Monday, September 9, 2013

Review/Recommendation of Frank Miniter's Ultimate Man's Survival Guide: Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood.

Shortly after I made the decision to try my hand at writing a ''man blog" after I graduated from college this past spring, I did a little research in order to find out if anyone had ever had the same idea before it was conceptualized in my mind. I was fairly certain that someone must have thought of something similar in the past. Sure enough, after doing a simple Google search, I discovered that there were, in fact, a couple of different websites, blogs, and books which had already covered many of the same topics I intended to. However, I did not let that deter me, because as far as I could tell, no one had a monopoly over writing about "guy stuff." Therefore, I simply decided to push forward and create my own "man blog" nevertheless. I was determined to offer my own unique approach to the subject, and make each post my own, but began looking to a few of the places I found for guidance and inspiration. One of the books I discovered, while doing my research, was The Ultimate Man's Survival Guide by Frank Miniter. After reading a few reviews, I went ahead and purchased it with little hesitation. Since this book has orbited into my possession, it has essentially gone on to become to me what the movie GoodFellas was to David Chase. For those of you who do not know, David Chase is the creator of The Sopranos, and he has frequently claimed that GoodFellas was his "bible" for his award winning drama series.

Miniter's book is broken into eight different parts which are titled "Survivor," "Provider," "Athlete," "Hero," "Gentleman," "Romantic," "Pal," and "Philosopher." In each chapter, Miniter carefully, and meticulously, offers instructions on how to earn each one of these honorable manly monikers. Moreover, there are also appendices at the back of the book in which Miniter lists 100 books every man needs to read and 100 movies every man must see. Some of the titles on Miniter's movie list match those that are on mine but the vast majority do not. Many of the films he names were released far before my time, and I am not quite as big of a black and white movie aficionado as I should be, and therefore have not seen flicks such as Captain Blood (1935) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). 

At the very beginning of the book, however, before these tremendous chapters begin, Miniter has an excellent introduction and it is imperative that we discuss it. He describes an event that occurred during his experience running with the bulls in Pamplona which tells you right off the bat that he is a brave man. In the story, he describes how he, personally, was able to temper his fear during this event, because he had a mentor, who had run before, and had given him the necessary knowledge and training to conquer this trying challenge. After he concludes this story, he describes the notable absence of a "rite of passage" in today's society, which stands in sharp contrast to many cultures of the past, and asks the question of how do we know when we become men when there is simply no longer a test for us to pass? I really liked the answer he proceeds to give to his own question.

Miniter goes on to answer his question by claiming that being a man is not about performing macho acts, but is about being a good citizen, brother, son, and father. He says it is about doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, and when there is nothing in it for you. He also makes a few more points, which I really liked, and can honestly say that I wanted to make focal points of my blog long before I bought this book. They are: "a man is never a bully" and that, unfortunately, some men today no longer live by a strong, manly, and moral code such as the ones that many of John Wayne's characters followed in his westerns. Miniter then goes on to conclude the introduction by stating that it is not necessary for all men to run with the bulls (phew!), but it is necessary for all men to exude self-confidence and possess knowledge.

This introduction resonated with me on so many levels. It was always one of my primary objectives to make my blog a friendly, and welcoming, place and have a large component of it dedicated to how to be a respectful, kind, and caring person who looks after his fellow man and makes good, responsible, and mature decisions. My blog is not only geared towards people who enjoy hunting, fishing, and the same books and movies as I do, but it is dedicated to guys who are committed to self-growth, self-improvement, and flat out want to strive to become the best versions of themselves that they can possibly be. Another reason I was inspired to create a blog such as this, is because I have noticed that far too many men, especially in my generation, seem to think that it is manly, and funny, to try to build themselves up by being mean to someone else. I wanted to be able to explain how and why that is not The Way of the Alpha Male, as I believe that real men help and do not hurt. Moreover, I also believe that there is nothing manlier than putting your own interests aside and helping someone in need. 

Moving on to the review, Miniter's theme of how a man should be an all-around good guy who is strong and confident, but soft spoken at the same time, carries on throughout the duration of the entire book which I really appreciate. I do not want to spoil the book for you, so I will do my best to keep this report as short and concise as possible, and merely tell you a few of my favorite parts of the book. That being said, I really found the "Survivor" segment interesting and important, as he talks about what to pack for survival gear, and provides instructions on how to treat victims of maladies such as hypothermia and animal bites in this chapter, which is helpful to know as the reader will be able to use this information to save his of her life or someone else's. Miniter also tells us what Lewis and Clark packed on their epic westward expedition, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading as I am a big history buff.

I really enjoyed the "Provider" chapter as well. I would highly recommend that non-hunters read this part of the book, because in this section, Miniter conscientiously explains the deep connection that hunters have to the environment as well as their perpetual commitment to conservation. He explains that hunting is a manly activity, because it takes determination and perseverance to track dear sign and sit for hours in the damp woods in order to bag your game, and it "humbles the egotistical" and teaches one to respect nature, and also increases one's knowledge of the environment. He also mentions the various rituals Native American tribes would perform in order to show respect to a fallen animal, and speaks of how the Finns and Afrikaners still place a small piece of food in a fallen animal's mouth to thank it for its sustenance. Miniter also implies that people had a much better understanding of where their food comes from in the past.

To wrap things up, I really enjoyed reading the penultimate chapter, which is entitled "Pal," and I have talked about it on here before. You can refer to a previous post of mine entitled Be a Pal to read what I said about it. Lastly, I really enjoyed reading "Philosopher" which is the eighth and final chapter. In this chapter he discusses some of man's greatest rules and moral codes such as "The Golden Rule," and Ben Franklin's "Thirteen Virtues," which I have also discussed on here before. He also speaks of Cicero's "The Six Mistakes of Man" which may, in fact, be a subject for a blog post of mine on another day. I enjoyed this chapter because it reiterated the importance of being a good guy and following an honorable code.

Other things that you will learn from Mr. Miniter in this book include, but are far from limited to, how to tie a bow tie, how to throw a curveball, how to field dress a deer, and "The Gentleman's 20 Rules of Conduct." He also offers manly profiles of historical tough guys throughout the book, under headlines which read "Portrait of a Man," and writes these for people such as Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt.

Truth be told, this book is actually one of a trio of non-fiction books I have read this summer, which has served to inspire me to continue working harder on my dream. I want to be a writer, who writes about the subjects he is passionate about, and is also someone who can inspire and help others. If you are wondering what the other two books are, the second book in the trio is Start by Jon Acuff, which I have written about at least once or twice, and the third book is Game Changer by former MSU and current Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins which is an excellent tale of perseverance, determination, and following your dreams. I have learned an awful lot from these three books, and I have tried to take everything I have learned, roll it into one, and apply it to what I am doing. I try to write a serious and thoughtful blog and maintain a certain level of humor at the same time which can be tricky. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, please feel free to comment.

Till next time,

Miniter, Frank. The Ultimate Man's Survival Guide: Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood. Washington,          D.C.: Regnery, 2013. Print.