The Book of Man by William J. Bennett

The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood

William J. Bennett

Thomas Nelson: 2011

Dr. William J. Bennett’s Book of Virtues is a favorite in our house. At dinner time, bath time, or bed time, the children ask me to read a story or poem from “the big book,” as they call it. And I’m always willing to; Bennett’s Book of Virtues has as much to offer the parents as it does the children.

I expected the Book of Man to be like the Book of Virtues, only for little boys. But the readings are more for older boys or men. Still, the subtitle, “Readings on the Path to Manhood,” is appropriate. After all, what man doesn’t continue on the path to manhood?

Bennett asks:

“What does it mean to be a man today?…While the plot, actors, and scenes are constantly changing, the virtues, characteristics, and challenges of manhood remain the same today as thousands of years ago.”

On how to be a man, Bennett says, “More can and should be said. That is what I offer here. There are examples worthy of emulation, stories worth knowing, lives worth studying and remembering, and counsel worth hearing…”

Bennett’s quotes span the time from Pericles to Colin Powell, while the characters range from Robert Murray M’Cheyne to Jimmy Carter.

Stories about men like Theodore Roosevelt or Martin Luther King Jr. are always inspiring, and Bennett gives us plenty. But equally inspiring are the stories of men like Terry Toussaint, Fort Valley, Georgia’s “proud sanitation worker.” Toussaint was inspired by Martin Luther King’s speech to a crowd of street sweepers in Memphis, TN:

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures….sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, `Here lived a great street sweeper…’”

“For Toussaint, it’s all part of the day’s job. At fifty years old, he starts every day at 4:45 A.M. and never misses a day of work.” “I’ll always be the best that I can be at [whatever job I have],” says Toussaint.

Bennett examines manhood in every arena: Man in War; Man at Work; Man in Play, Sports, and Leisure; Man in the Polis (community); Man with Woman and Children (this section alone is worth the price of the book); and Man in Prayer and Reflection.

Not all of the selections are inspiring, nor do they all represent the best in man: “Marines are a different breed; we’re made to go after people. If you’re not killing someone or being killed, you’re not happy.” But, as Bennett says, there is something to be learned from each of them.

While my little boy isn’t ready for this book, I look forward to our reading it together when he’s older. I hope these selections will benefit, encourage, and inspire him as they do me. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use this excellent book to help me down my own path to manhood.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.