The author Alec Baldwin, actor
The book A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce (St. Martin's Press)
Summary Mostly a personal tome detailing the battle he says he's faced in maintaining a decent relationship with his now 12-year-old daughter, Ireland, after his 2002 divorce from actor Kim Basinger. Careful on laying the blame for his troubles at Ms. Basinger's feet. Long on swipes against greedy, snaky divorce lawyers and the U.S. family law system in general, which he sees as the barrier between him and more time - and phone calls - with his daughter. Portrays the now-infamous voicemail rant he left on Ireland's phone last spring as his inevitable breaking point.
Subtext I'm not a bad father.
Disclaimer "I never wanted to write this book."
Mea culpa "I do not ask anyone to believe that this is all someone else's fault."
Amateur psych diagnosis A whole chapter devoted to the controversial diagnosis of "parental alienation syndrome," which involves one parent poisoning a child of divorce against the other parent. No proper diagnosis has been made in Mr. Baldwin's case.
Bad guys L.A. divorce lawyers, especially Ms. Basinger's, Neal Hersh, as well as Mr. Baldwin's first two lawyers. He describes Mr. Hersh as looking like a cross between Gabe Kaplan and Chuck Norris, and says "Hersh has always seemed oily and smug to me."
Filler tricks Personal stories of three men - Gary, David, Steve - and one woman, Susan, who go into more detail than Mr. Baldwin can about their stories. Loaded with tips for the prone-to-divorce man, including writing a pre-nup and, when the time comes, filing for divorce first to secure plaintiff status.
Gimme sympathy moments During an early visit with Ireland after his separation from Ms. Basinger, Mr. Baldwin tells the tale of hanging out on the couch in an L.A. house he bought near Ms. Basinger's. He asks Ireland if she wants a snack. "Looking up at me sleepily, she asked me if I had any olives and cheese. I had seen this coming, so you can bet that my pantry was filled with jars of olives and I had a block of cheese in the refrigerator the size of the Manhattan phone directory."
Calls-to-the-kids count Zero. Mr. Baldwin appears to remain estranged from his daughter.
Glaring omission Due to legal restraints, he can't reveal specifics about his divorce case and custody requirements, although he does drop snippets. Doesn't repeat the bilious "rude, thoughtless little pig" voicemail he left for Ireland last year. But he does try to explain: "It was another night in another restaurant in New York, and I had excused myself from the table to call my daughter for perhaps the 2,000th time in the past six years."
The author Lynne Spears, celebrity mom
The book Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World (Thomas Nelson)
Summary Just in case bookstore browsers don't have total recall when they read the name Lynne Spears, there's a tag under her name: Mother of Jamie Lynn, Bryan and Britney Spears (no, the Spears' son is not a household name). Through the Storm is a memoir of the Spears family, Britney's rise to fame and subsequent meltdowns. It includes some juicy details, including a look at Sam Lufti, the man who lurked around the singer around the time of her breakdown. Ms. Spears also aims to buck her reputation as a stage mother who turned a blind eye to her daughters' loose ways.
Subext I'm not a bad mother.
Disclaimer "If you're looking for parenting advice, you've opened the wrong book."
Mea culpa When asked by Bryan, her son, what the book she was writing would be called, she joked, "It's all my fault."
Amateur psych diagnosis "I believe Britney had post-partum depression, which, added to her brokenhearted spirit over the end of her marriage to Kevin [Federline] and the enormous pressure of her career, brought her to the breaking point."
Bad guys L.A. paparazzi, especially the 17 assigned to Britney full time, not to mention the people planted on planes or in Starbucks lineups hoping for an "exclusive" based on idle chitchat with Mother Spears.
Filler tricks Lots of family tree stuff, including the deaths of Ms. Spears's sister, mother and father. A chapter on her gal pals. So much God. An ode to her home, Kentwood, La. A brief mention of hitting and killing a 12-year-old boy with her car when she was 20. Lots on her ex-husband's drinking problem and their divorce. She includes her own unhinged moment: Fed up with [husband] Jamie, she hauls a cooler full of booze off his truck and shoots it with a shotgun.
Gimme sympathy moment Of Britney's last psych ward stay, Ms. Spears writes: "To see my child like that - at the lowest ebb of her life - almost killed me.I was overcome with a feeling of sadness and helplessness. Britney was under the impression we had put her in there, and we told her over and over again we hadn't. I must admit, I probably never would have had the courage to commit her to a psych ward, but it ended up being the turning point for her, and for all of us." Then the pregnancy of her 16-year-old daughter, Jamie Lynn: "I must be the most naive mother in the world, I thought."
Calls-to-kids count After a seven-month estrangement, Ms. Spears and Britney are back to four or five calls a day.
Glaring omission There's lots of talk of drug rehab, but other than prescription drugs sneaked into Britney's food and drinks by Mr. Lufti, Ms. Spears never reveals her daughter's true addictions, if any.