Reading on, reading on.
September 05, 2012

Over the past three years and change, one of the aspects of parenthood that I have personally found both enjoyable and rewarding has been reading about topics that pertain to my parenthood.  From homemade art supply recipes to analysis of the history of male circumcision, from tomes about human nature to discussions about the politics of wet-nursing, from educational theories to nutrition textbooks…if one thing is certain, it is that becoming a parent sparked my interest in a whole world of literature that I previously thought was really just a waste of pages.


A random assortment of books sitting around my house right now…

As we draw ever nearer the birth of this second child, I find myself re-reading the books I found most informative and inspirational the first time around.  An avid reader, I find myself drawn to these books, memorizing facts, analyzing my own parenting choices and upbringing, reconsidering ideas (many of which blew my mind the first time, second time, even tenth time around) from a new perspective and with more experience under my belt.

As is typically the case when I read something that resonates with me, I want to share it.  I am curious: what do other people think about this aspect or that?  How do different people reading the same books or encountering the same ideas perceive them?

Every now and then I find someone in my life willing to read a book with me.  I belong to three parent-centric book groups.  The first book group reads books related to human nature and culture and history and discusses how they pertain to raising children.  Our current book is Mother Nature, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a book I first read earlier this year and which I am even more in awe at the second time around.  The second book group reads books related to the environment, everyday toxins, chemicals, etc. and then discusses them online.  Our current book is The Hundred-Year Lie, by Randall Fitzgerald.  It scares the shit out of me just a little bit.  And the third book group I belong to reads books related to attachment parenting.  Our current book is Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn, a book I increasingly appreciate although I continue to bristle at Kohn’s presentation.

I am the sort of person who typically juggles between six and twenty books at a time, reading a chapter here and a chapter there.  Books stay in rotation – perched on the arm of the couch, at the edge of the dining room table, in a stack on my nightstand – for months at a time.  I love it this way, love the chaos of ideas from different sources bumping against one another in my brain, love the freedom of selecting what to read based upon my mood or current circumstances.

I’ve never taken the time to chronicle or journal what I’m reading and how it affects me or what I think about this idea or that, but recently I’ve begun to toy with the idea of doing so.  As I have been re-reading some of these books, I am surprised by how much I had forgotten – and by how differently I interpret some writings today as compared to two or three years ago.


Passing on the love!  (Belly = 31 weeks).

Life.  Books.  Ideas.  Thoughts.

Today, my father and my sister are taking Charlotte to have an adventure.  I could launder the bed linens.  I could wash the dishes.  I could pull some weeds.  I could take a nap.

But instead, I think I will curl up with a book for a few hours.  This is my sanctuary.


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  1. By Christy on September 05, 2012

    I love to read, but for some reason I have avoided most books about parenthood. I kind of feel like I have my own ideas of how I want to raise my daughter and don’t want to read other ideas. I know that sounds weird, but it’s worked for 3 1/2 years. But let me tell you with this whole potty training thing I’m about to start the search of a lifetime to find books that will help me finally get all of the tinkle and poop in the potty. I’m tired of messy underwear.

  2. By Sarah Christensen on September 05, 2012

    I know what you mean.  I’ve found that I don’t like instructional “do this, do that” type books.  I like the ones that pertain to a topic of interest to me in parenthood.  For example, one of the books up there that I lovelovelove is The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer, which a blog reader recommended to me when Charlotte was six or eight or so months old.  Anyway, I ordered it into my library from someplace in San Diego and I loved it so much that I went online and ordered it.  And one of the recommended books when I was ordering it was Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives by Katherine Dettwyler, so I ordered that too, and I lovelovelove that one as well.  And from there I started reading books relative to the history of wet-nursing, how breasts are portrayed in art, how breast tissue develops, how toxins are stored in breast fat, how formula industry developed, etc.  None of them tells me how to breastfeed or addresses concerns relative to weaning and nursing, they all just talk about breastfeeding from an anthropological or scientific standpoint, which I’ve found fascinating.  I’ve also noticed that I tend to lean toward books involving cultural and historical differences - if it talks about how choices differed in the past and why or if it talks about how choices differ in other cultures and how those cultures perceive our chocies, I’m hooked.

    Potty training has, admittedly, been the one area that I’ve never been really interested in reading about.  Good luck with that - messy underwear gets old fast =(  *hugs momma* You can do it!

  3. By Sarah Christensen on September 05, 2012

    Oh, and books about kids and nature.  The bottom book on my pile there is Coyote’s Guide to Natural Awareness, which I haven’t taken out of rotation since purchase and I suspect will remain in rotation until all of our children are finished homeschooling.  I cannot get enough of books about nature education.  It’s like an obsession.  I am endlessly interested by how different cultures have connected children to nature, what projects have worked, how other people garden with kids, etc.  The local librarian even jokes about it now - when they get a new nature ed-ish type book in stock, she actually calls me to let me know so that I can put dibs on it if I want to lol.

  4. By on September 05, 2012

    Curling up with a good book for a few hours sounds heavenly! I keep a rotation of about 3 books. After that I get lost and find my self re-reading pages just to remember where I left off. Also, I have a weird obsession with finishing books, so I don’t like to overwhelm myself with so many books. But it is difficult to keep the number down. My book wish list is out of control.

