By Henry Alford
Twelve, $24.99, 242 pages
Henry Alford calls himself an investigative humorist and it’s easy to see why in his latest book Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners . The subject is good manners and Alford covers it with a sly wit that finds humor in even the most difficult circumstances. He takes his research seriously, going so far as to travel to Japan- the bastion of etiquette (sneezing in public is frowned upon). Back in America he picked the brains of Judith Martin (Miss Manners) and Tim Gunn (Gunn’s Golden Rules) and offered online etiquette advice service to friends, all before considering himself ready to write this book.
Would it Kill You is not only interesting but outright funny. By the book’s end you want to meet the author and it comes as no surprise that he volunteers as a NYC ‘greeter’ for foreign visitors; he’s that charming and engaging. However, while it covers, in broad strokes, some of the etiquette issues we now face (Blackberry abuse, uncontrolled toddlers in public places) this is not a comprehensive reference guide to etiquette nor is it supposed to be. Rather it’s is a warm, funny book that looks at the foibles of one man in his journey to help the rest of mankind be more polite.