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The Good Father: On Men, Masculinity, and Life in the Family Hardcover – January 4, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First edition (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743258010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743258012
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,983,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Psychologist O'Connell knows firsthand how it feels to need a father (having lost his own at an early age) and to be a father (having three children himself). As a practicing therapist, he's treated many fathers (and sons) over the years. His experience makes this parenting book—with its chapters on challenges like the "masculinity debate," sexuality, and violence and authority—an essential guide. From the opening pages, O'Connell acknowledges that being a father is immensely complex, so "this book, therefore, aims less to 'advise' than to begin a conversation." From there, he employs an easygoing tone, devoid of psychobabble or touchy-feelyism, to sort through the currents of thinking about maleness and fatherhood, pointing out where they run shallow, where deep, and where ideas have foundered. The main strength of O'Connell's method lies in its use of material from the author's own history as well as from his psychotherapy practice. Whatever the subject at hand—play, authority, mortality, sex—he addresses it specifically and anecdotally. The chapter on discipline, for example, opens with a memory from the author's childhood, weaves in a strand of information from his life as a father, adds material from one of his client's experiences, then expands into a general discussion of the issue. This approach allows readers to digest the complexities bit by bit and even begin the sort of dialogue the author desires. All fathers, and those who have fathers, stand to benefit from this useful book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Claypoint2 on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Good Father, unlike most parenting books, doesn't insult the reader's intelligence by oversimplifying or reducing complex questions into sound bites. The writer's thought-provoking positions on crucial topics such as authority, discipline, and sexuality are grounded in research and prior literature, and they come alive through the telling of his clients' stories and his own life experiences. Dr. O'Connell's writing is beautiful -- almost lyrical at times. This book is a "must" for anyone who wants to be a thoughtful parent.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Observer on March 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's been downright confusing, being a father, these past few decades. Most of us were sons of largely "absent" fathers without suitable role models. Sure, we had lots of advice...on one side from the Rosemond radical conservatives and on the far distant other the many and persuasive voices of the "SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy)" movement. Not that their advice had no merit; but many of us just weren't comfortable with the notion that men were, well, imperfect women. Finally and refreshingly out of the wilderness comes the voice of Dr. Mark O'Connell with what resonates as real help and insight for us men trying to use our male differences and find our footing as effective Dads. He brings many relevant and poignant examples from his psychotherapy practice to illustrate his points. His (anonymous) clients are almost like fictional characters and together present a sort of universal parent with all their human flaws, challenges and, sometimes, triumphs. It's impossible not to see parts of oneself in these folks. He weaves their stories with his own parental adventures and misadventures in an engaging almost seductive writing style that makes an incredibly instructive book a totally enjoyable reading experience. If you're looking for a simple list of "to do's" for Dads, don't buy this book. If you're looking for a real, honest presentation of meaty topics...authority, discipline, aggression, violence, sexuality, safety, control...the real issues men and parents must deal with to be effective, then you've come to the right place.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Good Father is a life-changing book. Using real lives and real stories (including his own), O'Connell shows men (and women) coming to terms with their pasts as they embark on the project of becoming good parents. The book avoids prefab advice; instead we get detailed examples and straight talk on hard matters. The writer tackles all the big topics, from discipline (spank? don't spank?) to the challenges that time, and teenagers, represent. Especially useful is the frank discussion of aggression and eroticism in family life; O'Connell makes the point that physical contact is necessary and important, in the right ways, at the right times, between fathers and their children. The stories are compelling, beautifully written, and informed by a deep respect for the complex realities of people's lives. You can learn more about being a good father from this book than any laundry list of do's and don'ts will ever teach you.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By an admiring reader on April 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mark O'Connell tells it how it is. Using his own biography, his admirable relationship with his wife and his love and respect for his children and patients, we are treated to a thoughtful invitation to think with him about men, fathering and life in the family. How a man uses his aggression as a constituent of his authority in the family and how he recognizes and values his wife's role in its admissablilty and in its modulation is a core concept which O'Connell advances. This is a book about love between spouses and between parents and children. it is also a book about the ways in which sexuality and aggression are shaped in a responsible and therefore integrated way by good enough parents. Ultimately then, it is a book which is crucially concerned with how men bring their essential maleness to fruitfully and productively effect the next generation's capacity to love, to play and to work.
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6 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Father of Two on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am about halfway through this book and am about to throw it out. So far, he has gone through a history of the psychology of mothering and fathering and tried to relate personal and client experiences. I didn't want a psychology textbook, I just wanted the author's insite on fatherhood. After reading half the book, the only conclusion he has drawn is that men are more aggressive than women and are different in their parenting styles. I already knew this and didn't need all the psychoanalysis to prove the point.

The organization of the book is awful - it has no chapters. You have no idea what each section is about. It rambles on somewhat aimlessly (at least so far). It is certainly not something you would want as light reading. I would think that only a psychology student or professor would enjoy reading it. I will probably finish the book in the hopes of gaining something that may help me be a better father, but I'm not holding out much hope.
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