How To Be A Man (and other illusions), Duff McKagan, Chris Kornelis, Da Capo Press, 2015.
Right off the bat,
you may thinking : “Why would the bass player for Guns N’Roses write a self-help book?”and “Why would l take advice from Duff McKagan?”. Or better yet: “Who is Duff Mckagan and why does he think he can teach me how to be a man?”.
It doesn’t go without saying that since his GNR days the man known as Duff has grown tremendously as a person and is now a husband, father and worldly modern man. He wrote the type of book most of us could only dream of writing and How To Be A Man (And Other Lies) essentially proves that you can learn from anyone, even GNR’s bassist.
In McKagan’s second book, he takes a different approach than his 2011 autobiography lt’s So Easy. As previously mentioned, How To Be A Man takes the form of a self-help book in which Duff shares some of his advices which range from dealing with airports to handling fatherhood.
You may think he would be unfit to give tips if you only know him from his GNR days, but he’s been to business school, wrote articles for playboy, wrote sports columns, has travelled all over the world amassing a wealth of knowledge along the way.
While the books a generous intent, -and I have no doubt Duff is a smart individual- , there isn’t a great amount of self-help in here, despite what the title implies. You won’t know any more or less how to be a man, rather you’ll read some funny stories and get cool insights. How To Be A Man reads more like tips and everyday stories than the excess of a Rock N’ Roll journey that was all over McKagan’s first book.
This book covers everything and nothing in a strange way. It feels like a very casual conversation with the author even though it suggests that it is in fact, more. The way he talks about a day he spent shopping with his bandmate Ben in Paris is about as casual as it gets. Then there’s moments where it gets very real and he talks about parenting and the issues and obstacles that come with being a parent of not one but two daughters. In those moments he shines, but he is never boring in either and somehow it all fits.
Some of it is good and practical advice, some is painfully obvious and basic with the sole purpose of filling the blank page. The whole hotel/band/airport guide is more funny than anything else and goes into the psyche of really being “just one of the guys”, while also remaining considerate.
Duff gives the readers tips for travelling to various countries and things to experience such as the Jambon in Barcelona and places to visit like the Berlin Wall. He seems to have a story for just about every city in the world which in itself is entertaining to some degree. One passage struck me. When he explained how pro athletes and celebrities goes from people’s perception of filthy rich to later file for bankruptcy.
Then there’s more serious issues. He talks a LOT about being a father and parenthood and some of it was particularly reflective and real. He explains his role in how when kids reach a certain age you become almost a consultant rather than a parent, which l found to be very thought inducing and true. Being a dad and a parent is not easy, and it’s difficult being the father of two girls by all accounts.
All I know is that it makes for good reading and it’s often touching, but he might talk about it a tad too much considering the length of the book. Then he goes right back to talking about how he and Axl Rose are constantly doing “knock-knock” jokes and how crazy the fans in South America are about Guns N’ Roses (which seems otherworldly).
One of the main problems is that the book is called How To Be A Man but has a lot of well, nothing. Some cool stories and insight but far from being a game changer. It’s more of a “I get to write about anything I want, no need for order or direction”.
For instance, Duff’s top music list is generally solid but the comments attached to the artists/albums can get a little redundant. It’s touching to see the fan side of him is still very present when he talks about artists such as Lou Reed and Prince (or his speech about Bon Jovi in an earlier chapter).
The book list is much inspiring and it doesn’t get go be a chore to read, I always like to know about the books that inspire others. I get that those music and book picks are meant to be helpful but l think it would be more fitted for an internet chat room than your own book, although l must admit it does fill pages. Duff repeats himself a few times and there just isn’t much overall content.
All in all it’s a quick light read that gets repetitive at times, but not an awful read by any means. I don’t think it teaches you any more how to be a man than you already are and it does seem to be aimed strictly towards men for the most part. Duff McKagan’s first book It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) was an excellent autobiography and is very recommended reading, this one not so much.
How To Be A Man is light reading, very casual with a few funny stories. It’s hardly essential. If you had the first and you want more Duff it’s just like having an every day conversation with him. If you’re looking for the next great self-help book, this isn’t it. If you must read I’d just wait for the ultimately cheaper paperback edition. 3/5 stars.