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Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  990 ratings  ·  79 reviews
How does one become a "real man"? By joining a fraternity? Getting a letter in football? Conquering a lot of women? Making a lot of money?With traditional notions of manhood under attack, today's men (and women) are looking for a new vision of masculinity. In this ground-breaking book, Sam Keen offers an inspiring guide for men seeking new personal ideals of strength, pote ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 1st 1992 by Bantam (first published 1991)
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  990 ratings  ·  79 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
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.
Endelig en bok, og en forfatter som skriver om manndom og inspirerer til "fierceness" UTEN at det betyr at man skal være størst, best, sterkest, smartest, en vinner og en conqueror. Seriøst, fuck det.

Jeg skal på ingen måte påstå at jeg vet eller noensinne kommer til å forstå nøyaktig hvordan det er å være en mann, men det jeg virkelig digger er Keen's verdisyn og innfallsvinkler om hvordan overdreven fokus på makt, penger, status og higen etter kvantitativ utvikling og progresjon er med på å fr
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.
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 st ...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.
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
Matty Esco
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
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 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.
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.
Guillermo Tilley
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fundamental read for all men.
Justin Vaz
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ending was amazing. Great deal of wisdom for young men; especially young men in 2019.
miha ha
"moški si mora postaviti dvoje vprašanj. Prvo je KAM GREM? in drugo KDO BO ŠEL Z MENOJ?"

"vseobsežna literatura o meneđmentu ne vsebuje niti enega poglavja o PRIJATELJSTVU"

"presojamo se po odsevih ki jih vidimo v njenih očeh"

"da se v ljubezni predaš drugemu, moraš biti zelo močan človek"

"imejte potrpljenje z vsem nerešenim v srcu in skušajte ljubiti vprašanja sama kot zaklenjene izbe, kot knjige napisane v zelo tujem jeziku. ne sprašujte po odgovorih, živite vprašanja."

"postati blag in zemeljski"
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
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, dcar
not bad. not great. This book comes across quite preachy, and quite opinion laden, no real research or proof to back up the claims that the author is making, and he *is* making a large number of claims.

yet, it is an interesting perspective on how the same sexual inequalities that hold women beneath a glass ceiling (those rooted in androcentrism, biological essenialism, patriarchy, and gender polarizations), also damage and destroy the male psyche. It was interesting to see the ways in which own
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
this is the first book i've read on masculinity. i was surprised by how much of it i really identified with, not only with how i feel but how i grew up. not sure what that's about exactly. but i really appreciated his approach to masculinity and his thinking on creating a masculinity for a new era. some of this stuff felt a bit dated (it was released in '91) and i kept wondering what he would say now. but overall i really enjoyed this book. i think there were some comments in it that were a bit ...more
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-growth
This book written by Sam Keen in the early 1990's seems more relevant today than when I read it 15 years ago. In this book Keen addresses the themes and struggles of being a man in the 21st century in a way that both honors the gifts and dignity of women, while affirming the unique "fire" in men that needs to be honored and respected. Drawing extensively on his own experience as well the writings of philosophers, psychologists, and novelists, he helps describe what a authentic manhood looks like ...more
Apr 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: males and females
a book for the mens movement...but not just to get more in touch with our feminine side in order to compliment the feminist movement, but to remain balanced. To hold on to the positive aspects of being a man...with passion, and fire in the belly, but also to be more intuitive and emotional, and in touch with feminine qualities. Inspires thoughts for women to look at their feminist movement and to keep their swing to masculine qualities balanced with an appreciation for the qualities that are so ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very useful and thought provoking book, best read later in a course of study about masculinity than initially in that it's focus on women, although invaluable is best left after some time spent in contemplation and self-work.
When he is centered, Keen has a powerful voice that captivates and engages with less of Bly's Wild Man poetry and more general consideration of how a man should be. It fits in so very well with other notable books such as Iron John and King, Warrior, Magician,Lover and Abs
Matt B
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of those books you want to buy for everyone you know. Keen does an excellent job of breaking down the current state of men and the reasons behind it. He also lays out what needs to be done if men are to move forward and be the people the world needs them to be. It's not preachy or touchy feeling in any way, and his insight is often mind blowing. Not a book to read quickly. Each page can be thought about for hours. There's a lot of truth in this book, and I highly recommend it for men who wan ...more
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Sam Keen has some great insights on man hood and the journey of personal discovery and development. The book drags a little in some portions concerning earth advocacy. Also some of his hypotheses about the ancient cultures and how they shaped our evolutionary psychology is sometimes contradictory.

However, all in all, it is definitely a book worth reading for the man seeking greater clarity and awareness.
Brandt Tullis
Nov 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
I've always heard this title mentioned as fundamental to men's work, so expectations were high. I found Keen's writing to be expansive, grandiose, unorganized, and unclear. Much of the book is a critique of "society" disguised as a discussion of manhood. Over and over, Keen makes sweeping generalizations but presents them as facts. His historical references are dubious. This book did nothing to further my knowledge of men's work.
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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
“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.”
“Good men and good women have fire in the belly. We are fierce. Don't mess with us if you're looking for someone who will always be 'nice' to you. Nice gets you a C+ in life. We don't always smile, talk in a soft voice, or engage in indiscriminate hugs. In the loving struggle between the sexes we thrust and parry.” 56 likes
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