How Not to Be a Dick: An Everyday Etiquette Guide

Given the title, I thought this would be much too cute and snarky to be of practical use, but I’m glad to see I was wrong. How Not to Be a Dick: An Everyday Etiquette Guide is actually full of thoughtful and helpful advice on interacting with other people.

Admittedly, you have to accept a certain amount of forced hip, from the use of “dick” to mean “unpleasant person” to the faux-talking-to-kids tone in some of the sections. (The “how to treat a bartender” piece, for example, talks about “soda jerks” and being “hopped up on sugar” instead of getting drunk.) That goes along with the line illustrations of a young girl and boy who look like they stepped out of a Fun With Dick and Jane primer.

They’re cute cartoons, though, and as one step up from margin drawings, they reinforce the points in the text. I’m not sure what age of young adult is being aimed at here. There’s a section on living with roommates, but there’s also one about how to act in the workplace and another on how to behave at school. I guess not every chapter will be of use to every reader, or perhaps the book will flex with the young adult as they explore different parts of life.

The first chapter, “In Relationships”, starts off with one’s relationship with oneself, an important launching point. Then comes interacting with others, including those younger or older or from different backgrounds, and conversational tips, a section I found particularly insightful. Other topics include attending social events, restaurant behavior, “in transit” (covering mass transit, airplanes, driving, and other modes), and “on the internet”.

I love etiquette books because, in addition to explicitly capturing the suggested behavior of a time, they demonstrate what people are worrying about through the questions they do (and don’t) ask. (This one has nothing on wedding planning, for example, or table settings, which makes it feel young and urban.) How Not to Be a Dick, tacky title aside, is truly modern and useful. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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