The Book of Virtues; review of an unread book

I have my frugal moments.

They are those periods of time when I will use the remaining blank pages of my kids notebooks at the end of the school year instead of buying a beautifully bound, artistically designed new journal. Or when I’ll pull out, split and flatten the inner bags of emptied cereal boxes; they make the best waxed paper don’t you know ” if by the slimmest of chances you’re still one of the rare  people using waxed paper.

Sugarsmacks_2However there is a certain time I am never frugal and don’t bother to compare prices; when I have a book in my hands that compels me to buy it after my first few page skims. Yes, they can compel. If I’m broke, I have to steer clear of books and bookstores, because I’ve never been able to resist buying a book that hooks me into it.

I have lost count of the number of books sitting on my shelves and within end table stacks that I have bought but not read yet. But what comfort in knowing they are there! For at some point, maybe years later, those books will call out to me again. Such it was with The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett.

I bought this book about 10 years ago, fully intending then to use it as Bennett wished I as a parent would. In his introduction Bennett says, “This book is intended to aid in the time-honored task of the moral education of the young” and I figured I could use all the help I could get in the shaping of my son and daughter into young people with admirable morality. The book is a compilation of writings Bennett edited, with commentary, as a healthy dose of moral literacy.

At the time, my buy was as ambitious as it gets. Time after time, when I reached for something to read to my kids The Book of Virtues lost out to Dr. Seuss, the latest Disney-sanctioned children’s ‘classic’ and even to Where’s Waldo? The only time I recall one of my children picking it up was when my daughter had a brief interest in pressing flowers and leaves for art collages; Bennett’s hardcover book is a hefty 831 pages long, and it presses nature’s offerings beautifully.

Come to think of it, that’s when we used the cereal bag waxed paper.

I’ve dusted The Book of Virtues countless times, and I was beginning to think it was the one book I had purchased with completely grand delusions that would never be fulfilled. Knowing what they will and will not read, I now admit defeat, for I cannot imagine Ashley and Zach ever picking it out from the others on the shelf ” nope, not ever. What was I thinking?

Then I wrote My Aloha List of Virtues last week for my regular Thursday contribution to At last, The Book of Virtues might be of some use to me.

I pulled out Bennett’s book to compare our lists, and guess what? Out of my list of 12 and his list of 10, we only match up with one. But guess which one? That which is the basis of our ho‘ohana for this month, faith.

You have my list here on; here’s Bennett’s:











Acclaim for The Book of Virtues, the nationwide #1 best-seller;

“Ought to be distributed, like an owner’s manual, to new parents leaving the hospital.” — Time

“A scintillating anthology that will bring adults as much pleasure as it does their children ” a sane and satisfying philosophy of life.” — Dallas Morning News

“A book that will inspire the reader of any age to be a better human being.” — Roger Staubach

So at long last, someone will be reading this book — me. Ashley is 21 now, and I asked her if she’d like to read The Book of Virtues when I’m done with it this month. She said,

“Oh yeah mom, right. It’ll be my beach read next summer. Or hey, maybe when I go up in a space shuttle and have some time to kill.”


Just as I thought. It’ll never happen.

Maybe it is just as well however … this was an interesting and very unexpected find I stumbled on as I looked for a shot of the book cover I could snag for this post … make of it what you will …


  1. says

    Yes, it is sad that whatever crediblity he had is now tainted by his hereto previously “untold story”. Maybe there is a reason for the disconnect in comparison of values in there? His listing can now be questioned in light of the recent information, which apparently was occuring for a considerable time in his life.