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Summary

Rules for Being a Man:

  • Don't cry
  • Love sport
  • Play rough
  • Drink beer
  • Don't talk about feelings

But Robert Webb has been wondering for some time now: are those rules actually any use? To anyone?

Looking back over his life, from schoolboy crushes (on girls and boys) to discovering the power of making people laugh (in the Cambridge Footlights with David Mitchell), and from losing his beloved mother to becoming a husband and father, Robert Webb considers the absurd expectations boys and men have thrust upon them at every stage of life. Hilarious and heartbreaking, How Not to Be a Boy explores the relationships that made Robert who he is as a man, the lessons we learn as sons and daughters, and the understanding that sometimes you aren't the Luke Skywalker of your life - you're actually Darth Vader.

©2017 Robert Webb (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

Critic reviews

"Quite simply brilliant. I (genuinely) cried. I (genuinely) laughed out loud. It's profound, touching, personal yet universal. I loved it." (JK Rowling)
"Takes us deftly from hilarity to heart-stopping hurt.... A truly great read." (Dawn French)
"A witty and honest coming-of-age story." (Ian Rankin)
"If you have ever loved, liked or known a man, please read this book." (Katy Brand)
"A brilliant, brave book." (Matt Lucas)

What listeners say about How Not to Be a Boy

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Ok...

Not a bad listen. Some genuinely funny and heartfelt anecdotes but it was a little on the boring side.

12 people found this helpful

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Captivating charming sad redemptive

Great performance - really special having the book read by the author as it feels like a book just written for me.

As a child of 70/80's really lived and loved all the cultural references.
I had no idea of the books subject but do captivated listened in 2 marathon sessions while gardening....satisfying listen and very tidy garden thanks for enjoyable day.

45 people found this helpful

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Self indulgent

I've always enjoyed Robert Webb's work but I'm saddened to say I was left incredibly disappointed by this.

At times it was toe-curlingly embarrassing, and not because of the related anecdotes but because of the excessive self indulgence. The personal tragedy is beyond question but the criticism levelled at his father seems over the top given what we are told about him.

Ultimately, Robert just came off far more dislikable than the opinion I held of him. And the ultiimate failing was that he spent so long telling us that he ended up 'like his father' drinking and smoking his way through his childrens early years but then offers no insight into how he actually turned it around.

Many of my colleagues loved this book. It wasn't for me.

28 people found this helpful

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Honest

So I just finished “how not to be a boy” by Robert Webb which was a goodish book. Funny touching and left you thinking the main character (Robert Webb) was not a great person which is very honest in a novel.

However the pod cast attached to the end of the audible version made me burst out laughing in public place a few times in a row so would recommend the audible version/extended version.

11 people found this helpful

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Don't buy this if your looking for comedy.

I'm sorry rob
It just wasn't funny
I don't mind or care about anyone else's masculinity or feminility. Be who ever you want to be live and let live. In this you just seem to chuck your preachy views down everyone's throat. Not what I expected. Still I am a massive fan of peep show and your other sketches. Maybe you show leave out the gender studies in your next book.

10 people found this helpful

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  • JC
  • 09-11-17

Awful audio quality

The book is great, love the way and how it is told, but that does not forgive the appalling audio quality. I am listening on android device, latest version installed and the app is the latest update. I have tried both the normal quality and the best available, both are like listening to a poor quality radio programme on LW :-(

21 people found this helpful

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NOT VERY GOOD

I am sure Robert has a good autobiography to tell, unfortunately this wasn't it. We learned he is a bit of a dick, and a preachy one at that. He can be occasionally funny on the tele though to be fair.

4 people found this helpful

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Irritating, disjointed and disappointing!

Not for me! Having found Robert Webb amusing and entertaining in his sketches and interviews, I had high hopes for this, but by chapter 3, I had to give up - what a shame!

4 people found this helpful

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Tedious

Struggled through too much of this. Boring and pointless. Author comes across as very unlikeable.

6 people found this helpful

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Completely brilliant. Very funny and very poignant

Would you consider the audio edition of How Not to Be a Boy to be better than the print version?

This is brilliantly narrated by Webb himself, and you get SO much from autobiographies narrated by the author. When the author happens to be Robert Webb, you get a gold-standard, addictive audiobook that you'll immediately try to make everyone else on the planet listen to as well. He delivers the funnies to perfection, but his economy on the more emotional and poignant passages is almost unbearably moving. I feel like cheering and clapping.

What did you like best about this story?

It's completely satisfying if you're a fan of Robert Webb as a comedian, or just like amusing books in general. It's VERY funny throughout and the humour is smart and stylish. But there are passages and observations that are described so movingly by the author, the emotion will pin you to the spot.

