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Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,111 ratings  ·  88 reviews
"Sam Keen is one of the most creative, profound thinkers of our time. I personally have learned and benefited immensely from his books. He brings to the men's movement a new kind of practical wisdom that should help both men and women."--John Bradshaw, author of Homecoming

How does one become a "real man"? By joining a fraternity? Getting a letter in football? Conquering a
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 1st 1992 by Bantam (first published 1991)
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 ·  1,111 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Alex Acton
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm torn between the fourth and fifth starts on this one. On one hand, Mr. Keen does an excellent job of describing the need for authentic, thoughtful masculinity and detailing a process to achieve said state. On the other, too much of Mr. Keen's book is couched in semi-poetry or the language of second wave feminism to really resonate with me.

In the end, Mr. Keen states his purpose explicitly. He isn't trying to explain the quintessential journey to masculinity, or even the average journey. In
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I met Sam Keen recently at an Esalen workshop in Big Sur, CA. He was so profoundly amazing, honest, powerful, and wise, that I had to go back and re-read Fire In The Belly.

Truly an American Hero, and rare human being on the same level of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. This is a modern day philosopher that is truly a great man, father, writer, and American.

He is someone to be paid attention to in our age of distraction and bullshit from our phony "leaders" who suck up to the lobbyists paid for b
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: masculinity, 2019
While this had some interesting ideas, it was too tainted by the feminist idea of toxic masculinity and the need for men to become more sensitive, and blaming things on men. Men do not behave this way. They need to redirect their energy to productive things.

We are loyal creatures. But there is nothing worth being loyal to anymore. Companies and women can drop a man in this society with no repercussions. In fact, the state incentivizes it.

If men have nothing to be loyal towards, who will keep the
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I think this was less about manhood and more about one particular man's life philosophy that could benefit both sexes to follow. Though he started treading on thin ice and very much showing his gender/race with some of his statements on feminism/minorities/victimhood, overall I was mostly in vehement agreement with the points he makes. He has a very lively, light-hearted voice that propels the book as well.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gifted to me and read in 1994. I remember very little now, but I found a lot to ponder reading it in my early 20s. I wouldn't mind giving it another look to see how it fares as I close in on 50.
Adam Johnson
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I came to this book expecting a lot, as it was highly recommended, and it delivered. Certainly in the first 2/3. After then, when it started to talk about how men and women can be together, the book dated itself very quickly. And that's no surprise - it's almost 30 years old and things have changed a lot in the intervening period. The politics have become more divisive, the labels more restrictive. The book also emerged as a far more personal journal than it was up to that point.

So I can see how
Avery Jenkins
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Without having the physical space and only a virtual presence, Keen invites men on an initiatory journey to evaluate their masculinity. Initially published in 1991, some of the contemporary references Keen makes are dated, but the mythological truths on which his thesis is based remain unsullied. As should be the case, because Keen, like Bly before him, relies on the archetypes of the psyche to create his map of masculinity.

Reading the reviews of this book, it is clear that Keen steps on a few n
Feb 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
Keen writes way too preachy, and although he dug up a few clever quotes, the book disappointed me to the point that I could not finish it. That surprised me because it came highly recommended and the title sounded promising. The title thing was big for me due to the fact that long have I loved the concept of having a fire in one's belly. One bright San Francisco morning warped by a twenty-something hangover my friends & I came across a raspy wino sitting on a steep street outside a liquor store ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it
A good friend gave me this book. I started out skeptical because the basic premise starts with traditional gender roles/identities (masculinity vs femininity), and this completely ignores/dismisses the experience of many people who are gay, transgender or otherwise don't fit traditional categories. I felt this was a major weakness in the book throughout (though Keen does slightly acknowledge it up front).

However, I was surprised by the depth and power of Keen's vision of how basically the "new m
Jason Beck
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Still relevant book on masculinity and culture. Worth a second reading. Can be used to guide men's groups. Full of wisdom and thought-provoking analyses of culture. The ending of the book contains 5+ pages of thought-provoking questions for self or for a group.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Men cannot find themselves without first separating from the world of WOMAN.

The man has unconscious bondage to women. WOMAN is the mysterious ground of our being that we cannot penetrate. She is the audience before whom the dramas of our lives are played out. She is the judge who pronounces us guilty or innocent. She is the Garden of Eden from which we are exiled and the paradise for which our bodies long. We have invested so much energy in trying to control women because we
Michael Armijo
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by an actor/friend (Aleks Mikic ~ known for Secret City, Preacher and more) after he read my Frank Kafka quote:
“I think we ought to only read the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kinds we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like
Alan Wang
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
**Read audiobook version**

What is the meaning of masculinity and does it have a “modern” shade?

As a reader, I typically dismiss analyses of manhood as self-indulgent and ephemeral. So what if we are suddenly enlightened on the true injustices faced by modern men? Would it help us better feed the hungry and dress the poor? Nevertheless I listened to this audiobook because 1) it was short and 2) I had trouble defining my own masculinity.

