard, a French philosopher who spent his life understanding and writing about the human condition.

21. Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus

“To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.”

Why it’s Great: A no-bullshit book with tactical, science-backed insights on how to live a healthier, energy-filled, and fulfilling life. Many practices in this book have helped me boost my daily energy and productivity.

Final Thoughts About Books for Men

  • If you’re a man and you don’t yet read books, now is a good time to start. Reading can help you tap into the knowledge and wisdom of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, and in doing so, it shows you how to live and lead in a more effective and enjoyable way.
  • For more good book recommendations and lessons, check out Foundations, a growing digital notebook with lessons from 100+ timeless books across categories.
  • If you struggle to read, try listening to audiobooks with Amazon Audible.

Finally, I send out a weekly Sunday newsletter, Life Reimagined, with helpful ideas and quotes from good books. If you want to receive small nuggets of wisdom and recommendations for future reading every week, you can sign up below.