William Bennett, former Secretary of Education and a well known author and political commentator has compiled a very special set of readings around how boys become men and what men need to do to take their place in society and in the family. The Book of Man
can perhaps best be described as an anthology about the lives and experiences of strong men in history and presents these men as role models for boys and men in today's world. Any dad who is looking for a way to talk to his sons
about manhood and hoping to instill a sense of self-respect will benefit from reading and sharing The Book of Man.
Have We Forgotten How to Raise Men?
This is a question that deserves a lot of thought and should drive us to action. Dr. William Bennett, in his recent book The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood, helps respond to this question by sharing insights and lessons from the lives of strong men in history. Examples from the lives of men (some not without controversy) suggest that we need to focus our greater energies on teaching our sons young and older what it means to be a man. In an era that seems chock full of bad examples of responsible manhood and fatherhood, and in a world in which we honor men for irresponsibility, The Book of Man raises the standard quite a bit for fathers today.
The Book's Structure
Bennett organizes his book into key chapters around the places where men have distinguished themselves. These include
- Man at War
- Man at Work
- Man in Play, Sports and Leisure
- Man in the Polis
- Man with Woman and Children
- Man in Prayer and Reflection
In each section, there are 40 or so stories, poems, vignettes or essays related to the larger topic. Most are 2-5 pages long, so they can each be read in just a few minutes, making it a perfect way to teach a son from the story.
The Examples of Men
With so many stories and examples, it is clear that there are literally hundreds of men involved in these stories. While some are easily predictable (Washington, Lincoln, Franklin and Churchill), the stories are not just about major historical figures. Vignettes from the lives of Pete Maravich, Chuck Yeager
, Nolan Ryan
and David Gelernter are also featured. While it can certainly be argued that not all of the men featured were good examples their entire lives, sometimes their process of change is a critical message as well.
The Bottom Line
I have really enjoyed several of Dr. Bennett's books, and I really wish that I had been able to share The Book of Man
with my sons during their growing up years. While the book si quite long at over 500 pages, the individual stories, essays and vignettes are short and should probably be read one at a time for maximum effect. The Book of Man
is one of the best books I have read that give fathers and sons
a chance to talk about the things that are most important in a man's life and to learn from the experiences of others. This will be a book I give my sons and sons-in-law as they are raising my grandsons and one that I will encourage them to read a bit at a time as they try to teach them what manhood is all about. It is a lesson too many young men are missing today as they grow up without fathers, and one we dads should make sure and communicate to our sons and their friends.