Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son” as Want to Read:
A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  576 ratings  ·  104 reviews
“Raw, intimate, and true . . . A Better Man cracked me wide open, and it’s a template for the conversation we need to be having with our boys.”
Peggy Orenstein, bestselling author of Boys & Sex

A poignant look at boyhood, in the form of a heartfelt letter from comedian Michael Ian Black to his teenage son before he leaves for college, and a radical plea for rethinking mas
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 15th 2020 by Algonquin Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Better Man, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Better Man

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  576 ratings  ·  104 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son
Larry H
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, blog-tour
Michael Ian Black's A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son is full of humorous, moving, insightful reflections shared from father to son.

What does it mean to be a man? And what does being “a good man” entail, especially in these days when it seems we are caught between the “traditional” male roles and behaviors and the paradigm shift that has occurred in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?

In his new book, fashioned as a “letter” of sorts to his college-aged son, comedia
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is fascinating, and to be honest a little uncomfortable, to see a master of ironic detachment be so open, honest, and vulnerable in his discussion of his life and his understanding of manhood. Some of that is due to this book being structured as a letter and instructions to his college-bound son, but some of it is also due to the fact that very few of us have the practice of examining masculinity and even fewer have the vocabulary to talk about it. Black does a good job examining the good and ...more
Carrie Poppy
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lovely. Many times better than a book by Bob Larson.

Listen to my interview with him on NPR's Bullseye!
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I had never heard of comedian/actor Michael Ian Black, but what I read about his book, A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son caught my attention. What would he have to say?

Black, a half-Jewish/half-Catholic, non-religious man who changed his name from Schwartz to Black to avoid standing out as Jewish. He says he wanted to sound more “neutral” when he walked into auditions. He goes on to voice his thoughts on white supremacy, sexism, racism, and so much more.

We learn about his upbrin
A Better Man is both a memoir and a heartfelt letter to comedian Michael Ian Black’s college-bound son Elijah, who is entering adulthood.

In this honest, raw and emotional tribute, I was touched as a mother to a teen age son. It was the perfect book to read for me and I cannot help but agree and nod a lot about some of the experiences Black shares in this book.

Black intimately shares his own life experiences as well as the early death of his father at 39 yo. This is such an important book to re
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: profanity
Comedian Michael Ian Black wrote this book as a form of instruction to his college-bound son. His goal is to teach his son how to be a man and analyze what masculinity looks like. The book covers a variety of topics, including love, vulnerability, toxic masculinity, consent, pride, leadership, happiness, spirituality, and relationships.
I was not familiar with the author before I read the book, and I picked it up because I have a son who will leave for college soon. One of my favorite quotes is,
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
A Better Man touches on so many crucial topics: gun violence, toxic masculinity, privilege, racism, sexism, gender, empathy, and more.

It’s so important for boys and men to know that playing sports, driving trucks, and/or having big muscles doesn't equate to strength and manhood. Strength, and manhood, comes in many forms: wisdom, courage, honesty, temperance, humanity, etc. They need to know that showing kindness and empathy is not a weakness, but a strength. No matter who you are, be your authe
Sep 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Thanks to Netgalley and Algonquin books for the arc and physical book in exchange for an honest review.

I am not familiar with this comedian because I’m not a big fan of tv/movies and I just have never noticed him. However, the premise of this book interested me: a man writing a letter to his son about how to be a better man.

I don’t have or want kids, but I like the idea of trying to do something beyond the masculine gender role that is tired, old and just makes people unhappy. I like that the
Oct 10, 2020 added it
Shelves: memoirs
I cringe to say it, but this was a DNF.
I got 50% through and (aside from the beginning where he discusses the shootings at Sandy Hook) I felt I was just getting societal history lessons, when I was really hoping for Michael Ian Black’s personal stories/advice, sprinkled with his snarky humor.

(BUT..I highly recommend both his former books. Guaranteed to make you laugh)
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
There’s been a lot of talk about toxic masculinity in the past few years, but I hadn’t heard too much on the topic from the male perspective. Michael Ian Black’s book is written as a letter to his teenage son soon off to college. It’s filled with lessons Black has learned over the years (as a young man all the way up to his time as a father) and the knowledge he hopes to impart to his son before he sets off on the road to becoming a man.

