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Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys    by Neil Oliver order for
Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys
by Neil Oliver
Order:  USA  Can
Collins, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

On first seeing this title there's a moment when the thought crosses your mind that this might be a satire of the classic tales where brave men do good deeds and save fair damsels in distress. Upon, further inspection you quickly realize this is no joke. Neil Oliver, a Scottish archaeologist and the presenter of the BBC television series Coast, is totally serious about this collection of stories.

In the book's introduction he writes, 'Part of the education of boys came from reading tales of brave and selfless deeds, or hearing from fathers and uncles and grandfathers about how other men had lived their lives, met their challenges, reached their goals, lived their lives and faced their deaths.'

It is Oliver's contention that these narratives helped usher young boys into manhood by defining how a manly man behaved. In an attempt to return to the good old days and get today's young males back on track, Oliver presents 17 stories in this volume that illustrate what manhood is all about.

The males held up for inspection and imitation include John Paul Jones, the Spartan men who died fighting Xerxes at Thermopylae, and the crew of Apollo 11. Apparently nothing tests a man's mettle more than a good fight, so the author revisits D-Day, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Dien Bien Phu and the Siege of the Alamo.

Many readers will not be familiar with individuals such as Josiah Harland, a Zulu king named Cetshwayo kaMpande, Captain Jean Danjou of the French Foreign Legion or Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Seton. Their exploits are woven into the fabric of this amazing montage of tales of courage, endurance, and sacrifice that will make men out of boys.

An entertaining read for both adolescent and adult males, Neil Oliver's Amazing Tales could well spark an interesting debate about society's values, male maturity and how manhood is measured today.

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