How to Be a Man (Whatever That Means)

Lessons in Modern Masculinity from a Questionable Source

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Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 01 Jul 2021

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There's no wrong way to be a woman. There are countless wrong ways to be a man.

James Breakwell should know. He's tried just about all of them. Journalism. Pig ownership. Felony lawn gnome theft. Whatever masculinity is supposed to be, this can't be it. But can you really fail at something no one can quite define? Apparently. 

Now, in a series of funny, sharply observed, and occasionally poignant essays, everyone's favorite internet-famous father of four daughters lays down a lifetime of lessons in what it means to be a man. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll wonder what really happened to those creepy lawn gnomes on that deserted country road. (Spoiler alert: They're right behind you.)

If you ever wanted to know how to fail at altruism, dodge the priesthood, and stumble your way into unexpected wisdom, this book is for you.

How to Be a Man (Whatever that Means) presents a vision of manhood that looks very different from what you'll see on TV. And that's a good thing. Probably.
There's no wrong way to be a woman. There are countless wrong ways to be a man.

James Breakwell should know. He's tried just about all of them. Journalism. Pig ownership. Felony lawn gnome theft...

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ISBN 9781950665907
PRICE $16.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 15 members

Featured Reviews

I enjoyed the book very much. A fun way of looking at life and how to be a real man. I would recommend this book to anyone that would like to have a few smiles in their life.

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Thank you #Netgalley for the advanced copy!

I follow James Breakwell on Twitter and have always found his content funny. I was excited to be granted access to this book. I found this collections of essays hilarious, especially from his college years and garden gnomes. I loved how he also connected his stories throughout the essays all while being sure to mention his amazing wife and how she handled situations. A fun read and highly recommend, especially if you are already familiar with his content.

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I really enjoyed this book, and as it’s essentially a series of humorous essays about life’s misadventures, it was a good one to pick up three times over a couple of days as comic relief between other reads.

I did not realise when I requested this book that James was someone whose tweets I had been reading for years. It made me that much more excited to start it once I knew! James’ writing is excellent and clever, the witticisms abundant, and the messages in each section hilarious. I chuckled in every single one, except for one nearer the end that really caught me off guard. It was deeply personal, incredibly moving, and had me in tears largely throughout the whole passage. Thanks for sharing that with readers.

I found this book to be not only funny, but also touching as James’ love for his family is highlighted throughout all the writing, and his respect and admiration for his wife really shines through. I particularly enjoyed the bits about the Negotiating Chores, Protecting your Family, Men’s Wallets, and the Six-toed Kitten. There was a lot to love in here!

Excellent read and I certainly recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of clever and funny reading with heart.

*Thanks the NetGalley, James and BenBella Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I'll confess the title of this book was what made me want to read it and it was such a great way for the author to draw from his experiences and humor to shed light on some the insecurities that he faced, including misconceptions and I love that in the very beginning he states this book in no way undermines the advances feminist movements have made.

Thanks Netgalley for the eARC.

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Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy. I have followed this author on social media and subscribed to his email list for years though I haven’t read any previous books. I really enjoyed this book—especially the touching chapter titled The Real Numbers. I laughed, I cried. It was a good read.

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The last time I cried while reading was the end of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
I remember it. A little over five years ago.
Without spoilers, Fikry has a dramatic scene with his daughter. I'm reading in the living room and go to the bedroom for some privacy, because a man's emotions must be hoarded.
Having daughters, two at that time, a third on the way, that scene hit me hard. The dread, fear, expectation of being in that position, to have to make that decision, I hated Fikry for his weakness and prayed I would have the strength to do the same.
And now Breakwell, you lanky bastard, did the same.
I found James Breakwell online, probably Twitter. I followed his newletter, I enjoy it.
We apparently have several things in common.
He has only daughters, I have only daughters. I also think sitting on a wallet is dumb, though I don't have James' aggression towards what other men do or do not have in their back pockets. He recently wrote about how three of his kids have a birthday at about the same time, my two eldest have a birthday a day apart... six years apart, but a day apart. His girls take "playtime" and turn it into a full-contact sport, my girls have perfected the art of turning a play kitchen into a warzone, good times, gooooood times.
So when I read about this book in Breakwell's newsletter I probably thought "Oh, look, another book. I haven't read any of his other books, I'll just skip this one too. Have to keep my perfect record perfect."
So when I see this book available on NetGalley I probably thought "Oh, its free, might as well read it."
The book follows a short-story format. Some stories are "A Man Should..." with a funny story. The other stories are ideas he elaborates on with his usual tone and rhythm, all good, he explains this format in the preface.
Most are funny, I'm actually giggling while reading. I don't agree with all of "How to be a Man" advice but I can see where he's coming from and everything is so well written I don't mind small disagreements.
All of the stories are good, in a style I'm expecting because Breakwell's writing style is familar and enjoyable. With any collection of stories, a reader will prefer some over others.
Will you prefer reading about a Kafkaesque system that punishes everyone who didn't even steal the lawn gnomes? Or the time James managed to not die several times despite every car around him actively trying to accidently-on-purpose murder him. Or about a bull attack that is a really bad metaphor for the causes of World War I?... like, its not a metaphor at all, but it's a good story and I'm not looking to spoil anything.
But THE REAL NUMBERS... that story. Seriously? I'm reading and I can feel my chest opening up, feeling hollow and empty and then full. I'm flashing back to my wife, standing in our driveway while I'm helping our eldest learn to ride a bike, telling me she's pregnant. I'm seeing our middle daughter, holding her in the hospital room wondering why I feel different, why colors seem brighter. I'm reliving a later miscarriage, not knowing how to help, unable to fix anything ever again. I'm remembering the warmth of my eldest, when she had a nightmare and came to our bed, her body cuddled against mine as she fit against only my torso and compare to now, how she walks around the house taller than her mother. I'm holding our youngest in my lap as she's practicing reading, smelling her hair and hoping she'll never change even while I celebrate when she does.
I just read Lillian on Sunday and one of the stories there had a power over me. It had the power to genuinely piss me off in a little more than one page of writing.
THE REAL NUMBERS has that same power, though it won't hit everyone the same. Some people will read this and brush it off and that's fine, your life experience will give you different insights to different things, the way it should be.
But now even the dedication page makes me melancholy.
James, I hate you just a little bit. So good writing.
**I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Oh my gosh! I giggled and laughed and cried and laughed again while reading this book. I saw bits and pieces I recognized about every man in my life in these pages, every brother, father, grandfather, husband and son! I've been a fan of Mr. Breakwell's for quite a while, and when I had an opportunity to read this through NetGalley, I jumped on it, knowing I would not be disappointed.

The next thing I need to do after reviewing this book is order copies for my husband and son, as well as my four brothers and my father and tell them they should read it! I don't think anyone who knows a man of any kind will be disappointed to spend time reading this book. Now I need to go research mini pigs for myself...

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I loved this book! It is full of humour and laugh-out-loud stories from a dad of four young daughters. I have read other books by this author and have enjoyed all of them.

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