30 Books Every Man Needs to Read Before Turning 30

A man’s twenties ain’t what they used to be. What was once the age where a boy became a man, has now been relegated to a purgatorial state of growth and “finding one’s Self”, crossed with partying and incurring the debt that such partying brings, or the debt that school now dumps onto the shoulders of a guy who, in previous generations, would be a few years into the workforce. Instead of having a family, which was once the norm, we’re moving towards a selfish existence that may finally end in our thirties, possibly even our forties.

A man’s twenties ain’t what they used to be. But we’re different are we not? When most gravitate toward ease, we seek the strenuous life. As our friends and peers in this pussified society crave for instant gratification, we delay it. I love the drink, the nights spent with pals and booze, laughs and mistakes. But I also see the need to bring back this early evolution in life that occurred in our grandparent’s generation, the WWII generation.

It was a time where men were forced, through terrible circumstance, to mature immediately. Even if they didn’t go to war, many of them had families at or before their 20’s. One of my grandfathers worked three jobs to support his family. He built his home with his own two hands and had done so with 3 kids by the time he was the age I’m at now, while I, hustling at my job, trying to secure my place in this world, have accomplished neither.

My other grandfather did fight in the war on the side of the Italians. He fought in a special regimen called the Alpini, or the mountain troops of the Italian army –  a special forces of sorts. He fought in Siberia, having to kill his frost-bitten best friend to save him from further suffering. He had five kids by the time he was my age, having moved them from Italy to Canada, working in a steel mill, doing all he could to not only support himself, but those who depended on him.

What of my “toughening” and growth? I’m in no rush to start a family, I’ll patiently wait for the right lady to start that adventure. Society is making it easier for me to be a boy for a longer amount of time. Sure, the economy isn’t great, but it was worse in the Depression. Back then, however, you were forced to fend for yourself, today, we’re given every bit of financial and emotional support we can receive.

The problem is that this “support” is to our detriment. It weakens us. It makes us dependent. It doesn’t in any way strengthen us or prepare us to take care of families of our own. So while society is easier on us, we MUST be harder on ourselves.

Do all you can to grow up. Push yourself. Risk. Face your fears. And, above all else, read these 30 books before you reach the age of 30. They’ll help you become a man. A real man. Not the domesticated, pussified child that society says it’s okay to be.

In NO SPECIFIC ORDER…

30 Books Men Need to Read Before Hitting 30

self relianceSelf-Reliance. Emerson.

We have a dependent society. What we need is an independent one filled with people who can take care of themselves, who want to take care of themselves rather than looking to others to lift them up, hold them, coddle, and sustain them.

Emerson saw the importance of self-reliance to a society, but also on a personal level. It’s difficult to respect yourself or to have confidence if you’re not a self-reliant man. This book offers great insights into how a man can become self-reliant, and what he needs to do to get there.

grow richThink and Grow Rich. Napoleon Hill.

Mental toughness is something all men need. We need to be able to see the good in situations rather than complaining about the bad. We also need to understand what it takes to succeed. Napoleon Hill’s classic gives you that. It’s one of the best, most impactful books I’ve read to date.

Read it with an open mind. Do all of the exercises the author lays out for you. Learn, but also implement. It’s an incredible book that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

You’ll discover how to take control of your own thoughts, leading not only to greater productivity, more work done, and better work done, but much more happiness in your day-to-day. This was the first “self-help book”, and the best.

man's searchMan’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl.

Most of what we do on this planet is in the search for meaning. We want to know why we’re here, what the point of life is, and how to feel alive. Freudian psychology looks to our dreams for meaning. It’s goal is to decipher our innermost desires to come up with a map explaining what we truly want in life.

What does it do for our actual lives? What meaning does it give other than to attempt to explain a root cause for our sorrow or depression? Nothing. I see where it’s effective, but I don’t see its value. Frankl, on the other hand, in his brilliant book and psychological approach, helps you to find the meaning in your suffering – and it always exists, you just have to discover it.

