All leaders are readers. There is no way around this fact.

One of the daily non-negotiable habits I keep is a daily reading habit. Why not condense decades of wisdom someone else learned the hard way into a few hours of reading a book?

The following are 22 of the most important books I have read on my path to becoming an elite man, husband, and father.

There is no particular order to the books recommended.

Each book contains an affiliate link to Amazon, at no additional cost to you.

1. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott

Marriage

This is a phenomenal book on marriage for husbands. It was a great encouragement to me, because it covers so much of what we teach here at Dad.Work, and gives a TON of Scripture to back it all up. It covers absolutely everything from your identity to your responsibilities to communication, conflict resolution, sexuality, and more. If you only read one book on marriage, make it this one.

You demonstrate love in order to build love.

Check it out on Amazon.

2. Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw

Shame, Forgiveness, Identity

One of the first books I read that explained why I might be feeling the way I was feeling, and that it wasn’t my fault (though still my responsibility). It explained my family roles, the toxic shame that I felt and that wasn’t mine to embody, and gave a wide variety of practices to deal with this shame.

Toxically shamed people tend to become more and more stagnant as life goes on. They live in a guarded, secretive and defensive way. They try to be more than human (perfect and controlling) or less than human (losing interest in life or stagnated in some addictive behavior).

Check it out on Amazon.

3. No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover

Boundaries, Needs, Relationship, Self-Worth, Perfectionism

This is a classic for a reason. It outlines how men often try to be the “nice guy” because they think if only they can please other people, they’ll finally be liked and validated and feel like they’re enough. The shadow side of this behaviour is that we expect things from people, we don’t set boundaries, and we don’t get our actual needs met. As a perfectionist, and someone who assumed the responsibility for everyone else’s emotions my whole life, I got a lot out of this book. It helped me see that what I was doing was actually reacting to childhood traumas/conditioning, that I wasn’t likely to get my needs met, and that I was doing my authentic self a great disservice by trying to be a “Nice Guy”.

The working paradigm of the Nice Guy is this: IF I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be…THEN I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life.

Check it out on Amazon.

4. Fathered by God by John Eldredge

Faith, Identity, Masculinity, Rite of Passage

Have you ever noticed that you have a “father-shaped hole” in your heart? A longing for a specific type of love from your father that you never received? Whether he was present or not, many of us have what might be termed a “father wound”. I’ve recently realized that in reality, this is more like a “God-shaped hole”. No matter what father you grew up with, God is more than capable of filling the hole he left. This books goes over the stages of masculine development and shows how God works through each of them to initiate you into manhood, with or without your earthly father in the picture. Very helpful to read as we raise our own children, too.

We must be willing to take an enormous risk, and open our hearts to the possibility that God is initiating us as men—maybe even in the very things in which we thought he’d abandoned us. We open ourselves up to being fathered.

Check it out on Amazon.

5. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Spirituality, Masculinity, Initiation

This book really surprised me and impacted me deeply. There is a depth and solidity to what Eldredge writes that stirred something primal within me. It is a call to be more will, as we are naturally meant to be. It offers insights into what boys and girls truly need from their fathers…and how that impacts you as a grown boy today. This should be required reading for all parents. The author speaks of the Christian God regularly, and while I am not a Christian or religious person, I found that what he wrote rang true even if your experience with spirituality is more present-moment, cosmic, or nature-based.

Instead of asking what you think you ought to do to become a better man (or woman, for my female readers), I want to ask, What makes you come alive? What stirs your heart?

Check it out on Amazon.

6. Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham

Leadership, Marriage, Parenting

How would you define your role as the leader of your family? I think Voddie Baucham does a great job with the phrase “Family Shepherd”. We are shepherding our children’s hearts and we are shepherding our marriage. Shepherds lead their sheep to pasture, but they also set boundaries to protect them. They

Hence our greatest desire is to lead our families to the feet of Christ, not to our own.

Check it out on Amazon.

7. The Power of Showing Up by Dr. Dan Siegel

Parenting, Secure Attachment

This book outlines the extreme importance of developing Secure Attachment with our children, the consequences of not doing so, and how to actually develop this attachment. Foundational emotional intelligence and communication is covered.

“Four S’s”—helping kids feel (1) safe—they feel protected and sheltered from harm; (2) seen—they know you care about them and pay attention to them; (3) soothed—they know you’ll be there for them when they’re hurting; and (4) secure—based on the other S’s, they trust you to predictably help them feel “at home” in the world, then learn to help themselves feel safe, seen, and soothed.

