Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Best New Books of 2014: Amy W’s Picks

December 1, 2014

I enjoy a well-balanced diet…of books. Here we have something for EVERYONE from light and fun page-turners to thought-provoking non-fiction. Don’t let 2014 end without checking out any (or all) of these awesome books!

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Easter and Ruby are two young girls placed in foster care after the sudden death of their junkie mother. The girls are used to watching out for themselves. They hope to be adopted, but do not want to live with their maternal grandparents in Alaska, total strangers, living in a strange land. Their estranged father, a washed up amateur league baseball player, appears suddenly and confuses the already precarious situation. In the backdrop of the novel and adding to the tension, is the home run rivalry between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The scores go back and forth and the competition is of interest to everyone. This Dark Road to Mercy is a well-constructed, page-turner that artfully tells a moving story in which children are once again thrust into an adult world.  See my full review.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Roz Chast, a longtime New Yorker cartoonist, documents the slow decline of her aging parents. Not only does this impact her life at the time, but spending time with them at their most vulnerable brings up old anxieties. No surprise, Chast tackles this subject with great humor and candor. I found this book to be comforting and thought provoking. The graphic memoir format really lends itself to exploring a topic I would ordinarily shy away from reading.

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Remember back in the 80’s when you would talk on the phone for an eternity until your ear actually hurt? I do. I loved talking on the phone, not so much cell phones— and texting has its moments if you can get past all the auto-correct errors. Nothing will ever surpass the old school telephone when it comes to connecting with another person. Georgie McCool is in crisis mode. She is a writer for a sitcom that just may get a pilot. Her marriage, family, mental health and personal hygiene suffer from the effort. She needs to reconnect. Her old yellow phone becomes her lifeline to the past and the present. Told with great humor and tenderness, Landline is a delight!

All Joy and No FunAll Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
Why, why, why is parenting so hard today? This thought has crossed my mind a lot, well, more accurately, this thought lives in my mind and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Parenting seemed easy for my mom (it also did not hurt that I was a perfect child, am I right?). This is really the only parenting book I have ever read and boy, do I love it! It is not a book about how to parent , but a look at what parenting is about these days from a sociological and psychological perspective. So, I was right — it is hard–but now I spend a lot less time focusing on the no fun aspects of parenting. See my full review.

Thousand Dollar Tan LineThe Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
I loved the Veronica Mars television series! This book takes place a few years after the series ends when Veronica gets really close to joining the FBI but decides to live and work in her small, California beach-side hometown, Neptune. Written by the series creator, writer and producer, Rob Thomas, stylistically the book is true to the spirit of the show and the 2014 movie. I know you are thinking, “that sounds kind of low-brow for you, a well-read librarian”. Well, it’s not. This book is not great literature, but it is perfectly entertaining and it was great to be reunited with old friends (this is the part where you remember the catchy theme song…A long time ago, we used to be friends….).

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

July 28, 2014

All Joy and No FunI have to admit that reading is such an escape for me that I rarely read anything directly applicable to my life. This includes books about: work, parenting, self-help, spirituality, politics, and global issues. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood is the exception for me.

Ever since I became a parent around 4 years ago many questions have plagued me. I have questions beyond:
“How do I make her stop crying?”
“When was the last time I took a shower?”
“Did I just tell my co-worker I had to go potty?”
I often wonder why parenting seems so hard when I do not remember my mother and her generation having the same struggles being a parent.

This book answers a lot of those questions; however, it is not about how to be a better parent. The writer clearly states that this book is about the effect of children on parents . Author Jennifer Senior explicitly outlines all the things that are different today. She cites real studies, observes real parents in action, and even throws in some humorous parenting anecdotes from the likes of Erma Bombeck and Louis C.K.

Senior posits that even though parents experience moments of rapturous joy more frequently than our childless peers (like hearing my daughter laugh hysterically), we also don’t have a lot of fun the rest of the time and childcare is low on the list of fulfilling day-to-day activities. I know that sounds alarming and you think, “But I love spending time with my child!”. Look, children have never been on the top of the list to parents EVER. Senior points out (with physiological evidence) that you are dealing with an illogical being who may insist that she does not know how to put her shoes on —even though we know she does know how to put her shoes on, or screams over and over from her bedroom that she “forgot how to take a nap” (Step 1: stop screaming). So please, admit to yourself that it is not always fun, and that’s ok. But we have to put up with all the no fun to get to the joy. That’s the same with toddlers and teenagers.

