The best way to grow is through reading and gentleman are always working on improving themselves. Wondering where to start? Here is my list of the 10 classic books every guy should read to help get you going.

Why the classics?  They are probably the best books ever written and have been approved by generations of men. Plus the lessons they provide are critical to you growing your character and intelligence.

25 Classic Books Every Guy Should Read
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What can a classic book teach you?  Everything!  I read a lot, and nothing moves me more then one of the classics.  They inspire me to be more, they build my character, and they teach you the most important lessons of life.

Every guy needs a library of books that include the classics!  You don’t need to dedicate a room to your books but at the least, you need a bookcase loaded with books you love and have read.  This last part is really important, books you have read!

Reading is fundamental. 

These are not trophies to impress your friends.  They are constant reminders of the lessons and adventures within them.  They are experiences you get to remember and relive anytime you want.

Having an unread book is like missing out on a new adventure. Take every opportunity to read and expand your mind.

Need another reason to buy some great classic books?  Women love a guy who is well read, books make you smarter, they will make you a better person, and reading will help you be more successful.

Reading is an excellent hobby to have. It boosts your vocabulary, teaches you new things and expands your world.

This list of the 25 classic books every guy should read is in no particular order.  Read the ones that interest you in any format you like. Also, this is a list of my personal favorites but I could have easily added many more. There are just too many great classic books out there to limit it to just 25.

Be warned, there are several spoilers below. Personally, I like knowing how a book will end before I start it. This way I can enjoy the details without rushing to know how it ends.

25 Classic Books Every Guy Should Read

The Odyssey

by Homer, Full Summary Credit

No list could ever be complete without the Odyssey. The Odyssey is Homer’s epic of Odysseus’ 10-year struggle to return home after the Trojan War.

While Odysseus battles mystical creatures and faces the wrath of the gods, his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus stave off suitors vying for Penelope’s hand and Ithaca’s throne long enough for Odysseus to return.

The Odyssey ends as Odysseus wins a contest to prove his identity, slaughters the suitors, and retakes the throne of Ithaca.

Download a free Kindle version of this book here.


Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut, Summary Credit

Slaughterhouse-Five is a science fiction-infused anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut about the World War II experiences of Billy Pilgrim. It follows his time as an American soldier and chaplain’s assistant, to postwar and early years – occasionally traveling through time itself.

The text centers around Pilgrim’s survival of the Allies’ firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner-of-war, an event which Vonnegut himself lived through as a captured serviceman.

The work has been called an example of “unmatched moral clarity” and “one of the most enduring antiwar novels of all time”.


Catch-22

by Joseph Heller, Summary Credit

Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him.

But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

As revealing today as when it was first published, this brilliant novel expresses the concerns of an entire generation in its black comedy. World War II flier John Yossarian decides that his only mission each time he goes up is to return—alive! (From the publisher.)


The Catcher in the Rye

by JD Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye was a book full with a lot of great imagery and a lot of thought put into it. The book is a very easy to read , it can be read very quickly and very easy to understand and under 300 pages.

The books main character, Holden Caulfield, is a 16 year old boy growing up on the streets in NYC. Holden struggles with deciding whether he is grown up or if he is still a kid. Recently , getting kicked out of his school Pency Prep before Christmas Break, he decides to go on a journey through New York.

As he starts his adventure he talks about people he knows and cares about. Holden talks about how smart his brother Allie is and how he passed away from Leukemia. Holden also tells the reader about his family and other troubles.

The book is about pushing the boundaries that most young adults do and has a lot of adult content and language. Its a coming of age the hard way and there are a lot of lessons to be learned if we are open to them.


1984

by George Orwell

1984, Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother.

Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. These criminal deeds bring Winston into the eye of the opposition, who then must reform the nonconformist.

George Orwell’s 1984 introduced the watchwords for life without freedom: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.


Animal Farm

by George Orwell

Animal Farm is a short novel by George Orwell. It was written during World War II and published in 1945.

It is about a group of farm animals who rebel against their farmer. They hope to create a place where the animals can be equal, free, and happy. In the end, however, they are betrayed and the farm ends up as bad it was before.