I’ve been a fan of Black’s comedy for a long time (I loved
Dedra ~ A Book Wanderer
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
(All quotes are taken from an advance reader’s copy and are subject to change in the final print.)

I wasn’t prepared to be as moved by Michael Ian Black’s A Better Man as I was. It’s a book about masculinity written from a father to his son before he leaves for college. And I’m a woman. But I do have a son who’s a teenager. And I struggle every day with how to raise my kids to be more aware of our privilege, to be an ally and not a hindrance.

I found myself marking page after page in this book. I
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
I don't think I would have read this if it weren't for it being by Michael Ian Black. (I was a huge The State fan in high school.) But I'm glad I saw this ARC, and while I know it's long since been published, I'm glad I finished reading it. It was a slow read for me, but worth it - MIB had a lot of important things to say. I felt that a few times he didn't follow through on his thoughts, or maybe it was just that he didn't say what I thought he'd say or I didn't follow exactly what he was trying ...more
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written to his college-bound son, Michael Ian Black writes a missive that highlights his personal hopes for his son as he enters adulthood in a culture that has pigeonholed men and manhood to an extent that is potentially damaging to men and those around them. Black is aware of his own privilege as a white, heterosexual man of some wealth and renown and is honest with his son and the reader about how this shapes his own experience as a man and that of his son. As someone who is not a man and is ...more
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir, 2020
This is an important book for our current moment. I found it helpful to understand the messages men receive about how to be “correctly” masculine, and I think we can lay many of our current societal problems at the feet of these dangerous messages. Readers looking for Black’s characteristic humor will find the subtitle accurate: the book is mostly serious, and I really appreciated the vulnerability and honesty of its seriousness. The book serves as a contemplative memoir, a poignant letter of lo ...more
Jason Harber
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loved
This book really was wonderful. I was recently talking to a friend about fatherhood, and finding it difficult to put into words all of the things I feel about myself and for my family as a father. Mr. Black’s book really gave me some clarity and challenged me to think deeper about my role as a father and my experience as a son.
May 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
Should be required reading for males, particularly white males.

I’ve been a fan of Michael Ian Black since The State, and seeing him so open and vulnerable in this book was an unexpected left turn in the best way.
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I won this book as a goodreads giveaway!

I absolutely adored this book. It was honest, smart, and well-written.

A must read for anyone raising a man :)
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received this as part of the Goodreads giveaways, and it is absolutely stunning. I really enjoy Michael Ian Black's comedy, but this is something different and moving and entirely out of left field and wholly needed. I am so glad I read this. ...more
Bob Lingle
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
An honest and personal look at what it means to be a "Man" today. If offers a look into where we started from as a society, how we got there, how we got to where we are now, and what one man can do to be "A Better Man."

It's heartfelt, and although sometimes repetitive, some lessons bear repeating.
Jerry Smith
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, 2020_fav
I've known Michael Ian Black's work since I was in High School and that is NOT recent :-)
I was kind of up and down on whether I liked him, you know him... his smug, sarcastic delivery..
But then I found his not-retired podcast How To Be Amazing and loved it.
He actually addresses his smug delivery in this book and damn if I can't relate to it... Probably why I had an issue w/ it. Hit too close to home.
I loved every word of this book as a father and as someone that questions what it means to be a m
Richard Propes
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you're familiar with the work of comedian/actor/writer Michael Ian Black, "A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son" may very well come as a bit of a surprise.

It shouldn't, really.

While the longtime member of the comedy group The State is well known for his dry sarcasm and irreverent wit, Black has also been known, if you're paying attention, for socially insightful commentary and his increasingly popular role as a successful author of children's books.

Still, "A Better Man" is a M
Heather Gadd
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
Reading a book written by a comedian, you really don’t know what to expect. Is it going to be funny, intelligent, worthwhile? Or will it be just like how a comedian makes a name for themselves, a joke? I was happy to find out that Michael Ian Black is not only a funny man, but an insightful and talented writer.

