By Ekta R. Garg
May 15, 2019
Release date: May 7, 2019
Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars
In his first nonfiction book, Fredrik Backman uses all of his literary skills while penning a book-length letter to his son. By combining humorous parenting anecdotes with memories of his life before becoming a parent, Backman blends days past and the present and future in his signature style. His whimsical writing in his novels touches readers’ hearts, and the effect is just as charming and heartfelt in his latest book Things My Son Needs to Know about the World.
“I want to apologize,” he begins the book, listing a variety of parenting blunders like “buying a minivan” and “wearing shorts.” Despite the young age of his son at the time of the book’s writing—barely a toddler and an only child then—Backman doesn’t hesitate to call the situation for what it is. He ends his introduction by saying, “I want you to remember that it was you who started it.
From there Backman shares with his son his love for many things, including the British soccer team Manchester United, bacon (in all forms and quantities,) and his wife. He also doesn’t hesitate to get right into the middle of topics such as how other parents might view him and parenting as a whole. In one chapter, Backman writes:
“[I]t’s not easy as it looks, this whole being-a-parent thing, you know? I do the best I can. … I do actually try to be attentive. Sensitive. Empathetic. I get just as heated up over the scandals around the swine flu vaccine and the lack of qualified teachers and all that other stuff, the fact that there was some kind of poison or something in the walls of your preschool and that we had to be super careful to remember something when we did something or whatever … it was. I’m doing the best I can! It’s just that I have a lot to think about.”
In another chapter, Backman shares advice on eating before attending a party. He gives his recipe for his “pre-eating hot dog,” his favorite item to consume before he and his wife go to a social gathering. The hot dog consists, among other things, of two chorizo sausages, bacon, and cheese. Backman says, “I call it the L’Oreal Sausage. Because I’m worth it.”
Between the humorous one-liners, however, Backman affirms for his son (and his readers) just how much he adores his family. Parenting might be the stack of wood that needs to be chopped, but family is the cozy fire inside a chalet with a warm blanket and hot cocoa. Backman writes in a way his fans will recognize; stories and thoughts take a saunter around the block before looping back to the main point. In the hands of a less masterful writer, this approach would turn into a disaster. From Backman’s pen, the gentle method will keep readers engaged until the last page of this slim volume and make them wish he’d written more, for both his son and them.
Anyone who is a parent will certainly appreciate Backman’s frankness about his insecurities. Anyone wanting to read a well-written memoir should put this on the top of their reading list. I recommend readers Binge Things My Son Needs to Know about the World by Fredrik Backman.