October 17, 2009

Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys

Charley M., a subscriber, sent along this lead for a book that sounds pretty on track for aspiring makers of men. The title is Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys by Neil Oliver.

The promotional copy promises the book is filled with stories of heroism, exploration, and sacrifice that will inspire boys to be courageous, honorable and open to adventure. Sounds like a good idea and a noble gesture in a world where so many young males are looking for a vision of manhood worth clinging to.

The promotional clip (below) however makes me a little nervous, because it’s full of testosterone and challenging messages for my current sensibilities. It seems glorify being an “old fashioned manly man,” and holds up yesterdays “real men.”

I have to admit, do rather like the way he suggests that old vision of manhood has been “ridiculed, eroded, and discouraged.” There does seem to be a loss in there somewhere that rings true with my own masculine quest. There is even something I like in his call to bring back something “wild” and noble in men. And I really like the notion of hearing stories that remind us what “men are for” and “what men can do.”

As a boy, I do remember sitting around the men’s table at family reunions and on holidays, listening to the men tell stories about the old days, “the war,” challenges they faced, and sometimes, the losses they experienced. Unless the young guys in your life have a male tribe that lets them sit around the edges and listen, maybe a book like this can help fill that hunger.

If Amazing Tales is filled with the “heroic tales” about good and noble men as he promises, those that “demonstrate the qualities you’d want in your heroes,” and there is not too much preaching, I might even buy the book. If you have read this book, please post a short review.

It just might be a book a lot of males should read!

Use this link if the clip doesn't show.


  1. Warren5:00 PM

    I had my doubts about the 'generalizability' of this book when I saw the cover-the quoted word is code for Multicultural utility.

    I checked the clip and read the few reviews; My summation; probably a GREAT book for SOME dads to read to their middle-school age boys, but not for younger boys, and likely to require a dad of color, African American, Latino, Asian, African, even European to brush up on the History channel, or such web sites to assure the veracity of the portrayed "bloody" (from the reviews) accounts of real world "manly men" (again, from the reviews) and their alleged escapades.

    As I write, I realize that many of these so called 'historical accounts of some time ago are not all so accurate?

    Why not accounts of more MODERN heroes, even of spiritual leaders, with verifiable aspects that tech-savvy elementary/middle-schoolers can then research for themselves? E.g., Martin Luther King Jr./John F. Kennedy? (Well, we know that underneath the historical hype, there's the 'real' details of the 'real' men-men with weaknesses, faults, and vices-sins even?).

    My bottom line Earl-OK for the burbs, a non-seller for 'inner'-'outer' urban rainbow of boys with 'male figures' and divorced fathers and 'father figures'.

    I'm sorry. My standards for our boys are higher-they deserve more utility/usefulness than this book appears to offer.

    I really should write one myself, and be subject to the opinions of others! My family therapy practice is the extent thus far, to which I touch the world of boys with these standards.

    Thanks for offering and supporting this effort by Mr. Oliver in favor of the movement of Man-Making.

  2. Steve S.5:03 PM

    This post made me think of the books which shaped my mental and spiritual images, the thoughts of the man I am and the boy becoming the man.

    I was far behind my class in reading in that dusty little Kansas town I grew up in when my father brought home a box of musty Hardy Boy mysteries from the Salvation Army. He read the first couple of chapters to me, got me hooked on a classic cliff-hanger plot, and said I would have to read the rest to find out what happened. I did. Over the course of the summer between 3rd and 4th grade I read the entire box of books.

    Then it was on to Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” and his collected short stories. At the library I found Sherlock Holms. Ironically, in 8th grade I was kicked out of English class caught reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” during the study break. The class assignment was to read “Call of the Wild”, a book read at least three times by then in my life. (That teacher later assaulted me with fists– I pushed his buttons a little? – and was expelled for successfully fighting back/defending myself.)

    But getting to the point, every book will contain something to criticize. It is guidance in the process of reading, by a family member, a teacher or mentor, which will help the emerging man make observations and choices based on those observations. Hemingway is so full of shit but his stories are compelling, his values born of ambiguity stark and the manner of his death a lesson in how one form of manhood leads to self destruction. This among other reasons is why he is to my way of thinking required reading for boys. If the graphic novel leads a young fellow to a book, and if that book is not perfect that’s okay. So what? There will be more books and each differing from the other. A good stew has many components which standing alone are not all that appetizing, yet when combined with the right seasoning, is delicious.

    I’ve recently finished the third book in a series by Stephen Lawhead; “Hood”, “Scarlet”, “Tuck”. The books are great retelling of the Robin Hood tale with significantly enhanced historical accuracy, great characters and plot movement. Very entertaining, I think any youngster over the age of thirteen would find them greatly informative on how “real men” conduct themselves in a variety of circumstances. These are real page turners.

    Thanks as always for stimulating my thinking.

  3. Warren6:12 AM

    Nice comment, with great advice for SOME dads of SOME boys in America! However, the tone in all of my comments to MM always has a sense of urgency for the urban boys-becoming-men in and around the Boston, MA regions, and around all major and minor cities. The sense of urgency, in contrast to a sense of calm inevitability and assurance that, "there WILL be more books," comes from the experiences of other like-minded and positioned men-makers here (in Boston)-that THOSE books may well be read behind barbed wire and electronically open doors-catch my drift, and my requirements for 'no garbage in' for our boys? In a nutshell-we don't/can't take time for granted.


Your response to this blog post is appreciated and welcome.