The conversation about what masculinity is has been controversial in today’s society. Men and women alike have chimed in to make their opinion known.
One notable point of view is Pierre Bourdieu’s. According to him, masculinity produces and reproduces itself through social interactions and the embodied behaviors and practices of everyday experience. The patriarchy is deep-rooted in the system.
Bourdieu claims that masculinity—especially the habit of masculine dominance—has become so intertwined with social power and the status quo. Other authors on the other hand have a more emotional approach.
Being and defining what a man should be is not an easy feat. That being said though, it’s not impossible. Today, we’ll be talking about 10 books on masculinity and why you should read them.
History of Masculinity
Why was masculinity a widespread cultural metaphor throughout the 18th century? One explanation has to do with politeness discourse at the heart of the emerging social and cultural spaces of eighteenth-century England.
Men were required to soften their demeanor and polish their conversation. To this, a woman can have much influence. However, it was believed that being too feminine made them ridiculous.
It’s a common trope for masculine men to have bulging biceps, a strong moustache, and an allergy for feelings. Men were portrayed in this image for a long time, yet the image is prone to so many contradictions and fallacies.
Now, men are allowed and encouraged to feel more. Regardless, it’s unfortunate that this is only a beginning trend and that most men are still emotionally repressed. To understand what it means to be masculine, here are books from all sorts of corners and ideologies.
Best Books on Masculinity
These books tackle every aspect of the male experience, from practical skills like dressing well to sociological studies on what being a man means. If you’re interested in all the aspects of manhood, here’s a list of books that have proven useful and thought-provoking to other men in their journey to understanding what it means to be a man.
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Discovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine
“King, Warrior, Magician, Lover” is a classic book for men interested in self-development. The book teaches gents how to discover their highest version of masculinity by combining strong psychology with self-development practices, religion and myth.
The authors go on to redefine age-old conceptions of masculinity by arguing that the manly is not abusive or domineering, but creative and empowering of the self and others. The book talks about four mature male tropes from the title. The king who embodies justice and creative order. The warrior that personifies assertive and peaceful action. The magician whorepresents initiation and transformation. And, the lover manifesting being bound to others and the world.
Meanwhile, the four immature patterns that hinder the full development of masculine capacity are the divine child, oedipal child, trickster, and hero. The book explores what being a man means through these eight tropes.
Ultimately, this book is about being the best version of ourselves and having a deep and unshakeable sense of self-esteem. It will show you how to rise above immaturity and tap into the creativity, courage, knowledge, and love that men were created to experience.
The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love by Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks did not become one of America’s leading cultural commentators by sticking to the rules. She continues on this provocative course in her book by providing answers to issues of marriage, sexuality, and patriarchy. Hooks describes various experiences she has had with males in her life, and the roles men took on that suppress their self-expression.
In a patriarchal society, men are typecast and pushed into the position of an emotionless dominator over those closest to them. They become repressed, and find that the only routine for expression would be to experience intimacy with another person.
Hooks also discusses the burden of work that men bear as the main breadwinner, caretaker, and protector of their families. Men rely on these patriarchal forms of expression out of a sheer sense of emotional deprivation. Despite the benefits of control and dominance, a man losing his sense of self is worse according to Hooks.
The author advocates for building spaces where men can express themselves emotionally and shed old patriarchal notions. This not only helps to create an atmosphere that encourages equality, but it also allows men to embrace themselves and understand that there is absolutely nothing unmanly of self-expression.
Boys Don’t Try? by Matt Pinkett and Mark Roberts
Matt Pinkett and Mark Roberts connect the educational underachievement of boys to misguided attempts to live up to an outdated idea of masculinity. This leaves many boys mistaken about what being a real man means, since they cling on to an old idea. The book is centered on the author’s personal experiences as students, teachers, and leaders.
Pinkett and Roberts begin by debunking common stereotypes about boy-friendly education, which both patronizes and undervalues boys. Boys refrain from academic competition as a self-protective tactic, believing that if they haven’t tried, then they haven’t really failed. Using banter to win over boys reduces the standards and makes you a cultural accomplice to harmful stereotypes.
