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The 11 books I wish I had read as a new mom

One of the exciting (and unexpected) privileges of writing Minimalist Parenting has been the feeling of joining a conversation already in progress. This shouldn’t come as a surprise–after all, what is blogging and social media if not conversation? But when I was a new mom, that’s not how it felt. Parenting books and magazines and their credentialed authors perched on their pedestals, and the rest of us sat at their feet and read along. There was no Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads or blogosphere to bridge the distance.

Today, parenting advice feels more like a back-and-forth exchange between writers and readers. There’s room for tweaking, disagreement, and reality checks. The sheer volume of information causes its own problem, but at least there’s a place to talk about it.

What’s more, the tone of many modern parenting advice books has changed. Real-world experience, individual choices, and the acceptance of imperfection permeates these books. They inspire confidence, as opposed to undermining a new parent’s emerging gut sense of things (which is the MOST important skill for a new parent to hone).

I suspect the reason these books resonate with me is because of the parenting experience I already have. Had I read them at the beginning of my parenting life I might not have been able to appreciate their wisdom. Nonetheless, I’m glad these books are here now, so those just starting out can hear the message that they already have within them all they need to grow into amazing parents.


  • 11 empowering books for new parents 1 of 12
    11 empowering books for new parents
    I wish these were all in circulation when I was a new mom. None are about life with babies or "how to survive the first year." But all contain wisdom I have found to be grounding in my own parenting life.
  • Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine 2 of 12
    Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine
    Madeline Levine's is one of the most grounded, approachable voices in parenting advice today. She has emerged as an expert on the topic of "overparenting," and this is a good thing. From my Amazon review: "Dr. Levine's book lays out what we already know deep inside: children need space and trust to grow into self-reliant, confident, kind and productive people. What I love is that she gets her message across in an engaging, readable way *without* belittling or insulting parents who are caught in the grip of overparenting. Parents are doing the best they can in a climate that reinforces their fear, and overparenting is the result...blaming parents for today's zeitgeist doesn't help anyone. But providing practical, you-can-do-this advice in a tone that recognizes parents' intelligence and good intentions WILL help people. Many people." Amazon listing | Author website
  • The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel 3 of 12
    The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
    This is the one book of the group that was available when I was a new mom, but I didn't read it until later. While the book is rooted in Jewish teachings, it's applicable (and enjoyable) for everyone no matter one's spiritual leanings. A beautiful, gentle, engaging book that reminds us about the lessons inherent in life's challenges. Amazon listing | Author website
  • Stuff Every Mom Should Know by Heather Flett and Whitney Moss 4 of 12
    Stuff Every Mom Should Know by Heather Flett and Whitney Moss
    Heather and Whitney are friends and creators of the wonderful blog Rookie Moms. They bring the same "we're in this together" wisdom to this book. So comforting. Amazon listing | Author website
  • Bebe Day by Day by Pamela Druckerman 5 of 12
    Bebe Day by Day by Pamela Druckerman
    This is Pamela Druckerman's followup to Bringing up Bebe. What I appreciate about both books is how they remind us that the culture we parent in has as much (maybe more) influence on our choices as our own values. Amazon listing | Author website
  • The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler 6 of 12
    The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
    This new book applies wisdom from several disciplines -- business, banking, Green Berets -- to the practice of parenting. I have found something similar to be true in my own life: that the lessons we learn elsewhere in our life will be repeated -- or upended -- as parents. Amazon listing | Author website
  • Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy 7 of 12
    Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy
    My mother in-law's motto is "better safe than sorry," and it often had me second-guessing my naturally-non-worried state as a parent. This book reminds us that there's less to worry about than we might think (or fear). Amazon listing | Author website
  • Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin 8 of 12
    Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
    Gretchen's books aren't "parenting" books per se, but they offer a wonderful model for charting one's path while parenting. Every time I read her books it's like a breath of fresh air. Amazon listing | Author website
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown 9 of 12
    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
    To parent is to be vulnerable, plain and simple. Brene powerfully demonstrates the bravery and strength in vulnerability, and the essential heroism of letting our kids grow into who they are meant to be. Amazon listing | Author website
  • Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky 10 of 12
    Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky
    I could go on and on about this book. Ellen has been a hero of mine since my college years. In this book, she goes into fascinating detail about the social and thinking skills kids need to thrive...and how it's not about academics. Amazon listing | Author website
  • The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Dr. Edward Hallowelll 11 of 12
    The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Dr. Edward Hallowelll
    I don't know Ned Hallowell, but I wish I did. His love and respect for children fairly jumps off the page. Dr. Hallowell urges us to trust ourselves and our children as we all grow together. Amazon listing | Author website
  • The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis 12 of 12
    The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis
    The subtitle is "ten secrets to enjoying motherhood" but there's so much more in this breezy-yet-profound book. Amazon listing | Author website

Is there a parenting book you found particularly comforting or helpful as a new parent? Tell us about it in the comments.

Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and the publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.

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