“A Better Man: True American Heroes Speak to Young Men and Women on Love, Power, Pride, and What It Really Means to Be A Man” (Second Edition) edited by Kelly Johnson


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The journey from childhood to manhood is a momentous and often difficult time in every boy’s life.  Never has this transition been more challenging than it is today.  In addition to the perennial trials of peer pressure, hormones and popularity, young men must now grapple with a media-saturated culture that places enormous emphasis on physical appeal, material wealth and celebrity status.  MTV personalities and video game heroes have become role models to a generation, and boys are hard-pressed to find reliable answers to the age-old question of what it really means to be a man.

Parents must be both creative and dogged to cut through this cultural noise, and they must work twice as hard to convey to their sons the inherent value of ideals such as courage, integrity and kindness.  Positive male role models are too few, family time is increasingly scarce, and much of the wisdom that once passed naturally from one generation of men to the next is either drowned out by the drumbeat of popular culture or lost to the demands of the fast-paced life most families now lead.

The good news is that our young men come to this world with an instinct for heroism and rightness.  After all, these are the same boys who once dreamed of being superheroes, policemen, army men and firemen. They were here to save the world!  But somewhere along the way, our culture stepped in and took over those dreams and replaced them with thoughts of power and money and sex and violence.  And the message of what defines true greatness became harder and harder to come by.

Stepping in to help fill the void, A Better Man features first-person narratives from some of the most respected and engaging men in America today.  With sincerity, humor and directness, these surrogate fathers and grandfathers share their experience and advice on courage, service, anger, respect, and a host of other topics designed to inspire boys to imagine larger possibilities as they searched to define manhood for themselves. For example:

—Civil rights icon Andrew Young talks about what happened at the Lorraine Motel in the moments before Dr. King was shot…and what he learned from that event.

—Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck shares his thoughts on leadership in the huddle and his definition of a “great” man.

—NBA Hall of Fame Basketball player Dominique Wilkins explains why it’s important to treat others with respect, do what you know is right, and stand up for yourself.

—Four-star Admiral Leighton Smith talks about learning the lesson of responsibility (and avoiding the life of a pig farmer!).

A Better Man is relevant to boys 12 to 19 (and beyond). Yet it’s also written for exhausted parents, grandparents, guardians and others who feel out-gunned and overwhelmed by today’s toxic popular culture.

An open letter from one generation to the next, A Better Man sheds some much-needed light on the path to manhood, showing boys another way—A better way.


C-Span/Book TV

In late July 2009, C-Span aired a program about A Better Man with editor Kelly Johnson and contributors to the book.  Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder, actor Tim Reid, retired Admiral Leighton Smith, Vietnam POW Paul Galanti, and poet Tim Seibles, talked about their personal stories and why they participated in the project. Then they responded to questions from members of the audience in the Upper School Chapel of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia.
View the video here (1 hour, 56 minutes). ____________________________________________________

 Praise for A Better Man

“Bettering oneself is a goal many people should constantly aspire to. A Better Man: True American Heroes Speak to Young Men on Love, Power, Pride, and What it Really Means to Be a Man is a collection of stories from various figures of recent history, in sports, politics, military, and even more. These men faced challenges and, through their determination, emerged from them better for it. A Better Man is a worthwhile read for any man who wants emphasize his manliness the right way.”

-The Midwest Book Review



A Better Man is a gift to our culture, and not just a must read for young men! I plan on having my own daughters read this book and hope to share it with friends and family, male and female. It a pleasure to read with a nice layout, and Kelly Johnson really shines in her editor’s notes on each man of character she has interviewed. The advice shared is rich and much needed. K Johnson has true unique deep talent, and we hope to see more of her work on the shelves soon!”

-L.S. on Amazon.com



“In her latest book, Kelly Johnson sends a wonderful, positive and inspirational message not only to young men, but to all readers, on the meaning of living one’s life as a “Better Man”. The interviews of the twenty-six strong, influential role models and heroes from the military, politics, sports and television are encouraging and uplifting stories, lessons and life experiences that we can all learn from. I have passed this book on to my son, who, as a new father, will no doubt be moved by the stories as I was. My grandson will also have a copy of the book. We are living in a troubled world, and I found this book to be a wonderful, strong message of hope and encouragement.”

-Sterling on Amazon.com



“Kelly H. Johnson is a talented writer, who has given a gift to all young men. As the mother or stepmother of five boys, Kelly Johnson searched for a way to give her sons and our sons a deeper understanding of what it means to be a “Better Man”. She has chosen well respected men from all cultural and racial backgrounds to offer their heartfelt counsel to our sons. The result is a broad spectrum of advice that she ties together through her interviews and word associations. Young men will benefit from this book, but men and women of all ages will love the biographies, editorial notes and views of their heros.”

-Brandon Ford on Amazon.com



“This is a collection of stories that the author put together by doing interviews of men she thought that had lived outstanding lives. She grew up in the military with her father having a career in the Navy. I was very impressed with these men’s stories and how God had touched their lives. If you like these kind of stories then you will like this book. ”

-John A. Jay on Amazon.com



“A better man is not the typical inspirational book, it gives different perspectives of the same vision. This vision is that path to growth is not necessarily easy but worth it. It gives this from different perspectives, that of the famous civil right’s leader, the war hero, the young man being grown by a group of women. Some stories will be more appealing to each reader but it is likely that any reader will find a story that resonates with them.”

-“southdakotaman” on Amazon.com