We all suffer in life. The thing we must realize is that suffering is a vital part of life. This book is a must read. It’ll change the way you look at the world, it’s problems, and those sufferings and sorrows in your own life. A man can carry the world on his shoulders, this book will help you gain that strength.

rise of theodore rooseveltThe Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Edmund Morris.

When you think about manly qualities, things like assertiveness, purposefulness in action, and courage come to mind. Theodore Roosevelt is a man every guy needs to study because he personifies each of these characteristics. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Mr. Morris delves so deep into the actions and thoughts of TR that you’re brought into the mind of this great man.

You see how he developed these characteristics, that were not at all innate to him, and become one of the greatest men in our history. It’s a long book, but it’s well worth the read, and it must be read before you hit 30.

Try and accomplish even 1, 18th of what TR accomplished by 28 years of age in your first 30 years, and you’ll be able to hold your head high and count yourself amongst the successful men who’ve truly lived. This book is a great roadmap to living a strong, courageous, adventurous, and honorable life.

hero with a thousand facesThe Hero With a Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell.

If you look back through history, whether it’s fiction or non, every hero has a few, similar characteristics that exist within his journey. Whether that hero is Jesus or William Wallace, Alexander the Great or Robert E. Lee, there’s a common structure to their journey that seemingly has to exist.

You’re on a heroes journey, whether you know it or not. It’s important, however, to be aware of the signs, or the roads to take and the ones to avoid, if you’re going to see this epic destiny come to fruition. The Hero with a Thousand Faces takes you through the heroes journey. It’s a book that every guy needs to read, and read while he’s young enough to avoid missing the forks in the road that will lead him to his place in the sun.

theodore rexTheodore Rex. Edmund Morris.

Where the Rise talks about his development as a man, Rex delves into his character as a man, and how he made some of the toughest decisions of his life. It also deals with how a man can forge a lasting legacy doing the right thing, never backing down, and always moving forward.

Studying TR has been an enlightening pleasure, just as it’s been the same in studying our next manly archetype.

What you need to understand as a man, is that no one owes you anything, not a living, not a roof over your head, and envying those who have what you want, is a cowardly approach to life. Roosevelt’s approach to life, where a man must pick himself up by his bootstraps is the way of the man. The self-reliant man that Emerson also speaks of in Self-Reliance.

robert e lee on leadershipRobert E. Lee on Leadership. H.W. Crocker III.

There’s no general, or man, that the western world has produced, that’s held in as high regard as Lee is, both by his enemies and his friends alike. Principles are what makes a man’s foundation. It’s adhering to and standing by said principles that determines the kind of man he’s going to be. Lee was one of the few men in history who had a very clear vision of what was right, and always took those right actions.

Of course he was a military genius, a guy who did more with a small, under-funded army than possibly any man in history, but it’s who he is, that you, a guy still shaping your own identity needs to read about. In this book you’ll discover the true ways of a leader. It’s a must read.

wild at heartWild at Heart. John Eldredge.

As kids, the difference between boys and girls are evident. Boys like fire trucks, cap guns, and playing war, while girls gravitate toward dolls and the like. What’s crazy is that I feel even a bit guilty saying this. Society has crushed these differences, Eldridge highlights them and praises them.

It’s important that, as a man, you understand not only what a man is, but how to raise a man, not a boy. It’s important that your wife understands this as well.

If you want to re-connect with your masculine side, or further develop it, you need to read this wonderful, powerful book.

A few of the main points:

  • Men are made for adventure. We need it in our lives. It’s who we are. We’re explorers, conquerors, and kings.
  • Danger is a good thing. Men thrive in dangerous situations.
  • Men are protectors. For thousands of years men have been protecting their tribes from the wild beasts that roamed the panes, and from other men.

great by choiceGreat by Choice. Jim Collins.

This is an interesting book about what it really takes to succeed in the world of business, big and small. The answers may surprise you.

It’s an inspiring book in the fact that each of us has the capacity to make massive companies and create incredible legacies because we all have the ability to persist. It’s that steady work ethic and reluctance to quit, ever, that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

If you want to get into business of any kind, this is an important read.

turning proTurning Pro. Steven Pressfield.

