We read a lot, so we thought we’d put together a list of books that we think every man should read at least once in his life. Make your own way around, but try to get to these before you die!
The Odyssey – Homer
A lot of teachers think they are teaching their students about Greek history by giving them this book. In fact, what they’re giving them is one of the most violent, ridiculously unscholarly books ever written. We see people being bitten in half and smashed on the ground. They are also lured to death by female things with sexy voices. They do so many drugs that their bodies stop caring about being alive. Not history: This is HBO dressed up in tunic, not the real thing. Link
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
There’s a reason Middle Earth has been around for so long. This is very impressive, because it took billions of people to make our real Earth and only two or three to make Middle-Earth. Its history is almost as rich as our own real Earth’s. This is because Tolkien was very good at languages. He invented a whole language that could be spoken and parts of a half-dozen other languages. Because it doesn’t feel like lazy fantasy, Middle-earth is built on a strong foundation of rhyme and reason. Not only is the trilogy a great piece of writing, but by the end, you’ll have a much better understanding of history, whether it’s in fiction or not.
Dubliners – James Joyce
In order to get into Joyce, you need the help of a tenured literature professor who is willing to help you through the rough parts. If you want to read more by Joyce, start with Dubliners. It’s a good way to learn about his main themes and characters, and reading it will make it even easier to read Ulysses and/or Finnegans Wake, if that’s what you like. Not that Dubliners is a slouching way to get there. In early 20th century Dublin, there is a lot of heavy shit hidden behind the friendly Irish facade. Joyce isn’t afraid to go there and find it. Link
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
I think it’s interesting that a book that relies so much on science does not show its age as quickly as this one. This is one of the smartest things that Crichton does: He only talks about science as much as we need to believe. As a result, we don’t get distracted by things that aren’t important to the story, such as the fight between capability and guilt. Because mankind can do something, that doesn’t mean that mankind should do something. Even if you don’t want to have your intestines pulled out by velociraptors, you should do ethical science. Link
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
When you watch R.P. McMurphy fight his way through a mental hospital, it’s as if you were watching a train crash into a dying star. In the end, everyone knows it will end badly. It’s important to “buck the system,” but don’t do it too hard and know when to stay quiet. : “You can always come back for more.” What we know about the 60s and how they turned out makes that a good way to sum up everything. Link
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
If you can find a better relationship between a father and son in literature, tell us. We haven’t seen one that is better than the one between the Man and the Boy in literature. They are the heart of the story, and everything in the book is seen through the lens of their relationship. Pick up the book, too. There’s a film, and it’s good. It will stay with you in a way that the movie doesn’t. Link
1984 – George Orwell/Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The reason we put both of these in the same entry is because everyone talks about them as if they’re separate things, but we like to be open-minded when we write about our depressing alternate history global dystopias. It’s easy to think of both of them happening in the same world in different cities. If we were you, we’d also say to think of them as warnings and not exact predictions. You might think the world is bad, but don’t believe it, no matter how hard it tries. This is a link.
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
A lot of people think Fahrenheit 451 is written by someone who doesn’t like technology, but this isn’t entirely true. It’s hard not to agree with Bradbury when you look at popular TV shows and a lot of the internet now. He saw that TV could be used for both abuse and to make people feel better. Some of the things we made popular could have been better. We’re not saying it’s all bad. Going forward, we’ll keep it in mind, too. Link
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five is a great book, but God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater feels a little more relevant to us now than it did a few years ago. In the main part, it talks about a man who puts others first and how that affects his family and the people around him. They’re not happy and decide to do something about it. Vonnegut’s books hurt us, but the ending of this book hurts the most for us to read. Link
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
Because Ignatius Reilly is so bad in so many ways, he’s a breath of fresh air. Makes sure everyone knows how stupid he is. He’s also a bully, a verbose, repressed, and mean person, and he tells everyone about it. He and everyone else will make you hate them a million times by the end. As soon as he gets a hot dog cart, one of our favorite parts is when he brings his signature badness to one of the best food delivery systems in the world. Toole’s anger with the world runs through this book more than maybe any other. A sad person didn’t write this book. Link
Hard Times – Charles Dickens
In Dickens’ book, Mr. Gradgrind is utilitarian, but it’s not always as clear as it is in the movie. Even though this isn’t one of Dickens’ best-known works, it is the one that feels like it has the most to teach us in a time when economic hardship and old-world prejudices keep people from pursuing their dreams. Dickens makes it very clear who the victim of Utilitarianism is, and it’s hard not to have even a small change of heart by the end. Link
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes – Bill Watterson
People have never written about childhood in the way that Watterson has. It makes you feel a lot of nostalgia, even if you didn’t grow up in the same way as Calvin. Short stories are better than comic strips because Calvin and Hobbes have continuity and storylines that run for more than one comic strip. If you haven’t read it at all or it’s been a while, buy a copy. This comic is simple, but it has a lot of depth and isn’t old-fashioned. Link
The Plot Against America – Philip Roth
Roth’s book looks at a different history of the 1940s, one where FDR loses his reelection bid to the charismatic Charles Lindbergh and anti-semitism goes from whispers to official US policy in Roth’s book. This is a very scary and relevant warning about the dangers of letting prejudice decide who is in public office. Roth takes you step-by-step to the conclusion of a Lindbergh presidency. Trying to push a political agenda isn’t what we’re trying to do here, but we can’t help but notice how many similarities there are to the 2016 election. Link
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series – Douglas Adams
They read like one big book, not five separate books. We want to recommend all of them because we think they’re good. There are more than a thousand short stories in the series, all of which help to fill out what becomes a galaxy full of life and bureaucracy and do so in a way that fits with what we all thought about the universe in the first place. So let’s all just do the best we can. Link
Preacher – Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
As it is, Preacher is not afraid to be what it is. It’s a drug, sex, and violence-fueled tear through the United States. This is what you’ll find when you read this book. There are a lot of different kinds of people, like Irish vampires and angels and demons, miracles, weird undead sex groups, Louisiana swamp people, and one really, really weird Saint. This story is about a man trying to do the right thing in a world that doesn’t want him to. If anything, it makes Jesse Custer’s struggle even more real, even though he has a god inside of him.