15 Books Every New Father Should Read
In the immortal words uttered by Keanu Reeves in Parenthood: "You need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car — hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father." On one level, it’s impossible for a man to totally prepare for the experience of fatherhood. At best, you can buy supplies and prepare by telling yourself that, no matter what, things are probably going to get crazy. But even if it’s not feasible to understood the magnitude of parenting until the situation is upon you, it is possible to do your homework and read first-hand accounts from men who’ve done their time in the trenches with dirty diapers. Granted, reading a book about parenting and thinking you’re prepared is a lot like reading a sex-ed primer and then landing a hot date: application is a whole lot trickier (and more interesting) than theory. But these books are still some of the best places to get the info you’ll need, and new or expectant fathers would be wise to buy them, bookmark them, and live by their example.
- Alternadad: The True Story of One Family’s Struggle to Raise a Cool Kid in America, Neal Pollack: While a majority of titles aimed at new moms take a softer emotional approach, the best books for new dads tackle the subject with humor and frankness. It’s not just about knowing the ropes, it’s about trying to stay true to the image you’ve built of yourself. Journalist and pop culture columnist Neal Pollack gets to the heart of the emotional choice between dad and dude in Alternadad, his memoir about his attempts to raise his kid to be "cool," meaning just like dad. The book’s a fantastic and funny read, especially for post-Gen-Xers who are diving into parenthood but worrying about losing their personalities.
- Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life, Jim Lindberg: Jim Lindberg, former frontman of rock group Pennywise, has found a second career playing up his rocker dad persona. He was recently the focus of the documentary The Other F Word, about punk rockers who grow up and get responsible when they start families, and a couple years back he wrote Punk Rock Dad, in which he detailed the changes wrought upon his life by having three little girls. His account of going from road dates and endless concert tours to doctors’ offices and toy stores is a great primer for guys who might be wondering how to balance their passions with their impending fatherly duties. It’s a quick read, too, at fewer than 250 pages, but it’s charming throughout.
- My Boys Can Swim!: The Official Guy’s Guide to Pregnancy, Ian Davis: This one’s another quick read — at 112 pages, per Amazon, it shouldn’t take you more than a few trips to the bathroom — but it’s another solid entry in the genre thanks to its frankness and sense of humor. Much of parenting literature is designed to tell you stuff no one ever told you before; this book goes the extra step by having the author make jokes about his own initial cluelessness, which makes it way more relatable than drier, more straightforward instruction manuals. A smart and funny resource for new dads feeling lost in the woods (which is all of them).
- Mack Daddy: Mastering Fatherhood without Losing Your Style, Your Cool, or Your Mind, Larry Bleidner: If you’re sensing a trend here, you’re not wrong: modern fatherhood literature is all about how to take care of your child and spouse without sacrificing that essential thing that makes you you, whether that’s rock music or evenings with your friends. Granted, you’ll probably have to compromise on how much time you get to do that stuff, but still, it’s worth preserving in some form. The goal of Mack Daddy is to remind new fathers that, though your life is going to change completely, that doesn’t mean you have to.
- What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding: A Reassuring Month-by-Month Guide for the Father-to-Be, Whether He Wants Advice or Not, Thomas Hill: Thomas Hill’s book isn’t a counter-point instruction manual to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but a parody of it. Because of that, it’s not really the best place to look for actual advice or tips to make fatherhood go smoothly. What it lacks in practicality, though, it makes up for in wit and self-deprecation. Books like this are great to have around when the impending life change starts to feel overwhelming. Every new father acts like they’re the first guy to ever have to make tough decisions and deal with insurance bills. Use this book as a reality check when you start to get worked up.
- In the Event of My Untimely Demise, Brian Sack: Brian Sack, a writer who blogs at Banterist, put together this collection of tongue-in-cheek essays as a way to pass on wit and wisdom to his child if Sack himself happened to die before he instructed his child in the ways of life. The brief pieces are packed with jokes, but that doesn’t make them any less applicable to real life, and if anything, the format only underscores just how vital it is for new fathers to keep their wits and wit about them when confronted with the difficulties of being a parent. He’s self-deprecating without being self-loathing, and he’s incisive without being mean. He’s smart and funny, but never so aloof that he isn’t honest about his love for his family. Definitely worth your time.
- Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads, Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden: One of the many wonderful things about Be Prepared is its utilitarian approach to child-rearing. This isn’t a tip collection as much as it is a field manual or survival guide for men entering the wilds of fatherhood. Men like lists, charts, and easily digestible information that breaks down problems and outlines solutions, which is why this book approaches, say, crying by talking about the different ways an infant cries, how to identify each one, and what each one means for you. It’s a solid, self-aware entry in the field.