I recommend saving a little money and getting both 1984 and Animal Farm in the same book. Both are short and easy to read.


Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury

The book is about a person named Guy Montag. He is a firefighter who lives in a lonely, isolated society where books have been outlawed by a government fearing an independent-thinking public. It is the duty of firefighters to burn any books on sight or said collections that have been reported by informants.

People in this society including Montag’s wife are drugged into compliance and get their information from wall-length television screens. After Montag falls in love with book-hoarding Clarisse, he begins to read confiscated books.

It is through this relationship that he begins to question the government’s motives behind book-burning.

Montag is soon found out, and he must decide whether to return to his job or run away knowing full well the consequences that he could face if captured.


Moby Dick

by Herman Melville

It was an obsession that would destroy them all.

On a cold December night, a young man called Ishmael rents a room at an inn in Massachusetts. He has come from Manhattan to the north-east of America to sign up for a whaling expedition. Later that same night, as Ishmael is sleeping, a heavily tattooed man wielding a blade enters his room. This chance meeting is just the start of what will become the greatest adventure of his life.

The next day, Ishmael joins the crew of a ship known as the Pequod. He is approached by a man dressed in rags who warns him that, if he sails under the command of Captain Ahab, he may never come back. Undaunted, Ishmael returns early the next morning and leaves for the high seas. For the crew of the Pequod, their voyage is one of monetary gain.

For Captain Ahab, however, it is a mission driven by hatred, revenge, and his growing obsession with the greatest creature of the sea.

Free Kindle version of this book with Amazon Prime. Download it here.


For Whom the Bell Tolls

by Ernest Hemingway, Summary Credit

One of Hemingway’s greatest novels, For Whom the Bell Tolls, is war-story about an American, Robert Jordan, and is based on Hemingway’s real-life experiences during the Spanish Civil War, where he was a journalist and war reporter.

Robert Jordan is an experienced explosives expert in the International Brigade, fighting for republican guerillas against the fascists, and is assigned the task of destroying a strategically-important bridge before an attack on the city of Segovia.

But it is also a love story between Robert and Maria, as well as an ode to Spain and Spanish culture, which Hemingway clearly loved. For Whom the Bell Tolls explores themes of honor, death, duty, love, nature, camaraderie, innocence, war, modernity, salvation, the value of human life and man’s motivation. It is widely agreed to be one of Hemingway’s best works.


The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway, Summary Credit

The story follows a group of American and British men and women who travel from Paris to Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and bullfighting at the festival of San Fermin.

It particularly explores the relationship between Jake Barnes, the narrator and central character, and the unpredictable Lady Brett Ashley, who love one another but cannot be together as a war-wound has left Jake impotent.

Hemingway invites you to enter the hedonistic lives of the post-First World War European elite, a world of parties, sex and drama. The descriptions of bullfighting and matadors are particularly eloquent and powerful, and you can feel Hemingway’s love for and admiration of this sport, which he considers an art form.


A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway, Summary Credit

A Farewell to Arms follows the first-person account of an American lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army, during the First World War.

Henry’s fictional experiences in this story are similar to those that Hemingway himself experienced during the conflict, including being wounded by a mortar shell and falling in love.

Hemingway provides insight on the pains caused by a war-ravaged world and challenges perceptions of war.


The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922.

The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession with the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan.

Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.


Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens, Summary Credit

Perhaps Dickens’ most famous novel, Great Expectations is a quintessential education, chronicling Pip’s journey to adulthood and the personal growth he experiences along the way.

As Pip travels from being an orphan with no status, to becoming a gentleman, and finally to finding true happiness, he learns many lessons about love and wealth and poverty and generosity along the way.

With a supporting cast of lively characters including the eccentric Miss Havisham and her beautiful ward Estella, Magwitch, an escaped convict with a heart of gold, and Joe, Pip’s brother-in-law, who is an illiterate but immensely kindhearted blacksmith.

Dickens makes many interesting points about social strata, classism, the industrial revolution, and conflicts of morality, making Great Expectations one of the most celebrated books in the Western canon.

