Why are men so hard to shop for? They seem to be, in general, less excited about clothes, skincare, and accessories and every gift guide seems to assume they’re obsessed with whiskey, golf, and grilling.
If you’re stuck in a gift-giving rut, I have 15 books perfect for all the guys on your list this year. Whether you’re looking for a gift for your dad, your brother-in-law, or your husband, one of these will be perfect. I’ve read all about 2 of them and they’ve been vetted and recommended by Ben (my husband) and my dad.
Not sure if the man on your list regularly sits down to read? Consider gifting an audiobook so they can listen to it on their commute, at the gym, or while getting things done around the house. Audible makes it easy to buy a book and give it as a gift, without the need for them to sign up for an audible plan.
Here are our picks!
Best books for the men on your list
Just Mercy by
Such an interesting read about the early years of Nike and what it takes to start a business. This is a particularly good choice if your guy is interested in business.
In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.
In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his lime-green Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed $8,000 his first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In an age of start-ups, Nike is the ne plus ultra of all start-ups, and the swoosh has become a revolutionary, globe-spanning icon, one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable symbols in the world today.
But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always remained a mystery. Now, for the first time, in a memoir that is candid, humble, gutsy, and wry, he tells his story, beginning with his crossroads moment. At 24, after backpacking around the world, he decided to take the unconventional path to start his own business – a business that would be dynamic, different.
Knight details the many risks and daunting setbacks that stood between him and his dream – along with his early triumphs. Above all, he recalls the formative relationships with his first partners and employees, a ragtag group of misfits and seekers who became a tight-knit band of brothers. Together, harnessing the transcendent power of a shared mission and a deep belief in the spirit of sport, they built a brand that changed everything.
I have heard about this book for years but just finally got around to listening to it this week after my dad made the comment that everyone should re-read this one every couple of years. This is a short listen (under 6 hours at regular speed) but is full of groundbreaking principles on how to look at, access, and make decisions in your life.
In 2010, world-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen gave a powerful speech to the Harvard Business School’s graduating class. Drawing upon his business research, he offered a series of guidelines for finding meaning and happiness in life. He used examples from his own experiences to explain how high achievers can all too often fall into traps that lead to unhappiness.
The speech was memorable not only because it was deeply revealing but also because it came at a time of intense personal reflection: Christensen had just overcome the same type of cancer that had taken his father’s life. As Christensen struggled with the disease, the question “How do you measure your life?” became more urgent and poignant, and he began to share his insights more widely with family, friends, and students.
In this groundbreaking book, Christensen puts forth a series of questions: How can I be sure that I’ll find satisfaction in my career? How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness? How can I avoid compromising my integrity – and stay out of jail? Using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses, he provides incredible insights into these challenging questions.
How Will You Measure Your Life? is full of inspiration and wisdom, and will help students, midcareer professionals, and parents alike forge their own paths to fulfillment.
One of the books on the list I haven’t read, it was Ben’s first recommendation when I asked what I should add to the list.
Here’s what Audible has to say about it:
In this must-listen book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, students, and businesspeople – both seasoned and new – that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit”.
Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial, such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.
Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not genius but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own “character lab” and set out to test her theory.
Here, she takes listeners into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers – from J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to the cartoon editor of The New Yorker to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Winningly personal, insightful, and even life changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down and how that – not talent or luck – makes all the difference.
Another of Ben’s top recommendations, it’s next on my list and would be a great one to start out the new year with renewed motivation.
The guru to the gurus at last shares his knowledge with the rest of us. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s seminal studies in behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, and happiness studies have influenced numerous other authors, including Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman at last offers his own, first book for the general public. It is a lucid and enlightening summary of his life’s work. It will change the way you think about thinking.
Two systems drive the way we think and make choices, Kahneman explains: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Examining how both systems function within the mind, Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities as well as the biases of fast thinking and the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and our choices. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, he shows where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, contrasting the two-system view of the mind with the standard model of the rational economic agent.
Kahneman’s singularly influential work has transformed cognitive psychology and launched the new fields of behavioral economics and happiness studies. In this path-breaking book, Kahneman shows how the mind works, and offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and personal lives – and how we can guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.
