10 Books Every Modern Gentleman Should Read

Posted on March 17, 2011 by forgetfulgentleman | 0 Comments

By Brett Nicol

Quickly think of the man you most admire…go on, picture him in your mind. If you are reading this article, chances are the gentleman that you imagined is cultured, educated, thoughtful, and sophisticated. Chances also are that this gentleman didn’t get those traits from watching tv or playing video games. Books are a central conduit through which these admirable traits are developed, which is why we, the original forgetful gentlemen, have assembled this list of “must read books” to help you on your quest of becoming a modern gentleman in today’s busy, digital world.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

In our opinion, the best book ever written. You will not want to put this book down even at 1,400+ pages. You’ll see the best and worst sides of a brilliant, cunning man. From rags to riches and back again, it’ll leave you wanting another 1,000 pages.

Gentleman ranking: 7

Manliness ranking: 10 (it’ll put hair on your chest)

On Amazon

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

Perhaps the best war book written this generation, you’ll journey into Iraq with the 2-16 Battalion. It’s an emotional roller coaster that’ll leave you asking big bold questions about our country, our citizens and our soldiers. Most importantly, you’ll get an inside glimpse of what our soldiers go through on a day to day basis. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, and you may punch a new hole in the wall. How the soldiers can return to a normal life afterward shows how incredible these men are.

Gentleman ranking: 5

Manliness ranking: 10

On Amazon

Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger

Unlike the TV show bearing its name, you won’t find Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins or Lyla Garrity (although we’re glad she’s in the TV show!) in this book. Rather, you’ll find a story that is part documentary and part social commentary in what has, over time, become one of the best coming of age stories of the last thirty years. It will make any man appreciate the mystique, curiosity, and nostalgia of high school sports, as well as the absurdity of Texas high school football.

Gentleman ranking: 3

Manliness ranking: 6

On Amazon

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

If real men never ask for directions, they certainly don’t read self-help books… unless they are as cleverly disguised as Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”. It is a book that will make you analyze your instinctive reactions and split-second decisions. It’ll make you think twice about how you think and process information. What you’ll learn is that many “hunches” or “spine-tingles” can be more accurate than months of research when they come from qualified sources… and what man doesn’t want his hunches to prove correct?

Gentleman ranking: 6

Manliness ranking: 2

On Amazon

John Adams by David McCullough

Now immortalized by the HBO mini-series, this book is historical literature at its finest. McCullough provides incredible perspective into an oft-overshadowed political figure who was every bit the equal of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. In fact, a gentleman can learn a lot from Mr. Adams for, unlike his pal, Mr. Jefferson (slave owner, womanizer, hedonist and, ultimately, mega-debtor), Mr. Adams was NOT conflicted. It is a story of intelligence, passion, romance, adventure and patriotism, and more than anything it is the story of a real man. He was a gentleman of the first order.

Gentleman ranking: 10

Manliness ranking: 7

On Amazon

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The book alternates chapters between the magnificent architecture and politics of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the villainous scheming and murdering of H.H. Holmes in the “Murder Castle.” It was a formative and often over-looked period in America’s history, when newly built sky scrapers sat in the backdrop of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, when heavy industrialists brought rise to our first environmentalists, and America, spurred by innovations such as PBR and the Ferris Wheel, began its rise as a world power. Erik Larson’s page-turner is a historical murder mystery that is all the more captivating because it’s a work of non-fiction.

Gentleman ranking: 5

Manliness ranking: 7

On Amazon

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

With a critically-acclaimed movie, multiple books and a Congressional hearing, we all know the story of Pat Tillman as someone who turned down millions of dollars in the NFL to serve his country in Afghanistan. What makes Krakauer’s account so compelling is that it goes inside the complicated, emotionally charged and sometimes contradictory forces of patriotism, honor, intellectual curiosity and justice that drove Pat Tillman.

Here is one of my favorite passages of all time:

The concept of the Ubermensch is an exemplary, transcendent figure. The Ubermensch is virtuous, loyal, ambitious and outspoken, disdainful of religious dogma and suspicious of received wisdom, intensely engaged in the hurly-burly of the real world. Above all he is passionate – a connoisseur of both “the highest joys” and “the deepest sorrows.” He believes in the moral imperative to defend (with his life, if necessary) ideals such as truth, beauty, honor, and justice. He is self-assured. He is a risk taker. He regards suffering as salutary, and scorns the path of least resistance.”

In today’s world of uncertainty and ambiguity, this is a must-read book.

Gentleman ranking: 8

Manliness ranking: 9

On Amazon

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Few book quotes or titles have penetrated the common vernacular like the phrase ‘Catch-22’, and few books have managed to dance the tightrope of satire, philosophical rambling and comedy quite like Joseph Heller’s masterpiece. If you like to think and laugh at the same time, you are a man who will love ‘Catch-22’.

Gentleman ranking: 3

Manliness ranking: 3

On Amazon

The Bourne Identity (Trilogy) by Robert Ludlum

The character that reached James Bond-level status in today’s generation is even more compelling in Robert Ludlum’s trilogy. Is Jason Bourne an ethical patriot or international menace? With a deeper plot, more compelling characters, and smoother story telling than the movies could ever offer (even if they were still bad ass!), the books are must-read.

Gentleman ranking: 6

Manliness ranking: 10

On Amazon

The Odyssey by Homer

The epic journey is a theme close to the essence of manhood, and there is no journey more epic or wrought with trials, revenge, destitution and perseverance than Odysseus’ galumph across the ancient Mediterranean.

Gentleman ranking: 7

Manliness ranking: 8

On Amazon

On Project Gutenberg

Honorable Mention

The following books didn’t make the cut into the top 10, but every modern gentleman should read these as well:

History: Flyboys, Founding Fathers, Confederates in the Attic, Genghis Khan: And the Making of the Modern World, 1421: The Year China Discovered America, The Killer Angels

Politics/Philosophy: Game Change, The Rights of Man, Walden, The Abolition of Man, The Art of War

Self-Improvement: How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Richest Man in Babylon, Emily Post Etiquette Guide, Linchpin, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

American Literature: Catcher in the Rye, Great Gatsby, Atlas Shrugged, The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, The Stand

Classics: 1984, Les Miserable, The Brothers Karamazov, A Tale of Two Cities

Spirituality: Mere Christianity, The Elegant Universe

Sports/Adventure: My Losing Season, When Pride Still Mattered: Vince Lombardi, The Book of Basketball, Into Thin Air, Into the Wile

Science Fiction: Starship Troopers, The Lord of the Rings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Series), Ender’s Game

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