There’s the pro, and there’s the amateur. Most walk through life as an amateur. The few, the professionals do what’s necessary. They work everyday. They show up. They’re, well, professional.

Pressfield’s book, along with his others on this list, are vital to a man. They’re short reads, and each of them should be read multiple times. It’s his battle that he brings the reader into with great detail and open, honest arms, that comforts and shows the aspiring artist, warrior, Legend, that he’s not along in his struggles. That there is a community of others that share his fears and his worries.

Must read.

biblethe Bible.

The more I read the best selling book of all time, for all time, I realize that this isn’t a book that should only be read by people of this faith, but by all of humanity. If you don’t believe in God, or that Jesus God’s son, this is still an incredibly powerful book. The book of Proverbs will teach you how to be a man maybe better than any other book. And it’s hard core. It’s not some pussy-footing walking in the park read. It cuts to the core of life, and it’s most profound question – why am I here?

Read the entire book like it should be read, as a story. Read about warriors like Samson, David, and Jesus. Definitely read Proverbs. It’s your step by step guide to manhood more than any other book on this list. Become the warrior and the man you’re meant to be. Read the Bible.

warrior ethosThe Warrior Ethos. Steven Pressfield.

Every man is a warrior. He at least has that innate ability somewhere deep down in his soul, yearning to be set free. Wild at Heart will help in this quest to release your inner warrior, and as will this fine piece of work from Mr. Pressfield.

In the Warrior Ethos, Pressfield looks at warrior cultures ranging from the Spartans to the Marines  to determine what the code of the warrior is. What do they live by? What guides their actions and what must one have to be a warrior?

It’s a fascinating book and a read for any guy wanting to make the most out of life and understand just what being a warrior entails.

the dipThe Dip. Seth Godin.

There are a lot of Godin’s books that could have made the list. This one did, however, not because of any unique trick or idea, but because of his take on the characteristic of persistence. Godin’s persistence is highlighted by the start of any adventure, be it the start of a new business, or a trip, or a new diet, or way of life.

In all of these adventures we rise to an initial, seemingly easy success. We think everything is going to be smooth sailing from therein. But it isn’t. That initial success is always followed by a dip that can last for a long time. It’s those who break through this dip that will see their initial vision come to fruition, or not.

It’s a unique book. One that can be read in a day or two. But it’s well worth the read.

the way of the superior manThe Way of the Superior Man. David Deida.

I don’t especially understand women. I never understood how we could have an argument, find a resolution, and they’re still mad. Or have an argument and it seems like we’re talking about two completely separate issues.

The Way of the Superior Man explains women better than any other book I’ve read. It also explains what makes a man, a man, from an emotional standpoint. It’s a very interesting, eye-opening book that talks about stuff that isn’t really talked about all that much.

war of artThe War of Art. Steven Pressfield.

If you’re on a mission of any kind, every day you’re in a battle. The War or Art, along with Turning Pro, highlights this battle as well as any book around. Pressfield’s Resistance personifies anything that’s preventing you from doing your work. Be it fear or laziness or envy.

A man on any kind of a mission, in business, the arts, sports, whatever, needs to read this book to understand the demons that he’s going to face in a journey that may never end, and he must be prepared for that fat.

rise and fall of napoleon bonaparteThe Rise and Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. David Asprey.

Napoleon is possibly the greatest success story in the history of humanity. To go from a boy born into poverty, in a time when military position was more of a birthright than something earned, and to become the most powerful man in the world, is absolutely incredible. It’s how he did it, that is just as astounding.

The lessons you’ll learn in studying this great figure in history, will lay out your own map for success. One of the greatest lessons you’ll learn in the book is in studying Napoleon’s thirdt for knowledge.

While other partied, he read. Books were not only his best friend, but his constant companion.

paddle your own canoePaddle Your Own Canoe. Nick Offerman.

Read this because it’s funny, and it makes some great points about the lack of self-reliance seen in the modern man. Offerman doesn’t think like I think. He has dramatically opposing views, but many of the same as well.

