I want to do some book blogging here from time to time. I’ll share some of the books that have been important in my life, or that inspire me, or that I just enjoy. And I hope that in the comments you will share some of your favorites as well. The topic today is the nonfiction books that have had the greatest impact on my life. I was going to make it a top five or top ten list but then I decided it would be more authentic if I just wrote about the ones that popped into my head first without setting a specific number, or even looking on my booksheves (or in the many, many boxes in the garage!).
The following are in no particular order unless you ascribe some significance to the order in which they popped into my head!
- Surrendering to Motherhood by Iris Krasnow. Judging from some of my recent posts, I need to read again Krasnow’s autobiographical journey from high-powered ambitious challenge-chasing career woman to mom-in-the-moment. One quotation: “Being There [is] an emotional and spiritual shift, of succumbing to Being Where You Are When You Are, and Being There as much as possible. Its about crouching on the floor and getting delirious over the praying mantis your son just caught instead of perusing a fax or filling the dishwasher while he is yelling for your attention and you distractedly say over your shoulder: ‘Oh, honey, isn’t that a pretty bug.’ It’s about being attuned enough to notice when your kid’s eyes shine so you can make your eyes shine back.”
- The Art of Natural Family Planning by John and Sheila Kippley. I’m grateful to Jesuit Father William J. Kaifer of the Georgetown University Theology Department, who included this as required reading in his Christian Marriage class (along with Humanae Vitae and Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics). Besides its more practical aspects, this book embodies a philosophy that continues to inform my thinking on family planning and life issues. One quotation: “If someone os concerned about eating healthy foods, wouldn’t it be highly inconsistent for her to be polluting her body with powerful birth control chemicals?”
- Let’s Have Healthy Children by Adelle Davis. Davis is considered a crackpot by some, but I credit her nutrition advice with the buoyant good health of my kids, who each had maybe one ear infection, have never had strep throat, never take antibiotics. (Seriously: Emily, age 19, was last seen by a doctor for illness when she was two years old.) I say Davis was ahead of her time–she had me taking folic acid years before anyone thought to fortify bread with it. One quotation: “Research shows that diseases of almost every variety can be produced by an under-supply of various combinations of nutrients… [and] can be corrected when all nutrients are supplied, provided irreparable damage has not been done; and, still better, that these diseases can be prevented.”
- How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn. Dr. Mendelsohn was suspicious of vaccinations. He thought antibitotics were overused. He didn’t think kids need to be taken to the doctor at the drop of a hat–most childhood illnesses clear up on their own. I agree with him. One quotation: “The pediatrician’s wanton prescription of powerful drugs indoctrinates children from birth with the philosophy of ‘a pill for every ill’. . . . Doctors are directly responsible for hooking millions of people on prescription drugs. They are also indirectly responsible for the plight of millions more who turn to illegal drugs because they were taught at an early age that drugs can cure anything – including psychological and emotional conditions – that ails them.”
- Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley. I love this one as much for its philosophy of natural mothering as for the child spacing aspects. One quotation: “We tend to forget that these artifical aids–bottles and pacifiers–are merely substitutes for the mother. The infant’s need to nurse or be pacified at the breast is nature’s way of bringing mother and baby together at other than feeding times.”
- Nursing Your Baby by Karen Pryor. We’re talking the 1970s version here, which I picked up at McKay’s while expecting baby #1. It’s a simple, basic, practical, and yet beautiful guide to breastfeeding–just the best one I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot. One quotation: “Nursing a baby is an art; a domestic art, perhaps, but one that like cooking and gardening brings to a woman the release and satisfaction that only creative work can give.”
- Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick Read. The very first book on childbirth I read, it did the most to form my thoughts on natural birth (along with Painless Childbirth by Fernand Lamaze and The Experience of Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger). One quotation: “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware … To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory. She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”
- Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott. My mother’s copy of this book was sitting around our house for as long as I can remember. I read it long before I had kids of my own. I may not follow its principles all the time, I’m sorry to say, but I try. One quotation: “What do we say to a guest who forgets her umbrella? Do we run after her and say ‘What is the matter with you? Every time you come to visit you forget something. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Why can’t you be like your sister? When she comes to visit, she knows how to behave. You’re forty-four years old! Will you never learn? I’m not a slave to pick up after you! I bet you’d forget your head if it weren’t attached to your shoulders.’ That’s not what we say to a guest. We say ‘Here’s your umbrella, Alice,’ without adding ‘scatterbrain.’ Parents need to learn to respond to their children as they do to guests.”
- Kids Are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso. I’ve read a lot of parenting books, new and old, and I’m sure you have too, but never one that was simpler, truer, and less gimmicky than this one. A former school-teaching nun, now married with three kids and a popular inspirational speaker on parenting topics, Coloroso’s descriptions of three kinds of families will make you cringe if you are a Brickwall or a Jellyfish. One quotation: “Our children are counting on us to provide two things: consistency and structure. Children need parents who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they are going to do.”
- Relating. I still have this battered paperback religion textbook from my junior year in high school. It was the first place I learned about fair fighting rules. My friends and I used its ten hallmarks of love vs. infatuation to evaluate our college romances. I made my future husband do all the quizzes in it with me before we were married. Thank you, Mr. Dan Darst, a religion teacher we thought was goofy at the time but whose lessons we carry with us today. No links or quotations, I’m afraid–it’s here, but I don’t know where, and the title is all I can remember right now! [I wish so much that I had pulled it out and written down something that day. I have searched and searched online for a replacement but I just don’t have enough information.]
How about you? Have you read any of those? What nonfiction books have you read over and over? Would you say there are any books whose effect on you was so profound that they helped you become the person you are today? Please share yours in the comments.