Books on masculinity and manhood are hard to find, but the ones below are sure to help you to become the man you need to be. Reading good books gives clarity to your thoughts, inspires, enlightens, educates, and challenges you, and makes you a better writer. Here are some books on masculinity that have my recommendation.
Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge
“My hunt actually has little to do with elk. There is something else I’m after out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey . . . something that can only be found through the help of wilderness. I am looking for my heart.”
“Can a man live all his days to keep his fingernails clean and trim? Is that what a boy dreams of?”
Author John Eldredge has created a must-read on masculinity and being a man. For men who have been tamed by society, by their jobs, or by their wives, this book will reawaken the wildness within and stir you to a life that fascinates. You can get it from Amazon here.
The Way of Men by Jack Donovan
“To truly understand The Way of Men, we must look for where the masculinity of the gangster overlaps with the masculinity of the chivalrous knight, where modern ideas overlap with ancient ones. We must look at the phenomenon of masculinity amorally and as dispassionately as we can. We must find what Man knows for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe. Men want to be good men because good men are well regarded, but being a good man isn’t the same as being good at being a man.”
There’s probably no book on masculinity that explains what it means to be a man better than The Way of Men. Donovan’s delineation of the Masculine Virtues of Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor provide a clear path for men in the development of their masculinity. While Donovan himself is a controversial figure, this book is a valuable contribution to the discussion of who men have been and ought to be. Click here to buy your copy at Amazon.
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
Author Steven Pressfield’s fictional tale of the Battle of Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans made their stand against the Persians is an ode to masculinity, to men who embodied the Masculine Virtues laid out by Donovan and who put them to use on behalf of each other and their nation. Tales of heroism abound. It will both inspire you and show you how far the standard for men has fallen. Get a copy on Amazon here.
Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior by Rorke Denver
“What we teach is pure SEAL. The lessons are simple, clear, and well-defined: They come right out of our basic values. Winning pays. Losing has consequences. Nothing substitutes for preparation. Life isn’t fair and neither is the battlefield. Even the smallest detail matters. We are a brotherhood. Our success depends on our team performance. And we will not fail.”
“To all of those who have been downrange, to us and those like us, Damn Few.”
Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver spent plenty of time in the hellholes of the Middle East fighting the enemies of our country. When he returned, he was put in charge of overseeing and developing the BUD/S program that trains the next generation of Navy SEALs. This book tells his story of life in BUD/S, giving an inside look into what masculinity means when challenged to its core. Find it here on Amazon.
Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell
“I tried to get a hold of myself. But again in my mind I heard that terrible, terrible scream, the same one that awakens me, bullying its way into my solitary dreams, night after night, the confirmation of guilt. The endless guilt of the survivor. ‘Help me, Marcus! Please help me!’ It was a desperate appeal in the mountains of a foreign land. It was a scream cried out in the echoing high canyons of one of the loneliest places on earth. It was the nearly unrecognizable cry of a mortally wounded creature. And it was a plea I could not answer. I can’t forget it. Because it was made by one of the finest people I ever met, a man who happened to be my best friend.”
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor of Operation Red Wings, an assassination attempt gone wrong in the mountains of Afghanistan. His story, which is also the story of his three SEAL teammates in their fight for survival despite being vastly outnumbered by a determined enemy, shows the Masculine Virtues in full display. Watch the movie, but be sure to read the book as well, found here on Amazon.
Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You by John Eldredge
“Spend an afternoon watching boys at play, and you’ll see something of what God intended when he created man as a man, when he created maleness, masculinity.”
“Too many men do not get their question answered as a young cowboy, and as an uncertain warrior they have no mission. They end up taking that to a woman, hoping to find in her validation and a reason for living.”
“A true king comes into authority and knows that the privilege is not so he can now arrange for his comfort.”
