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Parents Picks: My Top 5 Books of 2013

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

After reading and skimming more than 100 books this year it’s no easy task to tell you which ones are my favorites. But I sat down, poured a beer and perused my overflowing bookshelf. It was so much fun to revisit Pamela Druckerman‘s Bebe by Day, Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and Kristine Barnett‘s The Spark. They are easily among my top 12.

But if I absolutely had to whittle it down, here are my Top 5 Books of 2013. These are the books that stayed with me all year long–the ones I went on and on about until my husband’s eyes glazed over. These titles were so fresh that I fired off Facebook statuses and emails about them.

What about you? What are your favorites of 2013?

Here are mine:

1. Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
She stepped up to the plate this year and said what hasn’t been said before to women. Just because women want to have families and careers doesn’t mean we need to start planning for it straight out of college. She encourages women to go out there and claim what’s ours in the workplace. Wait to figure out your next steps until you’re actually pregnant. That’s advice I wish I’d had when I was getting started in 1999. Sheryl is a cool chick who has her gender’s back on every page. Take this: “’Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”

2. The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
I’ve wondered for months how Emily Rapp is doing. She lost her dear son Ronan to Tay-Sachs earlier this year around the time her memoir came out. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill tragedy. She was unapologetically angry and fiercely sweet. Her frustration and struggle–without the religious backdrop and sentimentality–made her achingly real. She’s real in a way that I will never forget. I’m not sorry for her. I’m inspired by her book that drips with meaning and poetry.

3. Let Them Be Eaten by Bears
by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Thanks to this book, I’ve taken my kids hiking this year for the first times ever. Right in the beginning, he writes, “With kids, we don’t get out much. It’s too hard.” That resonated with me. I’ve been saying this to my husband since my babies were first born. Now they are 8! And they had never really been outside beyond the backyard or park. Thanks to Hoffmeister’s playful and inspiring approach, we even got our butts off the couch and went camping. I let the kids wander the playground, too, and with bare feet just to make Peter even more proud of me.

4. Orange is the New Black
by Piper Kerman
If you’re tired of books and shows about desperate women chasing dreams of men, careers and babies, this one is for you. It’s got very little to do with anything you’ve probably ever read before. This memoir, which formed the fictionalized–but equally awesome Netflix TV show–is about a nice girl who graduates from college and goes buck crazy. She lands a hot, rich girlfriend who just happens to smuggle drugs internationally. Piper runs cash in this operation just one time, and she soon leaves the relationship. She becomes a nice, normal straight woman again. But the feds catch up with her 10 years later, and she winds up in federal prison for a year while her real-life fiance waits for her. The inner workings–and indecencies–of the prison system are fascinating. Her life isn’t as whack as it is in the show, (Piper and Pennsytucky became friends for real) but Piper blasts your thoughts right open. This was a unique read.

5. Until I Say Goodbye
by Susan Spencer-Wendel 
Whenever I’ve felt kind of bad this year, I reminded myself of Susan Spencer-Wendel. She lives with ALS everyday, but she isn’t sad. Instead, she does everything her heart desires, including getting makeup tattooed on her face for when she could no longer apply it herself. While she still can, she goes on an epic trip with her longtime best friend to see the Northern Lights. She takes her teenage daughter wedding dress shopping because that’s something she doesn’t want the two of them to miss. Susan’s book did make me weepy–just once–but mostly she made me laugh. Her life has purpose and meaning, and it makes me more aware of what I’m doing with my own. Her book was optioned, and a film sounds like its in the works.

Instill a love of reading in your little one with one of these children’s books. Then, sign up to get parenting tips and tricks sent right to your inbox.

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Best Books of 2013 Roundup: Oprah, The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly–See Who’s List You Like Best

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

What were your favorite reads of 2013? I’ll list my Parents picks in the next few days, but today I’ve been having fun with are everyone else’s. Other editors and reviewers from Oprah and The New York Times don’t agree on many of the Best Books of 2013, as you’ll see below. Publisher’s Weekly culled through 9,000 reviews (15 I wrote myself) to come up with their choices–most I haven’t even heard of. So what should you read? I’m thinking about The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner which showed up twice–so did Good Lord Bird. The Interestings gets one nod, and that’s one I loved it this summer.

