September was an unusually weird month of reading for me. I crammed a ton in at the beginning of the month, didn’t get much done in the middle, and then got back to it towards the end. Much of the reason why was I spent some time in Austin at an event called Man Camp, run by my good friends and mentors, John Romaniello and David Dellanave, which wound up being one of the best weekends of my life.
It was full of exploration into modern day manhood, discussions on a huge number of topics, guns, and bbq. It’s deserving of its own write-up, which you will get shortly. Because I knew I’d be going to Man Camp I decided much of my reading for this month would be about the topic du jour, manhood. This shouldn’t surprise many of you who check out these reading romps regularly, but this month was just more in depth than months past. Anyways, onto the books.
I decided to re-read Fight Club after I saw this post on Art Of Manliness. It had been a few years since I read the book or watched the movie, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to read it again. I’m a big fan of re-reading books at various points in life, anyways because the books never change, but you do. And that means there are usually new lessons to be gleaned from old books. That wound up being true in this case.
Fight Club is still to this day one of the simplest and most in-depth looks at the struggles that modern men face wrapped in the story of a dude who absolutely despises every aspect of his life. The book is rife with quotes about our struggles that resonate deeply with members of my generation, the generation of my parents, and the generations younger than I am.
Quotes like this:
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
It was a lot of fun coming back and reading this. Being able to more clearly recognize the polarity between the two main characters, Tyler and The Narrator, as well as seeing how enthralling and ultimately destructive anarchy can be.
For anyone at all curious about manhood, the ceaseless malaise of modern day, or just a great story, this is worth a read. You can grab it here.
I’ve had this sitting on my shelf for awhile now and delayed reading it until I knew I was going to Man Camp. Iron John is one of the most famous writings on manhood there is. Just about anyone in the sphere of talking about men and manliness will tell you that this is a must read, and they’re certainly not wrong.
The book centers on a classic myth from the Brothers Grimm and examines the deep symbolism within the myth. Much of which I doubt the original writers intended at all, but more often than not I think symbolism is something that manifests unconsciously, so it works.
Iron John examines the now forgotten aspects of manhood like initiation rites, absent fathers in modern day, and a whole host of other factors that have combined to make life as a man far more confusing than we ever could have imagined. It’s both lofty and down to earth at the same time. Accessible yet high-minded.
And for anyone at all interested in symbolism, this is a great place to start as well. The book is organized in a way that brings the reader along the myth, stopping to examine various symbolic points within the story, which I thought was fascinating.
Worth adding to your library, for sure. You can grab it here.
The Warrior Ethos
I’ve really come to enjoy the nonfiction work of Steven Pressfield as of lately. He has clearly become one of the go-to guys when it comes to writing things that all entrepreneurs and creative types must read, and this book was no different.
The Warrior Ethos centers on the fact that all of us are living our very own battle, day in and day out. It then takes timeless concepts practiced by warriors and helps apply those to our modern day lives. Things like do we live and fight by a code? If so, what is it? What is a modern day warrior? What does that look like, and how does that manifest itself? How do you fight the inevitable battles we all encounter?
All of which was not coincidentally something talked about at Man Camp.
The book itself is incredibly short, topping out at something like 80 pages. But it’s full of short, punchy, motivational remarks that frame the struggles all of us face in the context of how a warrior would handle them, and how you, as a warrior in your own right, should handle them as well.
By far and away one of my favorite short reads thus far. You should grab it here.
Fire In The Belly
Fire In The Belly sits right up there with Iron John as a book that everyone tells you to read if you’re interested in manhood. It’s unlike Iron John though in that it doesn’t use a classic myth to teach you the lessons of manhood. Instead, the book takes an in-depth look at what men have become today, and how they can reclaim what it is that we feel like we’ve lost.
It takes a critical look at the post-modern man who is afraid to offend anyone and everyone, as well as the brash and unapologetic man who leaves a crowd of broken people in his wake. Instead, if offers up the theory that a man in our modern world is someone who loves, protects, provides, has the capacity for vulnerability while at the same time the potential for moral outrage when necessary.
All in all I found it to be a very motivating and stimulating read that, coupled with the other reads of this month and Man Camp, left me thinking about a lot of very deep concepts, and how I want to apply those in my own life. Kind of like Iron John, there are going to be some things he mentions that seem a bit dated. But this is solely because both were published over 20 years ago. Those things don’t detract from the material in any way at all.
You can grab it here.
Guns, Germs, and Steel
This was actually the very first book for my book club, The Society of Classical Erudition. It had been something I wanted to read for a long time, and once I got around to starting the book club, it felt like a solid choice.
Guns, Germs, and Steel explores fundamental questions to human history. Essentially always asking the question, “Why did things end up the way they did?”
Much like the title says, a lot of human history can be boiled down to those three developments. The societies that obtained those typically won out. But why did the Europeans have the guns, germs, and the steel and not the Native Americans? Or why did societies developing at the same time in Africa, Australia, and The Middle East all develop at such rapidly different paces?
All of those are questions that Diamond tries to answer in the book. It’s no small book, either. It’s dense, yet somehow he manages to keep it entertaining and engaging throughout. If you’re at all interested in why things are the way they are, this is probably a book you’ll enjoy.
You can pick it up here.