In my past life I was a high school English teacher, and one of the things I miss the most about being in the classroom is getting to be a source of reading recommendations. Here are some of my favorites listed by category in no particular order. This list will grow and change as I read new favorites and recall more old favorites, so be sure to visit this page again. Please let me know if you have a Goodreads account so that we can connect there. Perusing friends' bookshelves is one of my favorite ways to find new stuff to read.
The bar is set a little low with parenting books because it doesn't take much to rise above the din of everybody out there feeling qualified to have an opinion about how you ought to be raising your children. The books that made my list aren't here because I necessarily agree with everything that's written in them, but because I found at least some part of them genuinely helpful.
MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet Penley - A book about knowing yourself as a mother. Read the post I wrote about it here.
Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years by Jim Fay and Charles Fay - I was a fan of Love and Logic as a teacher, and that enthusiasm has translated to their system of disciplining as a parent. If you're not familiar with L&L, it's about encouraging children to learn authentic self-responsibility. This book shows you what that looks like for toddlers and preschoolers.
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp - Dr. Karp has 5 S's for getting your baby to stop crying. I won't say that it worked for us in our twin haze all of the time, but it certainly gave me a place to start as a new parent. And psssst - there's a dvd version available on Netflix.
The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp - This book is about dealing with toddler temper tantrums. It's a good little set of tools to have in your arsenal.
Superbaby by Jenn Berman - The title on this one is sort of misleading. It sounds like crazy people who spend crazy tuition money on preschool should be reading this book, but it's really for anyone who wants some facts about how to give your children the best start in life.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley - There are a few variations on this title, and I've read a couple of them. At the very least, you'll learn some useful information about how people sleep (and knowledge is half the battle, as they say), not feel like such a loser, and get some ideas for making nighttime not so sucky at your house.
Healthy Mama, Happy Baby: The (Mostly) Organic Guide to Baby's First Year by Robert Sears - Just a good guide to feeding your baby well and exposing him or her to as few toxins as possible.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education At Home by Susan Bauer and Jessie Wise - If you're interested in home schooling at all, read this book. In my professional opinion, this is a program that practically all children would benefit from. Also read it if you think that homeschoolers are a bunch of lazy, socially backward, religious nuts.
The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears - This seems to me to be the most objective guide to vaccination out there.
I understand and respect that not everyone may want to adopt the same dietary lifestyle, but I cannot understand why anyone would willfully choose to remain ignorant about what we put in our bodies every day. The food system in this country is crazy messed up, and you need to know how to protect your family. Without an iota of exaggeration, it's a matter of life and death.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - One family's experiment with living off the fatta the land. You'll want to grow a garden by the time you've finished.
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser - An expose that will have you swearing off fast food for a good long while.
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman - Bittman explains why the way Americans are currently eating is both dangerous and unsustainable.
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - Pollan has emerged as the great food prophet of our time. This is his masterpiece.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - Another Pollan great that explains the importance of eating real food.
Veganist by Kathy Freston - Even if you don't want to be a vegan, this is a great, very readable summary of the reasons to eat a plant-based diet.
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell - A summary of research that exposes the dangers of the Western diet and strongly promotes a plant-based diet.
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg - Eating fish isn't what it used to be. This books explains why.
Books to Make You Laugh
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern - Short anecdotes about the author's tell-it-like-it-is, potty-mouthed, loving father.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris - It took a couple of readings for me to "get" this one, but if you can give up your idea of what Sedaris *always* does, this is good stuff.
The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Edna Baker - This memoir takes you back to your early twenties in a good way. The author is funny, insecure, and genuine.
Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not by Amy Sedaris - If you liked Strangers With Candy on Comedy Central, you'll like it. If you don't like Amy Sedaris, you'll find it tedious.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris - I read this every year around the holidays. "Santaland Diaries" is a work of sheer genius, and it's oft quoted in our house.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - Believe it or not, I really pared down the Sedaris suggestions. This is probably my overall favorite from him because of the stories about taking classes from the world's meanest French teacher. Oh, it makes me laugh and laugh.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer - It's reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, but it'll tug at your heart even more.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Fantastic young adult lit that's smart enough for grown-ups to read. It does what good science fiction does.
Everything Matters! by Ron Currie - A well-written book that makes you think about how life should be lived, and it does it in the least cheesy way possible. Be warned that as a parent, I found parts of it difficult to read.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - A nicely crafted story that sucks you in. It's sorta twisty turny.
World Made By Hand by James Kunstler - This is my favorite post-apocalyptic novel. It certainly has its dark parts, but it's not overly grim. It made me think, "Yes, this is exactly how it would happen."
The Book Thief Markus Zusak - Another book that's considered young adult lit that has plenty to offer not-so-young adults. It's a WWII book set in Germany, but it doesn't feel stale at all. It's narrated by Death. Expect to cry at least once.
I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle - This is the book to read if you've ever loved a John Hughes movie. You'll laugh, but you'll also remember those crazy days surrounding your own high school graduation when you desperately wanted to end the high school chapter of your life well and accomplished just that in spite of yourself.
The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle - This should possibly be included under the Books to Make You Laugh category. It's the story of a bear who finds a manuscript under a tree and becomes a literary sensation. If you're an English major or just a book lover, you'll laugh out loud. A lot.
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - This is a holocaust story set in France that manages to feel fresh and uncliched. The present day component of the book isn't as compelling, but the story at the heart of the book is just heart-wrenching.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - By the time in life that you're reading mommy blogs, it's probably safe to say that you've either already read The Great Gatsby or you're not going to. I'm including it here both because I love it so and also because it's worth another read as a grown-up. You can like it as a high school kid, but it's a whole new book as an adult.
Uglies Scott Westerfeld - Uglies is another young adult science fiction pick. It's so smart, so relevant. Seriously, young adult lit is some of the most original stuff out there these days.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - I'm just putting this one on here because it's one of my favorite books of ever and all time. Ahead-of-its-time feminism, chock full of all that symbolism stuff that English majors love, and a hot yet chaste romance. It's dreamy.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel - I got the opportunity to teach this book once and only once. It was so much fun to watch the students discover the book they thought was the mundane story of a boy's survival in a lifeboat with a tiger is actually something much more profound. It's absolutely one of the great books of our time.