Best Books For First Time Parents

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | May 29, 2009 11:56 am

This morning I interviewed artist Kate Kretz who has a cameo in my next book. After a very interesting discussion on topic, our conversation shifted to motherhood.  Kate’s a new mom and as I recently mentioned here, many of my friends are now pregnant and/or first time parents.  I’m always looking for great reading recommendations to pass along.

Kate suggested The Mask Of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Our Lives and Why We Never Talk About It by Susan Maushart. I haven’t read it, but here is Amazon’s review:

mask-of-motherhood.pngEverything changes when a woman becomes a mother, but society–particularly women themselves–often colludes to deny this simple truism. In The Mask of Motherhood, author Susan Maushart (a nationally syndicated columnist in Australia and the mother of three children) explores the effect childbearing has upon women. In the process, she removes the veils of serenity and satisfaction to reveal what she holds to be the truth: the early years of motherhood are physically difficult and can be emotionally devastating. New mothers increasingly enter full-scale identity crises, few women have sufficient information about child-rearing realities, and, as Maushart writes, “the realities of parenthood and especially motherhood are kept carefully shrouded in silence, misinformation, and outright lies.” The book comprises seven essay-style chapters. In “Falling: The Experience of Pregnancy,” Maushart discusses wrongful notions about morning sickness, the mixed messages about pregnancy weight gain, and the “mask” of stoicism pregnant women feel compelled to wear. In “Laboring Under Delusions,” Maushart exposes the changes 30 years have brought in childbirth, and the contemporary woman’s need for self-control in all things, including birth. In “Superwoman and Stuporman,” Maushart disabuses readers of the myth of what she calls, “pseudo-egalitarian family life.” The Mask of Motherhood is extensively researched, convincing, and deeply insightful. –Ericka Lutz

Does sound interesting and I’m curious if readers have come across the title. Further, what else might you recommend in terms of terrific books for first time parents?  Let’s get a list going.  Comment thread is open to your suggestions…

MORE ABOUT: Books, motherhood, parenting

Comments (12)

Links to this Post

  1. - Pregnancy Weight Gain | August 2, 2009
  1. oh boy, something I know something about . . . Everybody Poops is at the top of my list . . . as is anything related to being a better father.

  2. pete

    A book we like:

    ‘It’s A Boy: Woman Writers on Raising Sons’

  3. Sheril, you’re still at Duke, yes? An author in your backyard is Dr. Tracey Gaudet, who wrote “Body, Soul, & Baby.” She directs the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine. She rocks. Your mom-to-be friends might want to check it out.

    Plus you TOTALLY have to check out her center. I think you’d like it.

  4. Salon’s print edition of Mothers Who Think was a great read in the early weeks of parenting.

  5. As an overwhelmed new mom I came across The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Laurence Steinberg. It was very reassuring after I’d read so many books which described all the things I’d already done wrong in my daughter’s short life. (I held her too much! Didn’t hold her enough! She was too unscheduled! Or too scheduled! I used the wrong diapers! Fed her the wrong way!) The advice in the books is kind of general, common-sense stuff but it allowed me to calm down and realize that we were going to be able to do this parenting thing after all. I still go back to it from time to time when I feel like I need to re-focus my parenting.

  6. Julianne

    Annie Lamott’s “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year“. Non-sugar-coated, insightful, and well-written.

  7. AviN

    The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris is a very insightful book. Among other things, Harris convincingly argues that differences parenting practices among middle class families have little effect on the outcome of their children. Harris argues that, aside from genes, the influence of a child’s peers explain their outcomes far more than parenting practices.

    I suspect most parents who read this book and accept the arguments would find parenting less stressful as a result.

  8. Callinectes

    I like the Sears’ Baby Book and American Academy of Pediatrics Your Baby’s First Year for the symptom look-up (what’s wrong with my child/what type of rash is this? etc.). The Sears’ tend to hock their own products (particularly on the website). And I still use the anatomy book I bought while pregnant the first time.

    Also, Girlfriends’ Guide (though I found some of the things too “girly” for me); Your Baby & Child by Penelope Leach; Baby Minds by the same authors as Baby Signs; and my husband enjoyed the humor of Daddy Needs a Drink by Robert Wilder.

  9. I almost forgot – Raising a Daughter: Parents and the Awakening of a Healthy Woman by Jeanne Elium and Don Elium. I’m on my third run at this female child thing, so this has been a great resource. My mom got me the first edition for my older two, and I picked up a slightly used second edition when Peanut came along.

  10. The Adventures of Kid Humpty Dumpty is brillant. If you have ever Heard the old childrens nursery rhyme You must get this book. Discover The value of Makeing friends in this Heart warming tale. Humpty Dumpty would like nothing more that to make friends with the new girl in town but there ‘s a problem, the Sunny Side Twins. You and Your children will love it. Check it out at (Puppies)

  11. IrreviexViera

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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