Book Reviews


The reviews posted on this page are the thoughts and opinions of Keith Zafren, founder of The Great Dads Project. They are posted for your assistance in determining which books might be of value to you. You can agree with, disagree with, or not even care about my opinions. They’re only opinions. I do not make any money by marketing these books. These are merely reviews for your benefit, amusement, and evaluation. Some of the author bios are from, the author’s website, from the book itself, or from another source noted.

You will see an image of the book cover, the name of the book and it’s author(s), the year of publication, and a short description of the book on this page. If you see a book that interests you, click on it and you will be taken to my review of the book in a new window.

Check back often for more book reviews added regularly.


Graham Scharf The Apprenticeship of Being Human on The Great Dads project with Keith ZafrenThe Apprenticeship of Being Human: Why Early Childhood Parenting Matters to Everyone
Graham Scharf (2012)

Graham Scharf’s insight into early childhood parenting is deeply personal and multidimensional. Scharf argues, with mounds of medical evidence to support him, that it is in these early stages of child development that the brain of a child is most malleable and developing at rate unmatched in later years. In the early, highly formative years, parents have profound influence to shape their child’s brain, literally, for good or for waste. This is when a child learns what it means to be a human being—by observing his or her parents in real life, particularly by experiencing their interactions together.


1-2-3 Magic on The Great Dads Project with Keith Zafren1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12
Thomas W. Phelan PhD (updated edition 2010)

Thomas Phelan provides a straight-forward, simple, and easy-to-implement plan for helping parents calmly respond to their children’s bad behaviors, tantrums, and disobedience without engaging emotionally in anger or frustration (at least that’s the noble goal). At the onset of a problem, the parent holds up one finger and calmly says, “One.” If the child persists, the parent says, hold up two fingers and says, “Two.” If the child still does not cease and desist, the parent holds up three fingers, says, “Three,” and scoops up the child (if he or she is still young and small enough) and sets the child in a timeout, preferably in his or her room. If the child comes out, the parent calmly but firmly places the child back in timeout, shutting the door if need be.


Parent Effectiveness Training on The Great Dads Project with Keith Zafren

Parent Effectiveness Training
Dr. Thomas Gordon (2000)

Dr. Thomas Gordon’s, Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) class is the pioneering program that has helped millions of parents around the world. Classes are offered by certified P.E.T. Instructors throughout the country and in many different countries. Whether you’re the parent of a toddler or a teenager, you know that parenting can be challenging–even overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, children don’t come with an instruction manual. And, being a parent doesn’t always mean that you automatically or instinctively know what to do. Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) offers proven communication skills that really work. When parents use these skills, they are amazed with the dramatic improvement both in their families and in all their relationships.


How to talk so kids will listen on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (longtime bestseller updated in 2012)

Although the chosen demographic is parents and how they listen to and speak to their children, the communication skills taught in this book are universal. They can (and should be) applied in all relationships, even in business. One Amazon review said it succinctly while summarizing some of the key points the book teaches: “treat people with respect, do not deny their emotions, state the facts (only) and shut up and listen. This book also talks about giving praise and recognition, which makes it another reason to use it in real life, inside the family AND outside in the ‘real’ world.” The logical, reflective, respectful communication skills taught in this book really work.



510VhTcNRuL._AA160_Teaching Kids to Be Good People: Progressive Parenting for the 21st Century
By Annie Fox, M.Ed. (2012)

Author Annie Fox has compiled a delightful, practical, and useful anthology of advice to parents of teens. The book is essentially a compilation of blog posts on various topics every parent of a teenager will face or deal with at one time or another.




The Dad's EdgeThe Dad’s Edge: 9 Simple Ways to Have Unlimited Patience, Improved Relationships, and Positive Lasting Memories
Larry Hagner (2015)

Larry’s engaging book provides a series of short, to-the-point chapters that explain, illustrate, and provide practical tips in nine different areas of life for dads who want to become the best version of themselves as dads, husbands, and men. The book is definitely about good fathering, but it’s more than that. Larry encourages men to be better husbands to their wives by listening to them, seeing them, and prioritizing communicating with them. He challenges us men to take time for ourselves so that we fill our own buckets and therefore have more patience in our relationships and workplace. He tells us we need to eat well and exercise more to become better dads. And he describes the power each one of us has to choose the positive perspective in every situation that will make us happy and better serve those around us. It’s certainly a book about being a good dad—there are plenty of great, simple, and very practical suggestions on how to relate to our kids and to engage them—but it’s more than that as well.



Dwyane Wade on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenA Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball
Dwyane Wade (2013)

I recently completed reading Wade’s fantastic and compelling book. I hope you choose to get the book and read it from cover to cover as I did. You will not be disappointed. Read below and decide for yourself. This book tells three distinct and moving stories woven together to reveal the life, character, and passion of one remarkable man—Dwyane Wade—childhood survivor, basketball superstar, and devoted father.




