The Book of Man is an interesting look at what it means to be a man. William J. Bennett acknowledges that any definition of masculinity will lean heavily on culture. As a result, he has compiled a series of essays, profiles, stories, and poems collected around six themes (battle, work, leisure, civic involvement, family, and faith). Books dedicated to this topic are plentiful and each has its own unique angle. However, this is the first one I have read that allows the reader to form his own understanding of masculinity.
Bennett sees something of God designed masculinity in each of these six areas, but he never specifically states, “God created men to (blank)” He does not specifically call out or define God given masculinity and I appreciate this approach. It allows the reader to form his own opinion on what work, family, engagement with society, etc. have to do with who we were created to be as men. It allows us to form our own understanding. It would be a worthy exercise for any man to review this work and reflect on what God has to say and what you believe to be true about God’s design of men in each of these areas. The section on work particularly challenged me. I have to admit that this was not an area of masculinity that I had given much thought to prior to this reading, but Bennett led me to consider how God designed men with a core value of work.
My only critiques of The Book of Man is that Bennett’s collection of works does not include more scripture and the examples are predominantly Western. He does use some Biblical examples, David and Goliath, the parable of the talents, and the Lord’s Prayer for example, but it would have been nice to see some more Scripture. Since the book acknowledges a heavy leaning on culture, I would have also liked to have seen more examples from non-Western culture. How many stories, profiles, and poems could have been found in African or Asian culture? I suspect there are many, but few are represented in this book. I believe their inclusion it would have led to a more well-rounded cultural view of masculinity.