Review of: How to be a Man by John Birmingham
Reviewer: Dana Flannery
How to be a Man in 325 pages
There are things every young male really must learn. Essential things like how to land a jumbo jet. How to swallow a sword. How to cheat at cards. And then, there’s the less important stuff. Like how to clean your house. How to dress. And how to cook.
Fortunately, all of this valuable, and not so valuable, information is contained in the highly readable How to be a Man written by John Birmingham. Actually, to be precise John Birmingham AND Dirk Flinthart, because it’s not possible for just one man to know everything you need to know to be a man. If you know what I mean? And to make sure everything is covered expertly, Birmingham and Flinthart are assisted by notable know-alls such as fish-kissing football commentator Rex Hunt, consumer watchdog Helen Wellings and poet Les Murray – because even real men write poetry. Sometimes.
In a world full of well meaning but often boring ‘coming of age’ books, How to be a Man is a standout; a book that relates to the person who is reading it. Even though the first edition was published more than 10 years ago, How to be a Man is still a relevant road map for that tough journey from adolescence to manhood. After all, learning how to cook, dress and avoid a fight will always come in handy. The book delivers its practical information and advice in a very ‘been there, done that’ manner. For example, not only does Birmingham tell us how to impress a woman, he follows up with extra tips on how to keep the woman once they’ve been impressed. Only someone with Birmingham’s life experience will know that the keeping is just as important as the impressing. And, of course, he shares his knowledge on the really important stuff mentioned in the first paragraph – because you never know when you’ll be called upon to land that jumbo. Now that skill would impress more than one woman.
John Birmingham’s masculine life lessons are delivered with more than a few laughs along the way. This should come as no great surprise as Birmingham is renowned as one of Australia’s funniest and sharpest social observers. Anyone who can pen a book called He Died with a Felafel in his Hand is never going to take serious subjects that seriously. That is certainly the case in How to be a Man. Think of this book as a bit of a chat with a cool but worldly older cousin, who likes to pull your leg but has your best interests at heart, without getting all soppy and cringeful about it.
It’s not always easy to learn how to be a man. This book makes it quite a bit easier and much more fun. Read it. Enjoy it. Learn something. Just don’t take the sword swallowing stuff too seriously.
Dana Flannery holds a degree in literary and cultural studies and is a mother of a very determined young man. She is a professional Web Copywriter specialising in family friendly websites.