Books You Should Read before…

Posted on 19/02/2011


The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 1

There are the books you read, and then there are the books that change your life. We can all look back on the books that have shaped our perspective on politics, religion, money, living and love. Some will even become a source of inspiration for the rest of your life. From a seemingly infinite list of books of anecdotal or literal merit, I have narrowed down a list of the top 100 books that have shaped the lives of individual men while also helping define broader cultural ideas of what it means to be a man.

Whether it’s a book on adventure, war, or manners, there is so much to learn about life’s great questions from these gems. I’ve divided this Top 100 list into ten weekly Top 10 lists And without further ado, this is today’s initial Top 10 list of The Essential Man’s Library – 10 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. And they come in no particular order.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -this is relevant to every man’s life. Furthermore, one true friend is worth infinitely more than a multitude of acquaintances.

2. 1984 by George Orwell – If you are already worried about the information that your computer is collecting from you, re-read this one and you will feel much better!

3. The Republic by Plato – Since every man can use a fair portion of philosophy in his literary diet, the origin of legitimate western thought might be a good place to start.

4. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith – The fundamental work on free market policies. Want an education in economics? This book is a great start.

5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – This is one of the great examples of how war has shaped men, past and present, and has in part defined the image of a true hero who is courageous even when it has brutal consequences.

6. How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie – Read one chapter a day for the rest of your life. It will make you a far better man than you would ever be without it.

7. The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer – the place of these two epics in the man canon is not I doubt. Roughly based around the events of the Trojan War, these poems are likely a great collection of common Greek folklore.

8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – I read this as a 14-year old. The logic is simple: any book which has the influence to have coined terminology commonly used in our society for decades on end should be perused based solely on principle.

9. Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart – The seminal African novel, which Newsweek ranked at No. 14 on it’s list of Top 100 Books. While you’re at it, add its sequels: No Longer At Ease and The Arrow of God.

10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – considered by most to be the authoritative text on statesmanship and power; essentially, Machiavelli advocates letting the people you lead have their property and women, but making sure that they know what you are capable of doing if they step out of line.

That’s today’s Top 10 list…join us again for the next ten, as we stretch our list to the Top 100 books to read before you attain the age of 40. And if you haven’t read most of them and you’re over 40, hey it’s never to late to start from scratch. I assure you, many of life’s intangibles will be easier explained – and you will become a better man!

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 2
Last week we brought you Part 1 of our Essential Man’s Library: 100 Books You Must read Before You Attain the Age of 40. Today we continue with Part 2 – 10 more books to add to your list.
1. Ulysses by James Joyce. Just buy it and put it on your bookshelf and remember this from the book: “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” I assure you, not everyone who claims to, has actually read Ulysses!
2. The Young Man’s Guide by William A. Alcott. The Young Man’s Guide is a thorough resource, which deals with the formation of character in a young man with regard to the mind, manners, and morals. It also has a good amount of insight on the topics of marriage and business.
3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. One of the most amazing aspects of this masterpiece is that it was written by Dostoevsky as part of his resolve to deal with some serious financial hardships. Take the moral lessons from the characters’ mistakes, don’t model your life after them.
4. The Book of Deeds of Arms and Chivalry by Christine de Pizan. Written in the 15th century this book provides an example of what we can learn about being better men from the perspective of a woman. One quote from this book: “No one is afraid to do what he is confident of having learned well. A small force which is highly trained in the conflicts of war is more apt to victory: a raw and untrained horde is always exposed to slaughter.”
5. The Art of Warfare by Sun Tzu. Written in the 6th Century, this has been one of the most influential texts in strategy and planning, especially emphasizing an ability to adapt to changing circumstances and environments rather than having a rigid plan and staying the course through to disaster:
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”
6. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Considered by many to be the greatest work of fiction, it is a goldmine of quotes surrounding a central theme that could be summed up by “all that glisters is not gold.”
7. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkein. The precursor to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is the foundation of it all, and this passage demonstrates the effect on all men (and dwarves) when faced with the prospect of power. “Their mere fleeting glimpses of treasure which they had caught as they went along had rekindled all the fire of their dwarfish hearts; and when the heart of a dwarf, even the most respectable, is wakened by gold and by jewels, he grows suddenly bold, and he may become fierce.”
8. East of Eden by John Steinbeck, considered by Steinbeck himself to be the work that he had been preparing for throughout his entire life. They called it the book that created Cathy – the most eveil woman in fiction!
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. “Huck Finn” is largely considered to be the first Great American Novel. Twain’s take on the issue of racism and slavery was initially criticized upon publication and remains largely controversial to this day.
10. The Politics by Aristotle. From the man that gave pointers to Alexander the Great we can all take note. His writings created the first comprehensive system of philosophy, including morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics. Though it is thought that much of Aristotle’s work has been lost over the years, it is not a bad idea to take in the surviving words from one of the founding figures of Western Philosophy.
That’s your second batch of ten. We continue, next week. Get reading!

