The best books on masculinity

10 authors have picked their favorite books about masculinity and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era

Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era

By Heather Marie Stur,

Why this book?

Heather Stur’s Beyond Combat provides an incomparable gender analysis of the U.S. war in Vietnam and its coverage in the United States. Digging into images of dragon ladies, the girl next door, and gentle warriors, Stur shows just how deeply ideas about gender (and race) permeated public perceptions of U.S. intervention. Stur also uncovers the roles that U.S. women in the Women’s Army Corps played in Vietnam—primarily as support to combat troops—and examines whether women’s real-world experiences in a war zone reconfigured gender role assumptions back home in the United States.
From the list:

The best books on women and the US war in Vietnam

Book cover of Masculinity and Sexuality in Modern Mexico

Masculinity and Sexuality in Modern Mexico

By Víctor M. Macías-González (editor), Anne Rubenstein (editor),

Why this book?

This is a solid edited volume that has contributions from leading scholars of Mexican history exploring straight and gay sexualities from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century in different parts of the country. The chapters examine a wide range of interesting topics including cinema and movie going, public bathhouses, prostitution, elopement, and mariachi culture to untangle how masculinities are historically constructed and to interrogate the concepts of macho and machismo.

From the list:

The best books on the history of sexuality in modern Latin America

Book cover of Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917

Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917

By Gail Bederman,

Why this book?

Gail Bederman expertly weaves together an analysis of the discourses of manliness and civilization at the turn of the century, highlighting the way ideas about gender and power are constructed with and through ideas about race. Her case study approach really shows how this discourse functioned in multiple ways at the same time, covering Theodore Roosevelt’s hugely impactful connections between race and manliness right alongside Ida B. Wells’ campaign to use civilization discourse against white southerners in a bid to end lynching.  These, along with chapters on G Stanley Hall and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ably demonstrate the way discourses can…

From the list:

The best history books on culture’s role in shaping race, class, and gender in modern America

Book cover of The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire

The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire

By David Deida,

Why this book?

What I love about The Way of the Superior Man is that it frames the traditional, ancient ways of looking at masculine energy in a way that those of us in the modern, 21st-century western world can relate to. 

This is not a book about being a man, or in any way exclusively for men. It’s about how we relate to the masculine energy that is inside of all of us. This is an important component of what I teach in Stepping Beyond Intention as well because it shows us how we relate to others and the world around us.…

From the list:

The best books to break through your blocks

Book cover of Brutes in Suits: Male Sensibility in America, 1890-1920

Brutes in Suits: Male Sensibility in America, 1890-1920

By John Pettegrew,

Why this book?

Pettegrew, a historian, also portrays Roosevelt as brute-in-chief at the turn of the 20th century, but he zooms out and describes other social forces in the United States that contributed to the emergence of the militaristic definition of manhood. These include the mythologizing of the Civil War as a noble display of male honor, divorcing the war from its roots in slavery and mistreatment of Blacks. He shows how the advocates for stronger men—and dependent women—“self-consciously used Darwinian biology to classify brutishness as an essential and natural male trait.” The book provides a fascinating and comprehensive look at the…

From the list:

The best books about power, gender politics, and gender stereotypes in America

Book cover of Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era

Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era

By Michael Kimmel,

Why this book?

The rise of far-right movements and the attempts to roll back the rights of all women and the basic civil rights of Black people have been fueled by angry white men. Michael Kimmel’s brilliant book is a powerful critique of the hateful beliefs and actions of these men, but manages to speak about them with empathy. Because he also interviews men who have left neo-Nazi organizations, he leaves us with a very hopeful message.

From the list:

The best books on the lives of men in the world-changing era of feminism

Book cover of The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

By bell hooks,

Why this book?

The world of individual men is shaped by our continuing social, economic, and political power. But “men” aren’t one uniform group. We experience the world through our socio-economic class, ‘race’, sexual and gender orientations, ethnicity, physical differences, and more. When bell hooks died in 2021, we lost one of the US’s great feminists who long explored the intersectional nature of women’s oppression. She also wrote with great compassion about men, as you can also see in her book, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity.

From the list:

The best books on the lives of men in the world-changing era of feminism

Book cover of Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire

Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire

By Amy S. Greenberg,

Why this book?

Better than any other study on filibustering, Amy Greenberg treats it through the lens of gender, and she is particularly interested in public opinion about filibustering. Mass rallies in support of filibuster invasions of Cuba and Central America occurred in U.S. cities in the 1850s, providing funds, recruits, and moral support for criminal enterprises. What did gender have to do with who approved of filibustering, and who didn’t? What did filibustering have to do with ideas about what constituted proper masculinity? Did women participate in filibustering in any way, and did images of exoticized women in other parts of the…

From the list:

The best books on U.S. filibustering

Book cover of Man of the House

Man of the House

By C.R. Wiley,

Why this book?

Wiley tells a guy how to stop being an aimless fool and start being the man of the house. His lessons tell you how to earn authority, not through domination but through toughness and a determination to give your family what they need from you. Wiley wants men to create strong shelters for their wives and kids, so that they can thrive and become independent themselves. It’s practical stuff, like, fix your own damn appliances. Women: If you want men with spines in your life, have them read this. And if you find yourself having to be both mom and…

From the list:

The best tough and practical books for living well

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