By Bill Zimmerman Free Spirit Publishing, 2005 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 17th 2005
100 Things Guys Need to Know
is aimed at pre- and early-teen boys who are entering adolescence. While it does address some issues of puberty
and sexuality, those are not the book's main focus. Rather, it is about masculinity and what it means to be a
"guy." Obviously it is a
list, although it is illustrated with drawings and there are some comic strips
that help to make important points. It
is organized into six sections: You, Body and Mind, Family, School.
Relationships, and Future. Zimmerman
uses simple language and keeps the tone light and positive. The book is multicultural, full of examples
of men who have coped with difficulties, and has lots of lists of suggestions
about what to do.
Many of the points Zimmerman makes
are based on a survey with 12 questions he did of 500 boys between 9 and
13. Many of the questions are
open-ended and allow the responder to explain answers, and Zimmerman uses quotations
from many of the responses. These help
keep the feeling of the book personal and easy to relate to. The book
identifies what parts of life boys feel in need of advice about, and supplies
the advice. It starts out with "10
Macho Myths" and proceeds to set out ideas that sound pretty sensible.
Some of the 100 items boys need to know include "Divorce Isn't Your
Fault," "Older Family Members Can Share Their Wisdom,"
"Guys Can Resolve Conflicts," "You Can Survive Test Stress,"
and "You're Normal." Other
items give interesting or useful information.
Zimmerman's book is very much aimed
at American culture, and it has the sort of earnest bland attitude you find in
some children's television. Presumably
a good many boys respond positively to this sort of material, and even those
who are skeptical might find some useful facts and ideas here. Presumably also there are not many available
books for boys providing this sort of advice, so Zimmerman's book could serve a
However, I have to admit that I'm
unenthusiastic about this book, mainly because when I think back to my
childhood I can hardly imagine reading a book called 100 Things Guys Need to
Know and I can't imagine it being very useful. Maybe my family was especially dysfunctional, but I don't see
anything useful here about how to deal with meeting your father's new
girlfriend after the divorce or what to do when parents give you inappropriate
amounts of responsibility. At several
places the book suggests that if you are not sure what to do, you should ask a
trusted adult. But what about those
boys who don't have any adults who they can trust and who can give good
advice? What do you do if your parents
are pre-occupied with an ill relative, or they themselves are dealing with
substance abuse problems or mental illness?
My feeling is that many boys will tend to have complicated lives and
very particular difficulties they have to face, so platitudinous advice is not
going to get them very far.
Nevertheless, this book could be a
starting place for some boys who are not sure what to do or are in need of some
pretty basic ideas about adolescence, school and family.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long
Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His
main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.