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?