Finding our fathers on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenFinding Our Fathers:
How a Man’s Life is Shaped by His Relationship with His Father
Samuel Osherson, Ph.D. (1986, 2001)

Osherson himself explains his book in his preface: “Self-understanding is an essential first step for men today. If a man is to be a good father to his son, or a good husband to his wife, he needs to know what he got, or wanted and didn’t get, from his own father; how he was both strengthened and wounded by that relationship; how it has influenced his own fathering style and his own identity as a man.” This book is a classic in this genre and one I recommend. Take a look at my review and decide for yourself.


darth vader on The Great Dads Project with Keith Zafren

Star Wars: Darth Vader and Son
Jeffrey Brown (2012)

The book is a simple and humorous look at the often unexpected joys, spontaneous moments of laughter, teaching moments, and some of the frustrations of being a dad to a young son, all played out between Darth Vader and his son Luke Skywalker. In this short, hardcover collection of original cartoons and captions, Vader is a present, day-to-day father raising Luke while doing what we dads do: training Luke to hit a baseball (with a light saber), telling him not to make bubbles when he sips through a straw (at the intergalactic bar), or pouring his son a bowl of cereal for breakfast (using the force to do so). You get the idea.



Championship Fathering – How to Win at Being a Dad
Carey Casey (2009)

This book is a clear, practical, and inspiring guide for men, particularly Christian men, to become championship fathers. Carey advocates what he describes as the three fundamental elements of championship fathering: loving, coaching, and modeling. The entire book is built upon explaining, demonstrating, inspiring, and urging these three critical and effective modes of fathering.





the unexpected legacy of divorce on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenThe Unexpected Legacy of Divorce:
The 25 Year Landmark Study

Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee. (2000)

This book is a long, powerful, and insightful study and report of findings mostly told masterfully through stories of children from divorced families. The results of the longitudinal study are mind-boggling as to the complexities and difficulties with which so many men, women, and children live.




the truth about children and divorce on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenThe Truth About Children and Divorce:
Dealing with the Emotions so You and Your Children can Thrive

By Robert Emery, PhD (2004)


This useful book is based on 25 years of groundbreaking psychological research. Dr. Emery presents a lucid, practical, and compelling case for all parents going through divorce to put their children’s needs first so that children can be resilient, heal, and eventually thrive themselves.





Martin Seligman Learned Optimism on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenLearned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

By Dr. Martin Seligman (1990, 1998, 2006)

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was both intellectually stimulating and personally inspiring. Seligman’s research, stories, personal writing style, and hopeful conclusions intrigued me and spurred me to consider deeply whether my way of explaining what happens in my life is a half-empty (pessimistic) or half-full (optimistic) perspective. The studies he cites and explains made this a very important matter to discern.

Scientific research proves that people who intentionally think about what they have to be grateful for on a regular basis and who maintain a positive, optimistic perspective about life in general strengthen their immune systems, decrease illness, earn more money, have longer lasting and more meaningful relationships, and are all around happier and more satisfied with their lives. This includes parenting and enjoying relationships with our children of all ages.



c.s. lewis chronicles of Narnia on The Great Dads Project with Keith ZafrenThe Chronicles of Narnia

By C.S. Lewis (originally published in the 1950’s)

What the Series is About: describes these books perfectly: “The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children and is considered a classic of children’s literature. Written between 1949 and 1954 and illustrated by Pauline Baynes, the series is Lewis’s most popular work, having sold over 100 million copies in 41 languages. It has been adapted several times, complete or in part, for radio, television, stage and cinema.

Recent Posts

Dad, what are the signs of puberty?

I’ll never forget the morning my thirteen-year-old son asked me, “Dad, what are the signs of puberty? How will I know when I’m in it?”

I answered in as informational-dispensing, flat, so-as-not-to-embarrass-my-son kind of tone I could fake, “Well, you may feel and see some changes in your body such as feeling some growing pains, perhaps emotional changes such as more highs and lows, growing hair under your arms and here (I pointed to myself through my pants) above your penis called pubic hair, and you may notice your voice changing some, taking on a deeper tone.”

I appeared completely stoic, calm, and educated, I hope. Inside, I was thinking, Are you kidding me? Are we having this conversation over a breakfast sandwich? Our little ones grow up so quickly. How would you have answered this question?

Let’s Look it Up

In a second effort to keep my composure and alleviate the potential weirdness for my inquisitive son, I simply said, “You know, I’m certainly no expert on puberty; it’s only been about a hundred years since I went through it. Why don’t we look it up and see what we can learn together.”

He laughed, probably less at my attempt at humor and more to let some tension out of the air, and enthusiastically said, “Great idea, Dad.”

The first article we found was a good one. I read it out loud to him as he finished his breakfast.

