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10 Essential Strength Books: Part 6 – Brother Iron, Sister Steel

It's all here

It's all here

I’ve been trying to review this book since the first week World’s Strongest Librarian went live.  It was going to be number one in the series.  Then number two.  I kept chickening out and picking other books.The truth is: this book means more to me than I know how to say.  I haven’t been ready to review it.  So I’ve chickened out over and over and I can’t do it anymore.  So for better or worse, here’s my best stab at reviewing a work that is beyond my powers to review.

Here’s how it normally works

When I review a book, particularly a book about strength, and especially when reviewing a book about strength that I love more than just about anything else, I go through this process:

1. I read the book

2. I think about the book

3. I write a crappy draft trying to express how I feel about the

4. A couple of drafts later, you read what I’ve decided are my genuine thoughts and opinions about the book and its merits.

I’ve written so many English papers in my life that I can do it on autopilot. I can intellectualize and do the pseudo-science “look at me look at me I’m smart love me love me” writing on a laptop while watching bad TV.

There’s no coming at a book like Brother Iron, Sister Steel with any of these tactics. I say this because, in all sincerity, it’s not a book. Not to me it isn’t. Dave Draper is as Christian as it gets, so I won’t say that Dave’s bodybuilding manifesto is my Bible–but I’ll scream from the rooftops that it is my Bible away from my Bible.

You don’t read this book–it seeps into your consciousness. You hold it up, look into it, and see the person you are supposed to be.  I didn’t say the body that you see the body you are supposed to have–it shows you you, as was intended.

The cheapening effect of words

In a philosophy of religion class we once talked about the potential challenge of using mortal words to describe immortal things. The question went: if you believe in God (pick any one you want), is it even worth trying to describe God with language? The spoken word is a man made game. Rather than trying to explain that which cannot be explained, why not just think your thoughts and ease one down the road with a smile on your face?

In other words: tossing human words around cheapens the divinity they’re trying to describe.

No negatives here

Have you ever met someone who was a master at saying things that made you feel good about…well, about anything and everything. Dave Draper talks to you in this book and makes you glad to be human. Are you cynical? Do you like to roll your eyes and act like you know everything?  Well, you’re going to give that up for about

You can’t hold onto anything negative when you’re reading this book. Not if you’re really reading it. How can you have anything against a man who can call discipline “My main man” and not only make it not sound corny, but sound like scripture?

By the time I’m done with each rereading of this book, my neck aches from all the nodding I suddenly realize I’ve been doing. My copy looks like a comic book. It’s been underlined with every color under the sun. I’ve scribbled notes on top of notes and drawn lots of important-looking arrows that lose their points after running into all the other arrows.

I’ve made a real mess of it. When I can’t read my copy anymore, I’ll put it on the shelf, buy another one, and get out a new box of crayolas to start over with.

C.S. Lewis said that every book worth reading should be read every ten years. I agree whole-heartedly, with the exception of Brother Iron, Sister Steel, which I read at least once a year and refer to at least twice each week.

How to explain it?

I’m not quite that reverent about this book…not quite

I have no problem stating that I can’t find the words to talk about how this book makes me feel. Not in a way that will make you feel it.

So I’ll let the man himself try to convince you.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes and phrases from Dave Draper:

  • The man with the plan

    The man with the plan

    The secret is there is no secret

  • Discipline–my main man.  I never go anywhere without it
  • Just head to the gym when all roads lead elsewhere

Strength, iron, sweat, exercise, work, progress…if any of these things matter to you…if they matter to you in the way they matter to me, you’re in for a treat.

Above all things, I despise the notion that you can’t be strong without also being stupid or that intelligence implies weakness.  That muscles mean that you’re a narcissist with nothing better to do than blow kisses to yourself in the mirror.

Here’s my challenge to you.  Read the book and answer the following questions:

  • Can I out-write Dave Draper?  (No)
  • Can I out-lift Dave Draper? (No)
  • Can I out-think Dave Draper? (Uh-uh)
  • Can I live with more character than Dave Draper?  (NO.  Maybe as much, but there’s no such thing as more)

Most things I read at breakneck speed from start to finish if time permits.  It took me forever to read Brother Iron, Sister Steel. I kept getting fired up and having to quit to go run or lift.

PS: This is part 5 in a series: Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Laree Draper June 11, 2009, 5:09 pm

    Josh, that was quite a remarkable review. I’ll make sure Dave sees it. You can be sure he’ll be honored by it.

  • Greg Fedderson June 14, 2009, 3:40 pm

    Josh, I am usually very picky about the fitness books I read, but so far the selection for your series of essentail strength books has been superb. I am going to find “Brother Iron, Sister Steel” as soon as possible. Thanks for providing a great self improvement resource. Keep up the good work.

  • Len August 11, 2009, 7:49 pm


    Great review,

    I’ve been a fan of Dave’s for years.

    He is such a fantastic writer that I’ve remarked numerous times to family members that should have been a writer, he would have made a fortune.

    I don’t know if you read Iron Man Magazine but if you don’t you should check out the Bomber Blast artices they run every month–they are always worth the read.

    Also, you should check out Dave’s fantastic Bomber Blend protein powder–It tastes great, mixes great and has a great nutrition profile.


    Please keep up the great work, you’ve just gained a new fan.

    Oh and thanks for grip tip, I knew about using newspaper that way–but never thought about using a towel, thanks.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 11, 2009, 8:44 pm

      Len, thank you. I met Laree, Dave’s wife, at a Dan John workshop and she’s just wonderful. They’re amazing, inspiring people. You’re welcome on the grip tip, just make sure you thank John Brookfield in your head–I get everything from him.