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The Top 7 Books Every Man Should Read Before He Dies

Updated on March 14, 2011

What makes mens literature?

There are certain books out there that have a special appeal to men. That isn't to say that these books don't appeal to women, it's just that they seem to be written in a way that is specifically targeted toward a male audience. Although all of the books on this list feature main characters who are male and all are written by men, that was not one of my criteria. It just happens that the majority of literature written throughout history has been by men, and men tend to base main characters in some way off of themselves. Anyway, here is my list: 

7. Ulysses by James Joyce

This is bound to be one of the more controversial choices on this list. Some have called it absolutely unreadable, but they are wrong. Although quite difficult, Joyce shows off his genius in his magnum opus about love, betrayal, intoxication, and Dublin. The quintessential Irish novel, it's still celebrated on Bloomsday every year (June 16th, mark your calendars).  

6. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

I figured I might as well get the controversial ones out here on this list right off the bat. A lot of Kurt Vonnegut fans don't even care for Breakfast of Champions. Some people love Breakfast of Champions but hate other Kurt Vonnegut writings. Without a doubt, it's different than his other more popular books, such as Cat's Cradle, and Slaughterhouse-Five, but there's something about this book that's special. Don't see the movie, but do read the book. 

5. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon burst onto the literary scene in the 1960's and 1970's, and he did it all without being seen himself. The notorious recluse (no confirmed photographs of him have been published since 1957) won the National Book Award in 1973 for Gravity's Rainbow, a book about sex, drugs, and rocket science. Set in World War II, it follows a conspiracy involving the Nazi V2 rocket program.

Like Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow is very long and very detailed, with lots of references to esoteric and ephemeral bits of popular culture. I suggest A Gravity's Rainbow Companion to help you through it.  

4. Das Kapital by Karl Marx

Reading this book is essential to understanding the fundamentals of Marxist thought. Although I am not a Marxist myself, the influence of this book on the world cannot be overstated. In Das Kapital, Marx discusses how capital is created, and specifically how this relates to the surplus value of labor. I think people would be surprised how often Marx agrees with certain tenets of various political groups today, including those who consider themselves "anti-Marxist".  

3. Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes

Don Quixote is European literature at its best. It seems to cover everything, from long lost love to mental illness. Make sure to get a good translation of this one if you're reading it in English, because there are a lot of subtleties in the original Spanish that don't get picked up in some of the more lazy translations.

2. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

100 years from now, this book will be considered the finest piece of literature from this era. David Foster Wallace, who lost his lifelong battle with depression in 2008, wrote this 800+ page epic about addiction in all of its forms. There are over 100 pages of footnotes in Infinite Jest and yes, you do need to read them to understand what's going on.

1. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

Some have called this the greatest book of history ever written in the English language. Edward Gibbon started writing this while in Rome in 1764. He didn't complete it until 1788. Understanding the causes behind the collapse of the most powerful empire in the history of this planet is something that's not just interesting from a historical perspective, but something the current American leaders could learn from. 


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  • Nils Visser profile image

    BOOK REVIEWS 5 years ago from The Low Countries

    You put forth convincing arguments for your suggestions.

  • Beata Stasak profile image

    Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia

    Love your chosen books, read most of them and like your summary, great workd dear DB Cooper:)

  • Crewman6 profile image

    Crewman6 6 years ago

    I knew it had to be a 'slip of the lip'. Great selections!

  • DTR0005 profile image

    Doug Robinson 6 years ago from Midwest

    Das Kapital will reel you in - getting lost in some of the logic and finding yourself flipping sides as it were is easy to do.

  • I am DB Cooper profile image

    I am DB Cooper 6 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

    Good catch, I meant Slaughterhouse-Five.

  • Crewman6 profile image

    Crewman6 6 years ago

    It's an interesting list, and I'm guilty of reading some of those... but my hat's off to you for reading all the books on this list. Great recommendations!

    (BTW, you've got Fahrenheit 451 attributed to Vonnegut, but it's actually Bradbury. Easy to do when you're writing so much at once. My wife usually catches my errors before everybody else does)

    Keep up the good work- Thanks to you, my "to read" list is even larger now!