They also look at intersectionality, hinging the discussion on the idea that our education system is based on middle-class ideals, and highlighting underachievement among all disadvantaged students.
This is a rallying cry for a brave new world in which boys are cherished and developed. Without blaming schools for the current state of affairs, the authors are certain that we can improve society if we can boost boys’ performance in school.
The Code of Man: Love, Courage, Pride, Family, Country
Possessing a manly heart requires bravery, love, and pride. We’ve lost sight of true manliness, and we need to rediscover what it means to be a man. Being one is not about being a macho freak, nor always being the first to step up in a fight. “The Code of Man” is a comprehensible and scholarly textbook for manhood that’s based on this premise.
Newell claims in the book that modern men have lost touch with the ideals and virtues that have characterized manhood for thousands of years. As a result, many men—especially younger ones—are lost, perplexed, and angry.
The author elaborates on the five paths to manliness and recovery, which is passion, bravery, pride, family, and country. He further tries to guide men down the road to achieving a manly spirit by using Western authors and thinkers such as Aristotle and Hemingway, among others.
Iron John: A Book About Men
This short story about a young man’s metaphorical coming of age told by poet Robert Bly, is widely considered one of the most significant literary works on masculinity.
It narrates how men grow up to seek doing what society expects of them without clear guidance. They work diligently, but even as they create achievements, their emotions become frozen and their energy fades. Friendships fade and they become lonely, then by the time they’re 45 or 50, they’re numb on the inside. It leaves their wives and children finding them foolish and boring.
Bly’s vision is based on his ongoing work with men as well as personal reflections. He laments the extinction of male initiation rites in our society and the harmful effects of distant fathers.
Iron John was written to help young men through the eight stages of human development, which is modeled by Erik Erikson. The book goes through a great deal to guide men throughout their entire life. Definitely a must-read.
The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
You may have asked yourself, What is my life’s purpose? What characteristics make me a good partner? “The Way of the Superior Man” will help you answer these questions. The author walks his readers through the steps on pursuing your goals and moving forward in your careers and relationships. The book’s mission is to help men live lives of freedom, success, and joy.
One of the book’s themes is that most people have both feminine and masculine characteristics. This book is targeted at the masculine person, whether male or female, homosexual or heterosexual. His aim is that a more masculine partner should take charge of their more feminine partner.
Deida’s opinion didn’t age that well and you may disagree with some parts of this book. However, it does open a window to the past. A blast of time through the opinions of a patriarchal mindset. If you want to stir your head, I’d recommend giving this a read.
Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man by Sam Keen
This book confronts men’s impoverishment, injury, and alienation as a result of obsolete rites of passage. Keen also examines women’s primal dominance over men, and reexamines men’s relationships with sex, war, and work in the past. He goes further to offer models for men to shift from brokenness to wholeness in all aspects of their lives.
Despite the fact that Sam Keen discusses the meaning of becoming human from a male viewpoint, he tells a story that’s relevant to both sexes. This book is also written for women who want to understand the men they marry, raise, and live with. But above all, it’s a handbook for men looking for new definitions of masculinity and a richer, more passionate life.
Men today, according to Keen, need to rekindle the fire in their belly, or thumos, as the ancient Greeks called it. He believes that society must redefine what it means to be a man, with his version of manhood being eco-conscious and feminist. This book contains some nuggets of wisdom that any guy may benefit from, regardless of his worldview.
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Dr. Robert A. Glover is a self-help book released in 2003. Glover previously diagnosed himself as having the Nice Guy Syndrome. Side effects of this condition include people walking all over them, inability to set boundaries, saying yes to anything and so on. Glover hoped to help those who are suffering from the same illness by writing this book.
If people do not find out how to overcome their Nice Guy Syndrome, they will most likely struggle to achieve their goals and will be unable to have authentic, healthy relationships.
He states in his book that if you confront one person about something, you’ll find it easier to confront the next person with whom you disagree. As a man, welcoming confrontation will help you grow a backbone and know your worth at work, in your social circle, in your relationship, etc.
Additionally, he outlines clear and actionable steps that a man should take to overcome his Nice Guy Syndrome. This book is perfect for guys who feel like they’re being pushed around in life.
