Finding the right parenting book on Father’s Day (it’s next Sunday; mark your calendars!) isn’t easy.
It used to be you could just pick up Bill Cosby’s “Fatherhood” and be done with it. And nobody in their right mind would suggest you do that now. But today the market is flooded with dad books, and they’re not all created equal. Like dads themselves, they’re all driven by different anxieties, insecurities and blind spots. Some of them just want a cigar and bottle of scotch, and some want to cry about how those baby boots don’t fit anymore.
We take a closer look at six new fatherhood tomes to help you decide which is the best fit for the dad (or dads) in your life.
“The New Dad’s Playbook” by Benjamin Watson (Baker Books)
The Baltimore Ravens tight end is sweetly supportive even when overstating the obvious, from what a “fetus” is to why you should never ask a pregnant woman to lift heavy objects. Many moments are laugh-out-loud funny, like when he brags about caring for a newborn with projectile vomiting. “I had a unique opportunity to use my professional skills at home and actually caught the vomit.”
Topics covered: The importance of putting a ring on it before she gets pregnant; why you shouldn’t cheat on her even though she’s pregnant; making cookies for a baby shower; loving your son even if he doesn’t love football
Analogy that doesn’t quite land: “Pregnancy is a lot like training camp. It’s rigorous, exhilarating yet exhausting, and you don’t see the fruits of your labor for months.”
Philosophy of fatherhood in one sentence: “Don’t sweat it. You’ve got this.”
“Man vs. Child: One Dad’s Guide to the Weirdness of Parenting” by Doug Moe (Harry N. Abrams)
A performer and teacher from New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade pokes fun at the frustrations and absurdities of modern fatherhood, from how a stroller works (“push the whole thing down until that side thing clicks”) to social media (“carefully pose your child to showcase the total spontaneity of your new life.”).
Topics covered: How dogs are unlike babies (“babies won’t lick another baby’s butt and then lick you”); playdates (“neglecting your kid near other kids”)
New addition to dad lexicon: “Kinderfreude”: Taking pleasure “in watching other parents struggle with crying children”
Philosophy of fatherhood in one sentence: “You’ll see someone out walking his dog, child in a sling, happily sipping an ice tea, and you’ll want to say, ‘F–k youuuuuuu.’ ”
“Mean Dads for a Better America” by Tom Shillue (Dey Street Books)
The Fox News host takes his parenting cues from a father who didn’t believe in seat belts and taught his children to “expect nothing because you deserve nothing.” He compares his childhood to the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle” but “without all the sadness.”
Topics covered: Enduring emotional violence at Boy Scouts; enduring emotional violence at summer camp; why “Choirboys are tougher and meaner than altar boys”
Analogy that doesn’t quite land: “If I could be a Darth Vader dad, I’d use the Dark Side for good.”
Philosophy of fatherhood in one sentence: “I wouldn’t mind if my kids were a little bit afraid of me.”
“Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast: Reflections on Fatherhood” by Matteo Bussola (TarcherPerigree)
An Italian cartoonist with three young daughters tries to cherish every moment but is haunted by the knowledge they’ll eventually grow up and not be as adorably precocious anymore.
Topics covered: Aching nostalgia; pizza as an expression of parental love; the wisdom of kids (“kisses are like face stickers”)
Analogy that doesn’t quite land: A child is like a double-headed arrow, one part that follows a “trajectory into a future that isn’t yours” and another that shoots “forever in your chest.”
Philosophy of fatherhood in one sentence: “Being a father teaches you to focus, always.”
“Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood From My Family to Yours” by Ben Falcone (Dey Street Books)
Melissa McCarthy’s husband shares stories about his dad, who was maybe not the best role model. Lessons are nonetheless gleaned from his father’s spontaneous toilet naps, willingness to expose Santa Claus/the Easter Bunny/the Tooth Fairy as fiction all at once, and soccer pep talks that ended with “Kill those motherf–kers!”
Topics covered: His dad’s testicles (and their ability to pop out of shorts unannounced); hypochondria; lies he’s told his daughters (“bugs have feelings,” “the alternator is an important part of a car,” etc.); what to do when a 3-year-old announces, “Boy, God sure did give me an itchy vagina.”
New addition to dad lexicon: “The Apology Fish.” “I knew my dad must have really messed up royally if he felt the need to cook an apology fish. Fish is fancy. Fish is for company. And clearly, for apologies when Dad really pisses Mom off.”
Philosophy of fatherhood in one sentence: “I was probably 14 years old when I realized that my dad is full of s–t.”
“Diaper Dude: The Ultimate Dad’s Guide to Surviving the First Two Years” by Chris Pegula (TarcherPerigree)
The book begins with the author’s wife’s water breaking, which he reacts to by “standing there paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.” That’s more or less the tone of the rest of the book. He worries about soft spots, autism, sudden infant death syndrome, latex birthday balloons, stoves and bounce houses, among numerous other dangers.
Topics covered: Pee-blocking devices; postpartum depression; forcing guests to use Purell hand sanitizer; infant jaundice; road-trip stress; “diaper explosions”; teaching your kid to be repulsed by McDonald’s; divorce
Analogy that doesn’t quite land: Getting your kid vaccinated is kind of like Michael Jordan’s 1989 game-winning shot in the Eastern Conference first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But unlike Jordan’s famous shot, “It is commonly recommended that your newborn be subject to a series of shots for the next few years that will leave little to be celebrated.”
Philosophy of fatherhood in one sentence: “There is a legitimate component of stress that comes along with parenting.”