Five Books about Family (That Will Make You Feel Sane, Competent and Normal)

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Reading in the Train, China, October 2014

Reading in the Train, China, October 2014

As much as I enjoy magazines, they usually make me feel like I failed at life.

Women’s magazines? As I flip through the pages, I realize that I’m not quite sure whether I actually found my G-Spot and I feel sloppy because I don’t own 99% of the “wardrobe basics” featured. Cooking mags? I usually drool all over the pictures, briefly consider the recipes before realizing that each includes twenty thousand ingredients and a professional kitchen dedicated to the experiment. Fitness magazines? Is it me or the “exercise routine” diagrams are very similar to the Kamasutra tips in Cosmo? Either way, I’m not that flexible. Parenting magazines? Are those people real? I can’t do pelvic floor exercises while whipping up a cheap and healthy dinner and keeping a toddler focused on vocabulary quiz or other development-appropriate activity!

Magazines are a bit like junk food. They look good, they are easy to swallow and digest but they bring little nutrition. Books don’t offer quick fixes. They don’t go straight to the point. The story doesn’t have to fit on half a page to leave room for advertising.

Oh, I still read magazines (much like I still eat chocolate after my serving of veggies!).

But if you feel like I do about these impossibly perfect lives featured on glossy paper, let me introduce you to five great books about family that tell the other side of the story.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Currently a New York Times bestseller, this page-turning novel mixes emotional depth with a murder mystery.

Quick summary: A murder… a tragic accident… or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Why it’s a great read: First of all, Moriarty is Australian and her writing allows you to glimpse into another culture. Second, her books are like chick lit’ laced with arsenic—they explore human relationships with a heavy dose of cynicism. Her four other novels are as good—I read them all while in China!

Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

One of the best books Weiner wrote, in my opinion.

Quick summary: The story of three very different women as they navigate one of life’s most wonderful and perilous transitions: the journey of new motherhood.

Why it’s a great read: The characters are somewhat a bit stereotypical, yet the story rings true. Love, heartbreak, redemption… it’s a book about adjusting to whatever life throws at you.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend

The first book in the Adrian Mole series of comedic fiction is a classic in the UK. It sounds like it’s for kids… but trust me, it’s not, much like an episode of the Simpsons or South Park.

Quick summary: Adrian Mole’s first love, Pandora, has left him; a neighbor, Mr. Lucas, appears to be seducing his mother; the BBC refuses to publish his poetry; and his dog swallowed the tree off the Christmas cake. “Why” indeed.

Why it’s a great read: British teen angst in the 1980s—and even if you’re not British, you probably remember agonizing over a zit, a test or your crush. A hilarious political comedy.

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere…) by MeiLing Hopgood

I don’t read much non-fiction and I stay away from the newest trend, which is apparently considering French parenting la crème de la crème. This book is very insightful though as it explores other cultures and how they deal with their kids.

Quick summary: A tour of global practices that will inspire American parents to expand their horizons (and geographical borders) and learn that there’s more than one way to diaper a baby.

Why it’s a great read: The author is American and now lives in Buenos Aires. She tested her discoveries on her toddler, keeping an open-minded and her sense of humour. Not patronizing but insightful!

Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood: The Good, The Bad, and the Scary by Jill Smokler

A great antidote to zealous parenting guides—things all parents do, shouldn’t do, and don’t admit they do anyway.

Quick summary: In a culture that idealizes motherhood, it’s scary to confess that, in your house, being a mother is beautiful and dirty and joyful and frustrating all at once. Admitting that it’s not easy doesn’t make you a bad mom; at least, it shouldn’t.

Why it’s a great read: Because it’s funny, period.

Any great book to recommend on the topic?

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

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