I’ve noticed that there seems to be a rise in the number of new titles out there dealing with masculinity, including how to be a guy type books. The reason for this makes sense to me, since there seems to be something along the lines of a crisis breaching in Guyville.
Since I’m in the tortured process of writing a book for women that brushes up against this subject, I’ll skip the topic here. But if you’re interested in the matter, might I point you in the direction of this easy, breezy TED video by notable psychologist Philip Zimbardo on the overriding causes and byproducts of this.
Okay, back to how to be a guy books. I had the pleasure of reviewing one that is funny, great fun to read and surprisingly information packed.
I say surprising because some dude books I’ve perused (usually pickup books) are downright cliche, with lots of women-bashing and promotion of the idea that proper manhood means staying in a state of smirking juvenility and making it apparent that you still hate your mother and have no idea who your dad is. (See the male crisis issue above.)
Books that make me wonder if the authors are secret man-haters out to sabotage fellow dudes.
Not this book. The MANual ($14.95, Ulysses Press) has wit throughout, is intelligent and laugh-inducing funny at points. And the authors, Keith Riegert and Sam Kaplan, are wonderfully un-cheesy. There is a delightful lack of perverted guy talk…no 1970’s-era pickup lines…no jokes about women drivers. In fact, there is no mention of women anywhere in its pages, which may be a nice thing for many readers.
In short, this book will not neither disappoint nor insult the man in your life whom you buy it for.
The book offers a good-hearted, respectable brand of masculinity and a great mix of information that would behoove any dude to know — from the ins and outs of boats and the origins of beer, to knowing the difference between cuts of beef and even a fascinating chapter on boxing. There are also some well-told tales of male heroism in The MANual, spanning from Hannibal’s Roman campaign to a section on the Medal of Honor, America’s highest.
The topics of the book are far-reaching, and presented so well that I found myself moving through it at quick clip, always entertained. The wit is perfect, too, added in just the right dose and always of the smart, never smarmy, variety.
Did you know? The Irish Stand Down is a type of bare-knuckle fighting that was popular in Irish ghettos, and involved standing still and simply punching one another, since it didn’t allow the fighters to move. Did you know? Theodore Roosevelt is the only American president to have received it. He was awarded it in 2001 for his run on San Juan Ridge during the Spanish-American War.
Though the The MANual may cover some grim topics in spots, I’m thinking the stuff about flesh-eating parasites and the Black Plague, the authors do so with a certain style that does not render the book depressing or even gloomy. Here, the authors recount the actions of Master Sargeant Roy P. Benavidez, a Medal of Honor recipient, during a horrific firefight in Vietnam:
Did he cry? No. Where any normal superhuman being would have given up, Sgt. Benavidez was just getting started. The sarge got up, tucked his organs back into his shirt, ran back to the downed chopper, gathered up whatever souls in the wreckage were still breathing, and positioned them in a defensive perimeter until another helicopter could arrive. He then cranked up the radio, called in some air strikes, and ran around handing out water and ammo to the wounded soldiers (what, no moist towelettes?). Oh, and then he got shot again.
Bottom Line: Authors Keith Riegert and Sam Kaplan give us an entertaining and very smart read in The MANual ($14.95, Ulysses Press). The variety of information is cleverly unexpected and useful, and the writing is concise, easygoing and completely companionable. I would not hesitate to buy this book for any guy in my life, from my teenage nephew all the way to my father, who is a pretty learned guy. Anyone who reads it is bound to learn something new and have some great laughs along the way.