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 3

Let’s continue with our series – Another ten books to add to your list. Remember these books are in no particular order

1. Golden Quotes, by Bola Ige. In 1994 Uncle Bola Ige kept a weekly column in the Tribune on Sunday newspaper during the regime of Sani Abacha. At the end of each column he included a short quote – words of wisdom from various sources over the ages – to lift the spirits of the readers. Bola Ige’s favourite quotations were compiled into a pocket-sized hardcover edition. It’s a must read!

2. First Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook – This is the book that started the Boy Scout movement. If you’re a former Boy Scout, you’ll be amazed at the amount of useful information the first edition manual has compared to Scout manuals today. In addition to teaching essential scouting skills, the first edition of the Boy Scout Handbook also includes stories of adventure and bravery that will excite and inspire any man.

3. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller – For its honest and graphic depiction of sex, this book was deemed “pornographic” by courts in New York upon its publishing in 1961. This ruling however, was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and the book became very influential in the sexual revolution of the 60′s and 70′s.

And add to that…

4. Sex is a Nigger by Naiwu Osahon. To the outside observer, Africa has always been a surprising continent. A new picture of Africa was painted when pan Africanist, the Honourable Mhu Nkhu, Naiwu Osahon wrote Sex is a Nigger in 1971. I read it at the age of 14! It provides great depths of knowledge for any young man discovering the hidden pleasures of sexual interaction.

And since we’re on the subject of the eclectic Mr. Osahon, you better put this on the list too…

5. The End of Knowledge by Naiwu Osahon, which is one of the world’s most important books ever published. The end of knowledge is one book every African must read. It lays bare African scintillating contributions to civilization and corrects the lies fed humans by biased anti-African authors for centuries. The book tackles all of mankind’s puzzles on creation and African Spirituality, It should get you started on the over due journey of self-rediscovery.

6. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer – Taking place in World War II, this is widely considered to be one of the best war novels ever written. You get insight as soldiers deal with various degrees of compassion while fighting to maintain a belief in the capacity of humanity to be good while engaging in the brutality of war and being forced to follow orders against their ideals. One quote seems relevant:

“To make an Army work you have to have every man in it fitted into a fear ladder… The Army functions best when you’re frightened of the man above you, and contemptuous of your subordinates.”

7. The Qu’ran. The Koran is the primary source of every Muslim’s faith and practice, but it deals with all the subjects that concern all human beings: wisdom, beliefs, worship, and law. It also provides guidelines for a just society, proper human relationships and equal divisions of power. There is no reason why a non-muslim would not read the Qu’ran, as it assumes familiarity with major narratives recounted in both Jewish and Christian scriptures, summarizing some, dwelling at length on others, and, in some cases, presenting alternative accounts and interpretations of events. The more you know, the less ignorant you become!

8. Animal Farm by George Orwell – An advanced politics lesson under the guise of a childish farm tale. The allegorical story representing Soviet totalitarianism simplifies social systems to show the endless corruption and manipulation that stems from the struggle for power.

9. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. A book for gentlemen? No, perhaps; but a book for all men? Certainly, Yes! Having been raised by apes gives our protagonist an advantage on the competition when it comes to survival skills. He was a pretty big hit with the ladies as well. Originally published in 1912, Tarzan of the Apes led to 23 sequels and many more depictions of the famous character in various other forms of media, like comics and cartoons.

10. Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche. One of the most remarkable and influential books of the nineteenth century – With his denunciation of philosophers before him as lacking critical thought and mindlessly adhering to Christian tenets, Nietzsche took philosophy beyond religion, thus founding the Existentialist Movement. No matter what your beliefs, it is good to examine why you believe what you believe without fear of what you might discover.