    I too find my self reading books from a scientific standpoint, rather than books that say this is how to raise your child. I think that I know my child best, if I can understand the scientific part of why the brain does something, than I can figure out from there the best way the help my child overcome or get through his problems. Or, more recently, help me stay sane through three year old outbursts!

  5. By on September 06, 2012

    I typically keep two Books going at once (even at two my husband thinks I’m insane, anything more than one and he’s lost). Typically it’s one novel/memoir/lighter read and the other is a works cited/more educational piece.

    Ive always enjoyed reading, but I find myself more and more drawn to it after having kids. Like running, it’s become my quiet place.

    I once told a friend (after she complained that she feels like when she reads something about parenting, she feels like she was just told that everything she does is wrong) that you don’t necessarily need to read books about parenting that will tell you exactly what you want to hear, but that it’s good to know going in that the author feels similarly to you about certain issues. I mean you’ll find people who will argue the opposite side of the coin as everything you believe in, and others who will support your beliefs while providing more direction or supporting facts to help guide you (like some books will tell you the benefits of teaching responsibility through star charts, while Alfie kohn does a solid job of explaining the short comings of such reward systems). So, you can still become more knowledgable and secure in your decisions without totally compromising any beliefs you hold.

    I think some of the most influential books I’ve read on raising kids have been ‘your brain on childhood’, ‘simplicity parenting’, ‘unconditional parenting’ and ‘why gender matters’ (and following the gender book ‘boys adrift’ - although there are points in both of these books I question, raising two boys, these have been extremely insightful/interesting). I have come out of all of these wanting to talk/share ideas and discuss the future of my children. So much so, that I ‘made’ my husband read boys adrift… Which he was totally uninterested in, which ruined it for me (he’s more of a history/sci-fi reader).

    Anyway… I totally relate to everything you said… And wish I had groups that discussed more than just novels… And I think creating an amazon wishlist…. That suggests new
    Books was the worst thing I could have done, because now I have over a hundred books in queue, and it only keeps growing.

  6. By on September 06, 2012

    I’m curious what your thoughts are/were on ‘Last Child In the Woods’. I found so much of the information interesting, but had a rough time getting through it, I felt like towards the end it began to drag on a bit. But even though I didn’t ‘enjoy’ reading it, I walked away with a lot.

    And as for keeping a journal of things you read. My husband an I buy about 90% of our books used. Even if I don’t know if I like something I buy it… Mostly because I like to highlight/underline points the stand out to me for later reference. I’m not sure what I’d do if I had to return it to the library… But I guess a journal would work?

  7. By Sarah Christensen on September 06, 2012

    Alicia K - We buy used too, but I don’t tend to highlight or take notes in them for whatever reason.  And more than once, I’ve checked out the same book twice at the library because it sounded good - and then realized a page into it that I’ve already read it.  Sigh.

    At any rate, I *loved* Last Child in the Woods.  I haven’t enjoyed subsequent readings quite as much, but I still feel like I walk away with something each time.  I even asked my dad to read it (he did) because I enjoyed it so much.  I did feel that the end - especially the urban planning part - dragged on and didn’t really fit well with the rest of the book, but I just skip that part now lol.

  8. By on September 06, 2012

    i love this post! i don’t live near a library with books in english and i’d love it if everyone could share their favorite parenting oriented books so i can try and get my hands on them somehow… really looking forward to a good, stimulating read!

  9. By on September 06, 2012

    I got the highlighting from my husband. During discussions he had a tendency to pull out a bOok he had read, flip to a highlighted section for a quote or whatever (most of his books are history books, so usually quote from political figures, etc) meanwhile if I wanted to reference something, I’d be fumbling through and by the time I found what I was looking for, we both would have lost interest.

    But now, i find myself even highlighting novels. Lines that strike me one way or another. Whether it be uplifting, heartbreaking, whatever.

  10. By Sarah Christensen on September 06, 2012

    Yonina - I have a list of goodies too long to count =P I should really start writing about them here…I’ve just been hesitant because I bounce around books so frequently and I know it would require discipline for me to stick with one long enough to discuss it lol.

  11. By Danya on September 06, 2012

    Some parenting books I HATE (like Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall - made me want to throw it across the room), but I read it anyway, because I wanted to understand another point of view, even if I didn’t agree with it.  Some books I love - I guess it just depends on finding ones that suit your parenting / research style. Personally I read books from cover to cover in one go, and the style of book I love are ones that are backed up with a lot of research. One I would recommend is Nurture Shock - it blew my mind. I borrowed it from the library a year ago when my one was about 1 year old, and your post has inspired me to buy a copy cause I want to read it again, and I know I will read it yet again when the kids are older because it is relevant across a broad age group.

    BTW: good luck with the last trimester.  I’m 39 weeks + 3 days today - very exciting times!

  12. By Sarah Christensen on September 06, 2012

    Danya - Donald is the same way; he likes to read everything in one shot, without any interruptions from other books.  It’s so interesting to me how different we are as readers because when I was a kid, everyone in the house was always working on different books at once so it never occurred to me that there was another way to do it until I met my husband lol.

    NurtureShock is a pretty awesome one.  I still talk about that book constantly - I found the chapters about racism and spanking to be particularly fascinating.

    Congratulations on your pending arrival!!! =)  I’m sending warm wishes for a peaceful delivery, speedy recovery, and healthy bambino!!!

  13. By on September 07, 2012

    If you liked NurtureShock, you’d probably appreciate ‘Your Brain on Childhood’.


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