The best books for creative dads

Why am I passionate about this?

When my kids were toddlers, there was a Burger King in the neighborhood with an indoor playground. It was glorious. A random guy walked up to me while we were there. “How do you do it, you know, the whole Dad thing” he asked. "Well… you don’t necessarily need to do a whole lot. Mostly just show up. Stick around." Never mentioned that by this time, I’d written and/or illustrated at least a couple dozen children’s books. I asked my nine-year-old daughter how she’d describe me as a Dad. “Most people think you’re creative, but I think you’re pretty average.” That’s good enough for me.


I wrote...

Fun with Origami Animals Kit: 40 Different Animals! Includes Colorfully Patterned Folding Sheets!

By Sam Ita,

Book cover of Fun with Origami Animals Kit: 40 Different Animals! Includes Colorfully Patterned Folding Sheets!

What is my book about?

I set out to make the easiest, most clearly diagrammed origami book possible. 40 original designs. The animals are fun to fold and play with. It only comes with one copy of each design, but you can refold them from any square sheet of paper and draw in the details as you see fit.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Goodnight Moon

Sam Ita Why did I love this book?

At least in the US, once you become a new parent, people will invariably gift you this book, along with "Pat the Bunny", and a plastic giraffe toy. Why? Who knows. They just got all got really popular at some point and have remained so. For what it's worth, this is the most worthy of the three.

I’ve included it in this list mainly to call attention to just how profoundly bizarre it is. To some extent, because it's the second part of a 1940s trilogy set in a surreal universe of bunny people. I appreciate the eerie drawing style and palette throughout the series, but parts one and three are nothing special.

Although I can recall my indifference to this book as a kid, I'm a sucker for it now. Not sure if it's because of nostalgia, the way it taps into our collective unconscious or that scene from The Wire.

By Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Goodnight Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A beautiful anniversary edition of the classic bedtime story with shiny gold cover flourishes - the perfect gift for christenings and birthdays.

Featuring a look at the fascinating story behind the creation of one of the most famous children's books in the world, beloved by Michelle Obama and Neil Gaiman alike, as well as tips on how to get your child to sleep.

In a great green room a little bunny is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things in his room, one by one.

Margaret Wise Brown's…


Book cover of A Book about Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Good

Sam Ita Why did I love this book?

This book does an amazing job of introducing kids to visual thinking and communication. Crucial skills in this day and age.

Bold lines and primary colors clearly demonstrate the basic principles of design and composition without pretense or jargon. After countless rereadings, my copy endured tape repairs and ultimately complete destruction at the hands of my daughter. You always hurt the ones you love. Highly recommended.

By Mark Gonyea,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Book about Design as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Design is all about the perception of size, shape, and color.

A fabulous and fun introduction to the concepts of design

A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Good takes a most creative approach to introducing young (and not-so-young) readers to the fundamental elements of design. Using simple shapes, lines, and a sense of humor, this book explains why complicated doesn't make it good-and why that matters. Mark Gonyea opens up the world of design and makes it accessible to young artists and non-artists alike.

A Children's Book-of-the-Month Club Selection
A JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION


Book cover of Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu

Sam Ita Why did I love this book?

Despite the drawing style, this really isn’t a kid's book.

Another Dad friend of mine, also into comics, mentioned he was reading it to his daughter. She was into it. I’d had the series from my pre-parent days. The conversation inspired me to give it a try with my then 5-year-old son, a Thomas the Tank engine superfan. He was hooked instantly.

The entire series is about 2,800 pages, so it covered a lot of bedtime stories. An intricate, sprawling story, loosely based on the life of the Buddha. It hit me even harder on my second reading while occasionally fielding some pretty heavy questions from my son.

This is a masterpiece of historical fiction, philosophy, casual nudity, and general Japanese weirdness. Way better than anything ever read to me as a kid. Easily one of the best things I’ve read as an adult. And this is coming from a non-Buddhist.

By Osamu Tezuka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buddha, Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Osamu Tezuka's vaunted storytelling genius, consummate skill at visual expression, and warm humanity blossom fully in his eight-volume epic of Siddhartha's life and times. Tezuka evidences his profound grasp of the subject by contextualizing the Buddha's ideas; the emphasis is on movement, action, emotion, and conflict as the prince Siddhartha runs away from home, travels across India, and questions Hindu practices such as ascetic self-mutilation and caste oppression. Rather than recommend resignation and impassivity, Tezuka's Buddha predicates enlightenment upon recognizing the interconnectedness of life, having compassion for the suffering, and ordering one's life sensibly. Philosophical segments are threaded into interpersonal…


Book cover of The Wok: Recipes and Techniques

Sam Ita Why did I love this book?

