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Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners Hardcover – January 3, 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Is it a breach of good manners to mislead folks just a little if you are going to show them a good time? The question arises after a brisk and happy trot through Henry Alford's new book, WOULD IT KILL YOU TO STOP DOING THAT?..Lively."―The New York Times

"Investigative humorist Henry Alford explores the illusive art of behaving well... Alford is a charming writer, who seems able to spin delightful stuff from whatever straw he happens to stumble across, and his rumination on good behavior is no exception."―Salon.com

"[His] self-deprecating wit recalls earlier generations of gentlemanly humor writers... Alford offers a...nearly always charming account of his own confusion about how to act."―The Boston Review

"Alford is a razory-wicked, fun guy to be around, and each of his stories are like those 'tiny acts of grace' brightening your day."―Kirkus

"Mr. Manners Henry Alford explains how-and why-to behave. WOULD IT KILL YOU TO STOP DOING THAT? amuses as it informs."―The New York Times Book Review

"[Alford] describes life as a cosmic Wikipedia, in which each of us through our actions is redefining and expanding the categories to which we belong. The book alternates between these idiosyncratic digressions and actual commentary on modern manners...consistently fun."―Newsday

"Extremely entertaining....Whatever the ideals may be, most of us can agree decent manners are a good idea. Thanks to this handbook, we stand a better chance of complying."―Bookpage

"Even the best behaved among us would benefit from a close reading of investigative humorist Henry Alford's brilliant primer on gracious living, Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?"―Vanity Fair

"In today's world of social climbers, inconsiderate shoppers, cell phone yappers and the ever-evolving social media, Alford has taken it upon himself to get to the root of just what good manners really means in 2012. His flair for adding jovial wit to the proceedings offered is evident in every chapter. He has a natural, informative and clever writing talent....All in all, Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners provides a reference point from which to learn, a sympathetic voice of reason and an everyday guide for almost any social situation you could possibly imagine."―The Edge

About the Author

Henry Alford is the author of three acclaimed works of investigative humor - How To Live: A Seach for Wisdom from Old People (While They are Still on this Earth); Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top; and Municipal Bondage: One Man's Anxiety-Producing Adventures in the Big City. He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times and Vanity Fair, and a staff writer at Spy. He has also written for The New Yorker, GQ, New York, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, the Village Voice, and Paris Review. He lives in Manhattan.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446557668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446557665
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Kanigan VINE VOICE on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alford has written for Vanity Fair, The NY Times and The New Yorker. He has written three books and is often heard on NPR. The pros: I loved the writing and his rapier wit. The book is filled with colorful stories, anecdotes, surveys, experiments and interviews. He also offers up some thoughtful recommendations on appropriate manners and etiquette.

The challenges? I anticipated some logical sequencing and organization prior to opening the cover of a book on manners or etiquette. However, this is not your Mother's Reference Manual on Etiquette & Manners. This witty book is a random walk on the subject where often times you get lost in the story missing the etiquette punch line altogether. The author lurches from discussions involving the appropriateness of slurping noodles in Tokyo, to accepting all friend requests on Facebook to asking how much rent you pay in Manhattan, to stealing a cab.

A number of recommendations were thoughtful:

* Don't return a phone call with a text. "There's an implicit hierarchy of communication. If you go lower on the hierarchy, people will think there's a subtext."

* Don't overuse the word "thx" in emails especially to a sender that has spent considerable time sending you an email. Take a moment to use the sender's name and spell out Thanks. Tone is often lost in email and it's important that the recipient not misconstrue your intention.

* If someone sends you a gift certificate, why not send that person a photo of what you bought or at minimum tell them what you bought.

* Is it rude if someone refuses to accept your friend request? If you've actually met in the flesh, then yes, it sounds like it is.
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Format: Hardcover
Henry Alford's hilarious "Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners" is actually less a guide to manners than it is a sort of memoir of a very funny guy thinking about manners. Really, would you rely upon a "Guide to Manners" from someone who plays a game called "Touch the Waiter" at restaurants? You've got to admire the chutzpah of an author who cops to this sort of behavior in a book that's liable to wind up shelved next to Miss Manners' authoritative tomes, which are also wonderful but in a completely different way. Miss Manners he sure isn't, although she does make an appearance in this book, as charming as always. No, Alford is just muddling along like the rest of us, trying to navigate a complicated world. The gems here are his witty and spot-on observations along the way. New Yorkers may particularly enjoy recognizing themselves in his field guide to his adopted home town. I finally understand why, when I hail a cab in DC or Baltimore (in what, being a transplanted New Yorker, I naturally thought was the universal fashion), the locals think I'm nuts. This book won't make you a paragon of etiquette, but it'll make you think, and laugh.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read a short sample of this book, as well as an insightful review, and so I was perhaps a little more prepared for the content and tone of it than other reviewers. Rather than being about "manners" from a traditional point of view, Alford's commentary is more frequently about how people, from all walks of life, relate to each other in all kinds of scenarios and in many different settings. Some of his discourse begins to feel quite lengthy and felt a bit self-indulgent, while others seem to be more insightful. Example, insightful: "The essence of good manners is not exclusivity, nor exclusion of any kind, but sensitivity." Example, lengthy: "This anthropologist's quest to pin good manners to gelatin in the manner of a lepidopterist continued apace; let it be said that the complications of protocol slowed me." The book's saving grace are Alford's laugh-out-loud gems, which are worth the price of schlogging through the rest. My favorite part of the book was a quip that may only be new to me, but I love it: "'I feel like I'm wearing orthopedic shoes,' I said. She shot me a look of incomprehension, so I explained, 'I stand corrected.'"
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Format: Hardcover
First off, the main downside to this book: Not enough time spent with my own two preferred manners mavens, Tim Gunn and Miss Manners. I found the sections spent interviewing them to be quite fun, but sadly short - similar to attending a dinner advertising a "sumptuous mousse dessert" and then you get your serving: a tiny teaspoon. Tastes good, but you were expecting a good bit more of it.

As to the book itself - short, sharp-tongued, and occasionally scathing. There is some language towards the end (he is a NYC greeter, and likes to shock his overseas visitors by taking them by the booth selling "effing" shirts.) There is also a bit of a better than thou tone throughout, but strangely enough, it humanizes rather than irritates. The section on his "retaliatory manners" especially hit me square in my own often passive-aggressive tendencies, and made like him all the more because of our shared failings.

Overall, nothing earth-shattering, and most certainly not exhaustive or even complete, but a very enjoyable short and sassy addition to the voices of those calling out for a continuation and furtherance of modern manners.
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