Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

An Unusual Foray

“What is the state of the modern male and female?” That is the question central to both of the books we’ll be looking at today, which tackle this question in very different ways. Our first book, Manthropology, shows us how the modern Western male pales in comparison to males (and in some cases, females) in the past as well as males in other societies today.

This book was actually a really quick read for me, and part of the reason for this is that it isn’t particularly deep. This isn’t a negative: the book has a thesis and only goes as deep as it needs to when proving each particular point. It shows that in pretty much everything the modern male does, he conclusively does it in an inferior way compared to those before him. It’s pretty balanced, in that there are many little anecdotes that pull in each of the societies that best us as well as some detailed discussions of why the inferiority is there and what we can do about it (if we actually care, that is). The anecdotes are varied enough and add value to the point that McAllister is putting across.

Curiously, the book The Female Brain has a very similar structure, if not a very different message. Here, the author is interested in educating women (and willing men) as to the particulars of the female brain and, secondarily, give some thoughts as to how it came about to be this way.

As I mentioned, this book has a very similar style: the author has a thesis and explains it in a very clear, straightforward manner. It’s a bit shorter than Manthropology, so I was able to get through it even faster. It’s also an engaging read with various anecdotes throughout, to reinforce the point that is trying to be made. For me, though, the anecdotes were fine up to a point: they didn’t seem to add value for me in the same way that Manthopology┬ádid. In Manthropology, the anecdotes were of the form “these people had a certain type of lifestyle that is way different from the laziness that is your life,” while in The Female Brain, the anecdotes were of the form “this woman I know told me about problems she was having.” While I am sympathetic to the problems of others, the anecdotes in The Female Brain don’t seem to have useful knowledge that isn’t found outside of them, while in Manthroplogy, the anecdotes are crucial to understanding why we’re inferior to men in other cultures and times.

So with that said, both books were easy to read and I’d definitely recommend both. I learned a lot from them and read them both pretty quickly, so if you need a quick book to read, either of these are great choices.