Book review: Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, by David L. Chapman and Douglas Brown

universal hunksChapman, David L. and Brown, Douglas. Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975. Arsenal Pulp Press. 2013. $29.95. 303p. PB. 978-1-55152-509-9.

Filled with delightful historical photographs of body builders from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, Universal Hunks does not fail to deliver exactly what its title suggests. Every page is full of photographs, advertisements, and even propaganda posters featuring muscle men throughout the world and history. Hunks is definitely a feast for the eyes.

Brown introduces the book with an essay on the rise of popularity of the body builder in the late 19th century. Following sections for each geographical region of the world and short essays describe the impact of this emphasis on the male physique. It should be noted that Universal Hunks is a sequel of sorts to Chapman’s earlier book, American Hunks. Those interested in that focus should refer to that book, also recommended. Each photograph or advertisement has a caption, occasionally quite cheeky, interpreting what the particular piece represents, whether it be through an art historical, historical, or GLBT lens. The book frequently provides a short biographical note on a particularly famous muscle man and his lasting effect on the world of body building.

Universal Hunks would fit in well with a public or academic library’s art history, history, or GLBT collections. Due to the nudity included in this book, I would recommend this to patrons ages 16 and up.

Reviewer: Talia Earle


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