So that’s our next batch of ten.

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 4

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – Ok, let me confess – this was always on my father’s bookshelf, I came across it often and even though I was attracted by the cover artwork – a pair of sailors attacked by a Loch Ness monster type of sea animal – I never quite got myself to open it. I guess some books just look good on the bookshelf!

2. Essential Manners For Men by Peter Post – Lay to rest all situational conundrums you encounter in daily life. From hosting guests to appropriate behaviour at social events, Post’s pointers enable a gentleman to deal with any difficult scenario with confidence and poise.

3. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly – I’m sure you’ve watched the movie a dozen times and you know all about the story, but have you really ever read it? And don’t forget the lesson – just remember that the cost of the convenience of having your clone or some other cyborg cleaning your house and picking up the dry cleaning might be the life of your brother, your wife, or your friend. Just have kids and tell them to clean your house, and love them so that they don’t act like the monster.

4. Hamlet – William Shakespeare – there’s no way that this list wouldn’t include more than one of Shakespeare’s plays, and it’s only right that the first on our list is the longest, Hamlet. It explores the depths of man’s desire for revenge. 400 years after it was written, it is still powerful enough to make us root for Hamlet to avenge his father’s death, even as some superior morality might call for mercy. If I were you, I’d add my other two Shakespearean plays to the list: King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, or, heck, why don’t you just get the man’s entire collection!

5. A Separate Peace by John Knowles – A classic coming-of-age story about two boys, set around the time of the Second World War. Dealing with one of the boy’s jealousy of another, and the tragic accident resulting from it, the novel mourns and reflects on the specific moment when all innocence is lost. After all, a boy cannot go on thinking life is about ice cream and toy cars forever.

6. A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway – Written from the perspective of Lieutenant “Tenente” Frederic Henry it is a novel of epic manly proportions, of war, and love and fratricide, and childbirth, and denial, and death, and mourning. All men go through that.

7. The Stranger by Albert Camus – Perhaps the most popular piece of 20th century “existential” literature. The Stranger addresses murder and remorse (or lack thereof) , God and atheism, destiny and justice, and consequently, indifference. You thought I’d have no Frenchman on my list, right?

8. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe deals with mastery and morality. It addresses the ability of mankind to master his surroundings through hard work, and patience and faith, which eventually enable him to survive on an
unknown island and able to cope with the difficult terrain, less-than-friendly natives and basically every wicked trial that comes his way. The morality addressed is the protagonist’s rejection of his father’s advice to accept the happiness of the middle class life from which he was born. Against these wishes, he runs off to sea to find adventure. It is not until Crusoe literally recreates a primitive approximation of that middle class life for himself on his island that he is freed.

9. The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiongo – It tells the story that has been at the root of instability in many newly-independent African nations, that of religion versus traditionalism. Set as the Settler and Church broke up the tribes of Kenya, it provides various insights as both the Christians and the traditionalists try to bridge gaps. If you are stuck on Ngugi, as you most likely will, add these to your list: Weep Not Child, A Grain of Wheat and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. Born James Ngugi, Ngugi subsequently renounced English, Christianity, and the name James Ngugi as colonialist; he changed his name to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and began to write in his native Gĩkũyũ and Swahili.

10. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – Stevenson’s creation of Treasure Island has forever changed our view of the pirate world. His secret maps marked with an ‘X’ and hidden gold have enchanted readers for over a century.

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 5

1. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard – In this book Kierkegard creates a case study from the famous bible story (Genesis 22) from when Abraham is famously commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Kierkegaard uses the story as an opportunity to question the philosophy of religion, the relationship between philosophy and religion, the nature of God and faith, faith’s relationship with ethics and morality, and the difficulty of being authentically religious. It is manly to ask questions about the bigger things – there is more to life than sports.

2. Paradise Lost by John Milton – a timeless hard-to-read classic. Its imagery has shaped how the Western world views Christianity, sin, the fall, life, death, heaven, and hell. Unlike many of his predecessors, Milton concentrated on more humanist elements. Reading Milton might or might not change your view of God and man, but absorbing him will change your love of language. The words are vivid and powerful and beg to be read aloud.

3. Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton – South African author Alan Paton writes about the protagonist is Stephen Kumalo, a black Anglican priest from a rural Natal town, who is searching for his son Absalom in the city of Johannesburg. Cry, the Beloved Country is a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to apartheid. Another prevalent theme is the detrimental effects of fear on the characters and society of South Africa. Two cinema adaptations of the book have been made, the first in 1951 and the second in 1995.

4. American Boys Handy Book – Written in 1890, the American Boys Handy Book is filled with different activities a boy can do during each season. Activities include kite making, how to make to make blow guns, and bird watching. This book is an excellent resource for dads who want to provide their sons entertainment that doesn’t involve video games.

5. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – This book details the author’s fateful ascent up Mt. Everest in which eight other climbers were killed in a storm. Perhaps the most inspiring story is that of one climber who was left for dead, but awakened 12 hours after being abandoned and hiked back to camp in sub-zero weather. This man is an example to all men that when the will of survival is strong enough, a man can overcome any obstacle.

6. King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard – The author wrote King Solomon’s Mines specifically for boys. The story follows English explorers who penetrate the deepest part of Africa to find the treasure of King Solomon. A great book to read with your son at bedtime. You’ll both be entertained and instill in your son a sense of manly adventure.

7. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Our protagonist here, Myshkin, is an example of a selfless love, moving to marry a woman to save her from falling into the arms of Rogozhin, who represents darkness. Remind any of you good ol’ boys of that girl in high school who kept running back to the man who didn’t deserve her affections? Well, in this case, the girl runs back to Rogozhin, who, in spite of and perhaps because of his deep passion, rewarded her by…killing her. Myshkin is considered the “idiot” because of his innocence and trust in the best of humanity as it could be, and in the end, his optimism and love for humanity are his undoing in the face of a dark, materialistic society. The lesson: don’t marry a woman to save her from another man…although, come to think of the end of Super Mario Bros…

8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X is quite possibly one of the most controversial public figures from the Civil Rights Movement. His autobiography shows what a complex individual Malcolm X was. We see his transformation from ignorance and despair to knowledge and spiritual awakening. His emphasis on the principal of self-reliance and taking a stand for your rights resonates with every man. Here’s one quote you can take from the book:

“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.”

9. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – The ultimate tale of betrayal and revenge, and perhaps one of the best stories of all time. Edmund Dantes, who shortly after being promoted to captain of his ship, and just days before his marriage to his beloved fiance Mercedes, is brutally betrayed by those he trusts, arrested for treason and consequently taken to a prison on an island off the French coast. The story goes on to tell of his life after escape from prison, his finding the greatest treasure in all the world, and re-entering the society as a wealthy, educated and sophisticated Count. He plots his revenge, which he ultimately denies himself when forced to decide between it and his love for his Mercedes. Through this choice his justice is ultimately served. It is a great novel that you most likely won’t be able to put down until you have it finished, even if you have already seen the movie.

10. All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – A classic war novel that depicts how war can destroy a man. The book begins with young, idealistic German men, going of to fight in WWI believing their cause is just. After experiencing the horrors of trench warfare and shell shock these young men leave the war disillusioned and numb. A quote:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 6

1. Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by Plutarch – If you wish to be a great man, you must learn from great men. One of the best ways to do that is through reading the biographies of great men. Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans lets us into the lives of some of histories greatest men. From these writings we learn the importance that a man’s character can have on influencing the world around him. His biography on Alexander the Great is especially inspiring.

2. The Holy Bible – The Bible – Of course any list will be incomplete without The book! If a man desires to understand the culture that surrounds him, he needs to have a thorough understanding of the Book that has shaped that culture. In addition, the Bible is full of ancient counsel and advice that is applicable to today’s man, whether you’re a believer in God or not. I think one great book for young men specifically inside the Bible is Proverbs. It’s filled with some incredible wisdom and advice for everyday living.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Atticus Finch embodies all the traits that a noble man should have. Atticus teaches us to fight for what’s , even when everyone else around you thinks you’re wrong. He teaches his children to never judge a man until you’ve walked in their shoes; that we should recognize that people have both good and bad qualities, but focus on the good more.

“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

4. The Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn and Hal Igguiden – This is a great book if you have a son. It’s filled with activities and skills that all boys should know. Even if you don’t have a son, you’ll spend hours flipping through the pages reminiscing about summer days as a boy. You might also learn a few things, too. Subjects include the histories of famous battles and how to make a bow and arrow.