So has All Joy and No Fun made me a better parent? Yes. Although Senior says she does not want to make the reader into a better parent, just more relaxed and aware of the process. That to me is a vast improvement in my state of mind and outlook on day-to-day life with my tiny caveman dictator (and bundle of joy). Now that I am taking fewer anxiety-laden guilt trips (you know, those trips that go absolutely nowhere), I may actually have the mental energy to read a book about being a better parent!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Sharon S’s Picks

December 23, 2013

One of the reasons why I like to read is for inspiration and instruction on how to live a better life. Here are the “new to me” books that inspired me most this year.

Healing Through Exercise by Jorg Blech
We all know that exercise can help prevent illness, but Jorg Blech provides well-documented evidence that exercise also promotes healing from existing illness. That means it is never too late to start. Even moderate exercise can have profound effects. The body atrophies more and more the longer we sit or lie in bed, so Blech urges us to get moving in whatever way we can to improve our health and extend our range of motion. Read my full review.

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew
First-time novelist Mayhew has crafted a wonderful tale of growing up in the South in the 1950s. The story is told by 14-year-old Jubie, whose unjaded point of view enables her to understand many things the grown-ups around her fail to notice. In the face of tragedy, Jubie finds the courage to act on what she knows to be true, even though it goes against the grain of her society. Read my full review.

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard
Is America still a place where you can make a life for yourself with very little besides hard work and gumption? Shepard decided to find out by starting a new life as a homeless man in an unfamiliar city. What he was able to achieve and how is a fascinating and thought-provoking tale. Read my full review.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho’s characters are afraid of happiness; after all, it might be better to keep on dreaming than to realize your dreams and be disappointed in them. This story of a young shepherd who dared to pursue his dream in the face of many obstacles has inspired countless readers. It is a good place to start if you want to read the works of this internationally acclaimed author.

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett
Jake Barnett is a 14-year-old genius who is working on a new theory of relativity which is expected to put him in line for the Nobel Prize. However, this biography is his mother’s story of how she brought out the best in a child who was diagnosed as profoundly autistic and unable to learn. It is a story of courage and creativity which is my favorite true story of the year. Read my full review.

Get Out of My Life, But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E. Wolf

June 18, 2013

Get Out of My LifeHow did it happen so fast?  All of a sudden, it seems, your child is a teenager.  Like it or not, here we are!  Just when the stakes are the highest, when potential dangers like driving and dating loom, parents have the least control.  Your child is almost grown up now.

“Almost” is the key word.  Anthony Wolf has counseled hundreds of teens and their parents, and knows whereof he speaks.  I am the parent of a teen myself, and what he says rings true for me.  Teens are in a transitional period.  They are almost ready to fly away from the nest, but not quite—which makes parenting them a tricky task.

The title of Wolf’s book expresses this perfectly: Get Out of My Life, But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?  Teens really do both need us and want us to leave them alone.  With humor and wisdom, Wolf explains how the “adolescent mandate,” that which tells these young people they must separate from their parents and live on their own soon, comes into conflict with the baby self which still lives inside them and wants to be pampered and safe.  Indeed, this conflict exists in all of us—wanting help versus wanting to be independent, but in the teen years it intensifies painfully.  Teens and their parents confront a transition bigger than anything they’ve faced so far.  How can teens learn to be “grown-ups” while their parents keep telling them what to do?

Wolf stresses how important it is that parents not get completely out of their teens’ lives.  Teens both desire and fear total independence, and most are not ready for it.  They still need their parents.  Parenting my teenaged daughter has felt sort of like a dance.  Sometimes she advances while I withdraw, and sometimes it goes the other way around.  We step on each other’s toes a lot, but we are also learning how to dance more gracefully. There are no hard and fast rules, but has there ever been in parenting?

Wolf’s book has helped me greatly, and I strongly recommend it to other parents of teens.  Whether your child is 13 or 19, Wolf’s wonderful insights apply.  You will find yourself chuckling, as he seems to have been a fly on your kitchen wall, overhearing the conversations (and even the shouting matches).  As one reviewer aptly put it, “Wolf takes much of the fear and anxiety out of raising a teenager with this reassuring upbeat question-and-answer guide.”  Heaven knows, we parents of teens need all the reassurance we can get!

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett

June 4, 2013

At age fourteen, Jake Barnett is one of the world’s leading astrophysicists.  He is a graduate student and published researcher at Indiana University, where he is working on an original theory in relativity which is expected to put him in line for the Nobel Prize.

