Our Reading Lives

Best Parenting Books?

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Elizabeth Bastos

Staff Writer

Elizabeth Bastos has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and writes at her blog 19th-Century Lady Naturalist. Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethbastos

Since I have lost the manuals that came with my babies, when the stork brought them from the cabbage patch, I rely on the books that get swapped by moms and dads on the playground, whispering, Here, take this, this one helped me figure out why my son always pretends to be a cheetah.

Actually that was me. It was my son, now 9, who was pretending to be a cheetah. I used to feed him under the table. Sometimes you just have to go with it and tell them macaroni and cheese is raw gazelle.

He now wants to be a Jedi ninja Arthurian knight. When I was his age I wanted to be a secret agent-dolphin trainer-fairy, so I guess it runs in the family to not want to be one’s pokey small rather boring unmagical self.

I want to compile a personal library of parenting books, so dear Book Riot reader-parents, would you please — please– (I’m begging here, my Husb.’s away teaching at Harvard for six weeks, and I am solo, and going a little bats with all the milk pouring and peanut-butter sandwich making, and the bickering-whining to which I say, “Stop it, you beasts!”) help me?

From where have you learned your best practices? Dr. Sears? Penelope Leach? The moms in works of fiction?

I want to get my kids into Yale, or Harvard — or any of the Ivies, really — and to become Nobel Peace Prize winning cellists or filthy rich altruists who’ve invented a youth serum or whatever so they can support me in my dotage with a Porsche.

Oops, I mean I want them to be happy, well-adjusted, and kind, and good with dogs and babies.

Here’s what’s helped: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Another is Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding The Social Lives of Children, because the social life of my daughter, 7, centers around My L’Il Pony Build-A-Bears and is extensive, fraught, and rivalrous. Sometimes I lock the door and read Ian Frazier’s The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days.

The Boston Globe came up with a list of good parenting books, but, Bad Mommy, I haven’t read a single one of them. Maybe you have and can tell me which ones are good? This may be my summer project, along with all the graphic novels I somehow missed. Is there parenting graphic novel? How great would that be?

Until there is, parents, let’s compile a master list of parenting books that are current, helpful, well-written, not-too-judgey, pragmatic, and full of hope that we haven’t yet screwed up completely.