Matt Forney
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The Sovereign Man by James Maverick

Reading this book was like watching a man perform open heart surgery on himself.

The Sovereign Man is the writing debut of James Maverick, who’s been entertaining and informing men for years at his blog Maverick TravelerWhile Maverick occupies the same get-laid-get-paid genre of travel writing as Roosh and Mark Zolo, his writing has always had a more mature edge to it, a calmness befitting his wider horizons. The Sovereign Man is a perfect crystallization of his beliefs and attitude, a must-read for men.

It’s not a self-help book per se: while the book is about Maverick’s philosophy of masculinity, it’s not a go-here-and-do-this kind of title. Rather, it’s a carefully constructed vivisection of Maverick’s own life, distilled into a series of principles laid out like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The Sovereign Man is an excellent summation of “big picture” masculinity and worth adding to your collection.

The book opens with an introduction detailing Maverick’s own masculine journey. After being flaked on by a Ukrainian girl he met on a train, he began deconstructing everything about his life in an attempt to understand himself:

But when there’s interest and desire, everything changes. I once met a nice girl during a trip to San Diego. After returning to New York, there was rarely a period of two days where she didn’t contact me and ask when I was coming back. Then there was a girl I met in Mexico, who was anxiously waiting for me at the airport when I returned for the second time six months later. These girls behaved very differently from the flaky Ukrainian girl. They were always available to hang out at a moment’s notice. All I had to do was ask. In fact, one day, while I was sitting in my New York apartment, I remember joking with the Mexican girl over Skype that we should get drunk in her favorite bar in Mexico City that night. She smiled and replied, “I’ll see you there.” That’s how easy it was. I didn’t have to beg, plead or cajole the California girl to see me. I didn’t have to ask the Mexican girl to meet me at the airport. Both of them wanted to see me, so they made it happen. They spoke with their actions instead of muttering flimsy promises and excuses. There were no games whatsoever. All I had to do was state a time and place and they would eagerly show up.

The Sovereign Man is divided into ten chapters, each focused on a principle or attitude that embodies Maverick’s concept of the “sovereign man.” The initial chapters focus on more obvious concepts such as value and time, but the later ones, such as “Kingdom,” are more esoteric and require you to have attained some mastery of the earlier sections. Maverick bolsters his arguments primarily with examples from his own life, both revolving around him and people he’s met:

Standards are also shaped by your environment, because it describes what you continuously interact with, day in and day out. Environment is your reference point. In America, thanks to the powerful reach of Hollywood and other mass media, a regular girl who happens to have blonde hair and a nice body is elevated to be highly important. These girls are artificially made to seem special and unique. But in countries where such women are as common as a blue sky, they’re nothing more than just normal. They aren’t in such huge demand. I’ve spent several years in various Northern and Eastern European countries, where the majority of women perfectly fit the “blonde bombshell” stereotype. I’ve ridden buses with them and passed them in the streets every single day. In fact, as I am writing this, a very cute blonde girl justpassed by on the street. Don’t get me wrong, such women are still very attractive; a beautiful woman is still a beautiful woman no matter where she is. But beautiful is all she is. She no longer has this mythical and spellbinding God-like status. When I spend every single day surrounded by seemingly beautiful women, the typical “blonde bombshell” label loses its luster. If you’re in a desert with no water in sight, water becomes scarce and dear. But if you’re in a freshwater lake, water is no longer scarce: it’s abundant. Similarly, if the only time you see an attractive woman is in a Hollywood movie and not regularly out on the streets, then beauty becomes truly scarce and highly sought after.

Maverick’s writing carefully skirts the edge between relatability and erudition. Think the wide-angle perspective of Robert Greene combined with the practicality of Jack Donovan in The Way of Men and you have The Sovereign Man in a nutshell. While the book is light on actionable advice, its broad-stroke philosophy will aid any man looking for enlightenment.

Reading The Sovereign Man is like attending a college lecture by an adjunct professor who isn’t afraid to crack jokes or call bullshit when he sees it.

The book is also worth reading because of Maverick’s willingness to examine his own life. As the bulk of The Sovereign Man’s examples are drawn from his personal experiences, he critically dissects his own screwups and mistakes, explaining where he went wrong when it came to implementing his own advice. Few writers are capable of the kind of self-examination that he pulls off.

The only area I can really fault the book is in Maverick’s prose. While his writing is clean, functional and understandable, Maverick is not a native English speaker and it shows. This isn’t an issue in his blog posts, but when you’re reading an entire book in his overly formal style, it can drag at points. It’s a shame too, considering the breadth of information he covers from start to finish.

Ultimately though, The Sovereign Man is an excellent distillation of masculine philosophy, worth reading on its own or as part of a self-improvement kick. If you’re looking for direction in life or you’re just interested in Maverick’s thoughts, this book is worth your money.

Click here to buy The Sovereign Man.

Read Next: The Smell of Pines: A Long Walk with Death by James Druman