This is such a fun, eye-opening and engaging listen!
Comedian Trevor Noah tells his wild coming-of-age tale during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa. It’s a story that begins with his mother throwing him from a moving van to save him from a potentially fatal dispute with gangsters, then follows the budding comedian’s path to self-discovery through episodes both poignant and comical. This book is only available on audible in audiobook form and with Trevor Noah narrating his own stories, the production is fantastic. There’s a bit of language in this one and a lot of great stories.
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. This was such an interesting insight into social class issues in America.
I’ve read a few books on habits in the last two years and this is my favorite. No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving – every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits – whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.
Self help books begin to sound the same after awhile and this one was new and intriguing. My favorite takeaway was that the differentiator between greatness and excellence was the ability to rest well. I’ve been trying to get Ben to read this one since a friend recommended it to me last year.
The first book of its kind, Peak Performance combines the inspiring stories of top performers across a range of capabilities – from athletic, to intellectual, to artistic – with the latest scientific insights into the cognitive and neurochemical factors that drive performance in all domains. In doing so, Peak Performance uncovers new linkages that hold promise as performance enhancers but have been overlooked in our traditionally-siloed ways of thinking. The result is a life-changing book in which listeners will learn how to enhance their performance via myriad ways including: optimally alternating between periods of intense work and rest; developing and harnessing the power of a self-transcending purpose; and priming the body and mind for enhanced productivity.
In revealing the science of great performance and the stories of great performers across a wide range of capabilities, Peak Performance uncovers the secrets of success, and coaches listeners on how to use them. If you want to take your game to the next level, whatever “your game” may be, Peak Performance will teach you how.
This powerful memoire left me feeling so grateful for my circumstances and recommitting to finding the good in everything.
At one time, Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that she had a story to tell. For the first 50 years of her life, nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to her. She was a spinster watchmaker living contentedly with her sister and their elderly father in the tiny house over their shop in Haarlem. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another.
But with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, everything changed. Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their pains, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp.
This book makes history fascinating (and is the kind of thing you wish you read back in high school). This one would be ideal to read with someone because you’ll want to talk about finds from each chapter.
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution – a number one international best seller – that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human”.
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one – Homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago, with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because, over the last few decades, humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Fact is more compelling than fiction and the most horrifying part of this book is that this beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov – an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for “tattooist”), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism – but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful recreation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
A nonfiction page turner I could not put down! This was hard to read for me, as a girl born in Tokyo with a love for the Japanese people and their culture. But in case you ever think the horrors of WWII were only in the concentration camps, this powerful true account is a story of survival and salvation.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
It was Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite book back in 2013 and my only issue with it was I kept thinking it was a true story when, in fact, it is the author’s debut fictional piece.
Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces – behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe – detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.
Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every word, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.
Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. This is a must-read. While non-fiction, the powerful accounts read like compelling stories you can’t put down…made even more astounding by the fact that they’re real and happening in our lifetime.
Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years – a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and the unchallenged rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
Taking us into a landscape never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today – an Orwellian world in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, a country that is by choice not connected to the Internet, a society in which outward displays of affection are punished, and a police state that rewards informants and where an offhanded remark can send a citizen to the gulag for life. Demick’s subjects – a middle-aged party loyalist and her rebellious daughter, an idealistic female doctor, an orphan, and two young lovers – all hail from the same provincial city in the farthest-flung northern reaches of the country. One by one, we witness the moments of revelation, when each realizes that they have been betrayed by the Fatherland and that their suffering is not a global condition but is uniquely theirs.
Nothing to Envy is the first book about North Korea to go deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and penetrate the mind-set of the average citizen. It is a groundbreaking and essential addition to the literature of totalitarianism.
My dad recommended this interesting look into the American Revolution and it had me wishing we read this kind of thing in my American History class.
There were a few parts that felt a little dry but mostly it is a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.
In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons, and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.
Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.
Number one New York Times best seller, a movie rendition of Just Mercy hits theaters in January 2020. This is a powerful and sometimes difficult read. I found myself compelled to keep listening but also needing to put it down and process the true stories.
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice – from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time, as seen in the HBO documentary True Justice.
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Esquire, and Time
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship – and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.