"Mansfield's Book of Manly Men", by Stephen Mansfield (book review)

I want you to experience manhood by example rather than by precept.”  That’s Stephen Mansfield’s intent in his book, “Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men”. I liked the overall premise, but it was quite under-developed.  He didn’t convince me.  Instead, some of it exuded more “girly-man” aspects than “manly”.  In short, I still recommend “Wild at Heart” as the book for manly men.  Nevertheless, I need to provide a full report of this one.

The book is divided into three parts, and each chapter is quickly readable.  By far, I thought the best part of the book was the Foreword, which was written by Lt. Gen William G. Boykin (retired), former commander of Delta Force.  If I were to write a book about manly men, someone like Boykin would definitely be the one to do it.  Boykin did well at setting up the tone of the book, whetting my appetite for a hard-hitting guy book.  “What makes a man a warrior is his willingness to place himself between what he holds dear and anything that threatens it.  Honor is the chief motivator for the warrior.  Dishonor is unthinkable.  He does the right thing without expectation of reward because honor is an intrinsic value that, when manifested in one’s life, provides its own rewards” (p. xvii).  Good stuff, indeed.  I had similar high-level expectations for the rest of the book.  Although I was inspired by his last chapter, “Presence”, I didn’t find the book – as a whole – to be very inspiring.

Here’s the general layout of the book:

In Part 1, Mansfield sets forth his four “Manly Maxims”.  Those are as follows:
#1 – Manly Men do Manly Things
#2 – Manly Men Tend Their Fields
#3 – Manly Men Build Manly Men
#4 – Manly Men Live to the Glory of God

In Part 2, Mansfield presents several characteristics of “Manly Men”.  This is where the book began to fall, in my opinion.  While I like the premise, I found the chapters to be relatively weak on impact.  I was greatly disappointed with the first chapter, “Honor”. 

Honor is a great virtue; it’s powerful.  Sadly, the chapter is not.  Although Mansfield intended to inspire men to greatness and godly strength, he chose a rather weak example to begin his quest.  Of all the great men in the world who have lived honorable, noble, and inspirational lives, Mansfield chose Jabez as his first exemplar.  You remember Jabez, don’t you – the guy who “inspired” the book, “The Prayer of Jabez”?  Well, Mansfield chose him as the “man of honor”, so to speak.  It was weak, indeed.  Sadly, it lowered the tone for the remainder of the book as many chapters similarly lacked inspirational depth.

It wasn’t until the last chapter, “Presence”, that I finally felt inspired.  Here, Mansfield spoke of famed basketball coach John Wooden.  Something about Wooden’s mere presence moved people.  Manly men radiate something powerful when then they enter a room, something that arises from their lives, something that surrounds them, something that draws others in and makes others better.  He wrote, “If your version of manhood is principled and holy and turned toward the good of others, it will simply radiate – as it should” (pp. 237-238).

Finally, in Part 3, Mansfield offers his favorite quotes, books, and movies for “Manly Men”.  In short, I agreed with very few of his recommendations.  I thought, in fact, he could have chosen more manly books and movies than he did.  There was no mention of courage- and honor-inspiring books like “Lone Survivor” or “Roberts Ridge”, or movies like “Braveheart” or “300”.

Rating: I give Manly Men just 2 1/2 stars.  Without the Foreword and the last chapter, “Presence”, I thought this book would have completely collapsed.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Booksneeze (Thomas Nelson Books) in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine and were not forced upon me.

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