Check it out on Amazon.

8. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Communication, Compassion, Conflict Resolution

One of the most important books in learning how to communicate more effectively. If everyone used the NVC formula, the world would be a peaceful place. I appreciate the mindful nature of the process, which includes observation, a recognition of your own feelings and needs, and a respectful request to get what you want in a way that makes it easy for the other party to understand and honour.

“NVC pill” in order to restate its message in the following form: “When a, I feel b, because I am needing c. Therefore I now would like d.”

Check it out on Amazon.

9. Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis

Parenting, Initiation, Rites of Passage

A must-read for every parent of boys. Not only does Robert Lewis walk you through how to plan and perform a meaningful, life-changing rite of passage for your boys, he gives you a structure to use in explaining what it means to be a masculine man along the way, as your boys grow. Extremely practical and motivating.

Our sons needed something more from us than just love and support. They needed help in becoming men.

Check it out on Amazon.

10. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman

Parenting, Emotional Intelligence

This is another must-read on parenting. Gottman outlines how to raise a child who is emotionally intelligent by giving us the steps to “emotion coach” our children through all sorts of situations. He shows us why this is so important for a child and the adult he or she will grow to be, and you will end up learning a lot about yourself, your childhood, and your emotional capacity in the process.

Not just any dad will do. Children’s lives are greatly enhanced by fathers who are emotionally present, validating, able to offer comfort in times of distress. By the same token, children can be deeply harmed by fathers who are abusive, highly critical, humiliating, or emotionally cold.

Check it out on Amazon.

11. The Difference A Father Makes by Ed McGlasson

Fatherhood

I had a call with Ed McGlasson, and he prayed over me in a way that changed my life. He prayed the blessing of the Father over me, and it unlocked something I had been missing both in my life as a son, and my life as a Christian – the Father’s infinite love. This book is an incredible quick read, filled with stories from Ed’s own life, delivered in such a way that is extremely actionable and will help you become a better father immediately.

Kids don’t want bigger houses, faster cars, or more money in the bank. What they really want to know is this: What does my dad really think about me?

Check it out on Amazon.

12. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

Mindset, Sales, Habits, Success

I had no idea what to expect when my friend Locke sent this to me. It turned into one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in a long time. While it is indeed a great sales book, it is so much more. Sales is not just about making money in the marketplace. It’s about delivering value, communicating, problem solving, resolving conflicts. It’s a short read, but punches WAY above its weight.

I will persist until I succeed. I was not delivered into this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny. I will persist until I succeed.

Check it out on Amazon.

13. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Parenting

The overall idea here is that we are shepherding a child’s heart, NOT correcting behaviour. If there is a behaviour issue, it is indicative of a deeper heart issue, and that is the level we need to be operating at, not the surface issue. While I am not completely against the idea that spanking has it’s place in a discipline toolbox, I am also not completely convinced it is necessary. I mention that because there is a long discussion about it in this book. They give quite a convincing argument. BUT…that does not take away from the importance of the main message of this book, which is that of shepherding your child’s heart. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of discipline, I would read this book to get the rest of the wisdom.

All behavior is linked to attitudes of the heart. Therefore, discipline must address attitudes of the heart.

Check it out on Amazon.

14. Milestone to Manhood by David Arms & Steven Arms

Rites of Passage, Initiation

Another great resource for fathers looking to plan a Rite of Passage for his son, this book combines a personal story of a man who received a Rite of Passage from his father, and a how-to guide for you to use to put together your own initiation event. I had Steven on my podcast, which I suggest listening to after you read the book.

Of course preteen boys have doubts about becoming a man; many of the grown men that they look up to are not even confident in their masculine identity.

Check it out on Amazon.

15. Raising Men by Eric Davis

Parenting, Leadership

While they don’t vary a whole lot or offer mind-blowing new tactics, I have a soft spot for these Navy SEAL books and those like them. Things like Can’t Hurt Me, by David Goggins. It’s mostly just a story of being a total badass, but there is immense power in being motivated by seeing how hardcore someone else can be. In fact, I went from barely running 5K to running a half marathon in 3 weeks after I read Can’t Hurt Me, because I realized it was my MIND, not my BODY that was the weak link. It’s similar here. You get to hear from some pretty hardcore men about life and leadership lessons that they teach their sons. Definitely worth a quick read.