We’re not all cut out to work a nine-to-five, but any man can learn to stir-fry.

Cooking with a Wok is instantly gratifying, and Dad friendly. Kenji’s book is full of solid recipes, providing a solid foundation to improvise. Starting with the very basics, he goes further into the details as they come up. Don’t have oyster sauce? Try Worcestershire. Cooking offers endless opportunities to be creative and a semi-captive audience. At least when they're hungry. With practice, you can have a pretty good Chinese restaurant in your kitchen 24/7. 

By J. Kenji Lopez-Alt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wok as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's debut cookbook, The Food Lab, revolutionised home cooking, selling more than half a million copies with its science-based approach to everyday foods. For fast, fresh cooking for his family, there's one pan Lopez-Alt reaches for more than any other: the wok.

Whether stir-frying, deep frying, steaming, simmering or braising, the wok is the most versatile pan in the kitchen. Once you master the basics?the mechanics of a stir-fry and how to get smoky wok hei at home?you're ready to cook home-style and restaurant-style dishes from across Asia and the West, from Kung Pao Chicken to Pad Thai…


Book cover of This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

Sam Ita Why did I love this book?

I read this book a few years ago. Some of its essays really stuck with me. This is a popular science book, largely having to do with the limitations of popular science. I like to read anything that challenges my assumptions. Spending so much time in Dad mode, your brain can really atrophy. 

My Dad was always interested in science. He never finished high school. In the pre-internet days, he subscribed to science magazines. He read instruction manuals cover to cover. I think he would’ve really enjoyed this book.

There is so much we don’t know. We tend to misinterpret what we do. Too often, we have good ideas and abandon them. This book serves as a reminder that creativity requires diligence and reflection alongside imagination.

At its core, I think these essays speak with indomitable optimism. Things could be better. My kids will grow up to be much more clever than I am. They will surely possess sharper tools to deal with this world than I ever had. In the meantime, the book provides plenty of interesting anecdotes and counterfactuals. Always helps to have something you can throw out there to show your Pops is no dummy.

By John Brockman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Will Make You Smarter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over 150 of the world's leading scientists and thinkers offer their choice of the ideas, strategies and arguments that will help all of us understand our world, and its future, better. This title includes contributions from: Richard Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Clay Shirky, Daniel Goleman, Sam Harris, Lee Smolin, Matt Ridley, Mark Henderson, David Rowan, Sir Martin Rees, Craig Venter, Brian Eno, Jaron Lanier and David Brooks ...among others. With his organisation Edge.org, the literary agent and all-purpose intellectual impresario John Brockman has brought together the most influential thinkers of our age. Every year he sets them a question,…


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The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

Sammy Stein Author Of Fabulous Female Musicians

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been passionate about music for almost my entire life. Jazz music in particular speaks to me but not just jazz. I love music, full stop. I really discovered jazz when I attended a jazz club workshop in London and there, I had to join in or leave. I chose to join in and since then I have never looked back. I was introduced to more jazz musicians and now write about music for three major columns as well as Readers’ Digest. My Women In Jazz book won several awards. I have been International Editor for the Jazz Journalist Association and had my work commissioned by the Library of Congress. 

Sammy's book list on female musicians

What is my book about?

With input from over 100 musicians, the book discusses what exactly jazz is, and how you know you are listening to it. Do we truly know when and how jazz first originated? Who was the first jazz musician? How does jazz link to other genres? What about women in jazz? And writers and journalists? Do reviews make any difference? 

This book is a deep dive into jazz's history, impact, and future. It discusses jazz's social, cultural, and political influence and reveals areas where jazz has had an impact we may not even realize.Its influences on hip hop, the connection to…

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

What is this book about?

This book is very different from other, more general jazz books. It is packed with information, advice, well researched and includes experiences from jazz musicians who gleefully add their rich voices to Sammy's in-depth research. All genres, from hard bop to be-bop, vocal jazz, must instrumental, free jazz, and everything between is covered in one way or another and given Sammy's forensic eye. There is social commentary and discussions of careers in jazz music. The musical background of those in the book is rich and diverse.
Critics comment:
"This new book by Sammy Stein is a highly individual take on…


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