The Guide for Guys, by: Michael Powell

The only thing better than a really good book title is a really good book sub-title.  And so it is with Michael Powell’s The Guide for Guys: An Extremely Useful Manual for Old Boys and Young Men (the “Old Boys and Young Men” in case any of you readers out there don’t know what a “Guy” is, and the “Manual” in case the meaning of “Guide” also eludes you).

Cognitive surplus this ain’t.

As if that weren’t enough, there is an actual compass, not just a design, but a functioning, honest-to-goodness, North-South-East-West compass built right into the cover.  That’s how you know you are in for a literary treat.

Actually, it’s pretty much all let down once you get over the excitement of the compass.

The book itself is quite dull, more a collection of pretty basic how-tos than a story.  And pretty simple how-tos at that.  Aside from some useful guidance on how to react in certain animal attack situations (bear = play dead; shark = definitely don’t play dead), it is a book that even average Joes would read and say, “my gosh, if you don’t know how to do that (e.g. recharge a car battery, shave, tie-a-tie), you pretty much deserve to perish in the wilderness or be mocked on the street for the fool and failure that you are.”

Not that no one in America cares about this stuff.  As an idea, the book is okay.  But in terms of substance, it is just too basic, too general, and too boring.  If you are looking for, say, the best home workout, you would be better served by finding the best fitness video, or the best body fitness magazine, that you could.  That would be more timely.  And cheaper.  And more in-depth.

And if you wanted to learn how to cook chicken alfredo, a real guy would just read the instructions on the back of the TV dinner.

And if you are looking to a book like this for guidance on how to use a circular saw, you and your fingers are probably in for some real trouble.

Maybe the most interesting entry was on how to defend yourself in a fist fight.  Can you really learn that stuff from one and a half pages in a book?  I don’t know this guy, and I’m not calling him out or anything, but this section in particular read as though written by someone that HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT (no offense).

The most useful section in the book by far comes about 3/4 of the way through (unfortunately way too late to do the reader any real good), but it’s on speed-reading.  If you still insist on getting this book, I would highly recommend reading that section first (p. 189 in the hardback edition).

The book is both too broad (I haven’t the slightest interest in learning how to plant a tree) and too narrow (no ninjas; just exactly what kind of guy book is this?)

In short, I didn’t hate it, but if you Young Men and Old Boys read this book and actually learn something, you probably need more help than any one book can give.

PS: if you’re looking for a hard book to read, head on over to that link and beg for mercy.

7 thoughts on “The Guide for Guys, by: Michael Powell

  1. Have you ever tried speed reading? I went through the Evelyn Wood books once and while I definitely increased by reading/minute rate, it didn’t work for everything. It took the enjoyment out of beautiful language and didn’t work at all for books full of unfamiliar words. Also, it’s hard to ponder a book of philosophy when the goal is to get to the next page as quickly as possible.

    Are you familiar with target focused training as opposed to “fist fighting?”

    Have you ever read Conn Iggulden’s The Dangerous Book For Boys? It reminds me of the book you’ve described here, but I loved every page of that one. No compass, if I remember correctly.

  2. Of necessity, yes I have. So many books, so little time. I find that it is sufficient for some types of books/reading. Some books require a closer analysis, but some fiction can be consumed, I believe, speedily. But if I want to sit back and really relish something, like philosophy, probably not. And if it is dense and has a bunch of large, new words, I would probably wasting my efforts there too.

    I am not familiar with target focused training. What is that?

    I have read bits and pieces of The Dangerous Book For Boys. I did find it more enjoyable than I found this, maybe because that was for boys, and this was, at least in theory, for “guys.” But it was enough alike in style and format, I wonder if he just purely ganked Conn’s idea. I wonder which book was written first.

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