Review: How to Be a Family by Dan Kois

I am usually not much of a nonfiction reader, but how can a mom of three not read a book called How to Be a Family? Especially when the subtitle indicates world travel.

I wasn’t sure I’d love this one. I’ve read my fair share of parenting books with all their “shoulds” and been unimpressed, or worse, overwhelmed with mom guilt. This is not really a parenting book in the way we think of them.

Dan Kois’ family is unsatisfied for various reasons with how they are together. So he and his wife decide to take a leap, travel to four different locations around the world over the course of a year with very different approaches to family life, and try each respective approach on for size. This goes better in some places than others.

The audiobook is narrated by the author, which means you get all his intended inflections in the reading. He is funny. Maybe I just dig his particular humor personally, but I’d say it’s worth reading just for that.

I love that this is not a preachy, here’s-what-you’re-doing-wrong kind of book. The author, in fact, talks a lot about what he did wrong, with the benefit of retrospect. He discusses in detail the things he likes and dislikes about each location’s approach to parenting, but never suggests any of it is “wrong”. It’s a very not judgy sort of book.

I enjoyed this one from beginning to end, and was actually kind of sad when it was over. Will it greatly change the way I parent? Probably not. The most important message, for me, was to pay attention to how your family works and doesn’t, and be willing to change the “doesn’t” parts. It sure was a lot of fun getting to that message, though.

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