I won’t lie: I’ve got a library’s worth of the Babywise/Baby Whisperer/1-2-3 Magic genre of books in my house. I’ve read ‘em. I have opinions. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the stuff that you read because you want to, because you have a few blessed moments of you time, and you choose to spend it on a good book that just so happens to be about parenting (but not really a book on how to parent). Some of them are funny; some are deep; some are just so relatable that you want to befriend its author. The one thing they really have in common is that they all make for excellent beach reading. (Haha, I kid. Since when do parents get to read at the beach? Let’s say it makes for excellent five-minutes-before-you-fall-asleep-at-night reading.)
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
I laughed. Out loud. Multiple Times. It takes a few chapters, but then it’s outright hilarity. The premise is basically real life: Father of five, living in a two-bedroom apartment in New York. And, of course, Gaffigan is a fairly well-known stand-up comedian. So that’s basically your narrative. It’s more charming than you’d think, and filled with little insights and wisdom that are incredibly quotable. (E.g. Dressing a baby is “like trying to put a duvet on a moving comforter.”) Semi-related sidebar: I realize this book is, like, way old news, but I laughed just as hard (harder?) at the equally quotable Bossypants by Tina Fey, although much of that book isn’t about parenting. Still, some of it is — there’s a quiet theme of balancing work and parenthood, as well as the (non)tension between womanhood and bossdom. And she’s a genius. So, if you haven’t read it … do.)
The Second Nine Months by Vicki Glembocki.
Wee friend and brilliant writer Vicki Glembocki might have been the first person I ever knew to truth tell about how hard and unexpectedly overwhelming the beginning of motherhood can be (a.k.a. the second nine months). It’s hilarious, it’s honest, it’s reassuring, it’s moving … the whole deal. More than once, I’ve bought a copy for new-mom friends of mine, but it’s a good read at any point. (Oh, and you should read Vicki’s Wee One-on-One here.)
Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us by Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo, Mary Ann Zoellner and Laurie Kilmartin
When my mother-in-law gave me this book, I was like, “Um, thanks, I guess?” But it turned out to be so quick, so witty, I found myself reading it during late-night feedings. It’s a sort of parody of the very self-serious advice books that lay out situations parents face (and, I guess, a parody of very self-serious parents): It’s irreverent and silly and smart and written in a cool-girl-to-cool-girl tone … complete pleasure-reading.
Okay, so it’s not a book, but I had to include one great little essay. My Dad Tried to Kill Me With an Alligator by Harrison Scott Key is about the fathers and their kids, and well … it’s short. It’s funny. There’s something fundamental about it. And you can read it in 15 minutes.
Another “easy reading” one, fairly self-explanatory, and truly spot-on: The Doodle Diary of a New Mom: An Illustrated Journey Through One Mommy’s First Year by Lucy Scott. Here’s a preview.
File these under the somewhat-instructional-but-still-entertaining (and potentially enlightening!) reads: Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I know this book has its detractors, but I thought it was clever, non-preachy and full of interesting anecdotes. If you veer even a little Francophile, you’ll eat it up, whether you use it as a parenting instructional or just … French voyeurism. Then there’s also Wee friend Paige Wolf’s book, Spit That Out, which is a sort of real-talk approach about trying to be a green family, and trying to live a safe, healthy, eco-friendly existence in a world that’s not really any of those things. It’s helpful, it’s quick, it’s lively and it’s real. If you don’t have time for books, there’s also her blog.
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott.
A firsthand account of a single mom (and ex-alcoholic) raising her first baby at the age of 35 … made special because that single mom is Anne Lamott, who is a straight-up national treasure. I have yet to read a word Lamott has written that I haven’t loved. She’s funny, she’s real, she’s breathtakingly honest and uplifting and full of faith and insight. (All of the things a parent needs.)
Other “parent” books that have gotten the two-thumbs up from trustworthy readers:
Three Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor. (An oldie but a goodie, a sort of precursor to the Sh*tty Mom genre.)
The Idol Parent by Tom Hodgkinson (Hmm. Are we noticing a theme here?)
Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary. This one is on my list, actually, and is described thusly: “… hilarious and heartfelt look at child rearing with a glimpse into the genuine love and compassion that accompany the missteps and flawed logic. It’s the story of head lice, almost-dirty words, flat head syndrome, and a man trying to commit the ultimate act of selflessness in a selfish world.”