That may be the most important lesson this book sets out to teach because as the authors put it in the introduction, "Simply acting like a gentleman is not enough. It is being a gentleman that is important." Or to put it another way, if your gentlemanly behavior is attracting favorable attention, chances are that you are doing it wrong...
or for the wrong reasons.
Much of this material will be familiar to those knowledgeable about traditional etiquette, but much of it is as new as the latest technology. Cell phone usage, including camera phone usage and texting, are covered, as is the proper use of email, along with more traditional guidance about formalwear (how to tie a bow tie with diagrams), how to know which fork to use and how to set a dinner table properly (with diagrams) so as to prevent confusion about the former, etc.
I was particularly struck by the wisdom of the advice concerning smoking. It begins with the common courtesy taught more than a century ago and segues into the modern era of restrictions, finishing up with VERY important advice on how to be a gentlemanly NONsmoker. The same evenhandedness is displayed when the topic is dietary restrictions, whether imposed for health, religious, or political reasons. It is quite refreshing to see both nonsmokers and vegetarians reminded that gentlemanly behavior is their obligation, too.
Defects? I noted very few. How to eat an artichoke would have benefitted from a diagram in addition to the detailed instructions, a topical index would have been nice, and there are always minor things over which gentlemen may disagree agreeably. The only two truly discordant notes might have been attempts at humor, which elsewhere in the book is usually well done. For example:
"If a gentleman feels the urge to color his mustache, he shaves his mustache off."
Ha ha, very funny. However, in going for the joke, the authors have neglected their primary task, guiding men into gentlemanly behavior. Since the authors nowhere condemn coloring the hair on top of the head or the wearing of facial hair, they present the graying, facial hair wearing, would-be gentleman with an unsolvable problem, which is not necessarily alleviated by deciding not to color the rest of his hair either. A man doesn't always gray uniformly, and going au natural can result in a man looking as if he actually has colored his hair...
The other possible joke comes in the instructions (with diagrams) for how to properly fold and read a newspaper in a confined space:
"A gentleman reads a national newspaper, preferably the New York Times, on a regular basis."
The jacket blurb mentions that one of the authors, John Bridges, has been profiled in the New York Times, but even so it has been a long time since one could recommend reading the New York Times for the purpose of being informed...
except in a punch line.
These minor nits aside, it is a wonderful book, ideal for reading in small bits.
Note: This is part of a whole series of Gentlemanners books for further reading and more detailed instruction in specific areas: A Gentleman Entertains, As A Gentleman Would Say, A Gentleman Gets Dressed Up, A Gentleman at the Table, Toasts & Tributes, A Gentleman Abroad, How To Be A Lady, As a Lady Would Say, A Lady at the Table, 50 Things Every Young Gentleman Should Know, How To Raise A Gentleman, and How To Raise A Lady.