For me, at least, it was important to read the other side of a few issues, to gain another perspective, and Offerman says everything with his great sense of humor, impressive vocabulary, and constant dry whit.

The is a breath of fresh air to the weighty books we’ve already mentioned. It’ll make you think and laugh, which is a nice combination in a book.

think your way to wealthThink Your Way to Wealth. Napoleon Hill.

Andrew Carnegie was one of the most successful businessmen of all time. Yet he didn’t start from wealth. And this is important. Contrary to the growing popular belief that wealth must be something you’re born into, this isn’t at all true. Today, 70% of the world’s billionaires are self-made. Back then, in Carnegie’s time, it was even harder to be self made.

His lessons are valuable. You need to read this book if you’re to understand the incredibly power you possess, but also to understand how to bring about your own wealth – however you define that.

engineering the alphaEngineering the Alpha. Romaniello & Bornstein. 

Testosterone is the most important hormone involved in making men perform efficiently. This book, however, goes deeper into your own hero’s journey, giving you the dietary, training, and manly wisdom you need to bring about your own best life.

Diet is incredibly important into your effectiveness as a man, as is training. You need to be physically strong and durable if you’re going to be at your best. Sure, emotional and mental strength are vital, but as is your health and your strength. Read this book and discover how to become the best man you can possibly become.

art of non-conformityThe Art of Non-Conformity. Chris Guillebeau.

It’s those who do things a little different, who break the conformity of society and forge their own path, that live the happy, purposeful life they want to live. This book was something that I had to read to kick my business and my life to the next level.

If you want to live life on your own terms, read this book. And yes, that’s a desire that every man should have. It opened my eyes to things that have changed my world, allowed me to travel, build a business, and enjoy life. It’s an incredible guide to living life on your own terms.

education of millionairesThe Education of Millionaires. Michael Ellsberg.

In my own life thus far, my greatest education has come from the real world of business. While school was important, it wasn’t as important, nor as memorable, as lessons I learned in sales before I started my own business, nor as important as the barrage of lessons I’ve learn since starting my own gig.

This book highlights how some of the world’s unconventional millionaire’s got their most valuable education not from school, that’s becoming even more expensive, but in the real world. It also makes the argue that school isn’t the best investment you can make in your future.

Read this before you’re 30, actually, before you’re 20. It’ll provide a different narrative than the one you’ve been told was “the way things are done” up to this point in your life.

stop worrying and start livingHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Dale Carnegie.

Worry is toxic. It kills life. If you’re constantly worrying you’re not living. It’s as simple as that. Carnegie’s book gives you countless examples and practices that you can implement in your own life to stop worrying and start living.

Every person needs to read this. In reading it you’ll slowly understand that not only is worry completely useless, but it’s something you can remove from your life, making your life better in the process.

A leader has to be cognizant of the dangers that can occur. He must weight the good and the bad and figure out the best approach to a situation. Worry, however, clouds his judgement and it doesn’t him no good.

greatness guideThe Greatness Guide. Robin Sharma.

Robin’s book was one of those books that had an immediate impact on my habits and what I did on a daily basis.

Success, greatness, or happiness, whatever you want to call it, isn’t an act, but a habit. Our habits are who we are and what we’re going to be, accomplish, and do with our lives. Robin will give you the habits that you need on a daily basis to be great.

Tip: Read a chapter a day. Let it resonate. This is a book you could read in one sitting, but it doesn’t have to be. Absorb everything. Live it.

cinderella manCinderella Man. Jeremy Schaap.

The story of James J. Braddock is one of the greatest comeback stories in history. It’s a story that isn’t just about a boxing legend, but of a man, a real man, and one of the best archetypes we have for what it means to be a man in both times of plenty, and some of the toughest times a man can face, with his family starving, no money to be made, his strength was constant.

The lessons you’ll learn in this book are endless and incredibly valuable. The movie was a great movie, but the book is, as it tends to be, even better. Learn how to be a man by learning about James J. Braddock.

teddy atlasAtlas. Teddy Atlas.

Teddy Atlas is a badass. Every guy wants to be a badass. So why not read about one from the horses mouth?

