Episode 84: Dear Arlo | Adventures in Dadding with Tom Kreffer

On this dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, our guest is author Tom Kreffer. Tom is the author of two books about fatherhood, Dear Dory: Journal of A Soon-to-be First-time Dad and Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding. In his books of daily journal entries, Kreffer alternates between profound and profane as he chronicles his wife's pregnancy and their child's first year. We talk about his writing process, the joys and struggles of parenthood, what he enjoys reading, and what he's writing next! We actually recorded this episode in late August 2021, so Dear Arlo has been released (in September) and we're much closer to baby Miller's due date (end of December) than we were when this episode was recorded. 

Listen to Episode 84 here! 

Find and follow Tom Kreffer on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and on his website. Don't forget to pick up a copy of Dear Dory: Journal of A Soon-to-be First-time Dad and Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding. for yourself or a parenting friend. 

Books from today's episode are on the Library Laura storefront on bookshop.org

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Tom Kreffer is rather an accidental author. "It's a fluke, really," he says. But he and his partner had been trying for kids for a while with no success. They were told the chances of conceiving on their own were virtually zero, and were facing some medical tests, interventions, or surgeries to have any chance of having a family. Then miraculously his wife became pregnant naturally.  

Tom wrote an entry in his journal the day he found out he was going to be a father. Then the next day, and the next.  "I was about a third of the way into writing the book before I knew I was writing a book," Kreffer explained. "And about two thirds of the way before I even thought about publishing." 

He'd previously studied Film & TV at university and wrote a few screenplays in his twenties. But nothing like this! He'd wanted to be a writer and enjoyed telling stories, but this whole non-fiction parenting writing came as a bit of a surprise. 

The first book title, "Dear Dory" comes from the pre-birth name they chose for their child. They didn't find out his gender until he was born, but wanted a name to call the baby. The name is from the Pixar films Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. Dory the fish is famous for the line, "just keep swimming," which was a mantra they repeated, especially in low moments, throughout the pregnancy. 


Tom's main rule for himself as the idea for the first book developed was that he had to write something everyday. It needed to be somehow related to parenthood, the pregnancy, or the baby, or his own childhood. Once Arlo was born, that habit was already developed, and he kept it up to create the second book. 

Here's the blurb I wrote for Dear Arlo

In his second book, Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding, Tom Kreffer masterfully alternates between being profound and profane in this day-by-day account of his son’s first year. Be prepared to stifle giggles in your pillow and to be touched by thoughtful insights on parenting from the underrepresented point-of-view of a first-time dad.  

~Laura Miller, The Library Laura Podcast 

Books Tom Kreffer Enjoys

(Links to books are affiliate links for Bookshop and Amazon and as an affiliate I may earn from purchases made through these links. Thanks!) 

Tom's mom says that he's always been interested in story, books, and imagination. That was evident from a young age. Tom also recently got in touch via social media with one of his former primary school teachers, and one of the memories he has from her class is that she read aloud  The Hobbit (Bookshop | Amazon) to the class. So that was a great memory! Other than that, he doesn't really remember a time in his life where he hasn't read or enjoyed a good story, whether in a book or a film.  "I see life through storytelling," Tom says. 

These days, Tom reads quite a bit of non-fiction, but he'd like to read more fiction. 

In non-fiction, he's a big fan of learning and personal development, enjoying works by authors such as Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin. He's likely to pick up a non-fiction title if he's seen it mentioned frequently on the internet or bestseller lists. 

He's working on a fiction story idea, so that's contributed to his desire to read more fiction as well. He's been revisiting some old favorites, which had specific elements that he remembers working well to tell the story or that he enjoyed quite a bit.  That's included re-reading The Hobbit (Bookshop | Amazon), The Lord of the Rings (Bookshop | Amazon) and the Harry Potter series (Bookshop | Amazon). He was noticing things like the amazing world building and how it's done in those works. He's currently reading Eldest by Christopher Paolini (Bookshop | Amazon).  

His favorite author is Matthew Reilly (with titles such as Ice Station, Area 7, Contest). In an email to me after we recorded the show, Tom explained, "Don’t expect to read any character development or poetic prose. He writes crazy fast and he writes what is essentially a giant Hollywood action thriller on the page. But as a lover of books, you (and your listeners) might find his approach to storytelling interesting. Other than that, he offers a brand of escapism that I love. He also just directed a movie for Netflix which comes out… next year maybe. It’s called the Interceptor. Not sure if it will be any good, but I’m intrigued."

When it comes to books for new parentsCommando Dad by Neil Sinclair (Bookshop | Amazon) came recommended to Tom when he was a new dad. He does recommend reading at least one book kind of like that, to give you a high-level view of child development and what to expect during the next 9 months, and so on. But he also recommends seeking out other people's stories of parenting through biography, memoir, or profiles. And that talking to other parents is incredibly helpful, too. 

Arlo is currently enjoying The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Bookshop | Amazonand Meg and Mog (Bookshop | Amazon). Tom and his partner have been reading Arlo stories since he was a bump, and they've just continued on since his birth. They currently read two stories a night before bed. 

Books I recommended to Tom Kreffer on episode 84

The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander has some fantastic world building and adventures. It's a bit younger reading level than the Lord of the Rings (more like Chronicles of Narnia) but delightful for adult readers as well. My husband and I both listened to the audiobooks, which are excellent. (Bookshop | Amazon

Erin Morgenstern’s books, especially The Starless Sea (Bookshop | Amazon) but The Night Circus (Bookshop | Amazon) is magical and brilliant too. 

Shaun Bythell’s books: The Diary of a Bookseller, Confessions of a Bookseller, Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops -- Tom Kreffer's books are very different than Bythell's books are, but they both write about their daily experiences with an irreverent and humorous tone. I think Tom will really enjoy these books. 

Lucy Knisley’s books: Relish (Food Memoir), An Age of License (travel memoir), Kid Gloves (pregnancy), Go To Sleep, I Miss You (early parenting comics) -- Knisley writes about her own life in graphic novel format in a way that reminded me a bit of Kreffer's style. I love her art, too! 

Also, I didn’t mention it on the show, but afterward I let Tom know that one of my current favorite non-fiction authors is Jon Acuff. He writes more of the business / self development book type, and his newest book is Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking (Bookshop | Amazon).  

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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