Ah, summer: the time of year to buy a new book, throw it in your beach bag, and promptly forget about it while you follow your children around the beach, reapplying sunscreen and scooping sand out of tiny mouths.
I haven’t actually taken my child to the beach, but I don’t have to. I’m positive that’s how it would go. But if you find yourself somewhere with time to read this summer (even if “somewhere” is a musty closet at work, hooked up to a pump—been there), here are a few books I loved and hand-picked for new parents but, really, appropriate for anyone.
(Why should I listen to you? you may be asking. Look, I have my library card number memorized and no less than 17 books on my nightstand at all times. I’m here for you.)
I recommend reading The Light Between Oceans while you’re still waking up every few hours with your newborn. This book is about losing a baby, but in a very epic and highly fictional way. This nuance is important—it didn’t make me overly emotional and terrified, but I did wake up in the middle of the night happy to hear my baby crying and eager to snuggle with her.
Breaking news: when you have a baby your routine goes out the window. (What would you do without my exclusive wisdom?)
You may have read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. With the same down-to-Earth research infused with practical advice, her latest book Better Than Before breaks down the science of habits and, if nothing else, gave me a glimmer of hope that I might one day have a routine again. (six months later, I’m still working on it.)
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is just plain fun. It’s a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice that features reality TV and Crossfit.
The chapters are short, so perfect if you’re trying to sneak a few pages in here and there (but it didn’t stop me from staying up until two in the morning reading.). As a new mother trying to find my way, it didn’t hurt to be reminded that I probably can’t be as awful as Mrs. Bennett.
Bonus: book club with your baby! (I actually used the BabyLit version of Pride and Prejudice to refresh my memory of the plot when Wikipedia sounded too hard.)
Not to be dramatic, but MWF Seeking BFF kind of changed my life. The author, Rachel Bertsche, finds it difficult making friends as an adult (because, um, it is) and spends a year going on 52 friend dates. Not all of them work out, but the vast majority of her dates are just as eager to make friends as she is.
I realized after reading this book that putting myself out there to make friends wasn’t as scary as it seemed—in fact, it’s kind of necessary. I used to consider myself shy; today I’ll walk up to a stranger, compliment her outfit and ask if she wants to be best friends. (Okay, that hasn’t happened yet. But it could at any moment.)
So, Drew Barrymore seems happy, hard-working, smart, and like an overall good person. Her parents…well, her mom infamously took seven-year-old Drew to Studio 54, and her dad is a whole other set of circumstances. Do you know what this means to me as a mother? I can make mistakes and chances are, my children will be happy, productive members of society who sometimes get to kiss Michael Vartan.
I always recommend listening to the audio version of celebrity memoirs, and Wildflower lived up to that recommendation (would you believe actress and director Drew Barrymore is an exceptionally good storyteller?) Warning: there are a few stories where I would have appreciated less high pitched squealing; also, the chapters about Drew’s daughters had me blinking back tears of happiness or empathy or something like it.
Between the World and Me admittedly sticks out among the rest of the books on this list, but it was one of the best books I read in my first year as a parent. I will never understand what it’s like to raise black children in this country. But I can listen, and I can learn, and when a book like this exists there’s really no reason not to. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son took me away from my admittedly minor problems (crying baby, missing nipple shield, poop smeared jeans, etc) and offered an important perspective on parenting that can’t be ignored.
“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”— Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me