5. The Histories by Herodotus – If we don’t learn from the past, we’re doomed to repeat it. The Histories by Herodetus is considered the first work of history in Western literature. The Founding Fathers looked to Herodetus’ histories to learn from the mistakes that the ancient Greeks made with democracy. From the histories we get the best description of the Battle of Marathon. Despite being thousands of years old, many of the problems that ancient Greeks faced, we still face today.

6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig – This could be one of the most widely read book on philosophy. The book is set as a cross-country motorcycle trip by a father and son. The book focuses on the importance of quality in a culture obsessed with quantity.

7. Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson – Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of America’s greatest philosophers. In his essay, Self Reliance, Emerson stressed the importance of individualism and the importance of living by your conscious. A man should not conform or live a life of false consistency. They should march to the beat of their own drummer. He went on:

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

8. Ake: The Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka – Wole Soyinka’s account of his early childhood is enchanting. He writes with his adult voice, but maintains the child’s perspective and understanding throughout, the one exception a nostalgic contrasting of street-fronts then and now. Events are not always joyful – most obviously the harsh treatment of a mentally ill woman and the death of a sibling – but Aké is ebullient, full of the excitement of new discoveries and opportunities, a celebration of the wonder of childhood. While you’re reading this, it might be a good idea to pick up some of Soyinka’s other books and plays: Kongi’s Harvest, Death and the King’s Horseman and You Must Set Forth at Dawn.

9. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela – Mandela’s epic autobiography is an inspirational account of his turbulent life. Admist the dark passages of South African history the book reveals a profound humanity and often good sense of humour. Two enduring quotations from the book should empower:

“A Man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred”

“Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is above all a test of one’s commitment.”

10. Mahatma Gandhi: The Heart of Life by Sri Chimnoy – Mohandas K. Gandhi studied law in England, then spent 20 years defending the rights of immigrants in South Africa. In 1914 he returned to India and became the leader of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi urged non-violence and civil disobedience as a means to independence from Great Britain, with public acts of defiance that landed him in jail several times. In 1947 he participated in the postwar negotiations that led to Indian independence. He was shot to death by a Hindu fanatic in 1948.

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 7

1. Roots by Alex Haley – One of the most important books and television series ever to appear, Roots is about the life of an African who is moved to America to become a slave. The book galvanized the American nation, and created an extraordinary political, racial, social and cultural dialogue that hadn’t been seen since the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Roots opened up the minds of Americans of all colours and faiths to one of the darkest and most painful parts of America’s past. Besides snagging a Pulitzer, Haley’s novel started a genealogy movement among African Americans – and just about everyone else – that’s still going strong.

2. Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer – Gordimer’s 1979 novel Burger’s Daughter is the story of a woman analyzing her relationship with her father, a martyr to the anti-apartheid movement. The child of two Communist and anti-apartheid revolutionaries, Rosa Burger finds herself drawn into political activism as well. Written in the aftermath of the Soweto uprising, the novel was shortly thereafter banned by the South African government. Gordimer described the novel as a “coded homage” to Bram Fischer, the lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists. Also pick up Gordimer’s The Conservationist, which won her the Booker Prize, and July’s People.

3. The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon – Considered by many to be one of the canonical books on the worldwide black liberation struggles of the 1960s. Fanon addresses the role of violence in decolonization and the challenges of political organization and the class collisions and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country’s national consciousness. Although socialism has seemingly collapsed in the years since Fanon’s work was first published, there is much in his look into the political, racial, and social psyche of the ever-emerging Third World that still rings true at the cusp of a new century. Every man must “Have the courage to read this book,” said French author Jean-Paul Sartre.

4. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois – W.E.B. Du Bois said, on the launch of his groundbreaking 1903 treatise The Souls of Black Folk, “for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the colour-line” – a prescient statement. Setting out to show to the reader “the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century,” Du Bois explains the meaning of the emancipation, and its effect, and his views on the role of the leaders of his race.

6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive Nobel Prize in Literature, was born Chloe Anthony Wofford. The story is about a year in the life of a young black girl. It takes place against the backdrop of America’s Midwest as well as in the years following The Great Depression. The Bluest Eye is told from the perspective of Claudia MacTeer as a child and an adult, as well as from a third person omniscient viewpoint. Because of the controversial nature of the book, which deals with racism, incest, and child molestation, there have been numerous attempts to ban it from schools and libraries. You might also want to also pick up Morrison’s Beloved, Song of Solomon, and Jazz.

