Your "me-time" is precious, so we rounded up the 15 mom (and dad) must-reads of the year so you can get right to the good stuff.
A Country Called Childhood
Parents who love deep philosophical and critical thinking about the hot-button topic of over-parenting will relish A Country Called Childhood. British author Jay Griffiths ponders the question "Why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy?" She lists common obstacles in modern life, such as loss of free playtime, too many structured activities, and not enough emotional connection with busy parents. But Griffiths muses that the real reason for all of this angst is that children are born nature lovers and our society has removed them from the adventures of the great outdoors. Griffiths suggests that we study cultures that don't rely so heavily on test scores, travel teams, and smartphones.
Universal truth: No parent wants to raise a spoiled-rotten child. So New York Times money writer Ron Lieber put together this manifesto to rescue us all. His book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money breaks down how to deal with common kid queries such as: "Are we rich?" ("Yes. Richness isn't just money") and "Why does my BFF get the best Pokémon cards and I don't?" ("In our house, you save up for your heart's desires"). Unspoiled kids will learn to give, save, and spend, and they should have the freedom to make mistakes along the way. One of my favorite tips is to explain The Fun Ratio, the breakdown of the cost per hour of play with a toy. For example, a fourth teddy bear costs $20, and your daughter will cuddle with it twice before forgetting about it (a cost of $10 per hour). A deck of Uno cards is $6, and she will play it at least 40 times (15 cents per hour). Lieber lays our money on the table in real and honest ways. Look no further than The Opposite of Spoiled for a book that will truly help you raise your kids to be thrifty and kind.
Quippy and filled with aha moments, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, And Never Get Stuck helps you make positive changes at work and at home. Best-selling author Jon Acuff makes the obvious points that relationships, skills, character, and hustle will help you with every kind of career change. But even better, he explains how you can make moves right away. Want to network with someone important? Be a first responder—answer e-mails and pick up the phone right away. Need to know what skills you even have? Complete the in-book note-card exercise and increase your confidence ASAP. So how do you fix your character? Two ways (out of many): Be generous and turn your phone so the screen is down when you're talking in person. Hustling sound hard? It is. But Acuff breaks it down into pieces like getting the grittiest, least likeable aspects of your job done first. Though the focus is on careers, the advice applies to a busy person's (ahem, like parents?) entire life. Whether you want to change jobs, get back into the workforce, or just be a better person, this book delivers the goods you need to succeed.
- RELATED: Best Children's Books of 2015
Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We're Saying Now
Edited by Ann Imig
Brimming with essays from quick-witted, unique writers, ranging from new voices to more established ones like Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner, this book covers all parenting territory. Part of it is funny and a lot of it is tear-jerking, but every parent will find something intriguing here, from topics such as gay parenting, special needs, alcoholism, mommy judgment, and more. Even the busiest mom can breeze through an essay while hiding in the bathroom, pretending to take a shower. You may find yourself staying up past your bedtime because this page-turner is so hard to put down.
Rock, Meet Window: A Father-Son Story
Comedian Jason Good delivers his best work in Rock, Meet Window. This beautifully organized memoir focuses on Good's loving relationship with his aging dad. Good's human flaws, self-deprecating voice, and the strong father-son bond draw the reader in. The progression of his father's deadly diagnosis of leukemia makes this a page-turner. What could have been a heartbreaking look at the natural deterioration of life is instead a thoughtful vantage point on the average American family that is sweet, funny, and deep. Through stories of understanding and mercy, we see Good's devotion and love. His dad and other characters are quirky people you wish to meet—or who ring so true you feel as if you already know them. In this personal story with courageous musings, Good builds a world you want to linger in for a while and a family you root for until the very end.
Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada
When The Tonight Show host became a dad to daughter Winnie Rose, he wanted her first word to be "Dada." "I went as far as to try to trick her into saying "Dada" by calling everything "Dada," from her bottle to diapers to strawberries," Fallon tells Parents. This book is the perfect bedtime story for any new dad who shares Fallon's dream: "When people asked, "What was the baby's first word?" I wanted to say, "It was 'Dada'. She loves her Dada," he says.
