The Tender Bar, the first book by J.R. Moehringer (Hyperion), a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, could be subtitled “The Secret Hearts of Dysfunctional Men.” In his memoir of growing up “fatherless” in Manhasset, Long Island, Moehringer recounts his progression from boy to man and the influence of the intimately connected group of men that acted as his father figure. The second home for these men is a bar called Dickens (later renamed Publicans) where Moehringer’s Uncle Charlie rules from behind the taps as “Chief Justice.” The men are physically scarred, almost grotesque; Moehringer’s uncle, for example, has alopecia totalis and hides his affliction behind dark glasses, a hat and a demeanour that mimics Humphrey Bogart. They gamble on horses and baseball (the only sport that matters to these die-hard Mets fans), have problems with women and consume copious amounts of beer and liquor. They quote poetry, speak in multi-syllabic words (and beg your pardon for doing so), know their history and are assigned nicknames by Steve, the owner of the bar: “Bob the Cop,” “The Chief,” “Stinky,” “Goose” and “Colt.” These are “guy-guys,” but in their absolute maleness there is such tenderness in their observation of social ritual and how they care for one another, as well as for their unofficial charge, Moehringer. While Moehringer’s coming-of-age and coming-of-sobriety stories are compelling, it is the stories of the men of Dickens/Publicans that stuck with me. It is refreshing to read a book that lovingly tells the stories of men, regular guys who are just getting by as best they can.