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.
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Best of 2013, Bringing Up Bebe, Christina Baker Kline, Emily Rapp, Kristine Barnett, Lean In, Let Them Be Eaten By Bears, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Train, Pamela Druckerman, Peter Hoffmeister, Piper Chapman, Piper Kerman, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Spencer-Wendel, The Spark, The Still Point of the Turning World, Until I Say Goodbye | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, book publishers released a slew of great books written by dads. This week, I’m going to focus on a few of my favorites. Like Glad to be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood by Tim J. Meyers. He’s spent years in the trenches raising two sons and a daughter. A longtime, successful writer, he is the primary caretaker while his wife works outside of the home. He’s full of hard-won wisdom–on everything from cleaning products to kids’ snacks–and conveys practical advice in his characteristically warm and witty style. At the heart of Myers’ book, he advocates for father involvement. When dads play central roles in child-rearing, the wives and children are happier and less stressed. When I read Glad to be Dad, I thought of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. She writes about the importance of choosing a helpful partner–someone just like Myers.
Find out more about fatherhood from Myers himself. Below, he answers questions that range from household chores to Father’s Day presents. (Hint: Get this man some peanut butter cups ASAP.)
KK: Why is it so important for dads to be involved in childcare and house chores?
TM: I think family is one of the most beautiful realities in the world, but to reach its full potential, family members have to work together. Right now, though many men are superb husbands and fathers, a lot of women are doing more than their share. Which is not only unfair, but works against that life-giving unity of the family. Children also benefit profoundly from the loving attention of their fathers–of course. And the kicker is that men grow happier and wiser too!
KK: If a dad works a lot, and he doesn’t watch the kids often, what are three ways to entice him to help more?
TM: To me it’s not a matter of “enticing,” but of growing in our understanding. One way to do that is to recognize that most men face their own pressures, especially at work. Men shouldn’t get a pass on domestic commitment because of this, but we all should respect the hard work they do (and the worry that sometimes goes with it). A second way is for husband and wife to keep talking about these issues. This is especially crucial because a lot of men don’t have good models of committed fatherhood, so it’s all new to them. Third, I think families in general should value themselves more, celebrate themselves more, which will lead everyone to appreciate being with each other. The beautiful thing is to gradually make that potential a reality!
KK: What are some household chores that males might be more likely to do?
TM: I can’t speak for all men, of course, but I don’t think it’s wise to even think this way. My wife and I agreed years ago that we would value all work that goes into the family, whether it brings in money or not, whether it’s lowly or repetitive, whatever. All the work counts–picking up far-flung socks or cleaning a toilet are as worthy as bringing home a paycheck or helping kids with homework. So everyone does everything. (Though I must admit that, out of my own ignorance, I was banned from helping our kids with math).
KK: Some husbands are very involved in the daily domestic routine. What are some nice things their wives can do to tell them thank you?
TM: Let’s see…”You are one studly love-muffin, baby!” I’m always happy to hear things along those lines. And though I’m joking, I’m partly serious too, since a guy can sometimes feel less masculine under domestic circumstances. I don’t think a man should feel that way; I can’t think of anything more masculine, for example, than a full-grown man bending to a child. But there’s a tendency to associate homelife with femininity, and I know some guys won’t mind being reminded–in whatever ways–that they’re still 100 percent male.
KK: What is/was your favorite stay-at-home dad responsibility?
TM: Being able to share the astonishing miracle of life with my children hour by hour, day by day–and giving my heart to complete partnership with the woman I love.
KK: What do you want for Father’s Day?
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TM: Buy me a power tool, and I’ll send it on to Tim Allen. But I wouldn’t mind a gift card to buy music–I’ve been eyeballing some Ben Folds CDs lately. And my family knows my desperate weakness for that quintessence of edibles, glory of all deliciousness, the peanut-butter cup. A bunch of those. A whole bunch. So yep, I’m pretty easy to please.
Father's Day, fatherhood, Glad to be Dad, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, stay at home dad, Tim J. Myers | Categories:
Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Q&A With Authors
Thursday, March 14th, 2013
The pads of my fingertips are wearing off this week. I reply to every single Sheryl Sandberg hater on my Facebook feed and ask them one simple question: Have you read her book? Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is fantastic, and I’ll tell you why.
