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10 Books Every Man Should Read Before the Age of 30

Joseph Schildkraut
Getty Images

Sir Francis Bacon wasn’t kidding when he said, “knowledge is power.” Great men have built influential empires and lasting legacies based on the ideas they gleaned from great books. The classics teach us who we are, where we’ve been, and how to get where we want to go. Plus, women like men who are polite, well groomed and, yes, well read.

So it’s time to man-size your brain with this list of books every man should read before unceremoniously sliding out of their twenties.


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10

Mediations

Marcus Aurelius
 
 

This series of personal writings and moving observations by the great Roman emperor was penned between 161–180 CE. Since that time, many have come to cherish it as a guide to life or as the ultimate self-help book. It’s a work of great spirituality that reveals the emperor’s noble and intelligent character, practical wisdom, and the basic tenets of Stoicism.

 
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9

The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway
 
 

Hemingway is the ultimate man’s man writer, and this novel, published in 1952, is one of his most famous achievements. Hemingway’s short, direct prose makes ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ a pretty quick read, but you won’t want to put down this deep, absorbing and influential tale of struggle, death and defeat.

 
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8

The Complete Book of Etiquette

Amy Vanderbilt
 
 
Put the chicken wing down, carefully wipe the buffalo sauce off your face and listen – Vanderbilt’s field guide to how to act sharp, appropriate, graceful and polite in any situation is a must-read. Remember, confidence is king, and knowing the rules of any social situation you’re thrown into will help you hold on to your game. Also, others tend to follow confident people.
 
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7

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Truman Capote
 
 
Capote’s short, delicate and surprisingly masculine book about a man’s obsession with the first ever manic pixie dream girl is loaded with insightful character studies, brilliant language, and an extremely strong sense of place and time. This novella is a classic because of it’s witty style and because it delves into two peculiar minds that weren’t in the mainstream at the time of its release in 1958, a deeply troubled independent woman with a lot going on underneath the surface and the man, a writer, who is obsessed with her.
 
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6

On the Road

Jack Kerouac
 
 
Even people who don’t read have read On the Road. Kerouac’s epic tale about an epic American road trip is hailed for many things -- the lyrical language, the independent and original writing style, it’s scope and ambition – but many mark it as the greatest “Beat Generation” novel of all time. ‘On the Road’ is a cultural touchstone for many wanting to peer in to the beginnings of the countercultural movement and learn where, when and why people like Kerouac and his progressive road tripping pals decided to follow their instincts to start living off the grid and chucking mainstream ideals and customs.
 
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5

Master and Commander

Patrick O’Brian
 
 

Looking for some action and adventure on the high seas? How about a tale of friendship, sacrifice, and endurance? O’Brian’s popular historical novel offers up these themes in a rousing read that never glamorizes the grit and hardships its characters live through. This is the great, epic naval novel that set the standard for all naval fiction to follow (including ‘star Trek.)

 
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4

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Michael Chabon
 
 

Chabon is a great modern American writer who mixes several different literary influences, as well as historical facts and fiction and personal experiences, into his work, including this, his Pulitzer Prize winner released in 2001. ‘Kavalier & Clay’ takes place before, during and following World War II and follows two Jewish cousins who become influential figures in the comics industry. It’s a book about passion, which is sure to inspire you to do what you’re passionate about.

 
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3

Nausea

Jean-Paul Sartre
 
 

Sometimes making sense of the sadness is something we all need, and Sartre’s Nobel Prize winning examination of existential crisis is a deep and relatable read for anyone who has ever come of age and thought, “Is this it?” Sartre claims this to be the best of his works, and we tend to agree. It’s also the most powerful and universally relevant.

 
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2

Preacher

Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
 
 

Comic books are art. I don’t think we need to defend that statement anymore, do we? Ennis and Dillon’s ‘Preacher’ is one of the most artistically relevant and ambitious comic book series to ever hit the shelves. This must-read collection cautions against blind faith and encourages an analytical mind that asks questions and challenges toe dark side of the mainstream. Plus it’s loaded with dark humor, heart, and fantastical action scenes no big budget movie could faithfully recreate.

 
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1

Tropic of Cancer

Henry Miller
 
 

Miller’s classic is known for its candid examination of sexuality, which got it banned after its first printing in 1934. Later, when it arrived on American shores in the 1960s, its publication kicked off a wave of trials and public arguments that challenged obscenity and pornography laws. Some view Tropic of Cancer as highbrow porn, and some see it as a bold, important and deeply complex work of art that helped pioneer a fearless writing style and opened up the minds of an entire culture to a new era of deep expression and activity.

 

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