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A Guiding Life by Mark Shepard with Phil Fragasso Book Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Cover of A Guiding Life book

The cover of "A Guiding Life" book by Mark Shepard with Phil Fragasso

Image courtesy of Erewhon Press
The Bottom Line

"A Guiding Life" doesn't quite live up to all of its promises, but it does deliver entertainment and insight - and thankfully without the glut of errors so often found in self-published books. Yes, there are some glaring grammatical errors, but nothing like what's become so common these days.

Coarse language is found throughout the book, and while it's sometimes warranted, it could (and should) have been avoided in most cases. It was most likely retained to give the book a folksy feel, but the book would read more comfortably without it.

All in all, I found "A Guiding Life" entertaining and interesting and after I finished it, I found myself wishing for more.


  • Contains a good amount of wisdom and insight.
  • Not completely well-written, but down to earth and better than most self-published books.
  • Left me wanting more.

  • Contains some inaccurate information and typos.
  • Attempts to justify some irresponsible firearms use.
  • Coarse language could (and should) have been avoided in most cases.

  • "A Guiding Life" softcover book.
  • 5.5" x 8.5"
  • 222 Pages.
  • ISBN 9780615664019
  • By Mark Shepard with Phil Fragasso.
  • Contains some autobiographical content, and some philosophical stuff as well.
The Bad

I'll dispense with the negative things up front.

I found grammar problems throughout the book, and some other errors as well ("scrapping" instead of "scraping," for example).

Shepard's ignorance of firearms terminology glares when he uses "bullet" instead of "cartridge" - then gets worse when he calls "bullets" "tips." Here's a tip: don't try to be an authority if you can't accurately discuss a subject.

Shepard claims the shoulders of a gut-shot deer won't be good to eat; that is untrue. He warns repeatedly that wild hogs do much damage and that their population should be controlled, then claims no ethical hunter would shoot a pregnant sow or one with piglets - even though removing breeders is the best way to control population.

More than once, Shepard proudly admits to firing a gun to scare people, under the direction of his father. This is neither safe nor wise, although in the book's acknowledgements he thanks his father for teaching him to use guns safely and wisely. Hmmm.

Coarse language (profanity) is present throughout, though in most cases it could (and should) have been avoided. Some of this is understandable, but it's overdone.

The Good

Although grammar suffers, this book by a high school dropout is better-written than many books by folks with much more schooling (I suspect this was Phil Fragasso's contribution).

I enjoyed most of this book, and found a number of quotable quotes - which is more than I can say about most books these days.

There's also some good practical advice on where to shoot hogs - especially with archery equipment.

I greatly appreciated the reasonable and thoughtful discussion of hunting and fishing, and the way hunters are viewed (as takers of animals) instead of the way we should be viewed (as providers of valuable wildlife management services).

One of my favorite outtakes from the book is Shepard's observation that instead of "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," a more fitting quote would be "Guns protect the people that people try to kill." Nice.

Another good one: "Hunting is not a necessary evil. It's a necessary part of life if we want to... co-exist with animals."


This is an interesting book, and I enjoyed most of it. I think most outdoorsmen (and women) will enjoy it, too. You get some down-home philosophy along with the anecdotes.

I read this book almost exclusively while sitting in the woods hunting deer, and I recommend doing so.

- Russ Chastain

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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