Written as a letter to his eldest son, now college age, you not only get an abridged memoir from Black, but an eloquent prose of the dos and don’ts of being “a man” in today’s society. I
Paige Green
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son

Author: Michael Ian Black

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For...: males and male identifying people

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Genre: Autobiography

Recommended Age: 14+ (toxic masculinity, consent, sexual content)

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Pages: 304

Synopsis: In a world in which the word masculinity now often goes hand in hand with toxic,
Nov 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Wimpy, vague, feminist view of masculinity that offers very little advice while spewing the typical politically correct liberal perspective. It's all heavily influenced by his late lesbian mother. The author has written of some of these things before in other books and it seems very repetitive while drawing no real conclusions on how to really be a better man. He even says in a number of spots, "I don't know."

It's supposed to be a letter to his 18-year-old son but there are only a few chapters t
*This review will go live on my blog on Tuesday 09/15, and I will update with the link below once it does.

I’m not at all familiar with Michael Ian Black’s work, but I thought reading A Better Man would be an interesting read. As a woman raising three kids (two girls, one boy), I was intrigued by what kind of advice a white man would give to his own son as his son is about to enter adulthood. A Better Man was actually a lovely read: a letter to a child that is obviously very, very loved, with som
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a mother, raising two young white boys who are well versed in their privilege. They can and do independently recognize and regularly call out sexism and racism before they are even out of elementary school. No son of mine will ever say, “screaming like a little girl” because little boys scream in that high pitched way too. And men who describe their action saying “I screamed like a little girl” were literally (use the original definition of the word here) screaming just like a scared grown ...more
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I didn't know Michael Ian Black had written a book until Facebook's algorithms suggested a Zoom event with MIB and Mike Birbiglia. I attended and I was intrigued by the premise of the book as a letter to his son. I also enjoyed the chapter excerpts that were shared so I bought the audiobook.

I was crying in the intro as MIB writes about the Sandy Hook shooting, which was a pivotal moment for him as a dad and as a man. I wasn't expecting that depth, honestly, but the book as a whole is deep. MIB d
Chris Jaffe
May 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is better than it should've been, especially given how it is mostly serious. Black is a comedian, and there are a few jokes, but this is him being serious. In the modern day world, what it means to be a man is in a state of flux. We've had #MeToo and talk of toxic masculinity, and you have Trump and plenty examples of guys defining manhood in the nastiest and crassest ways possible. Black wants to figure out what it means to be a man.

It's set up as a letter to his son, and that's how it's f
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mostly Solid (More Than Jello, Less Than Steak) Advice From Father To Son On The Event Of The Son Leaving For College. And with that long-ass title out of the way... :D Seriously, this is a near-perfect letter of advice about life, love, and other mysteries from father to son as the son heads off to college and happens to have a celebrity dad. His statements about mass shootings are 100% incorrect in a couple of places, and his statements about Ayn Rand and White Guilt are philosophically incorr ...more
Hana Correa
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
So this is definitely a departure from the stuff I usually read. I found it to be a very pleasant detour. Author and actor Michael Ian Black writes this as an informal letter to his 18 year old son as he prepares to leave to college. The purpose of this long essay is to ask and try to answer the question of what is wrong with how boys are raised that often lends them to be emotionally closed off, and sometimes trending toward violence. This isn’t written in a educationally indoctrinated way that ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Update Cover 2 11 Oct 03, 2020 05:16AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Dutch House
  • American Dirt
  • The Family Upstairs
  • A Woman Is No Man
  • Long Bright River
  • Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
  • One to Watch
  • Only Mostly Devastated
  • The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3)
  • Big Summer
  • Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family
  • Queenie
  • Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, #1)
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • The Girl from Widow Hills
  • The Jane Austen Society
  • All Adults Here
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Michael Ian Black is a popular comedian who began his career with "The State," a sketch comedy troupe he co-founded at New York University in 1988, which went on to have a successful run on MTV. He then co-created the Comedy Central television series "Viva Variety," a fake European variety show.

From there, he appeared on several television shows before landing the role of Phil Stubbs, the quirky

News & Interviews

We all want to spend more time lost in the pages of great books. That's the idea behind our annual 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge! It's...
89 likes · 12 comments