back to top

22 Books Every Twentysomething Guy Needs To Read

These works of art will literally make you a better man.

Posted on

1. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Amazon / Via

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays where Gay writes to debunk common and demeaning stereotypes about feminists and feminism. Reading this book will help show you a different view of the current state of feminism and help to open your mind.

Price: $12 (Kindle) $9.99 (Paperback)

2. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

Amazon / Via

This book is an excellent look into heterosexual dating in today's climate, from a man's perspective but written by a woman. It's easy to get wrapped up in Adelle Waldman's first novel as it tells the tale of a "self-absorbed writer living in NYC," after successfully writing his first book and emerging from a "freelance lifestyle" the protagonist tries to deal with the newfound attention from women, including his ex-girlfriend.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $21 (Hardcover)

3. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Amazon / Via

James Baldwin's 1950s classic, Giovanni's Room, is just as relevant today as it was when it was first written many years ago. It tells the story of an American ex-pat and his liaisons, the violence against him and his struggle between dealing with his own desires and morals.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $15.75 (Hardcover)


4. She Comes First by Ian Kerner, Ph.D.

Amazon / Via

She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman is an essential book for any person dating a woman. It helps to change our perspective on pleasure roles especially when it comes to sex. "When it comes to pleasuring women and conversing in the language of love, cunnilingus should be every man's native tongue," writes clinical sexologist Ian Kerner, Ph.D.

Price: $12 (Paperback), $11.49 (Kindle)

5. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

Amazon / Via

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a very moving story about a young man who left his hometown of Newark, NJ to attend Yale University but despite making it to the Ivy League he still had many challenges to face equally as tough as Newark.

Price: $11.99 (Kindle), $19.15 (Hardcover)

6. White Girls by Hilton Als

Amazon / Via

White Girls is Hilton Als' is a collection of essays that analyzes race, gender, and history. The book seeks to present a "complex portrait" of "white girls," and not just caucasian women, Als portrays Truman Capote, Michael Jackson, and even Flannery O'Connor as "white girls" in this moving collection that some have lauded as "the read of 2013."

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $17 (Hardcover)

7. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Bill Leone Bookseller / Via

The Prince of Tides is a novel by Pat Conroy that tells the story of "a man and his sister and the dark and violent past into which they were born." The book is packed with bravado, humor, "eloquent turns of phrase," and will have you constantly turning the pages trying to figure out what's next. Because of this book's relatability, and engaging story, some have gone on to describe it as a "masterpiece."

Price: $7 (Kindle) $15 (Hardcover)


8. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Amazon / Via

The Empathy Exams not only tells captivating and intriguing stories, but it also helps us as humans dive deep into our "basic understanding of others." The book forces us to look at ourselves and answer deep questions such as, " How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other?" If you make it through, you'll definitely come out a much better, cultured person.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $13 (Paperback)

9. Actual Air by David Berman

Open City / Via

Actual Air is a collection of poetry written by David Berman, the frontman of indie rock band, the Silver Jews. Berman dissects the "overlooked details of everyday life — from the suitcase of a departing girlfriend to the baseboard of an electrical outlet."

Price: ~$26 (Used)

10. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Amazon / Via

Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life is a book on trauma and abuse. It's a bit disturbing, but overall excellent. One reviewer said they "couldn't stop thinking about it" after finishing.

Price: $14.99 (Kindle), $18 (Hardcover)

11. Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill

Yale University Press / Via

This Pulitzer Prize-winning work is lauded far and wide as a masterpiece; it touches on important topics ranging from family love, the wounds of marriage, parenthood, sonship, and many more. Everyone, not just men, owes it to themselves to explore this gem.

Price: $8.99 (Kindle), $11 (Paperback)


12. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Amazon / Via

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a non-fiction work by Haruki Murakami. The author traditionally known for his riveting storytelling, switched up his style with this book and focused on his thoughts when long-distance running (something he has done for most of his adult life). The book is a mix of diary entries, old essays, reminiscences and life advice. It's perfect for anyone, whether you're a runner or not.