At age three, Jake was diagnosed with autism.  Although he had been an early talker, he stopped making eye contact and did not speak a single word for eighteen months.  He spent many hours of the day staring at a blank wall.  Therapists and special education teachers told his mother, Kristine, that he would never learn to read, that the most she could hope for was that he would learn to tie his shoes by age sixteen.

Although Kristine recognized the importance of therapy sessions for an autistic child, she noticed that the sessions were always focused on things that Jake couldn’t or wouldn’t do.  She decided to give him opportunities and encouragement to do the things he enjoyed doing.

When Jake made webs of colored string so huge and complex that Kristine could not get past them to go into her kitchen, she never complained, but noticed how beautifully patterned they were.  When Jake dumped out all the boxes of cereal in the house and refilled them with styrofoam balls, she let him.  How could she know at the time that he was calculating volume?

Eventually, she came to see that in school and therapy sessions, Jake literally had been too bored to pay attention.  When he seemed to be staring at the blank wall behind the therapist, he was actually observing the play of light and shadows.  He became so adept at noticing these patterns that he put himself to bed every night at precisely the same time (even after his parents hid every clock in the house) using his own “shadow clock.”  Indeed, the interplay of light and time later became the basis for his groundbreaking theory in physics.  He was completely uninterested in things like social niceties and the wooden block puzzles the therapists tried to get him to do.

Once he had time to do what he loved, Jake became more able and willing to do things that were less interesting, but that other people believed were important—things like sleeping, eating, and interacting cooperatively with others.  Now he has many friends, plays basketball, chats easily with his younger brothers, tutors his fellow college students, navigates a downtown university campus alone, and gives lectures on his theory.

Nurturing our “spark” can help us become well-rounded, happy, and fulfilled individuals like Jake.  However, it takes another kind of genius—like his mom, Kristine—to help bring out the best in us.

Find and reserve this book in the library.

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

March 27, 2013

Okay, yes, this is sort of a parenting book, and perhaps not the type of book that you’d generally just pick up off the shelf, but it’s a really interesting read, whether or not you’re a parent. (Of course, since I am a parent, that’s easy enough for me to say – I’m game for pretty much anything that might make my kid more awesome.)

Pamela Druckerman was an American journalist living in Paris when she and her British husband started their family. Druckerman was immediately struck by the differences she saw between American and French parenting, and the resulting kids from each of those styles. French kids seemed, in general, to be calmer, less prone to tantrums, and to eat the same meals as everyone else (the concept of the “kids meal” being practically non-existent there.) American kids, on the other hand, are often more outspoken and confident in school, and… um, that might have been the only plus about American kids.

The book really isn’t anti the way we raise our kids in America, however. It shows both the pros and the cons of the French styles, and lets the reader make their own decision about what we might deem “good” or “bad”. Some things I’d steal from the French in a heartbeat (wine list in my hospital room? Well, hello!) and others I’m less inclined to take part in, like what Druckerman refers to as “The Pause,” where French parents wait for up to 15 minutes before tending to their crying infants, to try to understand what they need.

All in all, this was an interesting read, and I learned not only some new techniques I might try when my little one gets older, but also cultural differences between French and American adults that stem from the way we as a society raise our children.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

January 24, 2012

So, you had your 2.2 kids and read all the right books, listened to all the right experts, and now you’re an expert too, right?  Think again.  After raising four children (only one left to put through college) and sitting down to read an adult book or two, I thought there would be nothing new for me to learn about the joys and tortures of parenthood.  And then I read NurtureShock by Po Bronson (author of What Should I Do With My Life?) and Ashley Merryman.

This book will challenge everything you thought you knew about raising children.  This is not a book that proposes the “right way” to raise a child, but rather presents the facts about how the current school of thought on child-rearing actually works (or doesn’t).  And just as Steven Levitt accomplishes in his book Freakonomics, which challenges commonly held beliefs on economic issues, Bronson and Merryman support their assertions with reams of research and the results of studies conducted world-wide.

Who would have thought that the more you praise a child, the lower their confidence level?  Or that an extra hour of sleep may be better for your kid’s IQ than an extra hour of studying?  And if your argumentative teen makes you want to pull your hair out, don’t—the alternative is even worse.  All this, and more, is waiting for you inside the covers of this intriguing book.

The issues covered in NurtureShock concern children at all stages of development, from infancy to the teen years, so all parents are sure to find these insights interesting.  But even non-parents will be fascinated by the science behind the information—think of all the fun you’ll have advising your parenting friends and family on what they are doing wrong!  Parents love advice from their childless friends . . . Don’t they?

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.


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