Reading is the best way to expand your mind and perspective. But to get the best from reading, it’s important to cast your net wide to cover a wide range of books. Below are what we deem to be the best books of all time for men.
This selection covers mostly classic works from decades ago that deliver everything from adventure to drama and a sprinkling of politics.
Though all of them are fiction, their themes are essential to modern life. Most of them are also fun reads.
Best Books Of All Time For Men – Our Top 15 Picks
We picked these books for their literary value as well as their lessons. We recommend reading each of these books, even it takes you a couple of years. And if you’ve read some of these, a second read will prove even more insightful.
1. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
This classic by Jules Verne is one of the best adventure novels of all time. It follows the journey of Phileas Fogg who is attempting to go around the world in 80 days in order to win a £20,000 bet (about £2,276,486 today).
Phileas Fogg is accompanied by his valet, a Scotland Yard detective who mistakes Fogg for a criminal, and Aouda, a young lady they pick up in India.
The book follows his adventures as the group goes from ship to train to elephant and other unusual means of transport in an attempt to beat the deadline set by the bet.
2. 1984 by George Orwell
1984 is one of the earliest dystopian novels, and one of the most popular. What makes 1984 stand out from other dystopian novels is that the scenarios it lays out – mass government surveillance, propaganda and totalitarianism – feel like present and ongoing threats today.
If you are looking for a fictional perspective on what’s happening today in many countries, 1984 is a must-read. At the very least, it’ll make you a better, smarter and more watchful citizen.
3. The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Boxed Set
Even if you’ve watched the movies, the books are still worth your time. This boxed set includes the three volumes in the series: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
In addition, it also includes The Hobbit, a children’s fantasy novel that J.R.R Tolkien published before The Lord of the Rings series.
This set is a great choice for any man who loves a good fantasy read. Intertwined among the adventure and drama are heavy themes of death, immortality, free will, fate, pride and courage.
Even if you don’t need it for yourself, this boxed set makes for a fantastic gift for a friend or family member.
4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
On the Road packs plenty of adventure in a span of just three years. The book follows the road adventures of Sal Paradise and the carefree Dean Moriarty.
The book is about friendship, loss and a search for meaning. The story is bound to strike a note with any man facing a similar struggle to find meaning in work, love and friendship.
On the Road features a lot of sex and drugs, in line with the Beat Generation, a counterculture literary movement of which Jack Kerouac was a pioneer.
The journey of the two friends takes place in the United State of America. In fact, On the Road is an excellent introduction to Americana literature.
5. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Call of the Wild is a story about a dog. Buck is a spoiled dog raised in a rich home. But when he is stolen and pressed into service as a sled dog, the dog begins to feel the strain between civility and wilderness.
After going through multiple brutal and abusive experiences, the dog becomes progressively primitive until he eventually answers the call of the wild.
But infused with its fierceness and sometimes murderous rage, are the qualities you’d expect from a dog – loyalty, hard work and perseverance.
Even if you are not a dog person, this story will move you. It’s a short story, so you’ll be done in no time.
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is considered one of the best novels of all time. At its core, it is a forbidden love story between a married woman and a young millionaire.
Scott Fitzgerald uses the various characters in the book to advance his main themes of moral decay, decadence and the empty pursuit of pleasure.
The book depicts the American Dream of the 1920s as broken and serves as a warning of the emptiness of the materialistic pursuit associated with achieving the American Dream.
The Great Gatsby also explores gender expectations and wealth inequality.
7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
One thing you’ll notice about great books is that they are a mirror of the real life society at the time they were published. That’s the case with The Great Gatsby, 1984, On the Road and others.
It is the case with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The book is set several decades before the abolishment of slavery. It details the moral struggle of Huck, a white boy, who is torn between social expectations (that black people are of a lesser class) and his own moral convictions.
Huck befriends Jim, a runaway slave. As the friendship grows, Huck increasingly follows his own intuition and helps Jim instead of going with what he’s been taught.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a great read for men who want a better understanding of the racial issues that are very much present even today.
8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Flies shares the same overall theme as The Call of the Wild. In this case, it is young boys, not a dog, that gradually slide into feral behaviour.
The boys are trapped in an island where they attempt to form a democracy. But things quickly degenerate as warring factions crop up. The book contrasts between order and savagery.
The story takes surprisingly dark turns, including death by boulder, but holds important lessons on individuality, groupthink, greed for power, and morality.
The biggest takeaway is that, even among good people, an undeniable darkness that exists inside everyone.
9. The Swiss Family Robinson by J. D. Wyss
The Swiss Family Robinson starts with a shipwreck but grows into a story about hope, survival and family.
The book details the attempts of a family that survives a shipwreck to build a life on a desert island. Obviously, it’s no easy task. But they work together and rely on hard work to make the island home.
The story contains plenty of survival and life lessons that every man needs.
10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Yes, this book is where the term Catch-22 comes from. The book features many instances of paradoxical situations that leave characters in a frustrating bureaucratic mess.
Set during the Second World War, the book also looks at the absurdity of war and, in the later chapters, exposes readers to the dark reality of bloodiness and death involved in war.
Catch-22 also infuses dark humour in the story, providing a sense of relief from the brutality of war.
The book is cleverly laid out with segments moving back and forth in time and providing a different perspective on similar situations.
11. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe is one of the earliest English Novels every published, and is sometimes considered the first.
The novel was first published in 1719.
Robinson Crusoe’s popularity stems from its simple narrative style and vivid adventures. At its core, the book is about survival and using ingenuity and hard work to overcome challenges.
Robinson Crusoe also includes religious themes, particularly spiritual growth.
12. Les Miserables (Leather-bound Classics), by Victor Hugo
Many people find Les Miserables to be a challenging read mostly because of its length. The trick is to go slow and be persistent.
The effort will be worth it in the end.
The story is great, the lessons are even better. Through Jean Valjean’s redemption story, Victor Hugo explores themes of love, redemption, and social injustice.
Even if you’ve watched the musical, reading the book will make you appreciate the story even more.
13. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude chronicles the life of the Buendía Family through seven generations. They establish a life in the utopian island of Macondo. In the end, however, the utopia ends up as a decrepit place and is eventually wiped out of existence.
Themes include the influence of the past on the present, incest, elitism and solitude.
Some people find the book a tough read, so don’t worry if you find yourself struggling halfway through. Keep going until you finish – that’s when you’ll discover how brilliant the story is.
14. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a harsh look at the day of a man in a Russian labour camp.
As his day unfolds, we are exposed to the brutality and hopelessness of his condition and that that of other prisoners.
Things we take for granted like a bowl of soup, a good book and a bit of warmth become paramount. We get to see the perseverance, ingenuity and struggle of a man at the end of his tether.
Despite the brutal conditions, the story is not as depressing as you might expect. In the end, it leaves you hopeful and inspired.
Being a short book, this is a one or two-day read.
15. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Sometimes you just want a good adventure story with swashbuckling rebels fighting for justice. That’s exactly what The Three Musketeers is.
This novel focuses on justice and the fight between good and evil. It also depicts humbler themes of friendship, loyalty and growth.
If you are looking for a fun weekend read, we highly recommend The Three Musketeers.
And if you are looking for something for your coffee table, here is another guide that can help you.