It’s a book packed with some of the most entertaining stories I’ve read. This guy’s lived a life. It’s a book that’ll bring into the world of boxing, giving you unique perspectives into some of the sports greatest fighters, fights, and trainers.

Note: One of the best lessons, oddly enough, that I learned from this book is to always punch first. If you think you’re going to get in a tussle, even if it’s against 4 or 5 other guys, land that first blow, and punch the leader of the group you’re about to go to blows with. Never wait for the first punch to be thrown.

gloryWhere Men Win Glory. Jon Krakauer.

Pat Tillman was what you’d call an honorable man. Maybe the definition of one. Guys just don’t exist like this anymore, which makes his eventual death all the more saddening.

Read this book. Buy this book. This man’s memory needs to be kept alive. It needs to breathe in the actions of men who carry on his likeness, his courage, and honor.

Where men win glory, it’s the perfect title for a desire that all men have. Win glory. Become a legend. Learn about a man amongst men.

the way of menThe Way of Men. Jack Donovan.

To know how to become a man, it helps to understand where men were supposed to fit in the inner workings of human interaction. These massive “tribes” that we live in now are far bigger than how we lived for millions of years. The manly virtues and values that once brought men to greatness are now being lost, forgotten, and even condemned as a result.

Mr. London explains men’s place in this world. It’s an important read. Men aren’t men anymore. Do they exist? Of course. But the foundations that taught men how to be men are being lost and outlawed.

If you’re to bring back manliness, you need to realize what aspects of society are rooting it out and destroying it. It’s an important book for men to not only create their own masterpiece existence, but to benefit the rest of society as well.

the way of the wild heartThe Way of the Wild Heart. John Eldredge.

Eldridge builds on Wild at Heart, in the Way of the Wild Heart. If the first book sets the stage, this book brings you the action steps necessary to bring back your wild heart. And you do have one. Somewhere lost in that domesticated, emasculated persona, is a wild, badass, warrior just dying to be let loose.

Let him free. Read this incredibly book before you reach thirty and avoid entering your thirties as a timid soul. That’s no way for a man to live.

If you’ve ever seen a lion in the wild, then another in the zoo, you’ll understand the profound difference between the two. They may have all the same physical pieces, but one has its true soul, the other’s is lost.

That lost, caged soul is most men in today’s society. But it shouldn’t be.

mastering the rockerfeller habitsMastering the Rockefeller Habits. Verne Harnish.

A man takes care of business. This book will help you take care of, and grow your business. Habits are everything in this life. If our days are dominated by good habits, we’ll live a good life. If our days are dominated by weak habits, we’ll live a small life.

Know what habits are necessary in helping you see your business grow and evolve as you’d dream it would.

bounceBounce. Matthew Syed.

There are 3 books that at least in some way cover the myth of talent: Said’s book, Outliers by Gladwell, and Talent is Overrated. Read all of them. They cover the topic from varying perspectives and angles. Said’s is unique in that at one point he was considered a prodigy in his own right.

He goes back and looks at prodigies of the past to uncover that non of them, not even those whiz kids decoding math problems well beyond their years. Each of them had to, first, put in their 10,000 hours of purposeful and effective practice.

This goes back to the fundamental understand that, as a man, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to and are willing to work and persist in a never-ending mission to achieve it.

Inspiring, yes. Lights a fire under your ass? It will if you’re the kind of guy who isn’t afraid of a little hard work.

Wisdom.

The more I live on this fine planet, the more I realize that wisdom isn’t necessarily contingent on age. You’d think that with age you’d become a wiser person, but that isn’t always true, and for some reason that’s especially the fact today. With our 40 year-old Yoga Nazi’s stuck in a world where they’re constantly trying to find themselves, few people have.

A wise man should know that you don’t find yourself, you create yourself. You take the reigns of your life into your own hands, and you create the path you want.

Wisdom can be attained earlier as well. It’s wisdom that men need to live their best lives. Each of these books will help you attain the wisdom you need to create a lasting legacy, and a life that is truly lived. Enjoy.