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Letters to My Son: A Father's Wisdom on Manhood, Life, and Love

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In an attempt to gather what wisdom he could to guide his son into adulthood, Kent Nerburn published a powerful collection of essays that touched the hearts of parents and children everywhere. In this beautiful revised edition, Nerburn refines his advice and expands his thoughts.

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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Kent Nerburn

32 books357 followers

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5 stars
272 (50%)
4 stars
169 (31%)
3 stars
60 (11%)
2 stars
32 (5%)
1 star
8 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews
Profile Image for Jen.
2,396 reviews41 followers
May 29, 2011
I think all these quotes are from this book? I just found them unlabeled in a computer file...

"That is why we need travel. If we don't offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don't lift to the horizon; our ears don't hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days. "- KN

"But travel is not as romantic and exotic as it sounds. The familiar will always call, and your sense of rootlessness will not give you rest. Your emotions will fly crazily in all directions until sometimes you will feel that you have lost your moorings. If you travel alone, the warmth of families and couples will break your heart, and your loneliness will plunge you to depths you did not think possible.

And then, there are greater dangers. You may wake up and discover that you have become a runner who uses travel as an escape from the problems and complications of trying to build something with your life. You may find that you were gone one hour or one day or one month too long, and that you no longer belong anywhere or to anyone. You may find that you have been caught by the lure of the road and that you are a slave to dissatisfaction with any life that forces you to stay in one place.

There things happen. But how much worse is it to be someone whose dreams have been buried beneath the routines of life and who no longer has an interest in looking beyond the horizon?

I believe it is worth taking the risk. How else will you know the feeling of standing on something ancient, or hearing the silent roar of empty spaces? How else will you be able to look into the eyes of a man who has no education, never left his village, and does not speak your language, and know that the two of you have something in common? How else will you know, in your heart, that the whole world is precious and that every person and place has something unique to offer?

And when you have tragedies or great changes in your life, how else will you truly understand that there are a thousand, a million ways to live, and that your life will go on to something new and different and every bit as worthy as the life you are leaving behind?"-KN
Profile Image for Melodie.
589 reviews67 followers
March 21, 2018
A lovely little book full of essays written as father /son advice. I enjoyed each and every one, and took some time to digest particularly deep ones. The ones that resonated most deeply( I believe because of my age) were those on loving and living with elders and on death and dying.
As the daughter of ninety-something parents and mother of thirty-something sons, I found valuable advice for myself as well. I recommend this book most highly and will be passing it along .
Profile Image for Judy Cheng.
Author 3 books2 followers
November 10, 2020
I am neither a father nor a son, however; I choose it to read. I am a mother having two sons, and they have father, nevertheless, I choose it to read. I don’t ask myself the reason to read it, for I think I just have to. After reading the book, I find myself become a happier person. The big result is I come to know the problems I have with my elder son, and what makes me the happiest is I seem knowing how to face the problems. I don’t know why the book will enlighten me so much when none of the thirty four chapters has exactly told me what I have gone wrong. It is amazing. Slowly, I come to realize that my heart is opened and mainly I become peaceful with the wisdom the book has given me and I have come to find that the wisdom is to tell me I should be peaceful. Yeah, only when we are in a state of peacefulness can everything comes to us in the same way.

In the book, I am much impressed finding Kent has several times cited Chinese phrases or stories when he utters an advice or wisdom to us. To me, such a familiarity has made me feel warm and sweet and I think I have to especially say thanks to him.

Whether you are a father, a son, a mother or a daughter, I would like to recommend you all to have this book a read for it will not only give you advice or wisdom about life but it will, out of expectation, amazingly turn you into a happier person.

At last, I have to say to Kent that with reading the book, I have learned a lot about men when before I cannot know so much, hahahaa! It is absolutely a book women have to read.
Profile Image for Megan Huff.
11 reviews7 followers
November 15, 2007
I got this book yesterday, and finished it today.

I went into SAVE Thrift store to pass some time before catching the bus home and I walked back to the book shelf just to look around. My eyes immediately fell on this book and for some reason, even though it is a book written by a man and aimed at boys/men I wanted to read it.

So I bought it and started reading it on the bus. Despite the fact that this is a book about the philosophies of becoming a man, about what dilemmas a man faces and what he can take from life, it touches the heart and reaches out to everybody.

This book is worthwhile to read no matter who you are. It brings forth certain points, or truths maybe, that you recognize, and even if you don't agree with what he believes, you understand where he is coming from and respect his experiences and outlook on life.

I would definately read this again, and it's going onto my permanent bookshelf.
Profile Image for 5rovsvet.
280 reviews47 followers
June 18, 2020
O ovoj knjizi ne bih puno dužio. Iz naslova se vidi šta je ona i u tom smislu je divna. Možda sam očekivao malo više. Na momente deluje suvoparna i deluje kao da je autor proživeo tri života spominjući sva svoja iskustva, ali možda je u tome i draž. On je pristao na takav način života da je dosta proputovao i dosta toga spoznao i otkrio.
Iako je ova knjiga posvećena sinovima, podjednako neka poglavlja mogu čitati i ćerke. Ima tu i pisama o snazi, o ljubavi, o braku, o umetnosti, o gotovo svakoj grani života. U tome je i lepota ove knjige. Spominje se i religija, i seks, i vođenje ljubavi, spominje se i odnos prema starijima, kao i viđenje starih ljudi. Ova knjiga vas možda neće ničemu novom naučiti, ali će vam proširiti vidike, sigurno.
Kao što sam rekao, na momente mi je delovala suvoparno i zbog toga neću dati najveću ocenu, ali da je knjiga vredna, jeste. I sigurno ću bar neka od pisama ponovo pročitati.
Profile Image for Ivan.
118 reviews33 followers
February 19, 2015
Reading the "letter" on sex (Chapter 25) was like reading about the birds and the bees from your dad.

