Nine Books to Teach Fathers how to Laugh, Lead, and Love

While there are plenty of books out there for mothers (as there should be), finding books for fathers and non-gender-specific parents isn’t always as easy. It’s no secret that a lot of parenting knowledge comes with experience: through a lot of ups and downs, successes and failures…but wouldn’t it be nice if we could skip through the unnecessary, awkward, and messy parts? 

That’s what a good book can do. You get all the advice you wish you knew (or didn’t even know you needed to know) set there for you by doctors and essayists, comedians and therapists, that all share one other thing in common (other than writing a book): parenthood.

Whatever stage of the fatherhood journey you’re in, you’re sure to find at least one book on this list that can be of use to you. And if you’re thinking, but who has time to read these days?,  don’t worry! You’re not alone. 

All of these books have audiobook options that can be purchased or enjoyed on Audible, making it that much easier for you to find the time for a few hours of advice and experience that can save you years of trial and error. 

We’re Pregnant! The First-Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook by Adrian Kulp

With chapters divided by trimester, We’re Pregnant! understands that having a baby is a process, one that both takes time and seems to happen all at once. 

“So you’re going to be a dad,” the first page says as you open it from the cover. “Learning to be a dad for the first time may be accompanied by overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear—but that’s normal. I went through it, so do most dads.” 

Author Adrian Kulp knows that it can be both a “physical and emotional” journey to undergo a pregnancy with your partner, and wrote this book because he found some of the other pregnancy books out there overwhelming with the sheer amount of information inside. This book spells out exactly what you should expect and with tons of tips on the little parts of preparing for fatherhood that no one else really addresses.

Purchase it today, and while you’re at it, get the sequel: We’re Parents! The New Dad’s Guide to Baby’s First Year

The Dad’s Edge: 9 Simple Ways To Have: Unlimited Patience, Improved Relationships, and Positive Lasting Memories by Larry Hagner

“If you could improve one area in your fatherhood journey…what would it be?” author and father Larry Hagner asks. “What would it be like if you mastered not one, but several aspects of your dad journey all at once?” 

Instead of filling itself with parenting tips and advice on fathering, The Dad’s Edge is, as Hagner states, “all about YOU,” focusing on things like learning how to not obsess over perfection, ways to stay connected to your partner, and how to better your connections with your kids.

With the firm belief that working on yourself will improve your relationships with everyone around you. The Dad’s Edge promises to help you “Thrive (Not Survive) your journey of fatherhood.” Purchase it today

Being a Dad is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours by Ben Falcone

“In some ways I am a lot like my dad,” director/producer/father Ben Falcone starts his book. “I have carried a lot of my father into my journey as a parent.” 

Being A Dad Is Weird explores Falcone’s past into the present, uncovering the ways in which he was parented through his own “somewhat unusual upbringing” and how that influences (or doesn’t influence) the way he raises his own daughters. 

As someone who says he’s “willing to embarrass” himself to help out “my fellow dads, so they feel less alone in their weirdness,” the humor and warmth in his book does just that. Get it now.

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances  E. Jensen, MD with Amy Ellis Nutt

Taking the time to learn how to handle teenagers without sending them mixed messages is a journey, one that Dr. Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt are all too aware of. “Certainly the law often treats teens as adults,” Dr. Jensen says. “But in a myriad of ways we also treat our teens like children, or at least like less than fully competent adults.” 

The Teenage Brain seeks to answer the questions that parents have about their kids moody, complicated minds, all from a neuroscientist’s perspective. 

“I learned from my own sons that adolescents are not, in fact, an alien species, but just a misunderstood one. Yes, they are different,” Dr. Jensen admits. “But there are important physiological and neurological reasons for those differences.” 

Learning to be patient and prepared with your teens are just a few of the skills you can expect to gain in reading The Teenage Brain.  

Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety: A Complete Guide to Your Child’s Stressed, Depressed, Expanded, Amazing Adolescence by Dr. John Duffy

Being a child, even into your young adulthood, is not easy. It’s full of stressors, anxieties, and other things that can send your emotions spinning. Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety is a book that will help you guide your teen as they go through these experiences.

