Book Review: Modern Manners

Modern Manners: Tools To Take You To The Top, by Dorothea Johnson and Liv Tyler

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Potter Style in exchange for an honest review.]

This is the second book in a row that I have reviewed that (without my intention) focused on the issue of protocol. This book is a pleasing and practical blend of classic manners along with updates that express both a contemporary feel (including a section on etiquette in the electronic world) as well as an international appeal. Organized around various areas where manners are particularly important (greetings, workplace behavior, electronic communications, going out, dining, hosting), the book not only gives excellent advice (even if it is advice that is not often followed) about how to feel at ease around polite people and how to make others feel comfortable through being polite and considerate of others, but it includes handy diagrams for certain situations, like opening and holding open doors for others and similar situations. The book is full of pictures as well as intriguing stories that allow the reader to gain a greater understanding of not only a fair standard for politeness but also some of the nuances and reasons for these standards, as well as for their change over time.

The book is livened as well by the commentary of actress Liv Tyler, who is given credit as the co-writer of this book, as a way of providing particularly contemporary appeal. The book assumes that its readers will host dinner parties, have both a personal and a professional presence online, and will need to navigate worlds where business and pleasure often mix. The book diagrams place settings so that readers (especially those not used to formal dining) are able to know what courses are expected at a dinner by the silverware that is included. The assumption, in general, is that the reader is a young business professional who expects to move up and be polished and well-mannered enough to eat comfortably and sociably with a wide variety of people including business colleagues, customers, and even dignitaries. At just over 170 pages it is slim, and well-organized thematically so that its contents can be read by those who need it on the occasion.

Also of interest is the subtle way that the authors discuss manners as an important skill in social advancement, including testimonials (of a sort) about various aspects of manners and witty quotes and commentaries both at the beginning of every chapter and within the contents of the book. The closing section includes other suggested books if a reader has an interest in other books on the subject that might go into more detail about a particular area of public behavior. The book also contains an implicit commentary on the right-handed nature of much of our world, discussing many cultures where it is improper to give anything with the left hand, and also discussing the right-handed nature of dining with regards to the movement of glasses and silverware. Readers of this blog who are familiar with eating with me will note my own dinner behavior as a left-handed person seeking to avoid any sort of awkward scenes with right-handed dinner companions, and readers of all ages who are interested in the subject of manners will find much to appreciate and appropriate from a book that is likely to be read widely.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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