An Old's Cool Handbook
How to live like you mean it.
"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."
Have you ever been punched in the face? Plucked a duck? Wooed a woman in another language? Joined the army? Sailed across the ocean? Stood on principle? Written a poem? Risen to the occasion? Quoted the inimitable Mark Twain? Listen up and learn, kid.
THE OFFICIAL MAN UP MANUAL is our attempt at a know-it-all guide to the really important things in life, and is filled with practical, old-school basics, some hero worship, and the art of living well. We believe you can't buy character — you need to go out into the world and live a life worthy of your own admiration. This guide'll help you do just that, with class and verve.
We've always wanted to be popular, and now we are – best be careful what you wish for!
Sold Out – back in stock soon.
An Ivy-League Education for less than $100
Just read these 10 books, really read them, and you'll be smarter and better educated, and that's the key isn't it, than almost anyone in America.
1. Our praise is usually not unconditional, or stated with absolute certainty, but we will say this: If you don't love this book it means only one thing – you are dead.
(West with the Night)
Even Hemingway, who hated every writer on the planet except himself, had this to say, and that's saying something
"She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. [She] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers ... it really is a bloody wonderful book."
Goethe once wrote something to the effect that the measure of a man's education is that if all the knowledge of the universe was destroyed, how much of the culture could he recreate from memory. We put together what we're calling "The Old's Cool Education" – what we think are the 10 books you would need to know to be considered civilized, and to at least not embarrass yourself trying to recreate the learned universe. This is one of them
Are you alive? Own this gem.
At any time, you can let us know what you think, good or bad about our genius list. You don't even have to be civil about it if you don't want to.
- We're well on our way
Please read this book, and then let's have a chat. You will be a different person, guaranteed
(The Road to Serfdom)
John Maynard Keynes said of it: "In my opinion it is a grand book...Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it: and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement."
Buy it now.
From the Autobiography of Edward Gibbon: "It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind. But my original plan was circumscribed to the decay of the city rather than of the empire: and, though my reading and reflections began to point towards that object, some years elapsed, and several avocations intervened, before I was seriously engaged in the execution of that laborious work.
I always liked this quip, from The Duke of Gloucester, brother of King George III, on seeing the second monstrous volume:
“Another damned thick, square book! Always, scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?"
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a masterpiece of history, philosophy and literature.
- The Holy Bible.
We're not religious over here, and you don't need us to tell you that <i>The Bible</i> is absolutely stunning: it's done more to shape western thought and culture than everything else combined. By far the best-selling book of all time, with good reason.</p></a>
King James version, of course. You can pick one up for free the next time you're in a motel room hopefully horsing around with someone rambunctious, but you can certainly buy it.
Get your divine education here.
- The Prince of Denmark; The King of All.
I'm going to quote Shakespeare's nemesis and critic Ben Johnson, who states in a poem he wrote about his rival that not only is he superior to other English playwrights, but to the Greek and Latin masters. Johnson says first and definitively what has become a universal opinion:
“Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show/ To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe/ He was not of an age, but for all time!”
This link is to Amazon's Signet Classic Edition, which I think is the best of the paperbacks:
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Hamlet-Signet-Classic-Shakespeare-William/dp/0451526929/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478223119&sr=8-2&keywords=hamlet"> To buy or not to buy... > </p></a>
Editor's Note: I have The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and all the wisdom of the world is in it – ludic, enlightening, and lucid – including Hamlet. You can get the Ninth Edition these days (I have the Fifth Edition), all 2643 pages in one volume
by clicking/clacking here.
- Call me Johnny "Ishmael" Mustard
Philip Hoare wrote a marvelous ode to Melville in The New Yorker a few years back entitled "What 'Moby-Dick' means to me", a journey which itself was inspired by Nathaniel Philbrick’s brilliant and provocative work, “Why Read Moby-Dick“ – a collection of elegant and eclectic essays that looked at the paradoxical genius of, in his words, "the greatest American novel ever written."
Here's Mr. Hoare: "'Moby-Dick' is not a novel. It’s barely a book at all. It’s more an act of transference, of ideas and evocations hung around the vast and unknowable shape of the whale, an extended musing on the strange meeting of human history and natural history. It is, above all, a sui-generis creation, one that came into the world as an unnatural, immaculate conception."
Which is kind of how I felt when I read it in Newport in the summer of 1981 in between docking boats at Williams & Manchester Marina, setting myself on fire for Dylana the waitress at Christie's, and painting houses with my brothers – I couldn't have been more transformed and remained a human being.
This is the Macmillan Hardcover, but you can't go wrong with any of the editions on Amazon:
Y'up, I want Or, The Whale.
- Desire predicts its own satisfaction.
From the inside flap: "As one of the architects of the transcendentalist movement, Emerson embraced a philosophy that championed the individual, emphasized independent thought, and prized 'the splendid labyrinth of one's own perceptions.' More than any writer of his time, he forged a style distinct from his European predecessors and embodied and defined what it meant to be an American. Matthew Arnold called Emerson's essays 'the most important work done in prose.'"
Seriously, people, if you haven't ever read Emerson, or haven't since high school, you might as well realize you're a fatuous imbecile. "The eye is the first circle." "Men are what their mothers made them." "The attractions of man are proportioned to his destiny." What the hell are you waiting for?
“As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain sublime assurance of success, but as soon as honied words of praise are spoken for me, I feel as one that lies unprotected before his enemies.”
This is the Modern Library Classics Edition on Amazon:
Y'up, I want to read Ralph >
- The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
I think most self-help books are horse manure. This one isn't. In fact I really think it's the only one you'll ever need, if indeed you do need help. Some of us don't.
(The 7 Habits)
Jane's got it summarized for you in easy-to-read bullet points, but the book really is a deep and meditative marvel.
Get a real, powerful lesson in personal change for a change >
- Life's all about style. And grammar
This book has been mostly on my desk for the past 35 years. Have I ever read it I hear some of you wise snots asking. As a matter of fact I just opened it the other day, and a photograph of an old girlfriend fell out. Cinematic and sublime. And the book's fabulous too.
(Strunk and White)
I'd pick up a used copy on ebay or at a flea market, just to make is seem like you've owned it forever, because shame on you if you haven't.
Invite Strunk and White into your home now >
- A hard choice.
This last book was the hardest – we thought about Confessions of St. Augustine, The Naked Ape, The Golden Bough, The White Goddess, Catcher in the Rye to name a few, but finally settled on a book that made a lasting impression on us in our youth. We also wanted to just mention Montaigne's Essays, which had a profound impact on us, as well as The Great Gatsby, which, because we read it in our "younger and more vulnerable years" has, and always will be our favorite book. That said, here is our decidedly unique last pick:
This profound tome is a corker as we used to say back home, a college edumacation in and of itself.
Have Ernst open you mind >
- For all you Spinal Tappers out there
Even though this is technically not a book, we think it is the greatest document in the history of the universe, and we're talking not only the 15 billions years, but also the anywhere in space aspect too.
(Declaration of Independence)
The U.S. Constitution is the follow-on and basically the basis for Western Civilization, but to us the DOI is the real achievement and everything else after is just epilogue and footnotes. Speaking of which, if it wasn't for Cliff's Notes we wouldn't have gotten as close as we did to almost graduating, so we thought it might be a good idea to get this guide, to help you better understand context, intent, ramifications, nuance and continued relevance:
Welcome to humanity >
So what do you think? Pretty excellent little library of knowledge, innit it?