Take a break from the likes of Goodnight Moon or Harry Potter to gain some fresh parenting insights and spot-on advice. These five titles make our top shelf for best books for parents this past year:
By Alice Callahan (Johns Hopkins University Press)
Wouldn’t 100 percent evidence-based parenting make all our lives easier? Alas, not every facet of human childrearing has been—or can be—tested. The next-best thing: having a scientific, neutral mind methodically parse out what we know from what we think we know.
What’s in this book for you: the evidence-based bottom line on cord-cutting, newborn medical procedures, sleep, starting solids, vaccines, and more—to balance Grandma’s advice and the insta-opinions showing up in your newsfeeds.
About the author: She’s a mom of two (her kids were born in 2010 and 2014) with a PhD in nutritional biology (which explains why the feeding chapters are so strong) and spent two post-doc years studying fetal physiology.
FOR THE LONG HAUL
By Julie Lythcott-Haims (MacMillan)
The basic premise here: To raise kids who are self-reliant, resilient, determined, and ready for the world, we’re better off putting our intensity into things like assigning them chores and encouraging risks instead of micromanaging their homework and decisions.
What’s in this book for you: lots of specific what-to-do’s when, drawn from a wide variety of experts and backed by lots of convincing evidence. And the advice starts as early as the toddler and preschool years.
About the author: As dean of freshmen at Stanford for a decade, she saw plenty of clueless, miserable kids “on a path of somebody else’s making.” She’s also a mom of two teens.
FOR YOUR OWN SANITY
By Laura Vanderkam (Portfolio)
Ask 100 women earning at least $100,000 a year to log how they spend every hour for 1,001 days, and you get some pretty interesting time-management insights. Although they’re all from the same socioeconomic strata, they offer up some good advice for any busy parent about setting priorities and finding creative solutions.
What you get: Inspiration (that won’t make you feel like crap) and the gift of time!
About the author: She knows from busy: She writes extensively about time use, runs marathons, and serves on charity boards. Oh, and she has four kids who are in primary school or younger.
FOR THE BOTTOM LINE
By Ron Lieber (HarperCollins)
Everything in your kid’s life having to do with money—the tooth fairy, allowances, chores and jobs, holidays, birthdays, cell phones, tuition—also transmits messages about personal traits and virtues. Here’s thoughtful advice on how to proceed with care.
What’s in this book for you: Gold-chip ideas on how to navigate all those issues in ways that earn you less materialistic kids with healthy values.
About the author: He’s a longtime personal-finance columnist (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal) and a dad.
FOR YOUR PEACE OF MIND
By Courtney Jung (Basic Books)
If you’ve ever felt a hint of judginess, insecurity, uncertainty, or mompetition about how you feed your baby, you might have wondered how something so basic became so complicated and controversial. The author—a thoughtful political scientist who (let’s get this out of the way) breastfed her own two kids—dives into some gnarly but uber-relevant questions. Has breast milk (pumping, sharing, etc.) become more important than breastfeeding itself? Are benefits, while clear, nevertheless a teeny bit overstated? And the big one sure to inspire more of that judginess she aims to challenge: How much in the great scheme of things does every feeding choice really matter?
What’s in this book for you: Less guilt, especially if you find pumping to be a drag or have trouble producing milk or ever found yourself defending any kind of choice around feeding. More clarity about why it’s become fraught in some way for almost all of us.
About the author: Worth repeating—she happily breastfed her own two kids and is a breastfeeding proponent. She’s also a University of Toronto professor of political science.