Here are the most important parenting books of the year.
This is not a top 10 list because 10 is a lot of books and I'm busy!
This year, I somehow managed read more books than I have in a long time and I’m proud of me. I love books. I love reading! I mean, I’m a writer and writers read — or so we’re told. But I am also a writer who is freaking exhausted all the time, and the best laid plans blah blah blah.
Friends write books and ask to send them to me and there is no greater honor. But I always warn them, “please forgive me if I don’t get to it sometime within this decade — it’s not you or your brilliant writing, it’s me.”
(I have one book in my stack on my nightstand that I am loving, and yet, it has been sitting there for more than two years, a single corner folded where I paused at page 23. It taunts me like a librarian poltergeist.)
All of this is to say, moms are freaking busy. We’re working, we’re parenting, we’re trying to stay in touch with the news, we’re tearing our way through massive to-do lists, we’re feeding people, we’re paying bills, we’re managing everyone’s emotions and mental health, and we often put our needs last on the list. We don’t give ourselves me-time. We don’t have as much fun as we should. And of course, books can fall by the wayside. I get it.
In fact, it hits hard each December when my social feeds are filled with beautifully curated lists of the top 10 or 25 or 100 must-read books of the year, knowing I will not get to most (if any) of them.
You feel that too? Maybe a little? Then you’ve come to the right place. Because just for you, I’m paring my recos down to just a select few new parenting books in 2022 that I had the privilege to read before interviewing the authors this year on Spawned.
(Confession: I don’t always get to finish books before the interview. But I always finish them after!)
Because it’s not taught enough in schools: WHAT THE FACT?! by Dr. Seema Yasmin
As we careen toward 2023, even media-cynical Gen X adults like me are caught in a frighteningly unmanageable tangle of misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, dubious websites, social media algorithms that amplify falsehoods and reward fake news outrage, photoshopping, deep fakes, “I saw it on TikTok,” and the outsized role of one big channel in particular — that, get this! — has the word NEWS right in its name and doesn’t present much news at all!
We could use help, and Dr. Seema Yasmin has written the perfect book for us.
Since I first read it in October, I have literally not stopped thinking about WHAT THE FACT?! : Finding the Truth in All the Noise. It’s all about one of my greatest goals as a parent: raising media-savvy kids.
She serves up all the facts and tips and tricks to get us through what she calls a misinfodemic. And she does it all with a great dose of wit, not to teach us what to think but to teach us how to think — and how it’s scientifically possible to BS-proof our brains.
Oh, and do you know who she is? Besides a Pulitzer-nominated journalist you’ve probably seen on CNN? She was a disease detective for the U.S. federal government’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, and Kate Winslet basically played her in Contagion.
Kate Winslet in Contagion | Image: Warner Brothers
I could make a case that it’s the most important parenting book of 2022 because it hits on media literacy, the one essential life skill that gets the least attention in education — something I first came to understand in Professor Tobe Berkovitz’s Public Opinion & Propaganda class at Boston University. That was back in the “we bought newspapers from the store and got newsprint on our hands and WE LIKED IT” days, by the way.
(Note to Tobe: I told you I still talk about that class all the time.)
Buy it on Bookshop.org
Buy it on Amazon
Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts
Listen to the interview on Spotify
Because things need fixing, fast: The Stolen Year, by Anya Kamenetz
Anya Kamenetz has written the book we all need right now in The Stolen Year: How Covid Changed Kids’ Lives…and Where We Go Now. If like me, you’ve admired Anya’s education reporting on NPR you will know just why this book is so special — and so incredibly important.
I really hope every elected leader reads it too, because parents already know what the problems are. What we need are the people in power to help fix them. She’s showing us the way.
Overall, the book provides some necessary catharsis with a big group hug of an acknowledgment that Covid basically of wrecked a lot of us in big and small ways. But her reporter-storyteller chops are on vivid display as she works her way around the country, interviewing some of the most vulnerable kids so that we might learn their stories about the impact of lockdowns and school closures, job loss and personal loss.
The thesis that holds it all together: Our institutions failed us because Anya traces the failures of our institutions during Covid at its height (because it’s not over, sigh) to our country’s longtime history of failure to amply support families and children.
It’s a page-turner. It’s empathetic and powerful, beautiful and quite painful at times. But that’s how we get to the healing.
Because we’re all in this together: Screaming on the Inside, by Jessica Grose
If anyone has ever forwarded you a parenting article about the exact thing you were just talking about, it was probably written by Jessica Grose.
She’s the New York Times Parenting Editor and as I wrote earlier this year, she always offers a phenomenal perspective on the forces holding us back — and even those pushing us forward.
Her accessible, relatable, truly insightful new book Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of Modern Motherhood is a perfect encapsulation of where we are as moms now — feeling tired, imperfect, overwhelmed, and guilty about far too many things — all understood through 200 years of societal pressures on mothers to live up an impossibly unattainable standard of perfection.
Those of you who used to read the early mom blogs will particularly appreciate the chapter on Social Media. Jess explores its evolution from community confessional and support system, to “#perfectlyimperfect” filtered Instagram posts of moms with gloriously windswept hair standing (for some reason) on mountaintops holding a product for a sponsor.
Read it, and you’ll even catch a few quotes from me in the subsection on “The Confessional Age,” along with other OG bloggers and writers I admire including Denene Milner, Ada Calhoun, and Farah Miller.
This is an important book for parents because we all need to feel seen, and this book does that so well. If you’ve ever felt even a tiny bit of guilt because you work outside the home (and gasp, enjoy it), because you put your kids in the same pair of pants two days in a row, or because you ate cookies for dinner, you’re not alone. And we can fix this.
Because Gen Z is the future, teach them well and let them lead the way: Fight, by John Della Volpe
As an avid MSNBC viewer, I’ve known John Della Volpe as a political pundit and straight-shooting pollster who has the lock on understanding the youth vote. But whether or not you consider yourself “political,” if you’re raising a Gen Z kid, I know you will be captivated by his new book, Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America.
John is a data guy (I love me a data nerd) and leads with hard facts to helps us understand how the most diverse, most educated generation is primed to do amazing things in this country.
When we spoke, he talked about how Gen Z values transcend race, socioeconomics and geography, so what he’s seeing really is a generational movement toward more inclusion, understanding, and positive change.
It’s candid, it’s thoughtful, it’s funny and it will give you hope. It certainly gave me hope. And I need more of that these days.
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