Mansfield’s Book Of Manly Men: An Utterly Invigorating Guide To Being Your Most Masculine Self, by Stephen Mansfield
[Note: This book was received free of charge from Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
With its cheeky and immodest title, its unabashed focus on men, and its 19th century-style cover, it would be easy for an unsympathetic reader to judge this book by its cover and to dismiss it out of hand as being sexist and hostile to women. Such a judgment would be entirely unwarranted, as this book represents a solid and Christian defense of manhood that is at once tender and loving towards women as well as honest and unsparing in its criticism of the failings of many men, particularly those who revel in permanent adolescence or preening machismo. This book has a clear point to make about what makes a man, and it makes that point honestly and directly, and with a good deal of humor that is more than hinted at on its cover, as well as with a degree of genuine pathos that is touching and a bit surprising, and even a bit sappy (in a good way).
This book is divided into three parts. The first part talks about four manly maxims: “Manly men do manly things,” “Manly men tend their fields,” “Manly men build manly men,” and “Manly men live to the glory of God.” Here we see the focus of this book, in dealing with action, responsibility, brotherhood, and godliness. Each of these elements is an essential aspect to what it means to be a man, even if one would never be confused with being macho. The second part of the book looks at historical examples from such historical figures as Jabez, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, Job, Jonathan, G.K. Chesteron, Booker T. Washington, and Witold Pilecki to demonstrate different aspects of manly character like integrity, humor, sacrifice, knowledge, friendship, quest, honor, legacy, restoration, wildness, forgiveness, and humility. The wide array of these qualities suggests a whole vision of manhood that includes all aspects of what it takes to be a man and a focus on character rather than appearance. The third part of the book, which is quite short, looks at 50 quotes, ten books, and ten movies that the author finds particularly important in encouraging godly manhood.
At the real heart of this book is its stories, in the way in which it shows how struggles and suffering turned men into godly examples. The author makes a very sensible and often forgotten point that we become genuine men (and, I suppose the same would be true of women) as a result of overcoming the difficulties of our life and testing our strength against the trials we face inside and outside. All too often it is easy to mock men for a lack of responsibility even while men continually face dishonor and abuse from an uncaring world that simply refuses to let men be men, or to appreciate a man who acts with honor and integrity in a world of treachery and crookedness. For its defense of manhood, and not merely talking about manhood, but acting as a man, and for its defense of manhood based on character rather than mere appearance, this book is a very excellent one. For its quotes and stories alone it will serve as a treasure trove for my own reflections on what it takes to be a man, not merely in chronological age, but in maturity. The highest, and most deserved, praise I can give for this book is that it describes the sort of man I may approximate in my better moments, and which I hope to be not only for myself, but also to encourage other men around me even as I draw encouragement from them in my own struggles.