Sunday, July 30, 2017

Book Review: Stories for a Man's Heart

Title: Stories for a Man's Heart

Editor: Al & Alice Gray

Date: 1999

Publisher: Multnomah

ISBN: 1-57673-479-X

Length: 294 pages

Quote: “All around...were...the Sober Riders, each one a recovering alcoholic, each one a biker...The bride had given me only one instruction for the service: 'Make sure you have a sermon,' she had said.”

With a title like Stories for a Man's Heart, the obvious question is: “Can women enjoy this book, too?” Yes, and so can children—probably from grade five or six up. These are stories, allegedly true, about men behaving well.

Not all of the stories are explicitly about Christians, although several are. One anecdote takes its punchline from a Christian phrase: The art collector instructed the administrators of his estate to open the auction with bidding on a low-value picture of his son, and close it as soon as a family friend bid (generously) ten dollars, because “whoever takes the son gets it all.”

That particular story is so perfectly suited to open a sermon that I have to wonder whether anything like it ever happened. Some other stories are likely to be used to open sermons, or illustrate points in sermons, but they sound more as if they did happen, somewhere. They were told and written in the twentieth century; one story features a tintype photo, and some mention the 1930s Depression, the wars, or other period-specific details.

Length varies, but generally these are short-short stories. Some selections are only one paragraph, or even one line—the kind of fillers that appear between excerpts in Readers Digest. Often characters are identified only as “the man,” “my father,” etc. Neither the stories themselves, nor the lightweight paperback book in which they're printed, would put much strain on a sick patient; this would be a nice book to share in a hospital.

Anyone looking for “encouraging, inspirational,” and sometimes gently “humorous” stories will enjoy this book. Teachers, preachers, and youth group leaders should definitely own a copy. Students who attend church colleges where they're expected to make short devotional speeches may find that Stories for a Man's Heart serves them well. It's a good book for anyone with a son, grandson, or nephew to have around the house, too.

For women...Men often express surprise or even disbelief when we explain that, most of the time, when we agree that a man looks good, we mean that he's qualified to be a good clothing model or TV talking head, that he looks healthy if young or well preserved if old, that he's an effective speaker or actor, that he looks like a credit to our family—any of the things we mean when we agree that a woman looks good--but not that we want his body. This web site has celebrated the attractiveness of dozens of men, of all ages, sizes, and colors, to whom nobody at this web site is physically attracted...but what do we find attractive? (What do women want?)

Most of the men who've asked women what we found attractive were, of course, really concerned about the reactions of women generally, or more specifically about one particular woman—a friend, sister, roommate of ours—and the answer to their question is, of course, that it's not something a man has so much as what he does, in relation to us. I was the eldest sister so, even while being the leader, I've tended to look for a leader to follow. My depressive sister was the youngest and looked for a follower to boss around, which probably explains what she ever saw in that...never mind. Women do not necessarily have this information about our friends. We don't always have it about ourselves; we're not always sure what sort of personality mix and relationship we most want. We are, like men, finding out how life works as we go along, which is why relationships are so fascinating and so perilous.

However, men who behave like the protagonists of these Stories for a Man's Heart are likely to make favorable impressions on women. Most of the stories aren't about romance, specifically. Then again that might be the point. Men who behave in these ways in unromantic situations are the ones with whom we want to get into romantic situations.

Though neither new nor really old, this book has been kept in the collector price range. Prices may go down at some time in the future but, at the time of writing, this web site has to offer used copies for $10 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment. At least three other books of similar size will fit into one $5 package.