In this day where words have lost their meaning and men have lost their chests, as C.S. Lewis foresaw decades ago, Frank Miniter’s The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide: Recovering the Lost Art of Mahood is as refreshing as it is necessary. For it is not simply a list of “how to’s” directed toward those who may unexpectedly find themselves in a life and death situation in the wilds of Alaska, the suburbs of Chicago, or the deserts of the Sahara, but an honest guide to what Miniter calls “manly” living. As such, it is ultimately as much a guide to manhood as it is a guide to survival itself.
Fortunately, Miniter is the perfect author for writing a guide to both survival and manhood. He has boxed under the tutelage of Floyd Patterson, climbed Rocky Mountains, studied Karate, spelunked into Pompey’s cave, and hunted and fly-fished the world over. This author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting was once a Senior Editor for Outdoor Life and is currently the Executive Editor of the NRA’s American Hunter magazine.
Driven by his belief that “the U.S. has lost its code of honor…enumerated by the Founding Fathers” and his own harrowing personal experiences, Miniter has composed the book every father who loves honor and heartland-American-values will wish they’d written for their son. And everyone who reads this book will agree that it’s no exaggeration to describe it as Boy Scouts meet Marine Sniper, and Marine Snipers meet Frank Sinatra.
From the first page of the introduction, where Miniter opens with a narrative of his run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, the reader is taught lesson number one: attain knowledge. Knowledge combined with discipline will save your life while ignorance combined with recklessness will lead to the destruction of even those who are well-intentioned.
The combination of knowledge and discipline (preparedness) will also lead to confidence — the kind of confidence that enabled Miniter to control himself and survive the charge of the horned beasts that thundered through the streets of Pamplona.
Beyond the introduction, Miniter’s book is divided into six parts, each directed toward an aspect of manhood that needs to be recovered: Survivor, Provider, Athlete, Hero, Gentlemen, and Philosopher.
It’s in the “Survivor” section that Miniter explains what emergency gear should be packed and placed in the trunk of a vehicle for every long drive into the mountains or placed on one’s back for every hike into the wild. Here he teaches his readers how to make a compass from scratch, find due North via the stars, build a fire in the elements (without matches), and to fight off or avoid attacks by wild animals. (Fortunately for folks like me, who aren’t much on fighting off animals, a firearm is part of the emergency equipment Miniter suggests we pack for our adventures.)
In the latter part of the first section of the book, Miniter covers treatments for everything from snakebites to broken limbs to arterial bleeding. His knowledge in these areas is vast.
The “Provider” section addresses the traditional view of man as the one who brings home the meat for the family. Miniter bemoans the loss of toughness among our male population and stresses a return to the outdoors, to working with our hands, and to familiarity with firearms and other weapons. He spends this chapter discussing gun safety then reviewing the prominent parts of rifles, shotguns, handguns, and bows in an attempt to draw our metro-sexualized society back more and more to the wild and the rugged.
In the “Athlete” section, Miniter covers the lessons that athletics hold for the many non-athletic aspects of a man’s life. But he also instructs his readers in the basics of major sports like baseball, football, basketball, boxing, and golf. For example, in the baseball section Miniter explains to his readers how to throw a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup; in the boxing section, he explains how to punch and, in the football section, how to tackle effectively.
The practicality of Miniter’s book continues in the “Hero” section where he covers obvious aspects of heroism, from military service, to knowing how to fight in defense of self or others, to lessons in how to break up a dog fight or change a flat.
The “Gentlemen” section dovetails perfectly with the “Hero” section by covering everything from rules for gentlemanly conduct to a list of the 10 drinks Miniter believes every gentleman should know how to make. From a Bloody Mary to a Whiskey Sour, the directions for making each drink are included in this section of the book (as are Miniter’s directions for how to tie a tie, how to talk to a lady, and how to set a table).
With the “Philosopher” section of the book, Miniter stresses the importance of a man’s underlying moral code. Using Socrates as a segue, he argues that our code should be such as will allow us not only to live well, but to die well too: Men are to live nobly and die nobly. Miniter cites the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as the noblest death of all time.
Having instructed men how to survive, provide, compete, fight, treat a lady, and use their minds, Miniter closes The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide: Recovering the Lost Art of Mahood with two lists: the 100 movies every man needs to watch and the 100 books every man needs to read. These lists are such as will only further equip Miniter’s readers with the tools necessary to be survivors and authentic men.