- The New Dad’s Survival Guide: Man-to-Man Advice for First-Time Fathers, Scott Mactavish: Scott Mactavish’s invented slang can be a bit too cute for his own good — referring to one’s female parenting partner as the "FPP" is a good way to get sentenced to sleeping on the couch — but his survival guide for brand-new dads is nevertheless a great guide, regardless of how much you might know about parenting. While other fatherhood guides focus on the first year of a child’s life, The New Dad’s Survival Guide zeroes in on the first three months. A short but ultimately entertaining read, and one new dads will likely revisit several times during sleepless nights.
- The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be, Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash: Armin Brott is basically a cottage industry of fatherhood tips. He’s got several titles to his name that are geared toward helping fathers find their feet, but for new dads, The Expectant Father is the best place to start. It’ll give you a rundown of what to expect during pregnancy and right after, including a helpful (and appropriately graphic) primer on the physical havoc this will wreak on the mother. (Do not research episiotomies on your lunch break.) A great one to help expectant dads navigate pregnancy, and one worth rereading several times after the birth.
- Pacify Me: A Handbook for the Freaked-Out New Dad, Chris Mancini: The subtitle says it all: "A Handbook for the Freaked-Out New Dad." No amount of preparation or excitement can change the fact that fatherhood can be downright scary. Chris Mancini — a comic who blogs at Daddy Needs Some Alone Time — knows all too well the sweat-inducing terror that parenthood can bring, and his book sets out to remedy that by saying that freaking out is just a natural part of the process. His book is ultimately a sweet one, too, highlighting that the anxiety of new fathers is always tempered by love for their kids and the fact that, though trying, having kids isn’t quite the nightmare some make it out to be.
- The Guy’s Guide to Surviving Pregnancy, Childbirth and the First Year of Fatherhood, Michael Crider: Michael Crider’s story of transformation is similar to that of the rock stars and hip dads who had to grow up fast. Crider’s passion and defining traits were comedy, though, so he approaches his tale of young fatherhood from the perspective of a man determined to keep his sense of humor and playfulness even when dealing with lack of sleep, mounting bills, and the sheer challenge of changing diapers when you’re tired all the time. New dads will probably find themselves alternately nodding in recognition and shaking their heads in sheepish recognition of their own mistakes. A solid, honest story.
- The Father’s Almanac: Revised, S. Adams Sullivan: This book’s gone through several revisions since it debuted in 1992, but the fact that it’s been in print for 20 years surely speaks to its quality and applicability. Sullivan’s volume scores points by being frank but never bossy, and it’s remained popular by offering new and expectant fathers a variety of viewpoints and stories from experts and real dads. It’s one of the most respected instruction manuals for fathers ever written.
- The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion: A Survival Guide for Expectant Fathers, David Port and John Ralston: Think of the caveman approach to fatherly advice as a kinder, more humorous companion to the dry "For Dummies" series. The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion is built around the assumption that most new dads are clueless to a degree, but it frames the narrative as one of helping out guys who just don’t know any better. They’re innocently ignorant, not callous or unwilling to learn. "I don’t get it" is the rallying cry for caveman dads, and this book is a great introduction to parenting life for men who never knew such worlds existed. Worth the purchase price just for the list of things not to do in the delivery room.
- The Dudes’ Guide to Pregnancy: Dealing with Your Expecting Wife, Coming Baby, and the End of Life as You Knew It, Bill Lloyd and Scott Finch: The biggest thing that plagues men as they venture into fatherhood is the fog of uncertainty about how to care for their wives and partners, how to outfit the house, how to plan for a kid, etc., etc. The Dudes’ Guide to Pregnancy is a quick but elemental read that uses humor to cut through that fog, illuminating the ins and outs of early fatherhood in ways that would have been ignored a generation ago. Sure, some of the "dude" stuff can be broad, but Lloyd and Smith use the easy jokes as entry points for fantastic, practical advice.
- The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months, Marcus Jacob Goldman, MD: To balance out all the joke approaches, here’s a serious book from an actual doctor and dad that’s dedicated to helping men get through the first year of fatherhood in one piece. Psychiatrist Marcus Goldman takes a smart two-pronged approach to fatherly counsel, alternating between technical tips for things like bathing and feeding and more emotionally based ones that deal with how fathers can be expected to feel as they lose sleep caring for a child. What’s more, by covering the first year of a child’s life, the book lets fathers start to see rhythms in an infant’s life, and it gives them insight how to adjust things going forward into year two (or how to do things differently the next time around). A smart, warm, and indispensable book that celebrates the work and rewards of being a father.
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