Tag Archives: non-fiction

The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year

I cannot decide whether it’s weirder to be reading non-fiction, or to be reading a book gradually over the course of a year. Both are pretty weird! Like, maybe histories would be less weird? History is just non-fiction with a plot and a throughline. Although I guess a book about what to expect over the course of a year of childhood growth is almost that too? But histories have characters, which this does not, super-disgusting anecdotes about mistaken pumpkin puree notwithstanding.

As you may have guessed by this point in the review, my son is nearing a year old. And thusly I have been reading on a (mostly) month ahead basis, the first of Armin Brott’s New Father trilogy(?), wherein I learn what to do over the course of a year.

You are now asking yourself two questions. And the answer to the first is that it’s a helpful book in the same ways that the pregnancy book was. Not quite as helpful, and my uninformed speculation from a non-female perspective as to why is that there are more different types of kids than there are types of pregnancies. Or maybe I’m just more invested in how closely he hews to the baby averages than I was in how closely we hewed to the pregnancy averages? Also feasible.

The answer to the second question is that I have done at best a mediocre job following the presented advice. I’m about as bad at money with him as I am at money with me. We play, but I never really wrestle with him, which came up a lot in the book? I don’t really understand how to wrestle with someone that small, to be honest. I feel like he’s been consistently months ahead on the physical scale[1] and on the manipulation scale[2], but maybe farther behind than I want him to be on the verbal scale? Like, this “you’ve made it through a year” chapter I just read, which to be fair is still four weeks away, expects him to be able to point at his body parts when we tell him to, and I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to get him to know all his body parts before reading that. Which as we all know means I’m objectively a bad father. He might be able to say two words by now, but then again maybe not, and is expected to have a six plus word vocabulary in the aforementioned four weeks. Maybe he will! Or maybe I’m, again, objectively bad at this.

I’m 95% not serious about my reactions, but this also goes back to my “more invested” thing from before. Because the goal of the pregnancy book was to end up with a baby, which is pretty much a binary outcome. Whereas the goal of this book (and the subsequent ones I presume) is to make the existing infant into a good human who can successfully navigate the world. That is, uh, non-binary, you know? It is open-ended. Which means that yeah, any moment where he’s not on target or better is a moment for me to feel bad about myself. So that’s great.

For no fault of the book’s own, I’m not sure whether I want the sequel. Probably should, though? It is almost certainly better to use and resent the map than to kick it in the creek.[3]

[1] Rolling over, standing, walking, etc. Gross body movements. (As opposed to fine.)
[2] Ha ha, but no. Here I mean fine body movements (as opposed to gross), like unscrewing lids, putting objects in holes, etc.
[3] I’ve made myself sad, as that reference was more or less for one person, who isn’t alive to see it. Or the kid.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, part two

A number of months ago, I had read half(-ish) of a book, and reviewed it, in part because reading a book for nine plus months makes it hard to review the whole thing after that long, and in part by way of announcement. This review is not by way of any additional announcement; I have simply finished The Expectant Father.

For the most part, my initial review stands. There’s a lot of good information here, some questionable information, and a few things that are maybe bad. The authors source a great deal of their information, and cross-reference back and forth within the book as well. But every once in a while, Armin Brott’s anecdotal style goes off the rails when he makes a point of generalizing that anything he happened to do to make his wife unhappy during once of her pregnancies into ironclad advice for all fathers about all mothers everywhere.

This is a minor complaint in a sea of good, mostly because it doesn’t happen super often. Less than once per chapter? Like I said last time: I don’t know how much of what I learned was directly applicable, or even correct, but the sense of security and confidence was meaningful either way. Of course, now my streak of reading every chapter just in time is broken, since I’ve read not only the labor and delivery (and emergency c-section if needed) chapters, but the “now you have a human in front of you” closing chapter, but none of these things have occurred.

