Remembering "The Dangerous Book for Boys"
One of my favorite books of the last couple of years is The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden. It was an unexpected hit when first published in England, and I believe it did very well in an Americanized edition here as well. A couple of years ago can seem like ancient history in the blogosphere, so I was happy to see that Glenn Reynolds mentions the book today on Instapundit. (And see here for an interview with the authors.) I reviewed the book for The Weekly Standard back in June of 2007. Registration is required, but here is a sampling:
I wouldn't be at all surprised if The Dangerous Book for Boys were banned by zealous school groups, social workers, and other moral busybodies. I first encountered this admirable work when it was published in London last year. I liked its retro look--the lettering and typography of the cover recalls an earlier, more swashbuckling era--and I thought at first it must be a reprint. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a book containing instructions on how to make catapults, how to hunt and cook a rabbit, how to play poker, how to make a waterbomb, was published today, the high noon of nannydom.
The first chapter, "Essential Gear" ("Essential Kit" in the English edition), lists a Swiss Army knife, for God's sake, not to mention matches and a magnifying glass, "For general interest. Can also be used to start fires." Probably, the book would have to be checked with the rest of your luggage at the airport: If you can't bring a bottle of water on the airplane, how do you suppose a book advocating knives and incendiary devices is going to go over? Why, even the title is a provocation. The tort lawyers must be salivating over the word "dangerous," and I can only assume that the horrible grinding noise you hear is from Title IX fanatics congregating to protest the appearance of a book designed for the exclusive enjoyment of boys.
And speaking of "boys," have you noticed how unprogressive the word sounds in today's English? It is almost as retrograde as "girls," a word that I knew was on the way out when an academic couple I know proudly announced that they had just presented the world with a "baby woman."