As the recently released film Courageous shows, 21st century American men are going through something of an identity crisis. One need only look to the plethora of websites and books geared toward men to see this. Sites like The Art of Manliness and 1001 Rules for my Unborn Son provide both advice and an outlet for today's men searching for exactly what it means to be a man.
Recent books like Raising a Modern Day Knight, and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, make attempts at helping fathers raise sons that will grow into men. Into this arena steps one of today's foremost voices on values and virtues, William Bennett, with an excellent book, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.
Bennett is a curator of the museum of manhood.
Bennett does not simply talk about manhood today, he talks about the concept of manhood throughout recorded history. Stories, essays, historical vignettes, and contemporary profiles are his means to explore and explain what it means to be a man. In doing so he gives a fuller and richer picture of what being a man means and in turn, how best to become one. He does this by dividing the idea of manliness into six arenas of action:
- Man in War
- Man at Work
- Man in Play, Competition, and Leisure
- Man in the Polis
- Man with Woman and Children
- Man in Prayer and Reflection
In each chapter there are a series of readings from such varied sources as Pericles, St. Thomas Aquinas, President Kennedy & Iraq war veterans. Less of a book, what Bennett is actually doing is acting as a modern day curator of all the things that make one truly a man.
Like Bennett's previous work, The Book of Virtues, this book is one to hold on to for the long term.
One of the strengths of a book like this is it's timelessness. It was not written to be read straight through, but to be used as a kind of a reference book. As a homeschooling parent of a young son I know this book will have a prominent place in my own library. The readings are short and will be food for rich discussion both now when my son is quite young, and later, when he is inevitably struggling to find his own way into adulthood.
One hopes that this museum of manhood is not one of ancient history, but one of things that were, that can be and will be again.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com a book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.