"Mansfield's Book of Manly Men" by Stephen Mansfield. A Review

 

In some ways, it was a fun book. with all of the stories and simplicity. In other ways, it was a thought-provoking volume. Mansfield addresses manhood from a mostly biblical perspective. Why? As he states, "Manhood is suffering today. Men seem to be confused about what God wants them to be and about how to live out their manly calling" (xv). If that was the case in 2013 when he wrote the book, it is clearly more so today.


I expected it to slide into chest-thumping bravado and Archie Bunker style braggadocio. But instead, the author has a better concept of manliness. The book feels like it's dipping its toes in the weird waters of self-centered mansplaining and chauvinism when it comes to chapters like "Quest" or "Wildness"  or when it talks about belonging to the tribe of men. But the overwhelming direction of the book maps out ways of manhood that take wholesome masculinity into the realm of service, protection, forgiveness, humility, friendship, and the like.


And the book is packed full of stories about men who exemplified this trait or that. Clearly the author presents his models' best sides. But he has a realism that makes the manuscript healthy. For example, "The great heroes of the past you've grown to admire were all pitiful human beings whom we remember only because they declared war on some part of their pitifulness" (187). That potent point helps keep readers sober and sensible, while being instructed on attributes of manhood.


I agree with the author that masculinity, manhood is on the ropes in America, and in the West. C.S. Lewis saw it long ago when he penned "The Abolition of Man". This book, if not taken uncritically, will benefit any man who reads it, and will give a good perspective to women and mothers who care about the men in their lives. I appreciated what Mansfield was attempting, and loved the biographical stories. I recommend the book.

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