Matt Forney
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Ten Books That All Men Should Read

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Last week, Mike over at Danger & Play posted a list of the books that influenced the way he thinks. I was going to post my own list of recommendations in the comments when I realized that my comment was way too long and few people would probably read it.

Instead, why not post it on my blog where it’ll be seen by a larger audience?

Like Mike, I’m an avid reader. I don’t own many physical books now, both because I use a Kindle now and because I’ve sold/given away/lost countless titles, but I usually read one to two new books a week. I usually post one or two book reviews a week to my blog, and I have so many reviews in the queue right now that if I were to be run over by a truck tomorrow, MattForney.com would keep truckin’ all the way to September. In fact, I posted a record four book reviews last week, though that was mainly because I was too busy to record a podcast or do anything else.

My literary tastes offend the hipster/SWPL crowd. Most so-called “classics” are garbage; the only reason why, say, William Wordsworth is still studied in English classes is because the professors are idiots. Pretty much every mainstream author of the past thirty years—David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Auster, Chuck Klosterman—is a talentless hack who relies on sentimental plots, convoluted prose and affirmative action (in the case of “ethnic” writers like Jhumpa Lahiri) to disguise their moribund, middlebrow minds.

I don’t believe in reading for the sake of reading. There’s nothing magical about books that separates them from other forms of media. There are good books, bad books, and books that should be dumped in a hole and incinerated with napalm. What matters is not how much you read, but what you read. More importantly, you need to come to your own conclusions about literature instead of hoovering up the opinions of credentialed hacks who wilt at the mention of sex or drugs (and this isn’t political; just as many so-called leftists fear honesty as much as conservatives).

Big words don’t make for a good book; frankness does.

With that in mind, here’s my informal list of books that all men should read. They cover the gamut from fiction to nonfiction, philosophy to life advice to just plain weirdness. This list is by no means definitive, but it covers a number of books that are off the beaten track and don’t get much attention.

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The Exile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia by Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi

It’s really depressing watching your childhood heroes recede into senile old age. Had Mark Ames made the smart move and overdosed in 2004, he’d be remembered as a brilliant and fearless social critic. Now he’s going to be remembered as the guy who sold out everything he advocated for during his time at The Exile for a few pats on the head from the Beigeist left.

But hey, at least we have this book.

In over twenty years of capitalist free-dumb and the “end of history,” The Exile is the only book that depicts the full spectrum of reality for Western expats. From the very first pages, Ames didn’t mince words, stating that anyone driven to give up the comforts of the first world for the uncertainty of the third has a “highly destructive personality defect.” Ames and Taibbi tear the guts of post-communist Russia out and lay them on the operating table, exploring sexual degeneracy, Western thievery and drug abuse in hilarious, frank prose.

Click here to read my review of The Exile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia.

Click here to buy The Exile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia.

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Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

The original, often imitated, never surpassed. Céline’s slangy writing style and nihilistic outlook on life was so arresting that every single decent writer who came after him looked to him as an influence, notwithstanding hacks like Joseph Heller who just plain ripped him off. Journey to the End of the Night, along with Céline’s other novels, were written in the way that people actually talk: messy, bombastic, incomplete but always funny and honest.

Journey depicts reality as filtered through the human brain: half-remembered, with the boring bits minimized and the funny stuff exaggerated.

Also worth reading is the companion volume to Journey, Death on the Installment Plan (as well as everything else Céline ever wrote).

Click here to read my review of Journey to the End of the Night.

Click here to buy Journey to the End of the Night.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick is the only sci-fi writer I like, and Androids is by far his finest work. It’s a funny, poignant meditation on materialism, emotion and the nature of human relationships. Most people know this book because it served as the basis for Blade Runner; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a world apart from that movie. Dick’s book concentrates on the very real threat that technology and the increasing scale of society will destroy humans’ capacity for empathy and love. The androids (called “replicants” in Blade Runner) represent the end result of that process: emotionless, calculating, sociopathic.

And given how social media and smartphones are turning people into drooling zombies, you can’t argue that Androids wasn’t a prescient book.

Click here to buy Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Pleasant Hell by John Dolan

All you need to know about modern literature is this: John Dolan was reduced to homelessness on the streets of Victoria while Chuck Klosterman is still making a living. Redeem yourself and read his novel, a semi-autobiographical tale of virginity and dorkiness in seventies San Francisco. Pleasant Hell succeeds because Dolan nails loserdom so completely and utterly, describing his pitiful attempts at getting laid, his bizarre aversion to bathing, and his flirtations with second-wave feminism in simple, unflinching humor.

If you don’t flinch at some portions of this book, you’ve never experienced what it truly is to be a loser.

Click here to read my review of Pleasant Humor.

Click here to buy Pleasant Hell.