So stop what you’re doing–work and watching kids can wait. Take time to peruse these awesome reading choices below. I’m sending this list to my book club. (Hi girls!) We need a great new read to ring in 2014.

Oprah’s 10 Best Books of 2013


1.The Isle of Youth
By Laura van den Berg
The gist: A quirky story collection filled with unique and strong female protagonists.

2. Country Girl: A Memoir
By Edna O’Brien
The gist: A memoir by one of Ireland’s most famous fiction writers that has been compared to Angela’s Ashes.

3. The Signature of All Things
By Elizabeth Gilbert
The gist: This one about a strong 19th Century botanist proves that the Eat, Pray, Love writer is at the top of her game. Gilbert makes moss a fascinating subject, I hear.

4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell
The gist: This hugely creative collection of short stories–one about a vampire who’s afraid to fly and another about U.S. presidents reincarnated about horses–proves that the author of Swamplandia has staying power.

5. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
The gist: The award-winning saga of an electric young woman’s full-throttle pursuit of love amid the class war and cultural upheaval of the late ’70s.

6. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
The gist: A slave boy and abolitionist John Brown change the course of American history in this novel that is inspired by real events.

7. The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
The gist: Through well-tuned drama and compassionate humor, Wolitzer chronicles the living organism that is friendship, and arcs it over the course of more than 30 years.

8. The Cuckoo’s Calling
By Robert Galbraith
The gist: A book for mystery lovers by J.K. Rowling.

9. Dog Songs
By Mary Oliver
The gist: This Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s combo of woman’s best friend and poetry is irresistible.

10. The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
By Bob Shacochis
The gist: What is the legacy of war—and how long does it last—are the questions behind this brilliant and gripping novel.

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books (gathered in no particular order)

 

1. See of Hooks
By Lindsay Hill
The gist: “Pure reading pleasure on every single page, not to mention a wallop of pathos.”

2. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief
By Lawrence Wright
The gist: Wright’s prodigiously researched investigation of Scientology does what good reporting ought to do: examine something in search of truth, lay out the findings, and let conclusions be drawn.

3. Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield
By Jeremy Scahill
The gist: The Nation’s national security correspondent surgically exposes how the War on Terror is actually conducted: secret prisons, torture, extralegal assassinations, drone surveillance and warfare, gamesmanship with corrupt regimes. 

4. Men We Reaped
By Jesmyn Ward
The gist: Critically acclaimed novelist Ward (Salvage the Bones) bravely enters nonfiction terrain in this starkly honest and deeply tragic account of the deaths of five important men in her life.

5. People in the Trees
By Hanya Yanagihara
The gist: In this novel, a ccientist who, after graduating Harvard medical school in the 1940s, travels to a remote Pacific island chain where he may or may not have stumbled upon the key to immortality.

6. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
By Robert Kolker
The gist: “Even hardened true crime readers will be haunted by New York magazine contributing editor Kolker’s provocative tale of five young escorts who became linked by the tragic circumstances of their disappearances, and the discovery of their remains on Long Island’s Oak Beach.”

7. Miss Anne in Harlem
By Carla Kaplan
The gist: In this beautifully written, empathetic, and valuable addition to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) presents the untold story of six notable white women (including Fannie Hurst and Nancy Cunard, members of a larger group known collectively as “Miss Anne”) who embraced black culture—and life—in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s.

8. Constellation of Vital Phenomena
By Anthony Marra
The gist: A Chechen village, a young girl watching her father taken by Russian soldiers and her house burned to the ground: so begins Marra’s startling debut, in which a tough doctor ponders the extent of her obligation to help Havaa, an eight-year-old girl who has been brought to the doctor’s wretched and abandoned hospital by Akhmed, the girl’s neighbor.

9. The Silence and the Roar
By Nihad Sirees
The gist: “Sirees’s deeply philosophical and satirical novel echoes Kafka and Orwell.”

10. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
see details above

The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013

FICTION:
1. Americanah
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

2. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner

3. The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt

4. Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson

5. Tenth of December
By George Saunders

NONFICTION
6. After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
By Alan S. Blinder

7. Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
By Peter Baker

8. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
By Sheri Fink

9. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
By Christopher Clark

10. Wave
By Sonali Deraniyagala

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Author Allison Winn Scotch Talks About Her New Book ‘Theory of Opposites’ and The Myth of Having It All

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Former Parents.com blogger and current New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch wrote a cool new novel, and of course she wants to tell us about it. In her book, The Theory of Opposites, she writes about a woman who thinks she has the perfect life–that the stars have aligned for her and her dreams have come true. Then, her husband asks for a “break,” her boss fires her and all hell breaks loose. Read this book for a fun–and sometimes sad–adventure through heartbreak and healing.
What inspired Allison to write this kind of women’s fiction? Find out in her guest blog below:
“What’s the toughest part of parenting for you, dear readers?
For me, It is accepting that I can’t control everything in my kids’ lives. Not the day to day stuff. I’ve always been a parent who believes that children have to sort out many things on their own, and with a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, there is plenty to sort out. :) Complicated friendships; homework time-management; sticking up for themselves against a not-so-nice kid who sits behind them on the bus; sibling squabbles that could potentially end in broken limbs. These are things that I happily let my kids manage on their own (unless I really do sense that a broken limb is imminent).  (more…)
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You Survived Thanksgiving (and a bit of Hanukah): You Need Awkward Family Holiday Photos

Friday, November 29th, 2013

How was your Thanksgiving? Did Hanukah start for you, too? I know it was fun, yummy and, yes, of course, we’re all grateful for our many blessings.

But let’s get real. Hanging out with family can be, well, totally awkward.

So I have just the thing you need today as you work through those leftovers and that hangover (either from the alcohol or a major family overdose or both). You need to know that you are not the only one who scratches her head when everyone gets together for the holidays. And your family is not the only one that’s a little weird. These people are out there–and they took photographs to prove it.

So feel very good about yourself when you check out these completely real Thanksgiving pictures from the new book, Awkward Family Holiday Photos. I’ve got your back. And you are welcome.

 

 

 

*Photos courtesy of Mike Bender and Doug Chernack, authors of the mega-bestselling and beloved Awkward Family Photos and Awkward Family Pet Photos. Whether you’re sporting Mom’s hand-sewn Halloween costume, recreating a nativity scene for the annual Christmas card, or sitting on the lap of the creature you were told was the Easter Bunny, holidays make for those cringe-worthy memories that we will carry in our hearts for years to come….and, lucky for us, Mike and Doug have collected some of the most outstanding and outrageous of these holiday snapshots into their latest book, Awkward Family Holiday Photos.

Check out these 14 family holiday traditions you’ll want to start this year.

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Thanksgivvukah Is Almost Here! Author Jamie Geller Shares 3 Great Recipes from ‘Joy of Kosher’

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Thanksgivvukah is almost here! As many know, Hanukah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, and popular author and TV personality Jamie Geller is here to help with her book Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes. She’s all about delicious holiday recipes that do double-duty. Think Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing; Rice Salad with Toasted Nuts, Apples and Onion Dressing; Latkes with Caviar and Cream; Whiskey-Glazed Whole Roasted Turkey; Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese; Kiddie Candy Bark (that can be made into gelt coins); Cardamom-Scented Chanukah Cookie and Sea-Salted Soft Challah Pretzel Rolls. (Check out some great Thanksgiving crafts from Parents, too!)

Geller hasn’t always been kosher. She was raised on take-out and didn’t gravitate to her heritage until her mid-20s. When she married her husband, she was dubbed the Bride Who Knew Nothing–that’s how clueless she was about cooking. Joining his family meant celebrating more than 100 traditional Jewish holiday meals annually, complete with six-course homemade kosher dinners for the immediate and extended family. Determined to show everyone that she had what it takes and spurred to confront her culinary clumsiness, Geller didn’t just learn how to cook—she founded the Kosher Media Network and created cookbooks, magazines, a popular website and even a television show.

In Joy of Kosher, Geller wants everyone to know that if she can put really good food on the table, anyone can. There is no slaving in the kitchen (no rabbi required!) and cooking kosher is really not as tedious or complicated as one might think. Here are a 3 to get you started this week–Cardamom-Scented Chanukah Cookies, Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing and Latkes with Caviar and Cream.

 

 

(more…)

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