7. Anderson’s Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Anderson – Every young boy growing up should pick up a copy of these children’s stories – classics that teach moral behaviour and the differences between good and evil. And while you’re storing up libraries for your children add the similar compilation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales too, first published in 1812 by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the Brothers Grimm, and of course – how could you go through life without ever reading Aesop’s Fables. Any of those three options would do the trick. Better to read them all, though!

8. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – The story takes place during the Seven Years’ War. This conflict, which lasted from 1756–1763, involved all of the major European powers of the period, and has been described as the “first World War”. It resulted in some 900,000 to 1,400,000 deaths and significant changes in the balance of power and territories of several of the participants. Also known as the French and Indian War, the North American theater of this conflict occurred between British settlers and colonial forces, and royal French forces together with the various Native American forces allied with them.

9. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – a classic of English literature that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of the “travellers’ tales” literary sub-genre. As soon as it was published, Swift’s book was said, “to have been universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.” Since then, it has never been out of print.

10. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – If you wish to understand how power operates and thrives, then you need to read this book, which shares thematic elements with Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, and has been compared to Sun-Tzu’s classic treatise The Art of War. Greene uses anecdotes from historical figures such as Louis XIV, Talleyrand, Otto von Bismarck, Catherine the Great, Mao Zedong, Haile Selassie and various con artists in order to illustrate real-world application of the 48 rules.

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 8

1. Winnie the Pooh by A. A Milne – A. A. Milne’s timeless volumes of Winnie-the-Pooh are regarded by many as some of the best in children’s literature. The Pooh books are a father’s gift to his son, Christopher Robin. Written for a child, they reflect the concerns, the games, and the guidance of an ongoing early childhood. The story reflects a good understanding of the way children think and play. Young children are gently guided into a rich world of child-sized experiences, which are play versions of situations they will encounter in real life. Desirable character traits are encouraged and undesirable ones are shown as silly and real virtues are taught – especially charity and humility. The Pooh books are enjoyable to both children and those adults who have outgrown the need to “prove themselves” by rejecting all simple things.

2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – Brown’s thriller is an exhaustively researched page-turner about secret religious societies, ancient cover ups and savage vengeance that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history. Though some will quibble with the veracity of Brown’s conjectures, therein lies the fun. The Da Vinci Code is an enthralling read that will please both conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts, providing rich food for thought.

3. Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – Long considered one of England’s foremost nineteenth-century novelists, Hardy established his reputation with this publication in 1874. A facile interpretation of Far from the Madding Crowd would be that true love triumphs over adversity. However, other dominant themes in the novel should be explored. The changeless rhythms of nature and agrarian life set against the vicissitudes which confront the characters. It is noteworthy that the most positively portrayed characters are those closest to the earth, such as Gabriel and the peasants who work the soil. The timelessness of the setting is contrasted with the struggles that the characters face against time and chance. Another important theme is that virtue will ultimately be rewarded.

4. Tao de Ching by Lao Tzu – In ancient China, the keeper of the Imperial Library, Lao Tzu, was famous for his wisdom. Perceiving the growing corruption of the government, he left for the countryside. On his way, the guard at the city gates asked Lao Tzu to write out the essence of his understanding to benefit future generations. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, left, and was never heard of again. The Tao Te Ching (also called “The Tao”, “The Dao” or the “Dao De Jing”), is one of the most influential books in history. It is the source of famous Chinese sayings such as “Those who know do not speak, those who speak, do not know” and “Even a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step”.

5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – It is over 50 years since its publication in 1954 and, it should be remembered, the story is set in wartime around two major characters. The lead protagonist believes he was born to lead. When he finds his authority both undermined and then by-passed, it appears he cannot cope with the demotion, his continued assumption of status blinding him to the obvious. The second character is the epitome of the know-all, the annoying brat that always has something to say. But he is also the idealist and realist. He has few skills, perhaps fewer physical contributions to make to the group’s survival. But he has a technological vision. He is an inventor of ideas, ideas that others, under direction, may realise. Hence he is also the visionary, the philosopher who not only knows what should be done, but also why it should be done. But it is eventually him, for all his analytical and intellectual skills, who seems a total prisoner of stereotypical assumptions. He seems to assume that “British” is a synonym for “civilised” and that all black people are automatically savage. The reader is left in some doubt as to whether these opinions are sincerely held, satirical, representative of the society from which the boy hails or merely hyperbole promoted by the panic of their situation. Lord Of The Flies has weathered its half – century remarkably well. It is already iconic, its permanence is assured – a must read!

6. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find — through love or through exacting maternal appraisal — a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.

7. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens – Dickens second novel is about an orphan Oliver Twist, who escapes from a workhouse and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Oliver is led to the lair of their elderly criminal trainer Fagin, naively unaware of their unlawful activities. Oliver Twist is notable for Dickens’ unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives. An early example of the social novel, Dickens mocks the hypocrisies of his time by surrounding the novel’s serious themes with sarcasm and dark humour. For the magic of extra, add Dickens’ other classics, A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield.

8. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – a historical chronicle of modern India centred on the inextricably linked fates of two children born within the first hour of independence from Great Britain. Exactly at midnight on Aug. 15, 1947, two boys born in a Bombay hospital, are switched by a nurse. Saleem Sinai, who will be raised by a well-to-do Muslim couple, is actually the illegitimate son of a low-caste Hindu woman and a departing British colonist. Shiva, the son of the Muslim couple, is given to a poor Hindu street performer whose unfaithful wife has died. Saleem represents modern India. When he is 30, he writes his memoir, Midnight’s Children. Shiva is destined to be Saleem’s enemy as well as India’s most honored war hero. This multilayered novel places Saleem in every significant event that occurred on the Indian subcontinent in the 30 years after independence. Midnight’s Children was awarded the Booker Prize for fiction in 1981 – one good reason it should be on your bookshelf. Then again, have you heard about the Satanic Verses? I suggest you pick one up too.

9. Dracula by Bram Stoker – Published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula soon became known as a work of pure genius. Even today, it is much read across the world, and regarded as THE all-time classical horror story. Stoker based his Vampiric character on the fifteenth century Wallacian warrior prince, Vlad Dracule. He researched his novel in great detail, visiting the region of Hungary and Romania that Vlad ruled, and reading ancient manuscripts and stories. This is a story about good against evil. It depends upon the late Victorian ideal that good shall always triumph. The almighty God must win against Satan in the end. Together with this, Stoker seems to depict the social classes of the era to be corrupt. If the lower classes are not repressed, then they will turn into a raving monster that consumes and possesses all that stands in it’s way. The story of Dracula underpins most horror stories that follow it, as well as the whole literary ‘Horror’ genre.

10. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom – recounts the life and death of an old maintenance man named Eddie. After dying in an accident, Eddie finds himself in 5 other heavens of the 5 people he will meet in heaven, where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized at the time or not. In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom gives us an astoundingly original story that will change everything you’ve ever thought about the afterlife — and the meaning of our lives here on earth.

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 9

1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy Roy’s book, originally published in 1997, weaves a story of family, love, and betrayal in the Indian state of Kerala. The God of Small Things is the story of one family’s dissolution in the face of death and betrayal. Roy’s book deals with the caste system in India. Indian society was arranged by castes, where people of certain families were assigned to certain roles, including priest, warrior, and slave. An “untouchable” was a person from the lowest caste (someone handling bodies, refuse, or other tainted material) who should have no contact with members of higher castes.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Heroine meets hero and hates him. Is charmed by a cad. A family crisis caused by the cad is resolved by the hero. The heroine sees him for what he really is and realises (after visiting his enormous house) that she loves him. The plot has been endlessly borrowed, but few authors have written anything as witty or profound as Pride and Prejudice.

3. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Among the library of investment books promising no-fail strategies for riches, Benjamin Graham’s classic, The Intelligent Investor, offers no guarantees or gimmicks but overflows with the wisdom at the core of all good portfolio management.

4. James Hadley Chase – If you went through college and you never came across James Hadley Chase, then what evil pastime were you up to otherwise? Every young college kid went through all the titles, that’s why it’s hard to even mention any favourites – but a few should do: No Orchids For Miss Blandish, The Dead Stay Dumb, Miss Shumway Waves A Wand, Just The Way It Is, You’re Lonely When You’re Dead, The Things Men Do, Tiger By The Tail, There’s Always A Price Tag, A Lotus For Miss Quon, The Way the Cookie Crumbles, An Ear To The Ground, Goldfish Have No Hiding Place. Any favourites?

