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12 Best Books for Men, According to Guys Who Love Reading

We tapped authors and other bookish dudes for recommendations on the best books for men

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Best Books For Men, According To Guys Who Love Reading
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Books for men, recommended by men

A man with a book in hand? It’s an increasingly common sight. In an entertainment space cluttered with countless streaming services and gaming platforms, books for men can fly under the radar. But thankfully, guys are reading more these days. About 73% of them have finished at least one book in the past 12 months. Two years ago, only 67% of men could say the same.

Still, there’s room for improvement: On average, guys read about nine books a year (for comparison, women read about 15), which means they may be missing out on some of the very real benefits of reading. Not only does it boost overall well-being, but it can also educate, inspire and help people see things from different perspectives.

So we decided to ask 12 men, including male authors, librarians and book influencers, what book they would recommend to a guy friend or family member. Their selections run the gamut, from fiction and nonfiction books to classic novels and works from their favorite authors in other book genres. Here are the best books for men, from guys who love to read as much as the rest of us.

Join the free Reader’s Digest Book Club for great reads, monthly discussions, author Q&As and a community of book lovers.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
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1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Recommended by: James Comey, author of Central Park West

The story of two Black sisters living in 20th-century rural Georgia is at the heart of Alice Walker’s modern classic. That’s right: The best books for men aren’t necessarily about men. Reading books by and about people from different walks of life is just one way you can broaden your perspective through the written word.

Originally published in 1982, The Color Purple—considered one of the greatest works by a female author and one of the most important books of the past century—centers on the sisters’ shared struggles of domestic and sexual abuse amid the prevailing themes of friendship and determination. This book has since gone on to inspire an award-winning motion picture and a Broadway musical, and another film adaptation is due out later this year.

Why he loves it: “All readers, and especially men, would benefit in a deeper way from reading The Color Purple, a remarkable portrayal of character, suffering and resilience … through the lens of a Black woman’s experience with poverty, patriarchy and trauma. It will rip your heart out but make you a better human.”

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Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer
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2. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

Recommended by: Jack Carr, author of Only the Dead

This work of historical fiction centers on the shifting relationship between a young soldier and his adversary. As the two face off on battlefields spanning several locations and decades, they must contend with interpersonal struggles that amount to the ultimate power play. A 1968 bestselling novel, Once an Eagle offers a contemporary take on war and peace and a man’s interpretation of duty and honor.

Why he loves it: Once an Eagle is, at its core, a case study in leadership juxtaposing the protagonist and antagonist in its presentation of characteristics and attributes of warriors. Its true lesson is to see to your character, and your reputation will see to itself. Regardless of gender, this book is for students: students of warfare, students of history, students of leadership, students of politics and students of the human condition.”

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The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
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3. The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Recommended by: Brad Thor, author of Dead Fall

Overcoming adversity is the focus of this self-help book, which draws upon examples of famous folks who triumphed in the face of challenges. By showcasing the trials of John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart and other historic figures, the author shares hard-earned wisdom to affirm the value of surpassing life’s challenges. Published in 2014, The Obstacle Is the Way continues to resonate with readers by providing a timeless message.

Why he loves it: “I love this book because it not only helped me reframe and reset how I engage with the world, but it also took me to a brand-new level of optimism, joy and excitement for what each day brings. The timeless wisdom of the Stoics is applicable to everyone. No matter who you are, how old you are or where you find yourself in life, the profoundly simple ideas in this book are easy to apply and will have an instant impact.”

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recommended by: DJ Hess, a librarian at Brentwood Public Library in New York

Suffering from a book hangover? This romp of a read will put you on the road to recovery. Set against the backdrop of Long Island’s North Shore during the roaring twenties, The Great Gatsby is told from the perspective of a young man who befriends a millionaire and his former lover. The lavish parties and socialite lifestyle illustrate for readers the way class, wealth and the American dream play key roles in the pursuit of happiness. A slim novel that was originally published in 1925, The Great Gatsby has since been recognized as one of the greatest works in the American literary canon.

Why he loves it: “It is a good book to read to understand the topic of toxic masculinity … I believe the novel represents exactly what not to do as a man and how to treat women. The Great Gatsby should be a lesson on speaking up and disagreeing openly with people who abuse their positions in life.”

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
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5. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Recommended by: Abraham Verghese, author of The Covenant of Water

The universal language of love is the premise of this powerful story, originally published in 1985 by master of magical realism Gabriel García Márquez. When a young woman’s desire for wealth ultimately overrides her relationship with her beloved, he sets out to win her back, despite his many dalliances. A thought-provoking book about love and romance, Love in the Time of Cholera demonstrates the power of devotion and true love that stand the test of time.

Why he loves it: “It is a great love story with exquisite writing, and it gives one a long view of love and of relationships—as well as of the lifetime that follows the falling-over-the-cliff-being-in-love phase, which, with any luck, morphs into something even more beautiful. Women will find it resonates with the wisdom they already possess, while most men will find themselves moved, educated and armed with a kind of knowledge that is otherwise hard to come by (or is only acquired when it is too late).”

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Shakespeare's Sonnets By William Shakespeare
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6. Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare

Recommended by: Garrison Keillor, author of Cheerfulness

English majors aren’t the only ones who can appreciate a little Shakespeare, and this poetry collection features easily digestible pieces of The Bard’s shortest works. With their first publication dating back to 1609, to say these sonnets have staying power is grossly understated. The overarching themes of time, love and beauty amount to a series of poems that begs to be memorized and recited.