Which character – as performed by Robert Webb – was your favourite?

The way the author commits all the members of his family to the page is just lovely, flawed and human though they are. But it's the author/narrator himself who you really root for. I have so much respect for the way he's laid himself bare in writing this book, and am hugely impressed by his wit. I was a fan before, but now I'm die-hard.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

YES and then I'd go back to the beginning and start again, in the same sitting.

Any additional comments?

It's achingly brilliant, I can't recommend it highly enough!

27 people found this helpful

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  • Mark B
  • 29-10-17

Smart. Funny. Brilliant. Honest. Groundbreaking.

I didn’t know who Robert Webb was. I’m from across the pond, so have not had the pleasure of watching his brand of comedy. The title and description intrigued me, so I pre-ordered the audio book impulsively.

Best decision I could have made. The book is part memoir, part slice of British culture, part research paper.

I loved this audiobook. I’m still thinking about it. This man is someone I want to learn more about. I’m a fan.

9 people found this helpful

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  • james slater
  • 05-09-17

Brilliant read. Well worth the credit.

Alternating between furiously funny and fascinatingly introspective, this book had me laughing out loud and blinking back tears.
Bought and finished in one day and left me wanting more.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Bethanie Jensen
  • 04-09-17

Oh god. SOOOOO good!

It's been a long time since I read a book that was entertaining, enlightening, poignant, and a million other complementary adjectives. I am laughing and welling up in equal measure. I have to say, it is very brave of him to include so much personal info from his teenage years. You have to get this book. You will NOT regret it!

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jessica
  • 25-09-18

An autobiography through the lens of gender

It isn’t often that men write about gender without sounding pompous, but Robert Webb manages it skillfully. It’s a frank discussion of toxic masculinity, grief and the growing pains of life. I’m impressed by how much Rob reveals of himself, the good, the bad, and the cringe worthy teenage journal entries. I’m so glad I picked this one out for a listen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tobias Middlemarch
  • 04-09-17

Thank You Robert.

I love your story very much, and it helps to hear from someone who's undergone trauma similar to mine. Thanks for sharing it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Brandon
  • 30-08-17

Some Girls Wander By Mistake

Agree or disagree with his positions as laid out in the book, what is provided is an interesting look inside Robert Webb's head. One's experiences and life help provide an excellent insight into their views and, if you ever wondered what drove the man, Robert gives you a road map to his. That is a core strength to the book if you want to understand him better.

The weakness of this book is that it gets lost somewhere along the way. You will be moving along this memoir and then the soapbox comes out of nowhere. It's his book and it is his right to wedge it in out of nowhere, but it comes off as forced and ruins the flow. The last few chapters are a perfect example of this. Great memoir segment and then BAMMM "Hello, I am Robert Webb and let me explain again to you that I am a feminist ally." No problem with him saying it, just a matter of flow.

The again, you have to take all of this with a grain of salt. It comes from the point of view of a person who can play the bass line to "A Forest" by The Cure.

13 people found this helpful

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  • bkwdwriter
  • 01-04-22

A new favorite

I love Robert Webb and his brand of dry sardonicism. While humorous, this book is basically part memoir, part exploration of gender roles and expectations, and part therapy session for him- with we the readers (and listeners) as the therapists. The honesty he gives us throughout is cathartic and refreshing.

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  • TK
  • 20-02-22

Was a fan, still a fan

I’m a fan of Webb’s and this was a delight to listen to. I’m also a fan of and sucker for men being open, vulnerable, and suspicious of the supposed virtues of masculinity & the patriarchy. Thank you for sharing your story, Robert Webb. It was touching, endearing, and enjoyable.

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  • eric
  • 18-01-22

Yes

Thank you Robert for your courage to be vulnerable in providing many examples from your life of how cultural views of masculinity are often limiting, oppressive, and hurt not only women but men as well. I resonate with your writing and am grateful for your heartfelt work that contributes to this important conversation, including learning to forgive, accept, and love an imperfect father through whom much harm came. I had to eventually teach myself to laugh in repressed hysterical gasps because the sound of my own chortling voice (in response to your hilariousness) kept on drowning out the audiobook. I love that you read it yourself. Your story has made a positive impact in my life and for that I am grateful. And then your high school poetry was the icing on the cake haha.

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  • Jonathan Raymond
  • 08-12-21

Amazing Memoir

Amazing memoir. I read this because I'm a fan of Robert Webb, but even if Ive never heard of him this book would have resonated with me the same. He touches on gender "roles" perfectly as well as genuinely being funny most the time, except the sad parts, which are sad in the right amount.