As a father, if you’re not reaching your potential – both as a father and as a person – then you will not be able to teach your children how to live a good life and how to lead others to do the same. And you will ultimately lose their respect, no matter how many times you take them to school or play video games with them. It all begins here. With you. Act accordingly.

Check it out on Amazon.

16. Getting to Zero by Jayson Gaddis

Conflict Resolution, Relationships

I hate conflict. While reading the books above on communication have helped, and becoming more confident in myself, my boundaries, and my compassion have made conflict bearable, I still felt like I was at a severe disadvantage whenever something would happen that caused a rift or conflict…especially among those closest to me. Thoughts about being abandoned entered my head from childhood, I held on too tightly in order to protect myself, and ended up not being myself, or repressing things in order to avoid conflict altogether. Jayson Gaddis delivers a variety of tools AND background that helped explain my aversion to conflict – the one-two combo that I appreciate most in books like this. Pick this up to learn how to communicate better in high-stakes relationships.

When you avoid an outer conflict with another person, you create an inner conflict with yourself.

Check it out on Amazon.

17. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Meaning, Purpose, Resiliency

This is a powerful book that will help you find meaning in your suffering. Frankl believes that our primary drive in life is to discover and pursue what we find meaningful, and he shares his own example of how doing this in the hellish confines of a Nazi concentration camp helped to keep him alive. Very inspiring, especially if you are feeling apathetic or broken.

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.

Check it out on Amazon.

18. Black Belt Husband by Quentin Hafner

Marriage

An excellent book that is highly actionable, and walks you through an ascending belt model, just like in martial arts. Start by earning your white belt, and go from there. Extremely practical, easy to ready, with a ton of action-items that will have you moving and DOING the work to become a better husband.

Becoming a Black Belt Husband means having enough insight to be able to discern when someone’s criticism of you is wrong and knowing when their criticism is right.

Check it out on Amazon.

19. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Communication, Relationships

Learn some freaking social skills, bro! This is a classic, and is useful in every aspect of life…your marriage, your parenting, your work environment, your friendships. It gets to the heart of human psychology and how to communicate in such a way that gets results and solves problems…not starts fights.

Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.

Check it out on Amazon.

20. A Family Well Ordered by Cotton Mather

Family Leadership, Spiritual Leadership

Man, do we ever need to read stuff like this once in awhile. It is so convicting. Practical, straight to the point, and centuries removed from wokeness and weakness. We have become so far removed from what a well-ordered family looks like, it is almost shocking to be confronted with the truth. Highly recommend checking your ego and cultural conditioning and read this to step fully into family leadership.

Wrestle with the Lord. Receive no denial. Earnestly protest, Lord, I will not let thee go, except thou bless this poor child of mine, and make it your own! Do this, until, if it may be, your heart is raised by a touch of heaven, to a particular faith; that God has blessed this child, and it shall be blessed and saved forever.

Check it out on Amazon.

21. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Leadership, Family Culture

What is the culture of your family? Do you know how to intentionally set that culture such that you give your family the best chance to thrive? Are you unknowingly hurting your wife and kids with your leadership style – or lack thereof? Are you creating safety for everyone to reach their unique potential? This book on creating a culture within an organization is massively important for fathers, who need to create a culture of harmony and peace and togetherness in their home.

Group performance depends on behavior that communicates one powerful overarching idea: We are safe and connected.

Check it out on Amazon.

22. The Bible

Truth

This is literally the only book on this list that you truly need. God is the perfect father to try your best to model. Jesus is the perfect man and husband to try your best to model. The entirety of reality and your place in it is found within these living pages. If you are a believer, I encourage you to be in the Word daily and go to it for answers to all of your problems, combined with prayer and gratitude. If you are an unbeliever, I encourage you to read the New Testament, at least. I did NOT grow up in the church, and I rejected all idea of God for years, so I know where you’re coming from. Give it a try. Ask the deep questions. Apply all your energy to existential questions for awhile. See what happens. Just seek truth.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5

Next Books On My Shelf

  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Living Fearless by Jamie Winship
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
  • Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Meade
  • Hints on Child-Training by H. Clay Trumbull
  • Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo
  • Stepping Up by Dennis Rainey

Epic/Adventure/Classic Novels To Read With Your Children

I have been intentionally reading epics with my older boys, in order to challenge them and expand their understanding of the world.

So far we have read:

  • Homer’s Odyssey
  • The Hobbit
  • Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa
  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing
  • We are currently in the middle of The Lord of the Rings

This page was last updated on Nov 14, 2023. I will continue to add books when I come across something especially impactful.

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