New Nonfiction: All Joy and No Fun – Jennifer Senior

Don’t confuse this with a “parenting” book. It’s really cultural analysis — a “big think” book about the affect children have on their parents rather than vice versa. And when I say cultural analysis, don’t think stodgy—the read is smart and funny; the prose warm-hearted, bright and incisive.

Here’s what editor Lee Boudreaux wrote back at sales conference: “I bought this book in a heated auction after Jennifer wrote a cover article in New York magazine which kicked off a firestorm of controversy for showing that countless scientific experiments have proven that parents are significantly more UNhappy than their childless peers.” It’s a witty, erudite look at the unspoken and conflicted emotions modern parents often feel.

Forgive the long blurb, but Tom Reiss, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Black Count, gets this book just right:

All Joy and No Fun is the perfect intellectual Rx for today’s overstressed parents: a calm, clear-eyed synthesis of all the reasons their lives seem to be falling apart. While scrupulously considering the ‘big data’ recent studies—as well as findings by pioneers like Margaret Mead—Senior reports from the collapsing front lines of our striving middle class. Yet this book’s triumph is the way the author’s own observations, presented with winning modesty and offhanded style, so brilliantly take down myths and assumptions to reveal why today’s parents find their experience of raising children so different from what their own childhoods had led them to expect. Amidst the bummers of modern parenthood, Senior finds jolts of transcendent meaning and satisfaction that liberate us from the “mazes of self-interest” that can otherwise dominate our days—it’s why we persist in bringing into the world creatures destined to wreck our lives. This is a profound book about the meaning of love and how we raise not just our children but ourselves.”

You’re going to hear people talking about this book everywhere for a while: a NYTBR cover review, a New York magazine cover article excerpting the book, WSJ, ET, Elle, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, LA Review of Books, The Colbert Report, Anderson Cooper , NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered to start.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (9780062072221) by Jennifer Senior. $26.99 hardcover. 1/28/14 on sale.