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Extended Audio Sample Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners Audiobook, by Henry Alford Click for printable size audiobook cover
2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 2.00 (535 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Henry Alford Narrator: Henry Alford Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9781611135633
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"We all know bad manners when we see them," NPR and Vanity Fair contributor Henry Alford observes at the beginning of his new book. But what, he asks, do good manners look like in our day and age? When someone answers their cell phone in the middle of dining with you, or runs you off the sidewalk with their doublewide stroller, or you enter a post-apocalyptic public restroom, the long-revered wisdom of Emily Post can seem downright prehistoric.

Troubled by the absence of good manners in his day-to-day life-by the people who clip their toenails on the subway or give three-letter replies to one's laboriously crafted missives-Alford embarks on a journey to find out how things might look if people were on their best behavior a tad more often. He travels to Japan (the "Fort Knox Reserve" of good manners) to observe its culture of collective politesse. He interviews etiquette experts both likely (Judith Martin, Tim Gunn) and unlikely (a former prisoner, an army sergeant). He plays a game called Touch the Waiter. And he volunteers himself as a tour guide to foreigners visiting New York City in order to do ground-level reconnaissance on cultural manners divides. Along the way (in typical Alford style) he also finds time to teach Miss Manners how to steal a cab; designates the World's Most Annoying Bride; and tosses his own hat into the ring, volunteering as an online etiquette coach.

Ultimately, by tackling the etiquette questions specific to our age-such as Why shouldn't you ask a cab driver where's he's from?, Why is posting baby pictures on Facebook a fraught activity? and What's the problem with "No problem"?-Alford finds a wry and warm way into a subject that has sometimes been seen as pedantic or elitist. And in this way, he looks past the standard "dos" and "don'ts" of good form to present an illuminating, seriously entertaining book about grace and civility, and how we can simply treat each other better.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Even the best behaved among us would benefit from a close reading of investigative humorist Henry Alford’s brilliant primer on gracious living.”

    Vanity Fair

  • One of the best books of the year." (2008)



    - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • Poignant...The Verdict: Read.



    Time
  • While Alford's slaying wit and intellectual nimbleness put him on a par with Wilde and Benchley, his personal investment infuses "How to Live" with an emotional expansiveness uniquely his own.



    Vanity Fair
  • Alford is a master of turns of phrase, diction, dialog, and technique. Essential reading.



    Library Journal, Starred Review
  • Essayist Henry Alford [is] the Socrates of dilettantes.



    Newsweek
  • “A rumination on the philosophy of manners in the form of a series of funny essays by a self-described ‘investigative humorist’…Alford is a charming writer who seems to be able to spin delightful stuff from whatever straw he happens to stumble across.”

    Salon

  • “High-handed hurling of etiquette barbs from New York City to Japan prompts this wickedly witty account…A charming, funny Noël Cowardesque primer in smartening up.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Alford brings a charm, chattiness, and feeling quiet, slightly giddy delight to his own work that would be hard to duplicate.”

    AudioFile

  • “Alford…shows himself to be a discreet, keen observer rippling with bad-boy humor. 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 Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kwoomac | 2/20/2014

    " Turns out the best thing about this book is the title. I'm not sure what made the author (or the publisher) think he should be writing a book on manners. He's frequently rude and not particularly clever. Give me Miss Manners any day. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cynthia | 2/17/2014

    " New Yorker and NPR contributor Henry Alford gives us examples of today's bad manners, balanced with models of good manners in the modern world. The first chapter enlightens us on the manners capital of the world, Japan. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heidi | 2/16/2014

    " Fluffy and fun, but not substantial. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 1/28/2014

    " A fun read; raised some contemporary issues; humorous, generally well-written. Not grammar (think Eats Shoots and Leaves or Woe Is I) but daily manners/situational behavior. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amanda | 1/27/2014

    " This isn't a modern guide to manners as in "here's how to word your email so you don't sound like an asshole," it's a modern guide to manners as in "here's situations where you shouldn't send emails because it makes you sound like an asshole, and also here's a time when I sent an email and sounded like an asshole, and also here's a bit about how when Americans go to Japan, we look like idiots." It's HILARIOUS and really more like a collection of essays than an etiquette guide. But I thought the toilet on the cover made it pretty obvious that this was going to be a tongue in cheek thing- a lot of the reviews here seem angry that it isn't a literal manners manual, which....if you pick up a book with a smart ass title and then you get angry at its smart-assitude, the problem is probably you. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Paula | 1/26/2014

    " I'm not sure what this is supposed to be--it's not instructive enough to be a "guide to manners" as the subtitle promises, not funny enough to be "humor," and not organized thoughtfully enough to be a philosophical or sociological treatise on etiquette. It's just a bunch of essays that address the general topic of etiquette. He's a good writer, but the chapter about fake-apologizing to people to subtly mock and point out their etiquette transgressions really doesn't sit well with me. Self-righteous passive aggression is rarely the solution, dude. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy Elizabeth | 1/22/2014

    " A few laugh out loud moments. Lunch with Tim Gunn was my favorite. A solid B "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kkeyes | 1/22/2014

    " There are some killer one liners in here and some solid advice. The author can write for sure. My favorite line came from the section for on-line (facebook) etiquette. "Indeed some posts are so auto-congratulatory that they practically self-lubricate." There was also a section on how to avoid "blurting" which was a good section for me. I have been know to blurt. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sharon | 1/22/2014

    " I had high hopes for this: good reviews and a moderately successful author. Sadly, no luck. There are a few smiles but no laughing moments. This loosely connected series of observances (and occasional essay) on modern manners might have made a slightly intersting blog, not a book. Not worth the time. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellie M. | 1/19/2014

    " While humorously written, with a brilliant expose of bad manners in our culture, the author did little to point a path to good etiquette, and the liberal outlook and speckling of unnecessary foul language made it a less-than-worthwhile read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mskarla | 1/8/2014

    " Started, didn't like it, took it back to the library. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina | 11/27/2013

    " Charming and very witty. Definitely worth the read if you are planning to travel to Japan or Western Europe.The author also spends quite a bit of time on the social situations that are unique to the 21st Century. I will definitely be looking for more books and articles written by this author. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christine | 11/22/2013

    " Funny, insightful - just overall great. It isn't a book of straight bullet points of manners but different situations that analyze and make you think about why you're polite, why you view others as rude or why some people are just manner-less. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sara | 6/30/2013

    " Disjointed, but fun. The author shares my affinity for manners books and advice columns. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather | 5/21/2013

    " This book was not so much guide to modern manners as exploration in what manners mean, and how to interact in general. As boring as manners can sound, this book was both thoughtful and really funny! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nitzan | 12/26/2012

    " it doesn't bode well for my own writing career that though most other reviewers seemed really frustrated with this title, it has been a long time since i've been THIS delighted and satisfied with a funny book... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lavinia | 11/8/2012

    " Funny, engaging, timely, and pertinent - Alford does a good job of presenting his ideas about manners in broad strokes, making them relevant to and accessible by all of us. Lots of chuckle-out-loud moments, balanced by several ideas profound yet simple. A very enjoyable read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Macaela | 10/2/2012

    " This was a fun read. Not a typical manners book and yet you learn so much. "

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About the Author

Henry Alford is the author of several acclaimed works of investigative humor, including How To Live: A Search 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.