It's always a bit much to label a book the definitive authority on any subject, so I'll leave the debate to others on this thought that in my opinion, if you're going to read one book on being a dad, this is it. I'll list my reasons below. The book is "You Have What It Takes - What Every Father Needs To Know" by John Elldredge.
First, it's short (and also very inexpensive $4.99 as of this writing). Let's face it. One things men don't want is another tedious thing piled onto us. Along with that, some of us aren't the type to sit down and read thousand page novels, let alone long books on theology, physics or the history of sheep shearing. In fact we're too busy working, mowing lawns, coaching, changing diapers, chauffeuring, helping with homework and volunteering at church. The book weighs in at 52 pages in length on 6"x3" booklet in size. That's manageable for most of us with short attention spans and those whose attention is divided between keeping the kids from killing each other, answering "Are we there yet?" while trying to find directions to that all import vacation destination. I told a few friends that you could put it next to the toilet and during your quality time on the throne read it cover to cover in just a few sittings. Also, I find myself reading it over and over again.
It's positive. The one thing that I hope is clear from my writing is that shaming is at best short term motivating and at worst abusive. I can't count how many Christian books are just about what's wrong. Mostly, what's wrong with the reader. I think that it's a cop out to be a critic. I think we all would just like to move past that and be motivated to want to do something. I think there's not a man in this world who doesn't want to be a great dad. Is it motivating to hear all of the dire consequences of bad dads? How about all of the little things that we get wrong on a daily basis? Most men would rather throw in the towel if that's the only alternative. So here's the cool thing: as the book states, you have what it takes to be a great dad. Not only that, you don't have to dig deep for some unknown reserve to find what it takes to be a great dad. You see, God has provided that already. It's not some mystery He's holding out for you to find. He wants you to succeed! Best yet, the benefits have a huge impact on this world!
It answers the most important questions. One thing that drives me crazy is that people can't seem to get to the point. For some reason, it isn't considered profound unless it's buried in some deep, wordy, exposition that somehow proves the writer's expertise on the subject. There is a place for this. But when it comes to the most important questions of fatherhood, get me right to the answer so I can start applying it now! So here it is: first, you have what it takes to be a great father because God is a great and generous God who wants you to succeed. For your sons, find any way that you can in as many ways that you can to tell them that you're proud of them; that they have what it takes to succeed and that you are behind them 100%. For your daughters, find any way that you can in as many ways that you can to tell them that they're beautiful; worthy of love; and worthy to be pursued. OK, class dismissed!
I know that you could take a lifetime to unpack that. But if you're focused on that as a father, you will succeed. I have to admit that as a dad, I wish I had heard this when my girls were little. Sadly, kids will continually reach out to you to answer that question and at that time I wasn't prepared to answer them. The good new is no matter where you are with your kids, it's never too late. Start today and over time it will make a huge difference. As Hebrews 12 says thrown off every hindrance. In my opinion, that's fear that we have to throw off: Fear of what others think, fear of failure (past, present and future), fear of change. All I can say is that I know what those fears feel like. Realize what that's from (Satan) and step up. Believe it or not, it's the most freeing feeling in the world to step up.
Ultimately, you will open up the doors to receive God's deep love. He is your true Father and is smiling proudly when He thinks of you. I know that you will have an eternal impact and the applause of heaven when you do it.