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Summer Book Club For Parents Who Don’t Like Most Parenting Books (Or Join Book Clubs)


Would you believe that I’ve never been an official member of a book club?

I’ve attended a few sporadically, but I never became a committed member.

I read ravenously, but most of the time I’m not a huge fan of talking endlessly about a novel that I chose to read for leisure.  (Sort of ironic from a former English teacher?)

But I’ve found that I like to comment about books on online book groups and read about what others are liking.  (One terrific, new-ish site is Great New Books, which features fiction book recommendations from fantastic writers, interviews with authors, and a community of readers who read books that are just like the ones that I love.)

However, beyond my beloved fiction, I’ve read a few books about parenting and about kids and I’ve kept wishing that I had some friends or colleagues who had read them with me.

During the past two weeks, I’ve read about another two books on parenting that I was so excited about reading that I immediately contacted the authors.  They agreed to send me books as giveaways for my readers, and I came up with an idea for a Summer Book Club For Parents Who Hate Most Parenting Books.

When my son was a baby, I read  what felt like a thousand parenting books. Stacks of them, in fact.  Sleep, developmental milestones, attachment parenting, baby care.  Many of them were full of practical information about how to survive as a new parent.

Now that my son is older I tend to get bored by these types of books.  I tend to go with my gut about  issues that we confront in parenting.  But I find myself wanting to read about bigger issues, deeper issues, about parenting, and wondering about the research on parenting topics.  But I also want to read good writing with a compelling narrative.

Here are my criteria for choosing these two books:

1. The author is an excellent writer, journalist, and researcher.  They can write really, really well.

2.  The book combines evidence-based information about parenting research with an understanding of where this data fits in with current cultural trends.  In short, the book is about a “hot topic” in parenting, and the author can explain why.

And here are the two books:

1.  One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler

 It’s a book that tackles the myths about only children.  It also talks about what smaller families mean for our society — culturally, economically, religiously, on all levels.  It’s an in-depth and personal exploration — using her own experience as well as research studies and social analysis — of the complexity of decisions about family size.  (This book has been getting a huge amount of TV and radio buzz.  Here’s the NY Times’ glowing review, and a Huff Post interview with Sandler.)

2.  And Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us by Christine Gross-Loh

This book explores why what Americans view as “good parenting” is actually unique among other cultures throughout the world.  Gross-Loh visits and talks to parents in other countries — Finland, Japan, China, Italy and others — about their parenting.  Her research-based findings about parenting practices — everything from how parents teach their children to sleep, eat, learn, and play — are combined with her own reflections about her childhood and her own parenting.  (Gross-Loh is a fantastic writer and I have loved her Huff Post pieces about American kids and parenting.)

During the next couple months, I will be writing about these books, as I read them myself, and these topics, as well as talking to the authors. I’d love for you to pick either or both of them up and join the discussion. (Or just join the discussion….) I’ll be announcing a giveaway of both books during the next two weeks for readers.

I’d love to hear about more books — parenting books that aren’t necessarily just about parenting — that you’ve read recently and your thoughts about these topics.

What are your thoughts about American parenting and about family size?  Are there any other must-read books that you’ve heard about recently?  What are your questions about this book, for me or for the authors?




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  1. Lindsey says:

    I have GOOSEBUMPS. (a) I’ve never been in a book club (b) I hate books about parenting (c) Lauren and I were friends in grade school (d) Christine and I are friends now


  2. Oh I LOVE this idea!!! I will definitely be reading Parenting Without Borders ~ I also teach Anthropology as an elective and we talk quite a bit in that class about different ways children are raised around the world. Sign me up for the book club! (p.s. Jessica, you should get an Amazon commission from me for all the books you are recommending ~ they’re right up my alley!!}

    The book I just finished that isn’t really about parenting but definitely is influencing my parenting is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Awesomeness indeed.
    Sarah @ LeftBrainBuddha recently posted…Daring Greatly … QuietlyMy Profile

  3. Laurie says:

    I recommend Baby Meets World, just published recently. The author writes a column for HuffPost. He’s witty and a good writer. Most of his writing is historical, research-based, or comparative. I found the chapter on feeding to be alarming – let’s just say I’m surprised anyone lived past babyhood and thank goodness for formula. A refreshing book in a sea of boring, repetitive parenting books.
    I’m not interested in books on family size so much. We have two and that’s it, so the debate is pretty much over for me.

  4. The 2nd book sounds really good to me. I have 3 kids, so the first one is kind of N/A at this point, right?? LOL. I like that you’ll be breaking them down for us. I have read several books on parenting, and I really enjoy Becky A. Bailey’s book “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” – it’s an approach I can handle that actually works for me when I’m consistent. Which is not often. Most of the parenting books I read are about discipline. I usually take a “combined” approach!
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  5. Nina says:

    #1. Thanks for the GNB shout out!

    #2. Very excited to read Parenting Without Borders. Totally up my alley as I love any parenting concepts that come with a big dose of REASON (as in reasonable advice).

    #3. The fallout of Synder’s has been interesting to watch . . . people seem ticked. (at least the novelist community, which I follow on Twitter for my own interest and for GNB).
    Nina recently posted…In Which I’m Somewhat Hated in a Comments SectionMy Profile

  6. Jen says:

    I am so on board with these books and I totally agree with your premise. As the mom of an only, I certainly want to read the first book, but the second is also appealing. I love to “get to the bottom” of things, and really want to understand the why’s and this is what happens when… I will definitely join your group 😉
    Jen recently posted…Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday 12My Profile

  7. Kimberly says:

    Book clubs are not mah thang chicken wang…
    Only because I like enjoying them at my pace without the pressure of having to discuss them…is that what you do at a club?
    I would love another child but I think that we are gearing towards loving our one babe with everything we got. He rules by the way. So I think the first book just piqued my interest 🙂
    Kimberly recently posted…Secret StashMy Profile

  8. Anne says:

    I love this blog, and I love your choice of books! Both look great to me, so I am going to try to keep up with you this summer. 🙂 I have a 13 month old, and I’ve really enjoyed “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman, as well as “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm” by Mei-Ling Hopgood. As a former anthropology major, I’ve really found wisdom in cross-cultural examinations of parenting, whereas US wisdom makes me feel like I might be stunting my child if I don’t stimulate her with flashcards as soon as possible. Both of these books are easy and interesting reads by smart women. Thanks for all your doing with your blog – this is my first comment but I read all your entries with great enthusiasm! I love the intelligence and research you bring in to parenting.

  9. Jessica says:

    Thank you, Anne! I appreciate it so much.
    I did read “Bringing Up Bebe.” I see that she has some kind of sequels, but haven’t read them yet. The other book sounds great! I love the cross-cultural books too. I find them so reassuring also. (Too bad I didn’t start reading more of them before I actually did buy flashcards for my son a year ago…)
    Jessica recently posted…Summer Book Club For Parents Who Don’t Like Most Parenting Books (Or Join Book Clubs)My Profile

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