Book Review: Act Natural recounts bizarre misadventures of parenting through the ages

As one who enjoys the quirks of history, this book is right up my alley.  Told from a rather personable perspective, this book presents a well-researched account of some of the most horrifying, hilarious, and outrageous parenting practices that have trended in the western world over the past 1,000 or so years. From baby cages that prevented the ‘demonic’ practice of crawling, to girdles for pregnant women so the baby wouldn’t grow too big, child rearing has seen some dark days and this book has them all!

Broken into topics, each chapter addresses a different parenting hot topic and how people have handled said issues at different times. Chapters on topics such as childbirth, advice columns, discipline, sibling rivalry, etc., walk you through historical attempts to address these issues to comedic effect. The things people have done to raise well-adjusted humans are absolutely astounding!

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Act Natural is not only an ode to parenting, it also provides a unique window into domestic life throughout the last 1,000 years. Interesting historical tidbits, cultural norms, and attitudes of the people who lived before us are well outlined in this book.

While filled with sources, citations, and an impressive appendix, this thoroughly-researched book is a joy to read and often laugh-out-loud funny. Traig’s almost glib tone while recounting some truly unhinged parenting practices allows the reader to gasp and laugh all while going on this educational journey through the history of parenting.

Fans of Chuck Klosterman, Mary Roach, Caitlin Doughty, and Bill Bryson will appreciate the informative nature of this book as well as the tongue in cheek humour.


Chelsea Iversen is a library technician at the Steveston Branch of the Richmond Public Library. I recently enjoyed Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese and have From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty on my bookshelf for later.

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