In this follow-up to Wild at Heart, Eldredge examines the five stages of masculine development: Boyhood, Cowboy, Warrior, Lover, King, and Sage. While there is plenty of overlap between these stages, each represents an important level of growth in a man’s life. But men rarely reach these levels of maturity on their own, they need another man to initiate them into these stages. That man was meant to be their father. But many did not have a father willing or able to initiate them into these stages. The result has been an immature and warped manhood whose development was stunted. Whether you agree with the religious undertone and message or not, there is significant value in understanding where you need to go as a man and why you might not have gotten there yet. Click here to purchase on Amazon.
The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort To Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self by Michael Easter
“As we experience fewer problems, we don’t become more satisfied. We just lower our threshold for what we consider a problem. We end up with the same number of troubles. Except our new problems are progressively more hollow.”
“On June 29, 2007, boredom was pronounced dead, killed by the iPhone. And so our imaginations and deep social connections went with it.”
“We must recognize that occasionally going without food up to 24 hours is a normal and beneficial human state. And we must understand that much of our hunger isn’t real physiological hunger. Rather, it’s often a cheap coping mechanism to comfort us against the modern life.”
This is a seminal book for me, because it lays out the scientific backing to the message that I’ve felt for the last decade or so, which is that the comforts of modern life have made us softer, weaker, and less happy. The author uses a 30-day Alaskan caribou hunt as the driving narrative to explore how doing hard things, leaning into boredom, experiencing hunger, facing our mortality, spending lots of time in nature, and carrying heavy things results in a better life. The themes the author explores are very similar to Manhood and The Hero’s Journey. I highly recommend The Comfort Crisis.
Fire in the Dark: Men and Gods by Jack Donovan
“It is up to us to be the men and see the gods, to put eagles back in our skies and in our hearts, to start the world we want because we can’t wait for someone else to do it. Like so many men who came before us, as the sun is setting, it is our job to build a fire in the dark.”
Jack Donovan is one of the most important masculine voices in the world. In Fire in the Dark, he examines three masculine archetypes – the Father, the Striker, and the Lord of the Earth – and the symbols of each throughout history, myth, religion, and culture. These three archetypes represent the ideals and values that men should pursue to bring order to the chaos of the world. You can purchase Fire in the Dark on Amazon by clicking here.
A Man at Arms: A Novel by Steven Pressfield
“‘And can it be, my lad, that you own no trepidation about venturing into this cruelest of wildernesses, populated by the half mad and the wholly iniquitous?‘ ‘I will follow my master,’ David declared. ‘And, reverencing heaven, seek no further surety.'”
Steven Pressfield again knocks it out of the park in this novel about a former Roman legionary who now serves as a soldier-for-hire. He is hired by the Romans to track down a fugitive believed to be transporting a letter from a religious leader to an underground sect in Corinth – a letter now known to us as I Corinthians, written by the Apostle Paul. Along the way, the mercenary obtains an apprentice and is followed by a sorceress with suspicious motives. The journey proves to be quite the adventure that teaches powerful lessons of toughness, training, loyalty, discipline, and faith. Click here to get it on Amazon.
The Terminal List and the entire James Reece series by Jack Carr
“There’s a man, going ’round, taking names.“
Former Navy SEAL Jack Carr vaulted to the top of my list of favorite fiction writers with his series of (currently) five books about his character James Reece. Reece is a former SEAL commander who, after losing almost everything dear to him, goes on a one-man mission to take out those responsible. Each name get placed on, then marked off of, the Terminal List.
The Terminal List is the first book in the series, and I highly recommend that you read it first and that you read it before watching the TV series about it, found here. The series is good, but it is no match for the book due to some odd casting and changes to the story.
Each book is excellent. If you believe in becoming a strong, skilled, dangerous man for the purpose of protecting your family, if you believe in truth, beauty, and goodness, and if you simply love guns, battle, and a man on a mission, you’ll love this series. They’ll inspire you to be more and do more.
And if, like me, you shoot Glocks, wear Sitka gear, and drink Black Rifle Coffee, these books will speak your language. Click here to get it on Amazon.