Blaze Books Review: ‘The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead’ by Charles Murray

Blaze Books Cheat Sheet

Title: The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life

Author: Charles Murray


Blazing Fast Review: Leading libertarian social scientist Charles Murray in “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead” deviates from his traditional yeoman’s work on American society and its political system, and instead pens a practical roadmap for ambitious twenty-somethings to a successful career, and a good life. In an age of widespread unemployment among college graduates and the continual disruption of industry due to technological advances, along with a hyper-competitive global job market, reading this book will help dramatically improve your career prospects, while providing you with sage advice on how to pursue and achieve life-long happiness. While the “Curmudgeon’s Guide” may represent a more modest Murray effort in subject matter and length relative to Murray’s books dealing with loftier societal issues, its value in providing actionable means for self-improvement will have an outsized influenced on the personal lives of its readers — something that your typical sociological study cannot — and, one can hope, society as a whole.

[instory-book ISBN=”9780804141444″]

You will probably enjoy this book if…

– You are interested in genres like SELF-HELP or BUSINESS

– You enjoyed books such as Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Stephen Mansfield’s Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, Srinivas Rao’s The Art of Being Unmistakable

– You enjoy shows like DOWNTON ABBEY or MAD MEN

The Hard Sell: While often we at Blaze Books focus on broad ideological issues such as foreign policy or the debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Charles Murray’s “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead” affords us a rare opportunity to focus on the culture by way of the individual — namely how to improve one’s self, the benefits of which accrue to one’s family, friends and ultimately society as a whole.

While Murray’s aim is far more parochial in his intent to help young over-achievers navigate the world of business, and inculcate in them basic skills often sorely lacking such as the ability to think clearly and write well, while developing into upstanding and responsible adults, in so doing his effect on readers is significant.

Many of Murray’s books, including most recently “Coming Apart,” focus on the cultural breakdown across broad swaths of American society as reflected in trends in education, the family and crime; the suggestions in this short book if widely read by millennials (and even non-millennials), and grappled with to any degree, could serve as an antidote of sorts to such maladies.

This is no small achievement in a 146 page book consisting of just 35 suggestions across four sections, which I suppose sounds more daunting and “Back-to-School-Esque” when spelled out as such. Nevertheless, the four sections cover a broad territory, including (i) the presentation of self in the work place, (ii) thinking and writing well, (iii) the formation of who you are and (iv) the pursuit of happiness. 

While Murray’s suggestions within each section range from exorcising the word “like” from your vocabulary (as in “like, this review is so, like, thought-provoking,” or conversely “like, so boring”), to the notion that judgmentalism is actually a good thing, to the idea that religion should be taken seriously even if you are the most ardent atheist, to the assertion that one should watch “Groundhog Day” repeatedly, no matter how big or small all of Murray’s advice will help one become a well-rounded person capable of succeeding in both public and private life.

Given that students no longer learn civics or ethics in school (and often in fact are indoctrinated in an ideology encouraging beliefs and habits directly counter to those espoused traditionally in America and by Murray himself), let alone proper grammar, a grown-up McGuffey Reader such as Murray’s “Curmudgeon’s Guide” is a welcome addition to the marketplace of ideas.

While many grudgingly take advice from their elders, here a third-party self-identified curmudgeon’s words represent a less bitter medicine. With Murray’s characteristic wit, wisdom and experience, young folks would do well to purchase this book [full disclosure: I am twenty-five years old]. It is invaluable if for nothing else than Murray’s clear, concise and oft-broken grammatical rules, which I am no doubt violating to Murray’s chagrin in this review.

Old-fashioned respect, cleanliness in dress, clear prose and virtue are never out of style, but a nation that turns on such values certainly can go not only out of style but out of business altogether. 

Let us hope that in such a time when traditional virtues and values remain widely neglected and in disrepute, Charles Murray’s small but substantive curmudgeonly cultural contribution does not fall on deaf ears.