The criticism baffles me. Apparently, she’s too rich to offer advice on being successful. She has household help, so she couldn’t possibly inspire our gender. She went to Harvard, so she can’t know how to help a state school grad (forget about a high school drop out). See where I’m going? This is nonsense. Do we read advice from Warren Buffet on money and finance? Do we devour books by Dr. Phil McGraw? Does it matter if these men have personal assistants and fancy houses? What about the bestselling diet book Shred by Dr. Ian Smith? He went to Harvard; he’s famous and well-off. I do not hear moaning and groaning about the above men’s qualifications to advise us.
I hereby declare the Sheryl Sandberg debate bull hockey.
Here are three reasons why people–mostly women, BTW–are ripping Sheryl Sandberg apart. First, hating on a working woman is, sadly, a popular thing to do. Second, attacking a book and creating a controversy generates web traffic for bloggers. Third, women love to hate on women and it has to stop. Just one example: I recently wrote a blog post about my extreme morning sickness in regards to Kate Middleton. I suffered through my ordeal–really suffered–and I got hate comments. A few days later, my husband wrote the exact same story about my morning sickness, and he received warm, encouraging words. WOMEN: WHAT ARE WE DOING TO EACH OTHER?
All I ask, in the case of Sheryl Sandberg, is that people read the damn book before they post diatribes like this one: “I may need to take a moment to reflect on all of the hoopla surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s not so innovative ideas. What is so impressive about an Ivy grad getting an Ivy grad position at a top company? NOTHING.” I respectfully disagree. A woman from any background in a powerful top position glows impressively.
Sheryl should proudly step up and take her rightful place as role model. I haven’t been this excited about a feminist book since I read Susan Faludi’s Backlash in college. Why Sheryl? She’s awesome, flawed, inspiring and brilliant. Here are the top 10 things I love in the book Lean In:
1. I relate to her. I haven’t worked at a full-time job since 1999, and I’m currently in yoga teacher training. But I still like her and would love if she’d be my friend. She embodies hard work and drive–but with flaws and vulnerabilities that are just like mine. For example, we both entered doomed marriages when we were 23. Learning from our mistakes, we chose more compatible partners the second time.
2. She offers plenty of a-ha moments. “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.’”
3. Mentors don’t matter that much. Women have a hard time finding mentors in managerial positions because of the lack of women. That shouldn’t stop us from forging relationships with people–at or above our positions–for help. Mentorship is reciprocal questioning and answering, and everyone will be invested in and learn from that. (What a huge relief.)
4. Despite what you might have read, she encourages all of the choices women make. “There are many powerful reasons to exit the workforce. Being a stay-at-home parent is a wonderful, and often necessary, choice for many people. Not every parent needs, wants or should be expected to work outside the home. In addition, we do not control all of the factors that influence us, including the health of our children. Plus, many people welcome the opportunity to get out of the rat race. No one should pass judgment on these highly personal decisions. I fully support any man or woman who dedicates his or her life to raising the next generation. It is important and demanding and joyful work.”
5. The advice is unparalleled. I entered the workforce at age 21 without even wanting kids but planning for them anyway. I aimed to be a freelancer before I even started–limiting my salary options dramatically. Here’s what Sheryl has to say about that: “Anyone lucky enough to have options should keep them open. Don’t enter the workforce already looking for the exit. Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision must be made. That’s the only way to ensure that when the day comes, there will be a real decision to make.” Where could I be–where could I go now–if I didn’t see childrearing as a career-halt?
6. Let your partner help you. “Whenever a married woman asks me for advice on coparenting with a husband, I tell her to let him put the diaper on the baby any way he wants to as long as he’s doing it himself. And if he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts that diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end. But if he’s forced to do things her way, pretty soon she’ll be doing them herself.”
7. Equality around the household equals a better sex life. “Couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex.” She cites a study. I have anecdotal evidence to support this assertion.
8. Women can’t do it all. She dropped her daughter off at preschool and then had to take a flight to the East Coast to give a TEDTalk. Her little girl was upset that Sheryl wouldn’t be home for bedtime, and it tore them both apart. Sheryl added it to her speech because other women were going through the same thing. “Women and men [need to] drop the guilt trip, even as the minutes tick away, The secret is there is no secret–just do… the best you can with what you’ve got.”
9. Little girls aren’t bossy. We should call them “future leaders” instead.
10. Women, start leaning in to other women. “The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves.”
What have you read about this book? If you had a negative reaction, was I able to get you to reconsider your position?
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controversy, debate, husband work, Lean In, SAHM, Sheryl Sandberg, stay-at-home moms, work parenting, working moms | Categories:
Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books