I have been absent from my son’s life for the past 18 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Obviously, I have been there on FaceTime and all other means of communication, but as for being physically there, I have not been.
I live in China, and travel in and out of China has been heavily restricted because of the pandemic. Given that the United Kingdom didn’t exactly excel themselves with tight pandemic control protocols, it is no surprise that we have been completely blocked from travel.
Because of this, I have been parenting as an absent father. Divorce and work obligations got us here, but my son and I are determined to make the best of the situation and do alright. We have exciting conversations some days, and other days, things are staid and forced. But we decided not to force the conversations and call it when we feel things go slow.
Today was a good conversation because we got onto the subject of reading books, and he shared with me the books he has been reading and what he thought of them.
He has a couple of new bookshelves in his freshly decorated bedroom. One of them he has now dedicated to his personal development books, the books that I have bought him.
I have bought him fiction books, but I also like to add a personal development book or two when I buy books as gifts as I hoped he may take something from reading them. This is probably my way to filling some of the gaps that are there, given our lack of proximity to each other. I could overanalyse this, but I won’t do that because I just want to get on and share with you the five books that I am glad that I have bought him and why.
The following are the five books that I am glad I have bought him and why. Not a shining example of fatherhood guidance, but it is a decent enough starter for ten.
GQ: How To Win At Life. By Charlie Burton
This was the first personal development book that I bought my son. I bought it for the first Christmas where the pandemic kicked in, and he had just turned 16. I bought it because it was well illustrated. It covered a robust suite of subject matter and referenced some very successful and intelligent people.
I felt it would be an excellent book to introduce the idea of working on yourself as a way to stay positive, mentally fit and focused on building a life that you design.
Winning Feedback: His mother told me he loved the book and spent a lot of time reading it during Christmas Day.
How To Be F*cking Awesome. By Dan Meredith
This book does not mince its words. The author has had a colourful life, and he has failed repeatedly, but he has found a path to personal success. In his course language, the author describes what made him see the light, work on his personal development and gain from the positive impact this made on his life.
I bought this book for my son because I had read it, and I thought the ideas were simple in their complexity. I also thought that the way it was written, warts and all, was probably another gateway into a teenage boy’s more profound thoughts because it reflected the language of the street.
Winning Feedback: When my son read this book, he said it was the best book he had read and asked if there were other books like it. Result.
Rich Dad Poor Dad. By Robert T. Kiyosaki
A book on how to appreciate money was the reason for buying this book for my son. I am not the author’s biggest fan as he displays some erratic and arrogant behaviour when I listen to him. However, he is clearly gifted. His book is one of the best stories regarding learning to understand the actual value of money.
The book is complex for a teenager. I had to nurse my son through some of the content in the book. Selfish in a way, but it was a way to keep bonding. This was the added bonus on my part, sharing the experience of discovery with my son and shaping my version of being a Dad.
Winning Feedback: When my son started to work on his savings account and banked a large portion of his Birthday money.
Atomic Habits. By James Clear
I read this book. I loved the concepts, and I adopted many of the book’s ideas, which helped me solidify some of the things that I was working on. I bought it for my son as the pandemic was taking a real hold in the UK. He found himself in lockdown with nothing much to do but to play video games and wait for the online school courses to start up. With the help of the ideas in the book, I encourage my son to keep the focus on health, fitness and build routines around how to manage these using habits.
My son is sporty, he was slipping during the pandemic, but the idea of building habits around his daily routine kept him going. This approach helped get him up and ready in the morning. He maintains many of the patterns even now that the restrictions around movement have been lifted.
Winning Feedback: My son attends gym five days a week, builds strength and stamina, and has survived Covid-19 with no side effects.
The 48 Laws of Power. By Robert Greene
This is a beast of a book for the uninitiated. It is a history lesson wrapped around many of the concepts that could help a teenager navigate the world that he is about to fully engage in. It is not an easy book to read, and you have to take it step-by-step and think deeply about each of the ideas that it throws at you.
The book sits well with what my son is studying, his passion and his personal approach to reading. He enjoys reading in short periods at a time as he has a lot of other school work to do. Like his school textbooks, he is marking up this book as he works through the pages.
Winning Feedback: A conversation about politics, history, and the ongoing impact of the Presidential Election in the US was enough to know that my son was getting the concept of the real world. Within the conversation, he referenced a couple of the 48 Laws. Smart.
There are so many books that I could share and recommend to my son, but for the next book, I will turn the tables on him. I will ask him to make a recommendation for what we both might want to read together. I know I can trust him to come up with a great selection, and I look forward to working through that experience as a team.
I might have to form the habit of taking better quality notes because I feel that I might have to work to hold my own corner on the recaps.