No, your grandpa.

No, your friend's grandpa.

Who writes for Encyclopedia Britannica.

In the 1950s.

In fact, despite the rare keen observation, most of Nerburn's essays come off as pretentious and banal: not a great combination when trying to impart wisdom and inspire learning.

At least his letters/chapters are mostly brief if not unhelpful. Still, if Nerburn were my father, I would have just told him to text me a dad joke ("Dad, I'm hungry." "Hi, Hungry, I'm Dad.") or an email with a link to a wikihow page on how a fucking mortgage works.
2 reviews
October 7, 2010
I really enjoyed how poetic and insightful this book was. My favorite chapter was on "Travel" ...“That is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourself to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.” This quote sticks with me almost as a mantra, especially the last line.
Profile Image for Larry.
7 reviews
July 4, 2010
I really enjoyed this book. The author is down to earth and keeps things concise and clear. The topics he picked to write about were all relevant ones which I find myself thinking about often. Sometimes it is just nice to hear another man's take on things such as spirituality, drugs, family/fatherhood, death, love, giving, etc. I like his references to Zen. I took a lot away from this book.
Profile Image for Mark Ray, Jr.
6 reviews
November 3, 2019
My Dad bought me this book back in 1992 when I was a sophomore in high school. I read it then and decided to re-read as I now have two sons. This book is quite different reading it again 27 years later in mid-life vs teenage years. It presents a good perspective on many life lessons and may help start some of those tough discussions between fathers and their children; but good parenting still requires daily guidance and love.

Thank you Dad for the book and more importantly all the life lessons you give me everyday which are much greater than simply presented in this book. Love ya, JR.
1,326 reviews13 followers
November 14, 2014
I really liked this book of short essays that the author uses to tell his son about a variety of experiences he will probably encounter in life. I liked his positive views on what it means to be a man and how he works at helping his son understand the role of emotions in life. A very good and thoughtful book.
Profile Image for Vernon Royal.
15 reviews
October 3, 2015
Personally I loved this book. Full of wisdom. From someone who lost there father at a young age this book touched my heart. Special book.
11 reviews
September 23, 2021
All good advice but very basic and the stories aren't to interesting either. This is a great book for a high school kid to read but as a 34 year old I've already heard a lot of this advice and live by it. This book is an easy and quick read but will not blow your socks off. I recommend reading Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules For Life instead. Now that is an interesting and gripping book about living a good life.
Profile Image for Chiraz Ben a.
17 reviews3 followers
March 23, 2017
I liked this book a lot. So much wisdom distilled in one little book. Though it's addressed to his son, obviously a male, most of the ideas are actually quite universal, timeless, and gender-independent.
I listened to the audiobook version, and even at x1.75 speed which did not feel too fast. It was only after I had finished it that I noticed that the reader was actually Mr. Nerbern's son, the one to whom the book was written for! That made it all the more meaningful.

Simply a great book.
Profile Image for Amanda.
97 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2018
It wasn’t all that I expected. I guess too short and filled with good sayings. Good personal stories to support his thoughts. I don’t know if there is anything he said that I could share with my son that I wasn’t already going to. As a single mom, this wasn’t useful to me. But I had to listen to the entire book to be able to figure that out.
Profile Image for Jacob Coldwell.
Author 3 books2 followers
December 12, 2018
Like a cliff

This was an interesting and even insightful book until a third of the way through. Some good ideas that eventually turned to a warped perspective on how you should live your life.
Profile Image for Petre.
28 reviews9 followers
August 13, 2021
I received the "Partners and Marriage" chapter embedded in made up story about a student getting an A+ grade from a very exigent college professor. The book is a wonderful meditation on the things that really matter, on hard earned wisdom and on what it means to be a father.
336 reviews
May 22, 2017
Some parts outdated, but also some parts timeless.
1 review2 followers
May 29, 2019
This book was really inspiring and a great book for kids who possibly didn't grow up without a dad and should of heard and experienced these feelings with their father
1 review
August 19, 2020
a great book for teenagers who struggle to find their path of life.
Profile Image for Maria Salve.
52 reviews11 followers
November 6, 2020
PROFOUND. Although it is primarily a father's memento to his son, this book packs with lessons that transcend time, gender or status.
12 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2020
I recommend this for all to read. Nerburn's life experiences, insight and ability to Express is phenomenal.
Profile Image for Swati Deepak.
3 reviews
June 11, 2022
I totally admire this one, It touches all angles and provide a playground to your thoughts to understand these points in a better way.
August 25, 2015
Amazing Book!

I got this book for my son as it's a summer reading for his senior year in an all male school. After reading the book, he came to me with a astonished look on his face. He said that the book supplies young males with an incredible insight on life. He said that it is one of the best books that he has ever read. It supplies young men with a lot of factual information on various different topics from love to lovemaking to fatherhood to respecting elders to death and to overall reflection of a father. Overall he gives the book a 5 star and he does not regret his time. It took him about 5 hours to finish this book. It peeked his interest and he read the book, in its entirety, in one afternoon. Overall great book!!!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews

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