Why he loves it: “Because no matter your line of work, you’ll be knee-deep in god-awful English—like sludge, jargon, pretentious mumbo jumbo, AI garbage, sales pitches—and for your own sanity, it’s good to have some beautiful things in your head, such as ‘This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,/ To love that well which thou must leave ere long,’ to remind you to enjoy today.”

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Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Recommended by: Nelson DeMille, author of The Maze

Amassing more than 1,000 pages, this weighty tome explores the inner workings of the mind and how one’s experience can shape the lives and outcomes of others. As the central characters of Atlas Shrugged wrestle with their life choices and endure the consequences of their actions, the forces of good and evil are masterfully played out. It’s equal parts action, mystery and thriller, with a philosophical angle that will get readers talking.

Why he loves it: “I first read this novel in college, and it was so unlike anything that I’d been reading for school or for pleasure. But at the same time, I felt an affinity for her philosophy of individualism and freedom from bureaucratic control. You might not agree with everything she wrote—I don’t—but most guys will enjoy her strong and self-assured characters. The plot is complex, but the characters, male and female, are straightforward. There’s something in Atlas Shrugged for everyone—male, female, young and old, and people of all political stripes. Plus, there’s some romance and some action/adventure—a perfect gift for Dad who can pass it on to the family.”

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How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
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8. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Recommended by: Michael Buono, a reference librarian at Brentwood Public Library in New York

Dispensing sage advice on how to interface with people professionally and socially, How to Win Friends & Influence People is a pioneering title in the self-help genre. Since the book hit store shelves in 1936, Carnegie’s words have served as the guiding principles for job seekers, new graduates and anyone looking to better their interpersonal skills.

Why he loves it: “Despite the fact that it was written a long time ago, the advice is still pertinent (even if the examples are dated). It mostly boils down to ‘be nice, remember people’s names and try to take an interest in other people.’ Carnegie approaches influence from a leadership perspective, and he makes it clear that you must genuinely care on some level for people to care about you.”

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
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9. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Recommended by: James Trevino, aka @james_trevino on Instagram and @james.trevino on TikTok

Fans of Frodo and the gang know about the epic quest to destroy the One Ring like the back of their hands. But if you’ve only watched the films, now—on the cusp of next year’s 70th anniversary—is the perfect time to pick up the mother of all fantasy book series. These are some of the top books for men who love getting lost in other worlds.

Originally published in three parts—The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1955) and The Return of the King (1955)—The Lord of the Rings continues to delight readers of all ages. Even with its hefty size (the one-volume edition comes in at more than 1,200 pages), ambitious bibliophiles will be able to entertain themselves all summer long as they pack their bags and vacation to Middle-earth for the ultimate friendship tale.

Why he loves it: “I love fantasy more than any other genre. Maybe it is because it offers endless possibilities and an escape when the real world becomes too much to handle, or maybe it is just fun. … It truly is hard to find, in my opinion, a fantasy novel that has better examples of positive masculinity. You don’t have to be a guy to appreciate fantastic world-building and great characters.”

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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Recommended by: William Kent Krueger, author of The River We Remember

A perennial favorite in high school classrooms and one of the more thoughtful books for men, The Catcher in the Rye is a coming-of-age story centered on Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old boy who is perplexed by the adult world. Following his expulsion from prep school, he attempts to navigate the complexities of growing up and understanding the loss of innocence.

Why he loves it: “Adolescence is generally the most confusing time in anyone’s life. Holden Caulfield may not be the most likable character you’ll ever meet, but in his way, he’s dealing with issues that all guys deal with as they come of age: Who am I, why is life so hard and what the hell is it all about? It’s a classic, one with the potential to enlighten readers of all ages and genders.”

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A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
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11. A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Recommended by: Timothy Egan, author of A Fever in the Heartland

Fly-fishing, family and even fighting forest fires are at the crux of this American novella set in western Montana. Before it became a movie starring Brad Pitt, A River Runs Through It brought a former English professor out of retirement to write fiction at the age of 70 and debuted on the shelf in 1976. Norman Maclean has since passed, but his saga about the unspoiled beauty of nature and the simple life lives on.

Why he loves it: “Well before it was a movie, I carried a dog-eared paperback of this book in my New York Times correspondence travels all over the American West. It’s a story about the duty of fathers and sons, each to each other, and brothers to brothers. Manhood is not just the artistry of fine fly-fishing—doing something well and good in humble anonymity—but saying the things that are too often left unsaid between men. In this case, it’s the simple expression of love. And of course, this book would appeal to women, as we know, because it’s a universal story touching on universal themes: duty, loss, grief.”

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Recommended by: Nick Ziino, a librarian at Brentwood Public Library in New York

Dads, add this one to your TBR list. This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, first published in 1960, is an emotional story told through the eyes of a young white girl growing up in the Deep South with her brother and attorney father. Exploring the complex subjects of racism and prejudice, this novel has become a teaching tool in high school classrooms across the country.

Why he loves it: “It shows how to be a good man and father. Atticus Finch is the father we all wish we had: flawed but gentle and compassionate. He is a man willing to stand up for what he believes is right and to fight for others. Atticus clearly loves Jem and Scout but is tough with them when necessary. He also teaches them how to treat and respect others.”

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  • Statista: “Share of adults who have read a book in any format in the last 12 months in the United States in 2019 and 2021, by gender”
  • Gallup: “Americans Reading Fewer Books Than in Past”

Pamela Brill
Pamela Brill is a seasoned journalist specializing in business and lifestyle content. Her work has been published in Publishers Weekly, Southern Living, Club + Resort Business and many other print/digital outlets. She is also a college essay consultant.