Monday, April 14, 2008

The Action Adventure Man Book Club

I would like to thank my friends at Accent Gwinnett Magazine for allowing me to review The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden. The review (below in its entirety) appears in the March/April 2008 issue of their fine publication.

Accent Gwinnett is a local/regional publication. It’s a lifestyle magazine and targets the Gwinnett County, Georgia community--a suburb of, and major player within, the metropolitan Atlanta area (and with a population that exceeds those of Vermont, Alaska, and Iceland, to name a few).

The magazine can be viewed at

I say thanks to AG because, well, I think that anyone who gets his or her words into print (in other people’s publications, especially) ought to show a little gratitude. Also, I’m grateful that they allowed me to review a book that was, by the standards of the book business, already old news. I am a FIRM believer in the view that all books are new and interesting to someone. I think that people have a tendency to view books like so much else—how could it be any good if it’s, you know, old? Good books are always good books. Still, I don’t fault the book business on this score. It’s a damned tough business to be in, and there are so many fine books to promote.

Finally, thanks AG for letting me review a really fun book, despite its having been previously reviewed and hyped (and deservedly so) just about everywhere else.

So, here it is, right from the pages of Accent Gwinnett Magazine (reproduced here with permission, of course.).

Book Review
The Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn
and Hal Iggulden
Published May 2007 by Harper Collins; 270

Reviewed by Eddie Suttles for Accent Gwinnett

Originally published in the United Kingdom in
2006, The Dangerous Book for Boys landed on U.S. bookshelves in the
spring of2007 and was an immediate smash with
readers, booksellers, libraries, adventurers, parents, kids, boys, girls,
pundits and, well, you get the picture.

The book has enjoyed nearly forty weeks on the New York
Times bestseller lists, and is still going strong. It has an award-winning
website,, that even features a link for educators who want to bring a little danger into their classrooms. The book also led to a follow-up title aimed at girls, The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz.

The Dangerous Book for Boys has also created an
enormous amount of attention from all sorts of experts and
pundits. Half seem to trumpet the book’s heralding in a return to a
golden age of “boys being boys”, when youth put down their latest high-tech gaming devices, unplug themselves from the net, and return to the rough and tumble world of Tom Sawyer and Dennis the Menace. The other half decry the book’s potential to encourage rough play, and the imminant danger and emotional scarring that may result from skinned knees or, God forbid, actually coming in contact with the outdoors.

Oh, brother.

The book is essentially a guide to the manly
arts—the essential skills that boys will need
growing up. Paper airplanes, stickball, famous battles, spies, pirates,
navigation, history, skipping stones. Imagine, an introduction to
Shakespeare, Latin, and grammar crammed into the same pages with the necessaryinstructions for making invisible ink, identifying constellations, how to juggle, and first aid basics. All here.

The book is filled with sound
advice. Take this example from the chapter on

“Cast carefully as a hook catching your eyebrow is a
deeply unpleasant experience.”

The book definitely has a nostalgic quality to it. Even its size and jacket cover evoke a certain Indiana Jonesness. And despite the book’s title, it has proven hugely popular with moms and daughters, too. According to one comment on the book’s official website, it seems that nearly half of the books fans are female.

If there is one criticism that might be leveled at the book, it
might be that many readers may find exception with the the
list of Essential Gear that appears on page one. The expected
equipment makes the list (items such as a Swiss Army knife and
compass). However, this reviewer was surprised to see that duct tape
and a can of WD40 had not made the list. One would certainly want to
add a library card, as well. Then, these may just be personal
preferences that individual readers would wish to tweak to
their own liking.

This book is a gem. It is about fun, plain and simple. And fun can, or should according to the authors, contain a little danger. If you are going to play, you might get hurt. If you are going to build a treehouse, you might smash your finger. You might even fall out of the tree. Go carts crash. Pocket knives, BB guns, slingshots, bows and arrows, girls. Danger at every turn. And would we have it any other way?

That was fun. But I would encourage readers to check out some of the other reviews and commentary about this book. There is so much more going on here than simply the fun and nostalgia aspects.

Some additional reading material for those of you getting ready for the new Indiana Jones or James Bond films, or for those who simply need to placate their inner Action Adventure Man (or Woman) might include:

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. The little1999 phenomenon that sarted an entire brand. Still fun. Still relevant to all would-be adventurists.

International Spy Museum Handbook of Practical Spying by Peter Earnest and Jack Barth. A wonderful James Bond and Jason Bourne primer.

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The man who gave us Sherlock Holmes also gave us the original modern-man-meets-dinosaur adventure one hundred years before Jurassic Park.

A Rage to Live—A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton by Mary S. Lovell. Sir Richard Francis Burton, British Victorian Orientalist, was the archetyp adventurer. He spoke twenty-three languages, he explored the headwaters of the Nile, he translated the first English language editions of The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, he (is a least credited with) inventing sunglasses. And those are just the tip of the iceberg. This is an epic history and, um, love story.


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