These days, almost anything passes for literature. Pick up the New York Times Book Review
and its chock-full of postmodern trash posing as “essential reading.” Trust us, it isn’t. Here’s a
list of seven truly essential pieces of literature that every man should read in his lifetime.
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
It is the Spanish Civil War. Robert Jordan is an American soldier deployed to protect the
innocent against a barrage of better-equipped army personnel. There is a bridge to destroy – and
he’s the only man who can do it. He embeds himself amongst a slew of shady characters and
gypsies in the mountains to wait for the perfect time to execute his plan. No book in the 20th
century defines Hemingway’s ideals of stoic bravery, discipline, and the power of sacrifice than
this late-century masterpiece. The ending, not to give anything away, of course, is truly immortal.
This is the definitive Hemingway work.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The ultimate American cautionary tale. Jay Gatsby came from nothing but discovered something
worth even more than money – true love in the arms of Daisy, a childhood sweetheart. Gatsby
does what he needs to do to attain enough status to win Daisy’s over. He assumes a new identity.
This ‘new man’ is extraordinarily wealthy (through less than legitimate means). He’s fit and well
placed in society. He is an example of the rags to riches myth. But in the end, tragedy awaits.
Gatsby is the perfect depiction of its era – the Roaring 20’s with all its glitz and glamour, quickly
followed by a Great Depression.
To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
A remarkable look into childhood, prejudice, and racism in the small, fictitious town of
Maycomb, Alabama. To Kill a Mockingbird is about growing up under extraordinary
circumstances in the 1930s in the Southern United States and part of the brilliance of the novel is
that it’s set through the “child eye view” of Scout herself. The story covers a span of three years,
during which the main characters undergo significant changes. Scout Finch lives with her brother
Jem and their father Atticus, a renowned lawyer and respected man of the community. Atticus
represents a black man named Tom Robinson accused of a very heinous crime. Scout learns to
embrace her father’s examples of sympathy and understanding, demonstrating that despite her
experiences with hatred and prejudice, these events will not sully her faith in the spirit of human
The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck’s bleak but powerful look into the lives of the early settlers in Northern California is a
classic of American literature. The families and workers (particularly through the lens of the
Joad family) are exploited by organized business and duplicitous characters. Steinbeck uses
Christian religious imagery to push forth his passion for human truths. The migrants must learn
to rely on each other and give way to a sense of universal community, a true shift from an emphasis of the “I” to the “we.” Not only an integral book for young adults to exemplify the power of responsibility and family love, but it is a fantastic peak into the historic hardships of the early American settlers on the West Coast and the birth of corporate business.
Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
The perfect allegoric story for young men, but a great read for all ages. The plot is simple: “a
group of young men finds themselves stranded on a deserted island”. At first, the idyllic, natural
playground intoxicates the youth. They build systems of hierarchy based on the most primitive of
ground rules. Soon enough, without the civilizing nature of adults and fair law, the young boys
descend into violence and brutality. This book is a glance into the horrific side of human nature
left to its own devices.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of Guy Montag and his transformation from a book-burning
a fireman to a book-reading rebel. The world of this novel is a fully oppressive one. The
government has seized every level of society as to remove any complexity, contradiction, and
confusion for the people of this world. The citizens are constantly bombarded with
advertisements and shallow entertainment, leaving them no time to think for themselves or
assess their own emotional states. The result is a society that grows selfish, pleasure-seeking,
disconnected, and empty. It is truly one of the greatest dystopian novels ever written in the 20 th
century and a stark warning about the suffocating power of centralized governments.
1984 by George Orwell
The definitive “fiction” example of totalitarianism and fascism. There’s even a great t-shirt out
there that reads: “Make 1984 Fiction Again.” Poor Winston lives in a topsy-turvy world,
constantly monitored by faceless mechanisms, forcing him to a life of complete submission to
the government. Even contradictory thinking can be prosecuted (this is where the buzzword
‘thought crime’ was conceived). He’s slowly drawn into a series of chance meetings with an
alluring but equally downtrodden woman and a mysterious, turncoat bureaucrat. Nothing is what
it seems in the world of 1984. Human beings are reduced to cogs in the machine, worker bees
only to serve the State. Winston tries to escape the regime, but is there actually a way out? This
novel is a thrilling and provocative look into the world of fascism – and how we as a people must
avoid that Fate.