How to Be a Family

The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together
By: Dan Kois
Narrated by: Dan Kois
Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (97 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this "funny and honest" (Pamela Druckerman) memoir, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together.

What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family?

Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, they scheduled their children's time wisely, and when they weren't arguing over screen time, the Kois family - Dan, his wife Alia, and their two pre-teen daughters - could each be found searching for their own happiness. But aren't families supposed to achieve happiness together?

In this eye-opening, heartwarming, and very funny family memoir, the fractious, loving Kois' go in search of other places on the map that might offer them the chance to live away from home - but closer together. Over a year the family lands in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas. The goal? To get out of their rut of busyness and distractedness and to see how other families live outside the East Coast parenting bubble.

How to Be a Family brings listeners along as the Kois girls - witty, solitary, extremely online Lyra and goofy, sensitive, social butterfly Harper - walk through the Kiwi bush, ride bikes to a Dutch school in the pouring rain, battle iguanas in their Costa Rican kitchen, and learn to love a town where everyone knows your name. Meanwhile, Dan interviews neighbors, public officials, and scholars to learn why each of these places work the way they do. Will this trip change the Kois family's lives? Or do families take their problems and conflicts with them wherever we go? 

A journalistic memoir filled with heart, empathy, and lots of whining, How to Be a Family will make listeners dream about the amazing adventures their own families might take.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Dan Kois (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Might remind cinema-minded readers of the end of Bill Forsyth's 1983 film Local Hero...nicely tuned-in observations befitting a keen-eyed journalist." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Kois and his family actually take the dizzying leap to leave behind their lives for a year-a trek that takes them from New Zealand to Kansas-and the result is a unique book that every overstressed and anxious (meaning = every) parent should read." (The Millions)

"How To Be a Family is a witty, surprising and compulsively readable book. You may find yourself planning a geographical cure of your own by the time you reach the end of it. But Kois is too thoughtful a writer to dwell only on the transformative possibilities of such a trip. Nothing is quite as his family imagined it would be and this leads the book into exhilarating, emotionally complex territory." (Jenny Offill, author of Department of Speculation

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Really enjoyed! Funny, Good narration.

I love to travel but don't really like kids (haha) so I wasn't sure I would like this. But I loved it . So thought provoking about how other countries value their time, money and family life. I feel like I took this trip too and so much better for it. Thank you Dan Kois and family!

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Not that great

Hard to finish. It was ok, but not great. I was expecting a lot more adventure because in the title it says traveling the world... It was really underwhelming.

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Fantastic!!

Geweldig!! A must read for anyone who has ever tried or dreamed to find home away from home.

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Such an insightful book!

Dan is a wonderful writer and narrator. This book was insightful and a delight to listen to! I have also realized I am 100% a “Harper” and I’m totally cool with that!

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Interesting but poorly narrated

I enjoyed reading about this family's adventures living in several different cultures and environments. The family was relatable and the author had a dry sense of humor. Unfortunately, he mumbled at the end of about 50% of the sentences, talked too quickly at other times, and too softly at others. A professional reader who could capture the sensibility of the author would have rated a 5-star review.

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Poldering

it was fun to listen to Dan tell this story, complete with accents! It made me miss all the places we've been, and yearn for those we haven't seen yet. I was surprised that the Kansas portion was my favorite - I think because of the introspection that came with it. Poldering is definitely something that I plan to bring to our family!

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Save Your Credit

The idea of a family heading out to discover other ways of parenting around the world sounds like a fascinating experiment. But one starting out on such an adventure must be open to new ideas. Spoiler here: Kois admits that, despite wanting their experiment to be transformative, his family doesn’t find what they were looking for. And yet, I knew that would be the outcome after the first few pages. Kois comes across as self-assured in his beliefs, and therefore not particularly open to anything/one else. This made his experiment much more about sharing his view of life than trying another’s. So, it wasn't the interesting learning experience I was looking for when I bought the book. However, that doesn’t mean the book is a total waste. I found the information and perspectives of people he interviewed in the cities and countries where they lived to be interesting. But it was far too much of Kois’s view rather than what he claimed to seek, to make this book a winner.
Few authors should narrate their own book; Kois is one who should not.

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Rare insight into parenting around the world

This masterfully narrated book provides a glimpse into cultures of childhood and parenting from around the world. The first hand experiences of the Kois family—and Dan’s raw honesty about those experiences—offer a personable and enjoyable foray into the topic. The sections on New Zealand and the Netherlands are especially compelling and insightful. They had me rethinking my own family’s functioning and how it is influenced by American society. I highly recommend listeners who want to continue to hang with Dan during his parenting journey check out the Slate podcast Mom and Dad Are Fighting, which he cohosts.

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Entertaining Read

This book was an easy listen and came recommended by a local mom. The premise was intriguing and I learned quite a bit about raising children in New Zealand and Delft. The second part of the book seems to come apart a bit from the original premise but was engaging enough to keep me listening. The narration is interspersed with the mom and kids on occasion but it is clearly Dan's perspective that pervades the narrative. I would recommend it and it kept my interest but it wasn't life changing.

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Good Read, couldn’t put it down

Fun book that lets you travel vicariously on this family adventure. Get to know the Kois family and the ups and downs of life on the road. Detailed accounts of Living in New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas provide a different perspective than vacation travel.

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  • Yudith
  • 03-03-20

if you want to be inspired, don't read this book

I was enthusiastic about the premise of the book, being a serial migrant with 2 daughters myself and having lived in both NZ and the Netherlands. (Being Dutch, I feel like apologising for what happened at the school in NL - it's not my experience that this is typical and I wish they had had a better time, I think many schools/teachers would have made more of an effort) Anyway - good on this family for stepping out of their hectic American lives. I liked the candidness and the observations of both the places they visited and their daughters' responses. I just found it rather depressing that they seemed to get pretty bored along the way and stepped right back into exactly the same lives upon returning. I don't know if this reflects a lack of imagination, inspiration, or a general lack of something fundamental in today's world. However, if you are looking for inspiration, l'd look elsewhere

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-08-20

Entertaining and easy to listen to

I don't usually read non-fiction and this is my first audiobook ever. A good place to start, as this didn't feel new or strange. Dan welcomes you into his family and personal struggle to be what he wants to it to be.