I read the The Secrets of Happy Families back in 2013 and have been regretting ever since that I didn’t write a review of it.
Now that I’ve been a parent for nearly a decade, I was delighted to get to revisit it for the Everyday Reading Book Club and I can’t wait to discuss it every Wednesday afternoon in May.
As a parent, I’m ALWAYS dubious about any advice that claims to be the ONLY way to do something. In my own parenting experience, I’ve quickly learned that what works one month might be a complete failure the next month. Things that work perfectly for one child might blow up in your face with another child (for instance, three of my four children LOVE being timed to do anything – say “I bet you can’t get in your pajamas in 30 seconds” and they’re out the door, delighted to be racing the clock. The fourth child? That game makes her FURIOUS).
And family circumstances are constantly changing, whether it’s the usual process of growing up, adding new siblings, a move or a divorce or a death or a sickness, or just a change in routine thanks to a new job, a new hobby or a new school.
So when I first cracked open The Secrets of Happy Families back in 2013 and saw that the first section was called “Adapt All the Time,” I knew this was a book for me.
The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler
Bruce Feiler spent three years researching the most successful families he could find AND successful businesses and organizations to try and find the similarities. This book is the result.
(Sidenote: Have you seen the previews for the new show Council of Dads? It’s based on Bruce Feiler’s book by the same title about his experiences being diagnosed with cancer as a husband and father to young twin girls).
One thing I love about The Secrets of Happy Families that there are SO many ideas in it – he says early on that there are “more than two hundred bold new ideas for improving your ideas. While that might seem overwhelming, please hear me out. A collection like this is liberating, I believe, because it’s obvious no one can attend to them all.”
So take what resonates with you and ignore the rest.
AND The Secrets of Happy Families is super readable (when I read it the first time, Bart picked it up off the couch where I’d left it, read an entire section and then recounted it to me in great detail).
The book is broken down into three sections:
- Adapt All the Time
- Talk. A Lot.
- Go Out and Play
In each section, you have chapters that cover everything from family dinner to talking about sex with your kids to to making vacations more fun.
You might look at those topics and think “I’ve read about all of these before” but Feiler addresses them in new, interesting ways so, even if you’ve read a thousand articles about how to do allowance with your kids, you’re very likely to find something new here.
I mean, how can you not be a little bit curious about what Warren Buffet’s personal banker has to say about how families handle money?
It’s fun to see Feiler try out these different strategies on his own family and re-reading this 7 years later I was ready to try out some new ones myself.
Especially right now when we’re all spending more time than ever with our families, it feels like just the right book. I can’t wait to talk all about it with you.