Why this season's most popular baby-shower gift has an obscene title

Adam Mansbach's “Go the [expletive deleted] to Sleep” tickles the funny bones of parents – precisely because the struggle to get your child to sleep can be anything but a laughing matter.

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    Adam Mansbach's "profane, affectionate, and radically honest" book about the struggle to get your child to sleep hasn't even been published yet but is already a runaway success.
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The experts are weighing in on how a 32-page humor book with an unprintable title made it to the top of the bestseller lists. Based on my own expert opinion, I’d like to announce that they’re wrong.

“Go the [expletive deleted] to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach, featuring a cover that mimics a child’s board book, hit #1 on Amazon earlier this week, and the movie rights have already been optioned. “Go the [expletive deleted] to Sleep” isn't even scheduled for publication until next month. But a PDF, showing the sendup of “go to sleep, my dear baby” rhymes overlaid with foulmouthed desperation, has gone viral.

The book's publishers describe it as "a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland." Readers are promised that the book's "profane, affectionate, and radically honest ... verses [will] perfectly capture the familiar – and unspoken – tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night.

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The prevailing wisdom has it that the viral PDF hit enough reader funny bones to fuel the book’s wild ride.

No. I don't think so. I think it's more that news of the book hit enough parents. I have to believe the popularity came for the same reason that Mansbach reportedly wrote the book in the first place, that when the father jokingly posted, “Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, ‘Go the — to Sleep' ” on Facebook, he got such an overwhelming response he had to turn the joke into reality.

Sleep problems, more than anything else I know, drive new parents over to the wrong side of despair. There are reasons why perennial bestsellers in the parenting book ghetto focus on how to get your child to bed without spending hours every night with either parent or baby in tears. In the middle of those nights, it’s all about impulse control and frustration, or, personal confession, just co-sleeping, which sets up its own set of controversies. A little black humor at those times would go a long way.

Fast Company speculated that it was readers who have actually seen the PDF of Mansbach’s book that caused orders to go over the top, figuring that the mere idea of the subject matter couldn’t explain its sales figures. “Piracy, it seems, is what has driven the book's real-world, money-making, flying-off-the-shelves success. The bootleg copy hasn't replaced the actual artifact. It has only served as a sort of free advertising,” the article said.

Nope. No one I know has seen the PDF, yet all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds, friends who have simply read news accounts of the book are announcing that they’re ordering copies – for baby showers, for friends who are new parents, for themselves.

For me, my third and last and dearly beloved baby has just finally started sleeping solidly in her crib. But I might want a copy of Mansbach’s book anyway – just for posterity. I want to remind myself, in the rose-tinted years to come, that yes, it really was hard – so hard that we all laughed at the mere idea of a book that dared to be profane about such a topic.

Seattle writer Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com

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