Is there anything more impressive than a collection of manly books, displayed proudly on your home library shelf? Perhaps a first edition vinyl of Kind of Blue? Or a 100 year old scotch, waiting for a special occasion?
How about the kind of thing you can’t display for others to just see, but rather can only be witnessed by experience? How about that elusive and impressive thing called Wisdom?
We hopefully have gotten this far in life having picked up a thing or two from our fathers, our friends... Maybe one or two truly impactful teachers. But never underestimate the pure unadulterated nuggets of manly wisdom that can be found in some of America’s classic novels. Chock-full of life lessons and riddled with warnings, the limits to a scholarly advantage over the next man comes down to just your ability to memorize a few true insights from fictional men.
“You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Easily one of the best guy movies ever, Fight Club is also a brilliant read. If you haven’t tried the novel version yet, we highly recommend it. You may need a few extra highlighters. It’s loaded, one after the other, with Palahniuk’s dark wit. Showing us what it means to be a man in today’s consumeristic world, and maybe... just maybe, how to find meaning in it... without all your stuff.
The Great Gatsby
“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
You’ll be hard-pressed to keep the life lessons in this classic cautionary tale limited to one theme. Something that strikes pretty damn relevant today is its commentary on navigating social gatherings. Gatsby got off on being the party host than wasn’t, if only rarely, even seen at his parties. Knowing your limits, whether that means staying sober, or avoiding conflict, is sure to pay off every time.
The Count of Monte Cristo
“All human wisdom is contained in these two words - Wait and Hope” - Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
This is a tough read, but pays off in dividends. Not just in its style, but empathizing with our main character, Edmond Dantes, proves challenging. Wrongfully imprisoned, he faces hardship after hardship, and spends every waking moment motivated by only one thing, revenge. Ultimately this instinct leads him to freedom but at what cost? If you make it to the end with Edmond, you’ll learn with him, that revenge and hate are never enough.
“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren't looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” - S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders
Also famously adapted for the big screen, this great American novel reminds us that changing who we are just to fit in to someone else’s idea of what or who we should be is never worth it. If there’s goodness in you, and you know the right thing to do when the wrong thing is happening, then never risk doing it. There’s a world that just wants to steal your goodness away from you. Don’t let it. You’re better than that.
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” - George Orwell, 1984
Politics aside, the warnings in this novel, adapted and derived from in many ways, are timeless. And as a man looks to place himself in the world... to define his role in it... He must be cautious with what identity he choses. As we get older the things we put in our bodies and put on our bodies - the things we choose to associate our worldview with - will echo throughout not only our lives but the lives of those we touch. If a man doesn’t know who he is or what he believes he is in danger of finding in wisdom in those who make his decisions for him. This novel yields many a warning worth filling up a deck of post its and covering all the walls of your home office... at least until they sink in