Their good information is worth sharing. That post listed some of the more typical signs of puberty in boys. “Keep in mind that these stages may appear gradually, and it may take several years for your child to completely cycle through all the phases of puberty. In general, boys begin puberty at some point between the ages of 9 and 14. Girls begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 12.”

My son said, “Well, I must be in it if that’s the age range.” We both smiled, sharing what felt like insider information. Here are the lists they posted:

Physical Changes

  • Growth spurts
  • Appearance of facial hair
  • Broadening of shoulder muscles, development of chest muscles
  • Body odor (I raised my eyebrows at him, and we both laughed at that one)
  • Pimples or facial breakouts
  • Hair growth in pubic area and underarm area
  • Growth of testicles
  • Erections or wet dreams
  • Deepening of the voice, although this is more likely in the later stages of puberty

Emotional Changes

  • Interest in the opposite sex
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety or excitement about the changes he’s going through
  • Less talkative and open with parents
  • Shy, nervousness around girls, or flirtatious with girls

“What are wet dreams, Dad?”

Of course, you guessed it—his first question. So I got to answer that one next.

“Well, you know that to make a baby, a man has to get his seed called sperm inside the woman where his sperm meets up with her egg and when that happens, a baby starts to grow inside her, right?” He nodded his head like a deer caught in the headlights, clearly a little afraid of where this was going.

“Well, if it hasn’t started yet, it will soon, but your testicles—you know what those are, right?”

“You mean your balls?”

“Right, your balls. So that’s where the sperm factory is in a man. Your balls produce millions and millions of sperm. But your balls are only this big.” With my thumb and pointer finger I formed a small circle. “So your balls can hold millions and millions of sperm, but they can’t hold millions and millions and millions and millions of them. Right?” He nodded slowly, barely tracking with me, but obviously fascinated.

“So the body’s way of keeping your balls from exploding is to release the build up of sperm.”

He laughed out loud, and I relaxed more, seeing that using some humor was making this easier for both of us.

He looked at me with this I-can’t-believe-we’re-having-this-conversation expression, but I also saw the relief on his face. He was getting some answers from someone he trusted. His dad was talking to him man to man, and he loved it. So I continued.

“So when you’re balls are full and about to explode, the body sends an impulse to release some of those sperm. That can happen when you’re a man and you put some of those sperm inside your wife, or when you touch yourself and it feels good and some of the sperm come out, or it can happen at night when you’re asleep. One morning you may wake up and your pajamas or underwear might be wet with some sperm, which will look like white goo. It’s totally normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to all young men who are going through puberty. Make sense?”

He just smiled and said, “Yeah, makes sense. That hasn’t happened to me yet.”

All This Over Breakfast

This conversation reminded me about the mythical contrast between quality time and quantity time—a clever distinction a likely guilt-ridden father created years ago to justify not spending lots of time with his kids. The reality is that without quantity time, there is little quality time. You can’t schedule quality time with your kids—or orchestrate it on your calendar. And here’s why. Kids don’t spell love G-I-F-T-S, or A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E-S, or even P-R-O-V-I-S-I-O-N. Sometimes we wish they did, but countless stories of lonely children will tell you otherwise.

We busy dads need to face the well-established reality that children spell love one way: T-I-M-E. And as one of my other sons added one day, “You should tell them we spell love D-A-D-T-I-M-E.”

This seemingly random conversation I had with my thirteen-year-old son about puberty at breakfast that morning reminded me that if we were not having this time together, and if it was not simply one more moment in a very long string of them, we might never have developed the kind of friendship and closeness in which he would feel comfortable asking such a vulnerable question. He knew I wouldn’t make a complete joke out of it, or make fun of him, or be embarrassed myself and shy away from or avoid it. He knew he could trust me to answer him honestly, and with love, and with some humor, as I did that day.

The relationship we developed over years of quantity time paved the way for that potentially awkward yet important and honest conversation that morning. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

“Thanks, Dad. That would be kind of a hard question to ask Mom, ya’ know?”

“I do know, Son. That’s kind of a dad and son thing to talk about.”

He smiled and shifted the subject, “What are we going to do now?”

End of biology class.

Beginning of a new phase of father-son relating.

Dad Teen Thumbs UpYour Turn

When your kids ask you such questions, are you prepared to answer? Does the relationship you have with your children allow for—even invite—these open, honest, vulnerable conversations?

If you want or need some help, I’m here. Please leave a comment and I will respond.

Close relationships with your kids that allow for and invite these fathering moments do not happen by chance. They are planted as seeds early on, nurtured throughout their lives, and carefully managed when your kids need a father’s love. I’ve coached and taught hundreds of dads how to do this. I’m here to help you if you want help. The easy-to-master fathering skills I teach work wonders for busy dads, married or not, who want to be great dads. Check out my FREE training videos for more.

Great Dads Shape Great Kids.

Be a Great Dad Today.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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