Still, though: if you find yourself in the position of being a first time father, or at least first time partner to a pregnant woman even if you’re a father previously through some series of events, I can recommend this book with few to no reservations. Not that this is exactly controversial, what with its best-seller, multiple editions status.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, part one

There are two things working against me here. 1) I am not used to reviewing reference books, and 2) I’ve been reading The Expectant Father slowly because the chapters are divided by months, and I’m trying to not read the whole thing in a row so I have a better idea of what to understand in the moment, instead of all at once and then I forget things by the time they’re relevant. As such, I’m only about four chapters in and have something like two-thirds of the book to go, since there is a big delivery room chapter. So this is at least part of why the review is split into two pieces.

Anyway: I do not know how valuable of a resource it is in terms of actual learning / time-specific knowledge. I think it’s probably closer to good than bad along that axis? It spends time talking about how things are for the interloper, how things are for the host, and how things are for me, and man, who knows if any of it is actually right, is my point. But it’s probably good, is my other point.

What it is definitely good at is making me feel like I have a handle on things. Which is, y’know, shockingly important! Or probably not especially shocking, in retrospect. Hopefully it proceeds along the same continuum as I continue to read it. All will be revealed in the second part of the review.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

51wAAzcD2uLAs you probably know if you’ve spent much time on the internet over the last five years, there’s a bizarrely drawn website about (mostly) childhood, dogs, and/or mental health called Hyperbole and a Half. What there’s a slight chance you don’t know is that the creator of that site has also released a book compiled partially from what’s already on the internet and partially from new essays.

She’s funny, often relatable, and the book reads quickly. I’m not sure you’ll get a deeper insight into the human condition, although if you’ve never dealt with depression, maybe you would learn something? But people often don’t, if they haven’t seen it themselves, so maybe not. By and large, it’s a humorous essay book, and they all cover the same thematic ground. The specific circumstances of this one? Yep, funny.

I do really wonder about her self-image, though. Her drawings are all on par with each other, rough but good enough that you can tell there’s some real talent going into them. The dogs start out looking like caricatures of bad dog drawings until you realize how well she captures different poses and moods. All of the people look like people, and so forth. Except, her self portrait is of a worm with a blonde sharkfin, wearing a tubesock. This is universally true, every time, even amidst other perfectly normally (but still roughly) drawn people. It’s obviously a stylistic choice, I just… like I said, I cannot help wondering what it means, on the inside. The answer to that question does not, as far as I can tell, reside within this book.

But it’s still worth reading!

How to Good-Bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?

Thing number one, which is important: I am not making this book up.

See, there’s this self-help book, in which the Japanese author recommends exercise, positive thinking, getting in touch with your body’s energy, diet changes and fasting to cure depression, cancer, family and personal problems of all stripes, to achieve success in life, to look and feel younger, and to be able to instantly apprehend all that can be known about objects and people using the power of your brain. Which, okay, is not that different from many other self-help books and/or new age treatises. The difference between those books and this one is they they were not written in Japanese and then seemingly passed through Babelfish[1] a couple of times. Nor do the first quarter of these other books consist of a mishmash of disordered Usenet postings from the turn of the millennium, before it sank beneath the waves of the internet never to be seen again.

Most importantly though, these other books do not recommend that you “constrict anus 100 times every day and then dent navel 100 times every day after constricting anus 100 times every day, following the lifestyle of long-lived British.” They do not explain that after fasting for three weeks, you will rid yourself of “a big bucketful of old, black excrement” which will weigh 4-5 kilograms. They do not exhort you to concentrate your third attention and send out your immaterial fiber at objects patiently for an hour a day for 3-5 years or possibly 10. They do not spontaneously speculate about the ways in which Al Gore and George W. Bush probably follow most of this advice and are able to * * twice or three times in succession without pulling out, as a result. (Okay, I may have taken ordering liberties with that last part; but it’s not an unfair assessment.)

Here’s my point. I don’t know if constricting anus 100 times every day is an effective way to good-bye depression or not. But reading this book? It really seems to do the trick. Sure, there’s a slow part in the middle, but mostly, more laugh density than most intentionally comedic books I read. Also, assuming you hadn’t heard of this book before, be honest with yourself. You’ve constricted your anus at least once while reading this, haven’t you? (Be honest with yourself. Not with me. I don’t want to know details, here. Come on, people! Keep me out of your anus!)

[1] Historical note from 2020: Babelfish no longer exists. I’d recommend translate.google.com as a good alternative.