A lovely reader recently asked me which parenting books I’d recommend. Such a good question! I’ve read a few at home, and a bunch have come across my desk at work, so here are my 15 favorites (and I’d love to hear yours)…
Memoirs about motherhood:
Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly. As I’ve mentioned, when I was pregnant, I noticed that people often regaled me with parenting horror stories—from saggy boobs to sleepless nights. I think they were just trying to be funny, but after I called my mom in tears, she send me this beautiful book of letters from a mother to her pregnant friend, which reminded me of all the joyful parts of parenthood.
Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman. This memoir follows Newman while she waits for the birth of her second child and raises her wacky, philosophical toddler. I loved that she was a big worrier, like me, and her funny anecdotes doubled as parenting lessons—like this fantastic sibling rivalry advice.
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. My friends and I are all obsessed with this memoir of Lamott’s first year with her baby boy; she was single, 35 and a recovering alcoholic. Her honest, smart descriptions of new motherhood—including both meltdowns and sacred moments—made me laugh out loud and tear up. She just gets it. (Here’s an excerpt.)
Books to read during pregnancy:
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. I didn’t read many books about pregnancy itself because, honestly, they freaked me out! But I did read books to help prepare us for life with a wriggly newborn. This genius book teaches new parents how to calm a crying baby. Karp’s tips work like a charm, and if you’re too busy or tired to read the whole book, just watch the DVD.
The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins. This encouraging, detailed guide made breastfeeding much easier. I felt so grateful to have read it before Toby was born. (I mentioned this book in my breastfeeding post, as well).
Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care by Jo Frost. A book by the supernanny! I loved her assured tone, and she offers excellent advice about taking care of a new baby (baths, diapers, all the day-to-day stuff).
Books for infants:
The Sleepeasy Solution by Jennifer Waldburger. When I was going insane from sleep deprivation with Toby, a friend recommended this book to us, and I’m so glad she did. We taught both our babies to sleep using this book, and it saved our lives (and marriage and sanity). The book explains why it’s important for babies to learn how to sleep, shows you step by step how to do it, and gives you pep talks throughout. If you’d like to teach your child to sleep, I’d recommend it times a million.
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck. As I mentioned here, this book encouraged us to give our children real foods—apple slices, eggs with butter, crusty bread—instead of baby food jars and squeeze packets. Although Planck goes a bit further than I did (she recommended serving raw beef and salmon roe), I loved the freedom this book gave me to feed our kids what we were eating and trust my gut.
Books for toddlers and older kids:
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross. This book’s premise—to use “the power of less” to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids—is pretty straightforward, so I skimmed it instead of reading every word. But some of the points stuck out, including the ideas that the number of toys (and even books) your child has should be dramatically reduced, your child should see only a few toys at a time, and your child should have daily periods of quiet. We gave Toby’s toy collection a makeover, and the changes made a huge impact.
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. When Toby was two, he began refusing dinner and eating only snacks. This book—written by a Canadian mother who moved to France with her two picky daughters—completely changed our approach to food, and helped Toby eat meals happily again. See the book’s ten rules here.
Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When Anton arrived, Toby was less than enthused. This brilliant book shared wise advice and funny cartoons to “help your children live together so you can live, too.” The book changed the way I spoke to our children about each other and helped our boys kickstart their friendship.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. My mom read this book when we were little (I remember seeing it on her nightstand!), and now I’m reading it for my own kids. The authors teach you genius, down-to-earth approaches for keeping the lines of communication open with your children, so you can talk openly and honestly about their worries, hopes, joys and fears. Even though my boys are only 1 and 4, I can already see how well the book’s suggestions work.
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury. Whenever I have moments of doubt or confusion—surrounding tantrums, moving, new schools, etc.—I often turn to Janet Lansbury’s website. I’ve mentioned it a few times because her thoughtful advice always rings true. She clearly respects children and reminds you that they’re whole people in need of gentle love and compassion—even when they’re driving you bats:) Her books about parenting and discipline reflect this wonderful approach.
Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Last but not least, Jenny’s brilliant cookbook-memoir helped us not only with family meals, but also with parenting overall. Among her delicious recipes, Jenny shares funny and wise family anecdotes, including this ode to rituals. I think of her as my parenting role model in so many ways.
What about you? Which parenting books or memoirs have you liked? What did I miss? I would absolutely love to hear…