The political satirist P.J. O’Rourke once said that we should read stuff that makes us look good if we die in the middle of it – good life advice, and a reminder to all of us that we ought to read more, and to read better books while we’re at it: books that make us smarter, more confident, and better men all around.
With that guideline in mind, we’ve put together a list of five must-read books for every modern man. Some are fiction, some are fact, but all are going to make you glad you read them.
1: Russell Smith’s Men’s Style: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress
This book will teach you the fundamentals of selecting, buying, and wearing a suit, accessorizing your outfits, shining and lacing your shoes, and all the other ins and outs of manly presentation. Read it on its own, or as a primer to the much more comprehensive Dressing the Man by Alan Flusser.
2: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
Unless you are actively leading troops into battle, the usefulness of this book may not be readily obvious, but inside the covers of this ancient Chinese treatise are philosophical constants that apply to both the battlefield and the boardroom. A must-read for any aspiring and competitive professional.
3: Alan Ginsberg’s Howl
From its iconic first line, the immortal “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,” Ginsberg shows us the screaming primal pulse of youth straining against a system and a culture that bears down on them with irresistible force.
4: Ernest Hemingway’s The First 49 Stories
Equally well-known for his novels and his short stories, “Papa” wrote for men, and his character often dealt with masculine themes of bravery, self-reliance, competition, and isolation. The First 49 contains important shorts like Big Two-Hearted River I and II, and A Clean Well-Lighted Place.
5: Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
As guys, we are too often expected to be meat-headed and to avoid introspection. This book gives us the okay to think, to wonder, and to marvel at all of life’s mysteries. As the author himself says, it’s not much of a guide to motorcycle maintenance, but it is a solid how-to for contemplating the world around us.