Clyde Edgerton & more

The Regulator BookshopClyde Edgerton’s contribution to The Book of Dads is at once the funniest and the most useful of the 20 essays the book contains. In addition to making you laugh, Edgerton suggests what to read to your kids, what to read about your kids, what to do with poopy diapers, and how to manage feeding your infant from Mom’s breast while Mom is sleeping: “If she won’t wake up, whisper that you want to make love: she will try to escape, thus waking up.”

The editor, UNC-Wilmington professor Ben George, compiled The Book of Dads because “there seem[ed] to be so many books about motherhood, but not that much discussion, at least as far as I could tell, about fatherhood.” The essays he got, three of them by writers who live or teach in North Carolina, range from Edgerton’s comic counsel to Michael Thomas’ intense open letter to his daughter to Steve Almond’s screed against W.-era consumer culture to reminiscences about the author’s own fathers. The quality of the prose is consistently very high, a reminder that this ought properly to be called The Book of Literary Dads: The men in question here are generally affluent, highly educated, contemplative and politically liberal; there’s not a single worry here about that most paternal of anxieties, money.

That said, this is a delightful book: instructive, funny, affecting and revealing. It settles around two motifs: one, lots of lists, as if in an obsessive attempt to break down the overwhelming journey of fatherhood into some sort of numerable itinerary; two, sailing. Three of these pieces feature parents or kids in boats on the water, often in some degree of peril. It’s a tidy metaphor for fatherhood, and although the dads in this book don’t resort to sending SOSs, they leave you with the reassuring sense that, if you’re at sea as a father, there are plenty of other sailors out there with you. The free reading begins at 7 p.m. Adam Sobsey