About one month has passed since I finished this book, and
A.J. Mendoza
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Simply put, was not looking forward to this book. Thought it would fail in comparison to Bly's Iron John, Rohr's Adam's Return, and Morris' King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. It certainly did not. For how much content was put in this book, the level of originality was both refreshing and transformative. Keen does a fantastic job looking at today's culture and dissecting the masculine milieu and revealing the toxicity and the potential for development. This is definitely not an easy book ...more
Bastard Travel
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Same old, same old, mean ol' society makes dudes fit mean ol' dude gender roles, toxic masculinity is killing us, we need to be softer and cry more and hug children, etc. Real Dr. Phil stuff. Probably good advice, but preachy, and decidedly less Jungian than advertised, unless the references to initiation rites qualify.

The meat of the book lay out how capitalism killed the soul by trading our old-timey, comfortable gender roles for new, fully automated ant colony gender roles and we need a retu
Joe Henry
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have had Sam Keen on my want-to-read list for a bunch of years, and when I saw this title at a book sale--well, I finally got around to it. Written in 1992, this book is now more than a quarter century old...and maybe feels a little dated at times. It seems to me there has been considerable stuff happening in sexual/gender identification and relationships in even the last decade--how could it not be dated (to the early '90s)? Be that as it may, I found it interesting, stimulating, and a good r ...more
Brent Smith
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Keen discusses the ways in which men can embrace new and healthy forms of masculinity without sounding punitive or preachy. Astonishing that even though this was written in the early 90's, it's ironically fresh, and much of it applies to what's happening today: gender norms and the war between the sexes, toxic masculinity, our damaging and spirit-crushing work culture, and the ecological crisis, to name a few. Women have had their time for self-reflection, for revolution, for expressing how they ...more
Gary Parker
Written by an aging hippy more than 25 years ago, this book is both scattershot with insights and deeply flawed. Worth reading if it is one among many books on the subject you plan to ingest, but a single authoritative source it is not. If you only read one book on manliness, this shouldn't be it. But if you are an avid reader who is skilled at sussing out gems of truth from flawed material, it's probably worth the journey.
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book surprised me. It wasn't a standard book saying men are like "x" and then defending it. It was more aspirational. Men have been like "x" and society collectively decided that was needed but in reality we can go beyond that. It was as much solution as it was exposition but I think a very excellent compliment to other books about masculinity.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reads like the masculine version of Vagina Monologues. I appreciate the prose that Sam Keen has laid out but his poetry has not lasted the test of time. He more dictated true realities of manhood but failed to invigorate, enlighten, impassion, or inspire.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was challenging and interesting. I still like Iron John better for books like this, but on such a large topic like you need many many books. He explores the warrior culture and the work culture and challenges them, but also wants us to find a place to continue using fierce energies.
Guillermo Tilley
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fundamental read for all men.
Peter Tournoy
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brilliant book with a lot of depth and insights about the so-called male psyche. However, it didn't beat Robert Bly's "Iron John".
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-growth
Loved it! Really gets to the heart of modern masculinity.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, scribd
Loved this. Very short but just pure great content
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
the author is an unrepentant liberal boomer fag but the book has good info if you push through
Alec Hunt
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
More men need to MAN UP and read this book.
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Although this book is "on being a man", I feel it's great insight for both sexes. I've struggled with concepts of being a woman and my place within the gender roles which are strictly enforced; of all things that helped me to put all of it into perspective, it was this book about being not a woman, but a man. The reason is because I feel this is one of the most honest books on sex and gender. Keen highlights that we are not the same, in fact men and women can be quite different, but that doesn't ...more
Jun 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Not bad. The basic tenet is what every self-help book ever written says, in essence: the outer world can't provide a satisfying life the way a rich inner world can; in order to find a partner and have the strength to stick with a relationship, you need to have a whole sense of yourself; it's important to de-program yourself from the lessons you learned as a child and come up with your own answers to life.

It's a little heavy on the white man's burden, the WASP who's never questioned anything, and
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dad-stuff
I'm hesitant to give this a four. Make no mistake, this was a great book, but there were issues. Keen wrote this in 1991, and often chose to use examples that were very specific to current events of the time. The dated nature of some the material weakened the over-all effect for me.
Reading this book in 2013 it's hard to not be critical about keens projections about the advances that would be made in the mens movement in the 1990s (and forward). Yes there was some very positive work done. Worksh
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I was over educated at Harvard and Princeton and was a professor of philosophy and religion at various legitimate institutions for 20 years before becoming a contributing editor of Psychology Today, a freelance thinker, lecturer, seminar leader, and consultant. I am the author of a bakers dozen books, a co-producer of an award winning PBS documentary, Faces of the Enemy. My work was the subject of ...more

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“There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is 'Where am I going?' and the second is 'Who will go with me?'

If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.”
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