Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Why Manners Matter: The Case for Civilized Behavior in a Barbarous World by Lucinda Holdforth

Synopsis: When Lucinda Holdforth told her mother she was writing an essay about manners, her mother said, “You’re writing a book about manners?” Deeply offended, Lucinda called her best friend and relayed what her mother had said. Her best friend paused before saying, “Well, you do say “f***” a lot.”

Welcome to the interesting quagmire Lucinda Holdforth finds herself in. She believes that manners are essential to civilization. Yet according to the knife-and-fork snobs, or exclusive bores, her modern-day attitude might not scream manners. And in this age of global warming and warfare, aren’t manners frivolous? Do manners really matter? Yes! she passionately exclaims. Citing everyone from Tocqueville to Proust to Borat, Holdforth shows how manners—which many of us might think are inconsequential—are actually the cornerstone of civilization. Incredibly smart, the book illustrates how the philosophies of the greatest thinkers are relevant to our very modern lives (From the Back of the Book)

Review: I first picked this book up from the cruise ship library - an interesting moment because I was already seething about the lack of etiquette and manners that becomes apparent when you cram 6,000 people onto a boat. Holdforthe starts by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices" - from there, she writes about how manners are more than just being nice; it's the fabric of how we interact with others, it means we can live without laws and morals. It smoothes out the rough edges that always occurs when you have humans living together.
I agreed with most of everything she said - I enjoyed how she explain manners as more than just an intricate set of rules and behaviors, but as more. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in social behavior, manners, or just how people interact.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 10-2-11
Pages: 167

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