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The Way of Men by Jack Donovan

Two years ago, I wrote that The Way of Men was one of the most momentous books published in the past decade. It accomplishes what no scholar before or since has managed: a concise, universal definition of masculinity. Donovan’s analysis goes beyond religious or cultural trappings to define the core virtues of men, standing opposed to ideologues and polemicists who want to mold masculinity to their benefit. There really is no other book out there like it, and no book will allow you to see your identity as a man as clearly as The Way of Men.

Click here to read my review of The Way of Men.

Click here to buy The Way of Men.

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What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Dr. Shad Helmstetter

Credit where credit is due: it was my friend Zampano who convinced me to read this bookWhat to Say When You Talk to Your Self is based on a ludicrous-sounding but very powerful idea: creating your own internal monologue. Helmstetter argues that the biggest factor holding people back is their inner monologues, filling them with toxic self-doubt and hatred. What to Say teaches you an effective method for purging that insidious little voice in your head: listening to your own affirmations.

No seriously, this works.

Obviously, in order for your affirmations to work, they have to be something reasonable and something that you want. But recording your own voice reading back affirmations and listening to them every morning is the most effective way to develop a can-do mindset. As Adam Savage put it, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” What to Say shows you how to mold your personal reality to your liking and realize your desires as a man.

Click here to buy What to Say When You Talk to Your Self.

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A Reader’s Manifesto by B.R. Myers

If you have designs on being a writer, you must read this book. B.R. Myers accurately explains why modern literary writing is crap, slicing and dicing several major modern literary figures—Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, and Paul Auster among them—along the way. Myers gives voice to every criticism of today’s literature that no one else will dare articulate: dressing up hokey cliches in purple prose does not make a book good. A Reader’s Manifesto serves as a great manual for expunging bathetic, sentimental or just plain bad elements from your storytelling.

Click here to buy A Reader’s Manifesto.

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The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

As cliche as it sounds, this book changed my life. The War of Art is a simple book about a simple problem: finding the motivation to achieve the things you want to do. Steven Pressfield identifies the mortal enemy of anyone who wants to accomplish something real—Resistance—and gives you actionable advice on overcoming it. Consider this: it was reading The War of Art that partially convinced me to fulfill my childhood dream of hitchhiking across America. You need this book.

Click here to read my review of The War of Art.

Click here to buy The War of Art.

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The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays by L.A. Rollins

Libertarians are a funny sort. There’s a reason why the so-called “common sense” philosophy of free-dumb remains consigned to “anarchist” nerds and failed Republicans, and The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays explains why. Rollins’ book effortlessly shreds libertarianism into tiny little pieces by crushing one of its foundational planks: the concept of “natural rights.” They don’t exist, they never existed, they’re as logically sound as intelligent design and the aquatic ape theory.

I credit this book with putting me off politics for good and turning me into the cynical SOB I am today.

Actually getting a hold of Myth is somewhat difficult these days, as the Nine-Banded Books reprint has been out of stock for years, but you can’t afford to not read this book. It’s the perfect antidote to your Ayn Rands, your Lew Rockwells, your endlessly sloganeering Paultards.

Click here to read my review of The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays.

Click here to buy The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays.

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A Dead Bat in Paraguay by Roosh V

Is it brownnosing to include this on the list? Maybe some people will say it is, but I still argue that Roosh’s memoir is one of the finest memoirs of the past decade. A Dead Bat in Paraguay is so thematically rich that I was able to write two separate reviews of it, several years apart, each focusing on different aspects of the story. The tale of how Roosh abandoned his life back home to go backpacking across dangerous terrain in South America, Paraguay explores the anomie of modern America and the existential ennui that young men face today.

Click here to read my review of A Dead Bat in Paraguay.

Click here to buy A Dead Bat in Paraguay.

Anyone got any reading suggestions? Post ’em in the comments.

Read Next: Three Must-Read Works of Fiction

  • I’ve read What to Say by Helmstetter and agree with you assessment. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I’ve begged family and friends to read it, but almost none of them will. Everyone’s “too busy” watching Netflix. Heh.

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  • I’m honored to have made the list.

  • Cameron

    -Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
    -The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer
    -Platform by Michel Houellebecq
    -It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong
    -The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (sorry Forney!)
    -Don’t Die with the Music in You by Wayne Bennett
    -Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    -A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson

    Agree with the Pressfield and Dolan selections, haven’t read the others (shamefully in the case of Celine).

    Writers who are highly regarded but I find overrated would be Orwell (serially over quoted too) and Evelyn Waugh.

  • Dou

    If Rollins wants people to actually read his book, then he needs to get it to a Kindle version, stat. Because no one is going to pay fifty bucks for a used paperback. I’m intrigued by the book and would love to dig into it, but not at those prices.

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  • Johnny

    Roosh is a fly mofo like yo gotti or French Montana IMO

    OG Player what spots in EE are the top 5? (Poznan, Kiev, etc))))