The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry
Brad Miner draws from a thousand-year tradition of chivalry, heroism and honor to describe the term thoroughly and offer the reader indispensable ideas about restoring true manhood for the 21st century.
Miner begins his examination of the gentleman by looking at different facets of this concept and its history. He believes its origins come from the early feudal medieval times. More precisely, from the knight who fought battles on horseback in heavy armor. Although brutal in battle, the knight must be virtuous in his personal conduct, especially toward women, children, and the weak.
He traces the development of the medieval knight from Charlemagne to the Crusades, as well as the foundation of warrior religious orders such as the Templar and Teutonic Knights. Knighthood, on the other hand, was exhausted by the time of Cervantes.Miner is convinced that the finest examples of modern-day chivalry can be found in our military academies and armed forces.
Looking Like a Man
If you want a more practical approach at masculinity, here are three short pieces of advice.
Although your Image is important, who you are and what you do should illustrate more than how you look. With the social norms that we live in, people tend to judge others based on their appearance.
In today’s trends, fashion is currently leaning toward the feminine side of things. Men are now encouraged to groom and pluck their faces and chests, as well as tighten their jeans and soften their skin. Although some trends go overboard, at least men now are comfortable with taking care of themselves.
If you wanted to look more of a man than you do now, well, then you’re in luck! I’ll show you two things that would make you look even manlier.
What You Wear
Men’s clothing usually consists of a dark-colored pair of trousers or a pair of jeans topped with a collared shirt. Thanks to emerging trends, the same old trousers and jeans have been given a whole new look, however the basics remain.
To look like a man, ideally you should look neat. Men shouldn’t be ashamed of taking care of themselves. Wax your hair, clean your eyebrows, put on some moisturizer and sunscreen.
The casual look is chic and trendy in today’s men’s fashion. For a day out with friends and colleagues, a pair of jeans with a bright-colored or half-sleeve shirt looks perfect. Wrap a colorful scarf around your shoulders, pull on a shearling jacket, and you’re ready to make a style statement for a slightly more dressy occasion.
It only takes a bit of time to pay attention to what you’re wearing. Make sure there’s no stains, clean up creases, and put on a watch. Look good and feel good.
What You Smell Like
What should a man smell like? Probably not an entire can of Axe body spray. Take a step back and figure out a scent that you want. There’s an entire world of cologne that you can explore.
A man shouldn’t have to smell like a soiled gym sock. Think of a classic perfume that perhaps brings back memories of your father or grandfather. A wonderful smell that elicits feelings of reverence, comfort, and safety. That’s what a man should smell like.
Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues
A man named Benjamin Franklin dedicated his life to living virtuously. One of his most significant legacies is a collection of 13 virtues that he thought a man should be.. He determined that the 13 virtues were either necessary or desirable and arranged them so that the previous virtue learned could assist in practicing the next.
So, what are Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues?
- Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloths, or habitation.
- Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Frequently Asked Questions about Books on Masculinity
What defines masculinity?
Masculinity is generally defined by society as brave, rough, and emotionless. However, the real definition of masculinity depends on the context of the society’s norms.
How can a boy become a man?
When a boy understands which vices are threatening to control him, he will mature into manhood. Only then will he be able to face these vices and overcome them, or at the very least, fight them valiantly for the rest of his life.
How do I maintain and better myself as a man?
You can improve as a man with the help of effective self-observation. Try to identify harmful core beliefs or values, ways in which you were conditioned and want to outgrow. Similarly, look for the things you engage in that are harmful to you and change that too.
A Final Word From The Trending Man
Since there are various perspectives about manhood or masculinity, we provide a variety of books with a diverse set of genres, ranging from sociology to fiction to biography and to poetry. Some of these books contain ideas about healthy masculinity that aren’t defined by the oppression of women and the suppression of self-expression.
Other books, particularly memoirs, fiction, and poetry, give insight on how men have dealt with the patriarchal state and what they have gained or lost as a result. You’ll find yourself mirrored somewhere in these pages, no matter where you start, and you’ll be in good company.