Price: $12 (Kindle), ~$13 (Used/New)

13. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Amazon / Via

Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is a novel that can be simply described as interesting and amazing. The page-turner tells the story of an elite private school set in the English countryside where the children who attend are so extraordinary that they are shunned. What's great about this book as Amazon so expertly describes is that, "readers are 'told but not told' what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own."

Price: $14.99 (Kindle), $18 (Hardcover)

14. The Naked and the Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition by Norman Mailer

Harry Ransom Center: The University of Texas at Austin / Via

The Naked And The Dead is praised as one of the best pieces of literature to come out of the Second World War. Instead of this being an action-packed novel it's more of an intricate look into the soldiers' lives and how they treat and interact with each other and the war. If you're looking to up the quality of the books you're reading, this is a good place to start.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $22 (Hardcover)

15. Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1 by Marcel Proust

Amazon / Via

Marcel Proust's works are a delicate mix of a challenge (because of their depth and size) and a pleasure because of the expert way that the author is able to tell a story. If you enjoy becoming completely immersed in a beautiful story then this one is for you. Proust spent the majority of his 20s writing it. This is one of those quality reads where after you're done, you come out a better person.

Price: $14.99 (Kindle), $20 (Hardcover)


16. Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'J Pancake

Amazon / Via

This collection of essays by Breece Pancake were published four years after the young writer killed himself with a shotgun at the age of 26. He had just finished a graduate writing program at the University of Virginia. This collection of 12 short stories has gone on to become critically acclaimed and established Pancake as one of the finest short story writers in twentieth century American literature.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $10 (Hardcover)

17. What Is the What by Dave Eggers

Amazon / Via

Dave Eggers is an epic novelist. His stories are page-turners and transcend what we've become accustomed to. This particular one tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee from the Sudanese civil war. Eggers fictionalizes this memoir and tells his story from "Lost Boy" to epic hero, as he fights to piece together a new life.

Price: $11.99 (Kindle), $24.95 (Hardcover)

18. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Amazon / Via

This one is for readers who enjoy comics, animation, and incredible stories of magic, golems, and evil nemeses. Despite its storybook nature it still tackles important questions centered around love, war, dreams and art.

Price: $12.99 (Kindle), $24 (Hardcover)

19. The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty

Amazon / Via

African-American searches for identity are nothing new when it comes to storytelling. But poet Paul Beatty's first novel deals with it in a humanizing, dramatic way, centered around a story of a street poet/basketball prodigy and the struggles of dealing with his LAPD father and life in a predominately white Santa Monica neighborhood.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $13 (Paperback)


20. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Amazon / Via

Ben Lerner's debut novel is described as "a philosophical meditation on art." Not only This riveting, powerful story is told from the Spanish streets in Madrid. While it's engaging, it's also a beautiful tour of the city's iconic museums and galleries all intertwined with a powerful love story and artistic experience.

Price: $11 (Kindle), $14 (Paperback)

21. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Amazon / Via

Franzen's third novel, The Corrections, will fill you with many emotions. The story is a powerful work that describes a family's drama that spans the Midwest "at mid-century" all the way to Wall Street, and even landing in Eastern Europe.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $9 (Paperback)

22. God Says No by James Hannaham

Amazon / Via

God Says No is the story of Gary Gray and his marriage to his first girlfriend, a college sweetheart. They're both 19 years old and are very eager to start a family, but a week before their marriage, Gray stumbles into a rest-stop bathroom and "lets something happen to him." You'll have to read for yourself to see what that "thing" was but just know that this is a powerful page-turner that deals with being young, black, and Christian and the struggles of love, desire, belief, and an appetite for other men all told in a single story.

Price: $9.99 (Kindle), $13 (Paperback)

Did we miss a book you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!