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Book: The Man’s Book: The Essential Guide for the Modern Man by Thomas Fink

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Furnished by: ARC from Hachette Book Group

On Sale Date: May 6, 2009

Publisher’s Description: “Being modern and manly in today’s world isn’t always easy.

Do you know how to tie a bow-tie, mix a martini, or make a potato gun?

Do you know when to get married and how to break up, or the difference between a bock beer and a bitter?

Do you know which urinal to choose or how to start a fire with a Coke can?

The answers to every man’s burning questions are within these pages, from the morning wet shave to the whiskey night-cap, from hunting deer with a .30-06 to wooing women like 007. At a time when the sexes are muddled and masculinity is marginalized, The Man’s Book unabashedly celebrates maleness. Organized by subject in a man-logical way, it’s the go-to guide for anyone with a Y chromosome.”

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: So I admit, I originally picked up this book on a lark — the publisher’s description makes the book sound like it’s filled with pick-up lines, bar jokes and how to burp the alphabet. I was intrigued at this rare look into the male psyche and figured that, if nothing else, it’d be amusing.

What the publisher’s description doesn’t tell you is that Thomas Fink, the author of The Man’s Book, is a theoretical physicist at the Curie Institute/CNRS and the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and he wrote this book in his spare time (although, amusingly enough, Fink took his own author photo to be displayed on the back of the book, and it’s a total MySpace picture… and it looks like it was taken in an airplane bathroom mirror). Check out the author’s website and you’ll get an idea of the tone and style of Fink’s writing.

Instead of cheesy pick-up lines, I found an entire 13-page chapter devoted to women, including sections on to chivalry (apparently it’s not dead), first date etiquette and marriage. Instead of bar jokes, I found a very sophisticated section on drinking that explained nearly every type of wine, beer, spirit or liqueur and its application with or without food. And instead of teaching the reader how to burp the alphabet, Fink has included an entire section on urinal etiquette and, to make sure the rules hit home, a 67-question quiz on where to stand at the urinal to ensure optimal privacy.

Some of my favorite sections include: “Underwear,” where the eternal question of boxers versus briefs is looked at scientifically to find out whom the ultimate victor shall be; a section explaining how to properly brew coffee, which includes a chart showing the caffeine content of popular beverages (did you know that Coca-Cola has the least caffeine content of the major pop brands, including its no-calorie counterpart, Diet Coke?); a page full of men’s superlatives (including Best Advice: “Never apologize,” and Best Beer: Westvleteren 12); and even a list of the 50 most essential books for men.

Overall, this book was just really cool. I learned a lot — not necessarily about men, but just random little facts. And I love learning random things. What really struck me about the book, though, was how sincere and sound most of the advice was. It kind of struck me as a book you’d give to a young man who is just coming of age and will need to know these things growing up (Bar Mitzvah gift, anyone?), or to a boy who’s going to college. But really, it’s just a fun book for any man (or woman) to read. Maybe you’ll pick up some new trivia to show off next time you’re at the bar, who knows?

Those visiting Literophilia from another country may be wondering why I’m writing about this book now, since it isn’t new. But it’s new to us Yankees! Expanded, revised and retypeset, this is the first time that The Man’s Book will be available in America. According to the author himself, “New features include 16 more sections, 35 more figures and numerically indexed sections and subsections.”