Review: Gun Curious, the Book You Need to Read

gun curious book cover
If you read one gun book this year, it should be Gun Curious by David Yamane. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Aside from the catchy title and the admittedly marketing-savvy design on the cover, you might be wondering if a book about America’s gun culture from a Wake Forest sociologist is worth your time. Or maybe you aren’t wondering and hadn’t even heard of it until today. Whether you’re a voracious reader or prefer to browse just a few carefully selected titles a year, Gun Curious by David Yamane is a smart addition to your bookshelf. Here’s why.

chapter one of gun curious
The key to Yamane’s thesis: guns are normal and normal people use them. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

I’m fortunate because I’ve known the author for some time thanks to the wonders of social media and shared industry events. It helps when you’re familiar enough with a writer to know in advance how legit they are…or aren’t. It’s also nice to get to know their thought process.

In addition to writing Gun Curious, Professor Yamane is the creator of the concept of Gun Culture 2.0 as well as an impressive tennis racket stringer (yes, really). What that all means is that David Yamane pays attention to detail and understands the finer points of precision and patience, which translates well to the gun world.

To hear David tell it, his journey into Gun Culture 2.0 took off 12 years ago and has made him take a long, hard look at what is often seen as the liberal viewpoint of firearms ownership (for the record, I know plenty of liberals who love their guns and fully support the Second Amendment, so I hate to pigeonhole gun discomfort/dislike strictly as the purview of liberals). This is an especially good fit for a sociology prof because, as all of us who sat through sociology in college know, the field of study has to do with human behavior and interactions.

Can you imagine if someone dedicated a chunk of their educated mind to parsing the nuances of gun world sociology? It would be fascinating—and oh wait, that’s exactly what David’s been doing.

dog with book
Because David is a fan of reader pictures that show their dogs with his book, here’s the obligatory dog with book pic. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Of course, getting the book out hasn’t been easy. Yamane said he was turned down cold by quite a few publishers before he found one willing to run with it. That’s interesting considering this isn’t his first book by any means. It’s just his first big one in the firearms world. He’s also taken some heat—which is an understatement—from anti-gun people and journalists. That’s been going on for years and is a good indicator that he’s managed to strike a nerve.

In Gun Curious, Yamane starts by talking about his childhood experiences with firearms—which were quite limited—and segues into his early years as a card-carrying liberal (something he says he’s perfectly happy to be, and more power to him considering he’s far more open-minded than many liberals I know). He outlines an entre into the gun world that fits exactly how you’d expect your soc prof to do things—watching a variety of industry shows and discussing the topic with trusted individuals before branching out. And then, of course, he became curious about being a gun owner himself.

Something I enjoyed in Gun Curious is the way David skillfully pinpoints specific turning points in Gun Culture 2.0, good and bad. This includes the popularity of the show Top Shot, the horror of Sandy Hook, and firearms as risk factors for negative outcomes such as suicide. All this is done while weaving in bits of history, psychology, and sociology in a way that greatly appeals to me, personally.

This book isn’t just some guy waxing poetic about his journey into firearms ownership. This is not the David Yamane Show. Instead, it’s a fantastic representation of modern gun culture. Issues like the Bruen decision are covered, Mas Ayoob’s MAG40 is discussed, and a surprising number of people many of us know in the industry are mentioned. These are all people with specific skillsets in their part of the gun world who offer varying degrees of knowledge and different perspectives on a variety of topics. It’s comprehensive and, at times, like drinking from a fire hose—but it’s well done.

david yamane signing books
A Gun Curious book signing at NRAAM 2024 at the ACLDN booth. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

And if you’re a fan of the aforementioned details, I have good news. David approached Gun Curious not unlike a professional journal, meaning there’s more to the content than the chapters themselves. There’s a brief, basic glossary, an impressively organized series of notes, a bibliography, and an index. Don’t have time or the desire to read the book in its entirety right now? That’s fine, because you can easily pinpoint the spot you’d most benefit from reading.

Unlike some gun books that are designed as nothing but dust-collecting objects that take up space on the shelf, Gun Curious is a stellar reference. It’s the kind of book I’m comfortable 10/10 recommending, giving as a gift, and reading more than once. You don’t have to agree with everything David writes, but it’s impossible to deny that it’s interesting. It’s also wise not to live in a total echo chamber, meaning you should consider reading something like this to learn more about different perspectives to firearms ownership.

little boy with book
Just a Texas boy, his red heeler, and a copy of Gun Curious–because it’s the next generation of gun owners we should be focusing on. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Firearms are an admittedly polarizing topic and it’s not often someone who dislikes or is at least ambivalent toward guns changes their mind (be honest, how likely are you to change your mind over a long-held belief or habit). David weaves the tale of Gun Culture 2.0 masterfully and without malice, in case you’re thinking there might be some form of barely-contained rage coming from a liberal sociology prof. There’s not. This is the book you should hand out in stacks over the holidays this year, because everyone can benefit from a good book. Gun Curious is definitely a win.


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