There is a book called A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman. It was book that took the literary world by storm. People fell in love with the character of Ove, who is an elderly gentleman mourning the loss of his wife, and how he warms up to the his neighbours. It’s already been made into a movie, and is now being made in Hollywood starring Tom Hanks.
At the time of publishing A Man Called Ove, Backman insisted that the publishers also publish Things My Son Needs to Know about the World, which the publishers weren’t keen to publish. Ultimately, the publishers had to relent to Backman’s desire, and so we got this little gem of a book.
This book is a love letter from a father to his son about one of life’s most unique experiences: fatherhood.
Backman is from Sweden, and his wife is from Iran, and this book is like a memoir as the writer talks about various life experiences and how his son needs to learn these things in order to be happy in his life.
The book has been labelled as part memoir, part manual and part love letter to his son. Backman has a very one of a kind sense of humour and is able to impart that to his son through his keen observations on things in life, whether it’s a trip to IKEA or airports, or whether it’s about love or why he feels the need to hold his son’s hand a little too tight.
The book covers the following chapters:
What you need to know about motion sensitive toilet lights
What you need to know about IKEA
What you need to know about football
What you need to know about stuff
What you need to know about being a man
What you need to know about God and airports
What you need to know about happened to the singing plastic giraffe
What you need to know about why that Felicia girl’s mother hates me
What you need to know about good and evil
What you need to know about starting a band
What you need to know about love
What you need to know about when I hold your hand a little too tight
Keep in mind that the writer is from Sweden, so there may be something that’s culturally different to someone from other countries, but that doesn’t really take much away from the essence of what Backman writes.
At the end of each chapter, there are small snippets, or anecdotes, that the writer has shared. These are more like in dialogue form, or conversations he’s had with his wife. In one rather funny anecdote, the father complains about how his wife keeps on reminding him of dropping off son to nursery, pick up the laundry and then pick up some groceries. He complains to himself how his wife doesn’t always need t bring up his tendency to forget things, and before we know it, as he is talking to his wife later on the phone who is still reminding him of his chore, he realizes he forgot to drop his son off. It’s a very real moment and so he really shares his vulnerability in this moment.
In another really sensitive and vulnerable chapter, the father wants to tell his son that he really hopes his son chooses to love football. He talks about the benefits of what the game can teach us, but at the same time mentions how he will have no issues if the son doesn’t love football, and instead loves something else. It’s right at the end when we find out that the father really wants his son to love football because that is what the father knows best and knows he be there for his son. The father feels he will be less of a dad if his son loves something else and the father may not know how to be there for his son. It’s a moment that made me realize how much love there is from a father to his son.
It’s a really short book and can be read in an hour, but it’s also really deep and profound. I kept on thinking about to my father who died in 2014. My own dad has shared numerous such lessons with me, and I think about compiling a book called Things My Father Taught Me about the World. The relationship between a father and a son is a really important one and one that doesn’t get talked about much. Somehow, it’s left up to the women to bring up the children. A father has an equally important role to play as well, especially when it comes to the way we are to respect women.
Short, fun and hugely entertaining book.