Everything You Ever Wanted
The sometimes-controversial parenting strategies in Jillian Lauren's latest memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted, might make you cringe, but her story will keep you intrigued. In Lauren's previous best-selling memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, she shares her experiences as a heroin addict, a stripper, and an escort for Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei. Now she's the wife of Weezer bass player Scott Shriner and a suburban mom of Tariku, their adopted son from Ethiopia. Everything You Ever Wanted follows Lauren through marriage and infertility—L.A.-style with homeopathy, wraps, and kabbalah classes. Through Lauren's experiences, this memoir shows that all mothers struggle, do their best, and make mistakes—and it's possible to find peace in your choices. Lauren's posh take on life is fascinating and reads much like a literary reality show.
The Rocks: A Novel
Opening with an estranged 80-year-old couple fighting to their cliffside deaths, the novel jumps between 1948 and 2005 to unravel a secret that leads to the fateful moment. With dreamy Mallorca, Spain, as the backdrop, a series of events—from a shipwreck to a drug bust—take off and tie together. Think of this story as a juicy, literary soap opera.
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
How far would you go to pursue your dream? Title character Sophie reaches for success at the expense of her relationships and her sanity. Her mesmerizing pursuit—told from the viewpoints of people who knew her best, and never by Sophie herself—has gorgeous yet catastrophic consequences.
In the Unlikely Event
In her first adult novel in more than 16 years, Blume focuses on a real-life series of airplane crashes in the early 1950s in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The main character, Miri, shows how these tragic events transformed the community. But the book is more of an epic tale that weaves together deeply human characters who are involved in relationships, conflicts, and triumphs.
This breathtaking fantasy novel opens with The Dragon, a wizard who protects the people of a quiet village from the nearby evil Wood. In exchange for his services, The Dragon chooses one young woman every ten years as his payment. When he takes the main character, Agnieszka, she discovers her talent for magic—and whether she has what it takes to be a heroine.
A Window Opens
In Elisabeth Egan's debut novel, A Window Opens, the likable heroine, Alice Pearse, has to leave a flexible job as a book editor to work full-time when her husband makes a radical career change. She's sad to miss out on moments with her three kids. But she's excited to work at a high-tech literary company—at first. Her boss, a woman who uses Jekyll-and-Hyde managing tactics, expects Alice to be available at all times via e-mail, and the company's president feels that women belong at home with their children. Meanwhile, her husband drinks too much, her dad's throat cancer returns, and she misses the moment when her youngest child learns to read. Egan balances the minutiae of small-town suburban life—like a laundry basket overflowing with mismatched socks—with an insider peek at contemporary corporate life in this funny and modern take on what it's really like to "have it all."
Those first few days after you've popped out your brand-new baby are epic, and author Julie Halpern depicts this roller coaster with wit, warmth, and authenticity in her novel Maternity Leave. Halpern's main character, middle-school teacher Annie Schwartz-Jensen, thinks she has everything under control with her detailed birth plan and diligent baby research. From the moment this book starts in a hilarious and profane delivery-room scene, it's clear that Annie—like the rest of us—has absolutely no idea what she's getting into. She and her husband, Zach, struggle through predictable ups and downs involving bodily fluids and Facebook posts during the first six months of baby Sam's life. Edgy yet still breezy, this novel flies by faster than those weeks on maternity leave. Read it with a baby on your boob for relatable belly laughs.
No topic is taboo and no word is too profane for author and New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake. Her book Mama Tried: Dispatches From the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting is part memoir, part commentary, part comic strip, and full of funny illustrations and dirty jokes. She makes fun of women who save their placenta and buy baby-wipe warmers. Flake has had every politically incorrect thought about motherhood that you can imagine. She says pregnant ladies who get a doula are bougie, but then she hires one—which shows her willingness to laugh at everyone, including herself. Irreverent and out-there, Mama Tried is a refreshing addition to your library of parenting books.
Year of Yes
The mastermind behind ABC's Thursday night lineup (Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, for starters), holds many powerhouse titles: screenwriter, director, executive producer, and single mom of Harper, 13, Emerson, 3, and Beckett, 2. After pledging to say yes to every scary invitation that comes her way, she adds author to the list. During this year-long challenge, Rhimes learned that saying no boxes you in. "The fear of saying 'yes' is much worse than doing whatever it was that was making you nervous at first," she tells Parents.
- RELATED: Shonda Rhimes on Her 'Year of Yes'