In the foreword, Giuliana and Bill Ranic state, “the pressures that parents are confronted with is unprecedented. But it pales in comparison to the profound emotional impact of recent technological, social, cultural, and academic stressors on our children, and all of the overwhelming anxiety and depression they are suffering at shockingly early ages.” 

Dr. John Duffy is extremely aware of that fact. He knows that the modern parent is scared and oftentimes lost when it comes to the mysterious world of their teenaged kid, but he is not afraid of taking that mystery head on.

“No matter what issues you might be struggling with, as a parent, as a family, things can get better,” Duff encourages the reader. Whatever issue you may have with your teenager, Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety is here to help. 

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Child for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

For those dads who have kids in college: don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. How to Raise an Adult is the solution for parents of young adults who are trying to figure out just what level of space is healthiest for their grown kids.

From the very first page, Julie Lythcott-Haims pulls no punches, saying, “This is a book about parents who are overinvolved in the lives of their kids.” As a former dean at Stanford University, she was made very aware of the different forms of parenting styles throughout her time there, and the kind of “overinvolved” parenting that has increased in its level of helicoptering since the eighties. 

“Relevant to parents of toddlers as well as of twentysomethings—and of special value to parents of teens—,” reads the back cover. “This book is a rallying cry for those who wish to ensure that the next generation can take charge of their own lives with competence and confidence.” How to Raise an Adult will show you how some of your most valuable years as a father will come after your children have left your home.

Daditude: the Joys and Absurdities of Modern Fatherhood by Chris Erskine

LA Times and Chicago Tribune columnist Chris Erskine takes fifty of his columns on parenthood and being a father—including the warm, the sincere, the ridiculous and the hilarious—and combines them all into one book: Daditude

Starting with the moment they brought his first child home from the hospital in 2002 through the milestone of turning sixty, Daditude is filled with relatable and amusing snippets of Erskine’s life, dedicated to dads everywhere. Whether you’re looking for a relatable laugh or something that’ll raise a lump in your throat, Erskine has collected the appropriate column here. Check it out today!

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

In the letter to his children at the beginning of Dad Is Fat, comedian Jim Gaffigan writes, “So why a book? Well, since you’ve come into my life, you’ve been a constant source of entertainment while simultaneously driving me insane.” 

From side-eying parents as a single, and childless bachelor, to being a married man and father of five, Jim Gaffigan describes just what it’s like to get initiated (and then absorbed by) the “cult” of parenting. His wonderful observations take the perspective of fatherhood and turn it upside down with their unique wit and humor. This is great as a gift, or as something to keep you grounded when your kids are driving you crazy. Get your copy today

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

Concluding our list is a book coming from the other side of parenthood. Sh*t My Dad Says is a journey that follows the life and antics of Justin Halpern and his smartass father from memories of his childhood to their adult relationship. 

Out of all of these books, this might be the one you least want to share with your kids (until they’re older, anyway) and the one you most want to share with your partner. If you’ve ever thought you had a dysfunctional family, or that you (or your own father or father-in-law) were chaotically funny, Sh*t My Dad Says blows that clean out of the water.

Starting with a Twitter hashtag Halpern made when he was 28, #shitmydadsays soon blew up, and suddenly he and his dad were famous. People were (and are) obsessed with his dad’s hilarious and crude sayings. It was only a matter of time before he got a chance to tell the full story—warts and all.

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It’s no secret that parenting is a journey: the road is not always smooth, and sometimes you’ve got two kids in the back of the car fighting and a third that needs to go to the bathroom even though you literally just left the gas-station.

It’s enough to drive the most patient of men a little crazy, but luckily, you’re not alone. Each of these nine books has something to offer and more tools to put in your fathering toolbelt that can help you with each bump along the way. 

Whether you find time to read any of these during your break at work, before you go to bed, or by listening via audiobook on your daily commute, taking the time out of your day to grow your parenting skills (or even just finding a little commiseration) is an incredibly valuable thing to do.