Free Kindle version of this book with Amazon Prime. Download it here.


Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens, Summary Credit

Seminal for its unfiltered portrayal of the harsh treatment which orphans faced in England at the time, Oliver Twist is the story of a young orphan.

The book is about his life in a workhouse, his subsequent apprenticeship with an undertaker, his escape to London, and finally his acquaintance with the Artful Dodger and the ring of adolescent pickpockets of which the Dodger is a part.

The novel serves as an effective social commentary, making clear Dickens’ feelings about child labor.

Free Kindle version of this book with Amazon Prime. Download it here.


A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens, Summary Credit

Though it is a novel, measuring up to only 80-odd pages, A Christmas Carol has been hugely influential in revitalizing England’s Christmas traditions and overall attitude to the holiday.

The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a spiteful old man lacking in Christmas spirit, as he is visited by four ghosts— the ghost of his former business partner and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

These guides take Scrooge through remembrances of years gone by and help him to become more kindhearted and to join in the positive spirit of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is a must-read around the holiday season, or at the very least in order to understand the origin of the common phrase, ‘Bah, humbug!’


David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens, Summary Credit

The most autobiographical of all of Dickens’ works, David Copperfield tells the story of the protagonist from his childhood through to adulthood.

David Copperfield navigates his mother’s remarriage, boarding school, the death of his mother, various living situations, and ultimately, him finding true love.

Dickens wrote in the preface of one edition that ‘like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favorite child. And his name is David Copperfield’. Given that Charles wrote so many great books and this one was his favorite, it is clearly one of the greatest books ever written.


Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

A very short read at a little over 200 pages, anyone can finish this book in under a week.

“Community, Identity, Stability” is the motto of Aldous Huxley’s utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a “Feelie,” a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch.

Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today–let’s hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren’t yet to come.


Call of the Wild

by Jack London

 The Call of the Wild was London’s first book—he’d go on to write more than 50 fiction and nonfiction works about Alaska over the next 17 years. He’d come to Alaska not to write, though. Instead, he’d hoped to strike it rich panning for gold. This particular book takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush and tells the story of a dog named Buck.

The Call of the Wild is a gripping tale of a heroic dog that, thrust into the brutal life of the Alaska Gold Rush, ultimately faces a choice between living in man’s world and returning to nature.

Adventure and dog-story enthusiasts as well as students and devotees of American literature will find this classic work a thrilling, memorable reading experience. 


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Just about everyone had read Huckleberry Finn. Just in case you are one of the few, this one is an American classic and a must read for any gentleman’s collection.

Huck Finn, cruelly abused by his drunken father, joins up with Jim, a runaway slave, and heads down the Mississippi River on a raft. Along the way, they encounter a deadly feud, a pair of con artists, and other characters from the pre-Civil War South.

All the while, Huck’s conscience and basic decency wrestle with his society-bred ideas about race and slavery and right and wrong.


The Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.

Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.


The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California.

Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes the very nature of equality and justice in America. The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics.


Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck

Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men remains one of America’s most widely read and taught novels. An unlikely pair, George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, grasp for their American Dream.

Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own.

When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.


A Picture of Dorian Grey

by Oscar Wilde

A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man’s portrait, his subject’s frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray’s picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent. After he kills a young woman, “as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife,” Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. “The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden.”

As Hallward tries to make sense of his creation, his epigram-happy friend Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian in his sensual quest with any number of Wildean paradoxes, including the delightful “When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.”

But despite its many languorous pleasures, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imperfect work. Compared to the two (voyeuristic) older men, Dorian is a bore, and his search for ever new sensations far less fun than the novel’s drawing-room discussions. Even more oddly, the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde’s supposed aims, not least “no artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.” Nonetheless, the glamour boy gets his just deserts. And Wilde, defending Dorian Gray, had it both ways: “All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment.”


To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

One of the most cherished stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country.

A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

A book a little over 300 pages, this one is a must for every gentleman looking to improve his character.


