iterature is rich with men like us; yes, the worlds these fictional characters confront may be foreign, the minutiae of their lives alien, their surroundings fantastical, lost, archaic, or maybe all too familiar, but at day’s end they are men who face and often challenge their circumstance as we do.
We at Tailor & Spruce recognize these men, these men who face their surroundings with grace, with grit, with self-assuredness, with courage, with bravery, with hope in the face of hopelessness, who are not afraid to come to terms with the reality of their surroundings no matter how devastating that reality may be, who fight to make their mark on the world, no matter its size.
May we use these novels as guides in our lifelong quest to define manhood. May we be inspired by these men, as we too, fight to make our mark.
So without further ado: 33 Novels Every Man Should Read.
“For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway
Because Hemingway is a man’s man, the man’s man. And never have his themes of grace under pressure, courage in the face of the impossible, and dignity before death been better implemented.
“The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler
Because Philip Marlowe shows us that just beneath the glitter and the glam of Los Angeles is the dark underbelly of humanity - where every truth is a lie, every face is a mask, and only he can keep his head above it all.
“Rabbit, Run” by John Updike
Because everyone has at one time wondered what it would be like to abnegate all responsibilities, submit to debauched whims, and run. Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom is the man who does it.
“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
Because Yossarian doesn’t understand why millions of men he doesn’t know are trying to kill him. Because the absurdity he feels about him is an absurdity we’ve all felt at one time.
“The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane
Because we’ve all cowered at some point, and Henry Fleming is a man who flees his first battlefield and cannot reconcile his actions, not until he receives his “red badge of courage.”
“The Adventures of Augie March” by Saul Bellow
Because Augie March is the American Dream personified. Because he is all of us.
“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
Because Captain Ahab is Kane, Patton, and Rockefeller all in one character.
“The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
Because we’ve all wanted to be the enigmatic stranger who lords above others, and The Count of Monte Cristo is the lord of the lord.
“The Trial” by Franz Kafka
Because no one better demonstrated the morbid plight of the individual against society better than Kafka.
“Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Willa Cather
Because even when faced by the barren, indifferent environment of 19th century New Mexico, bishop Jean Marie Latour’s faith and morals are as sturdy and uncompromising as the buttes that surround him.
“Cosmopolis” by Don Delillo
Because we’ve all wanted to play God, and Erick Packer is a 28-year-old multi-billionaire asset manager who in his battle against the Yen, loses it all trying to see if he’s become one.
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
Because men are forever changed by war and O’Brien wants us to discuss how it is we remember war and most of all, how it is we write about it.
“Tortilla Flat” by John Steinbeck
Because Steinbeck’s fable of a group of jobless no-goods in Monterey, California makes us laugh, but also shows us the nature and power of friendship.
“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac
Because has every man’s need to burn within the night, to howl at the stars, ever been better expressed?
“Ironweed” by William Kennedy
Because even if you’re a no good drunken bum who left his family years ago and is now back in town, there’s still the hope of self-reconciliation.
“Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller
Because Henry Miller was candid about it all: the grit, the grime, the sensual. Because he didn’t pull his punches, and neither should we.
“1984” by George Orwell
Because Big Brother is the family member you never wanted. And Winston Smith just discovered that there’s no living without him.
“Neuromancer” by William Gibson
Because in a world of exponentially increasing technological possibility, cyber-reality can sometimes seem realer than our own realities.
“A Scanner Darkly” by Philip K. Dick
Because we all have addictions. And Bob Arctor is Dick’s window into man’s predispositions to addictive behavior… and the destructiveness this behavior can bring.
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
Because even in a room of 1,369 lights the unnamed narrator is invisible to a world that refuses to see him.
“Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett
Because you’ve got to know how to play it cool when everyone around you is being killed…even if you’re the cause.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarquez
Because in the trenches of WWI, men are naked and the last vestiges of humanity are all they have left to cover them.
“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
Because of, “The horror, the horror.”
“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
Because even in a dystopian cannibalistic future there’s nothing stronger than the bond between a father and his son.
“Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy
Because even though Cornelius Suttree’s friends are a bunch of drunken degenerates, they’re friends we all wish we had.
“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner
Because Faulkner writes as we think and only after reading him will you understand what I mean.
“The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene
Because in 1930s Mexico where the Catholic Church is being eradicated, the Whiskey Priest must decide between turning himself in and endangering all those he encounters.
“The Stranger” by Albert Camus
Because Meursault is a man who doesn’t understand the absurdity of his existence… until one day under the hot summer sun, he does.
“2666” by Roberto Bolaño
Because “2666” seems to be about everything. Because it’s scary in ways no other post-modern work can dream of. Because who is Archimboldi? And what is his connection to the city of Santa Teresa where women disappear every day?
“Ulysses” by James Joyce
Because it’s considered the greatest novel ever written and that’s the only reason you should need.
“Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
Because it’s WWII and Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. Because with all its talk of aliens and time travel it’s actually about the horrors of war and how we remember them all those years later.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Because of Gatsby and that green light.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
Because to be sane sometimes you’ve got to be crazy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tobias Schwartz is a shameless biblio-cinephile, freelance writer, and former Division I baseball player. He holds an English and Film & Media Studies degree from Lafayette College and is pursuing an M.F.A in Screenwriting at Chapman University. You are as likely to find him discussing the merits of Cormac McCarthy’s film adaptations at your local baseball diamond as you are discussing the finer points of pitching mentality at your local library. One place you can most certainly find him is on Twitter @tobiasschwartz7.
Your favorite novel not included? Help improve our list by letting us know in the comments section.