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Extended Audio Sample Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners, 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:
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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.

  • 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.

  • “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.”


  • “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.”


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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