5. The Adventurers by Harold Robbins – All young men need an education on the experiences of worldly pleasures. What better way to understand political intrigue, exotic locales and seedy sex than Harold Robbins. When you finish this, pick up its sequels, the Carpetbaggers, The Dream Merchants, A Stone For Danny Fisher and 79 Park Avenue. Lose yourself in the ways of the cosmopolitan world.

6. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide is rich in comedic detail and thought-provoking situations and stands up to multiple reads. Required reading for science fiction fans With this novel, Douglas Adams gave life to a phenomenon that will long outlive his tragically short life, delighting millions of readers for untold years to come. The book’s dead-on humour also draws deeply from the well of sociology, philosophy, and of course science. If you don’t like science fiction, it doesn’t matter; read this book just for the laughs. This may well be the funniest novel ever written.

7. The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola – When Amos Tutuola’s first novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, appeared in 1952, it aroused exceptional worldwide interest. Drawing on the West African Yoruba oral folktale tradition, Tutuola described the odyssey of a devoted palm-wine drinker through a nightmare of fantastic adventure. Since then, The Palm-Wine Drinkard has been translated into more than 15 languages and has come to be regarded as a masterwork of one of Africa’s most influential writers.

8. Feet of The Chameleon by Ian Hawkey – described by critics as ‘The best sports book of the year’,’ Hawkey employs vivid anecdotes and emotive stories to trace the journey of African football from something distant and ramshackle to a producer of some of the game’s most valuable players. This fascinating book traces the development of the sport in Africa, finding out what makes African football unique and examining how the game fits into the social and political life of the continent.

Stranger In A Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth’s cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love. He founds his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians. Ultimately, he confronts the fate reserved for all messiahs.

10. 100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – With One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez introduced Latin American literature to a world-wide readership. One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. It takes up not long after Genesis left off and carries through to the air age, reporting on everything that happened in between with more lucidity, wit, wisdom, and poetry. Translated into more than two dozen languages, his brilliant novel of love and loss in Macondo stands at the apex of 20th-century literature.

The Essential Man’s Library – 100 Books You Must Read Before the Age of 40. Part 10

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Cruelty, hypocrisy, dashed hopes: Jane Eyre faces them all, yet her individuality triumphs. Her relationship with Rochester has such emotional power that it’s hard to believe these characters never lived.

2. Paradise Lost by John Milton – Since its publication in 1667, Milton’s 12-book English epic – in which he sets out to ‘justify the ways of God to men’ – has been considered a classic.

3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Scarlett O’Hara manipulates her way through the American civil war. This selfish, but gutsy heroine idealises the unattainable Ashley before realising her love for her third husband, Rhett, who dismisses her with, ‘My dear, I don’t give a damn.’

4. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – Yuri Zhivago loves two women, his wife, Tonya, and the captivating Lara. Pasternak juxtaposes romance with the stark brutality of the Russian civil war in this extraordinary historical epic.

5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy discover the land of Narnia and the malevolent White Witch. The novel uses Christian iconography in Aslan’s dramatic sacrifice and resurrection. Edmund’s transition from self-interested schoolboy to heroic young man is also resonantly spiritual.

6. The Lord of the Rings by J.R. R. Tolkien – Frodo and friends journey to Mordor to destroy the ring, making the young Hobbit one of the greatest fictional heroes of all time. More than 100million copies have been sold of the trilogy that brought fantasy to a mainstream literary audience.

7. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – The boy wizard’s dealings with the forces of adolescence and evil have sold more than 350 million books in 65 languages. The Harry Potter phenomenon has its detractors, but the success of special ‘grown-up’ covers, allowing commuters to read Rowling without shame, tells its own tale.

8. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The piratical coming of age of Jim Hawkins, who discovers a map of Treasure Island among an old sea captain’s possessions – and then follows it. Parrots, ‘pieces of eight’ and the lovable, but morally ambiguous Long John Silver.

9. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – From Istanbul to London, Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells rattle away to improbable effect as he untangles the mystery of the life and violent death of a sinister passenger.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia’s fascinating, self-mythologising account of how he united a string of Arab tribes and successfully led them to rebellion against their Ottoman overlords.

Posted in: Uncategorized