Crime And Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in 1866. It was written after Dostoevsky’s return from five years of exile in Siberia, where he was serving his sentence in camps similar to those of the infamous Soviet Gulag.

Crime and Punishment deals with the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikove, a poor ex-student from St. Pertersburg who designs and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money.

Raskolnikov reasons that with the pawnbroker’s money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance crime, while ridding the world of a worthless parasite. His actions are a test of his theory that some people are naturally able to and also have the right to murder.

Raskolnikov also justifies his actions by mentally associating himself with Napoleon Bonaparte, believing that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose, only to find out, of course, that he is not Napoleon.


Book Format

Ordinary People Have Big TV's, Successful People have Big Libraries

All the books above can be bought in any format you prefer. I even includes a few free Kindle editions that you can start reading today (again, for Free!). Personally, for the classics, I prefer leather-bound hardcover books.

These leather-bound classics are easily found on eBay or Amazon if you do a little searching and I buy these beautiful editions for usually under $20. Fantastic buy if you ask me.

Every guy is required to own:

  • Good set of tools
  • At least 3 quality watches (read my watch article here)
  • Tailored Suit
  • Personal library

Your library could be digital or physical but you are expected to have a least a few physical books around. A gentleman always buys quality, so why not have a few leather-bound classics?

Every great man is always learning and books are the best way to do that.  Commit to yourself that you will read at least 5 hours a week.  More if you can, but make sure you are at least doing 5.

Books these days come in 3 different formats.  You can buy physical, eBooks, and Audiobooks.  I love all 3 but give each a try and see what works for you.

I have divided my library of over 1000 books between physical books (leather, hardcover, and softcover), eBook, and audiobooks.  Here is how I beak them down. Maybe this approach will be helpful to you too.

Physical Books

Personally I love leather bound books.  I love the way they feel in my hands when I read and they look great in my library.  I buy the leather bound edition for my classical favorites and display them with pride in my study.  In my study, I have a whole bookcase dedicated to my collection.

I tend to also get the eBook version of the classics and store them in my Kindle or Google Play library.  This makes it easier and very convenient to read something when I am bored or have some time to kill.

I also sometimes buy the Barnes and Noble leather bound classic editions.  These have multiple stories in them from a single author and cost around $20 brand new. For this price and quality, this is unbeatable and highly recommended.

Since the Barnes and Noble books are often multiple story books, they are usually too large to carry around, so here is where the eBook version comes in handy.  When I am at home reading in the library, the physical version is always preferred.

eBooks

I noted above that I also collect the classics in eBook form because most are free and very convenient to store on my Kindle and Google Play library.  But I also have many other types of eBooks on my Kindle and Play library.

I buy a lot of reference books in eBook format.  This is a great way to have a world of knowledge always at my fingertips.  Its also a great way to try out a new book without committing to any bookshelf space to it.

Some of the classics could be very hard to read and investing in a free eBook version is a great way to try it out before buying it.

Audiobooks

Just about all my business and self-help books are in audio format.  They are super easy to read and way to convenient to use while driving or otherwise occupied with another mindless task.

I am a member of Audible where I get about 2-3 new books a month.  Most are under $5 and really, really great books.  They have changed my life for the better and they can do the same for you.

The subscription costs me $15 every 2 months or $90 a year.  Not a bad price for such a life changing tool.

Conclusion

This list of the 25 classic books every guy should read should not feel overwhelming.  In fact, I recommending taking the list and breaking it down into small, manageable groups.

There is a huge difference between reading these books for pleasure and having them as required reading through school.  When you get to pick the book that interests you, you take so much more pleasure in reading and understanding the story.

Even if you didn’t like reading in school, give it a try again but on your terms.  Pick a smaller one that interests you and start small with just 25-50 pages at a time.  You will have the story finished in no time.

All these books vary in length from about 100 pages to over 1000.  I love reading “A Christmas Carol” every holiday and its just about 100 pages.  An easy read in just a few hours.

What’s is your list of the classic books every guy should read?  Did I miss any?  Please leave it in the comment section below.

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Thanks for reading!

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