2013: Two Etiquette Books

Sometimes, when in the public library, I play a game to try to expand my reading habits. I'll pick a shelf and decide that I need to choose a book off that shelf to take home.  This is how I ended up reading the two books discussed below.  They aren't really etiquette books, so much as collections of advice columns (one from Miss Manners, one from the Ethicist) with some extra text added, and advice columns are just catnip to me, so they were an easy choice.

Miss Manners' Guide to Domestic Tranquility: The Authoritative Manual for Every Civilized Household, However Harried, Judith Martin

The best book etiquette book I read was the first.  Miss Manners (Judith Martin) is an absolute delight  - a jewel.  She does talk about manners and propriety, but only in the context of making other people feel more comfortable.  And she is a killer with a zinger - especially when someone is clearly writing in on some nasty ethical high horse trying to make someone else look terrible.  And, while reading the old letters was fun, the interstitial stuff - the stuff where she talks about general rules of civility in the home, workplace, and while out in the wide world generally was actually quite good and helpful.  I now quote her religiously to Jon on the issue of newspapers - its true that the person who gets the paper gets to read it first, but civility dictates that that person return the paper to its natural state for the next reader (and not leave it all akimbo, JON).  I'd read other Miss Manners books for sure - she's a hoot, and it made me think at least a little about how to be a kinder and more civilized person.

The Good, the Bad and the Difference, Randy Cohen

This I enjoyed less, mostly because it considered it self so much more important.  Cohen would argue that this wasnt an etiquette book but an ethics book, but really, the line is pretty thin.  Moreover, the interstitial stuff he wrote was all self important mumbo-jumbo, and not actual useful tips for be more ethical.  I did enjoy reading old letters - especially the ones where he either printed reader reactions and follow-ups, and when he called in outside ethicisits to respond to the letters.  But at the end of the day, I wasn't as impressed with the way he handled his questions as the way Miss Manners handled hers.  And, I'm just saying - Cohen no longer writes his column, while Martin is going strong.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017