10 Books That Have Stuck With Me

I was recently tagged in a Facebook post to share the 10 books that have stuck with me. I'm supposed to "not take more than a few minutes" and "not think too hard."

So, here it goes. 

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I adore the whole series and have read every book twice (starting on round 3 now with Griffin) but this is the one that turned a series I loved into a series I was obsessed with. I finished this book in broad daylight and was scared. out. of. my. mind.
  2. The Casual Vacancy Speaking of J.K. Rowling... her first post-Harry Potter book has stuck with me mainly because of one quote, which I would guess I quote once every two weeks. "How awful it was, thought Tessa, remembering Fats the toddler, the way tiny ghosts of your living children haunted your heart; they could never know, and would hate it if they did, how their growing was a constant bereavement.”
  3. The Happiness Project Changed the way I thought about life and self-improvement. It also made me a lifelong fan of Gretchen Rubin and her secrets of adulthood.
  4. The Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan's ode to eating convinced me to abandon vegetarianism after 5 years. 
  5. To Kill A Mockingbird The first book that ever made me feel something. 
  6. Team of Rivals Abraham Lincoln's life offers not only the most profound lessons on how to be a good politician but also on how to be a good human being. 
  7. Good in Bed I've never forgotten how fun this book was to read.
  8. The Happiest Toddler on the Block My favorite parenting book of all time, Dr. Harvey Karp helped me see kids just want to be heard.
  9. How to be a Woman My love for this book is well-documented
  10. A People's History of the United States I'd say Howard Zinn is responsible for approximately 65% of my liberalism. This book forever changed the way I viewed the relationship between the powerful and the powerless.

What about you? What books have stuck with you?

My Favorite Children's Authors

This week is Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week. Before having my kids, I think I could probably identify one children’s author by name. Dr. Seuss. I always saw the books as individual works until I started reading 2-3 a night and became a bit of an expert. Now, I’ve found there are children’s authors who I go back to over and over again for engaging stories and beautiful words.  

Mo Willems My absolute favorite children’s author (excluding Dr. Seuss of course), Mo Willems’s stories hilariously capture the frustration of a pigeon constantly being told what it can’t do. Obviously, most kids can identify. We are also huge fans of his Elephant and Piggie series. The first time I read There’s A Bird On Your Head I thought Griffin was going to faint he was laughing so hard. To this day, it’s the hardest I’ve ever seen him laugh.

Ann Dewdney Our family loves any story that begins llama llama. Hooked since the little llama was wearing red pajamas, we’ve followed Dewdney and her little llama through the store, the first day of school, and beyond. I think Dewdney is particularly adept at handling conflicts between parents and kids with sympathy and understanding for both sides.

James Dean The voice behind the indomitable Pete the Cat, Dean perfectly conveys this funky little cat’s can-do spirit be it on the playground or in a mud puddle.

Doreen Cronin The only character that can make Griffin laugh harder than that crazy pigeon is the ever-scheming Duck of Cronin’s barnyard stories. 

Who are your favorite children’s authors? 

Emily Oster's Expecting Better

I should have been in an economist. All my favorite books are written by economists. I love the data driven approach to problem solving and I generally find them a funny, personable group. 

I'm now adding Emily Oster to my list of favorite economists and Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong - and What You Really Need to Know to my list of favorite pregnancy books. 

Pregnancy advice - both that found within books and in the doctor's office - often seems based on little more conjecture and anecdotal guessing. And that's assuming it stays the same, which it often doesn't. One day coffee is ok. The next it isn't. One day home birth will kill your baby. The next day not so much.

Oster approaches each recommendation and pregnancy decision with deliberation and data. However, as a mom herself, she also brings a particularly personal approach as she shares her own decision-making process and tells the story of her first pregnancy. 

I learned so much while reading her book, despite going through two pregnancies and considering myself a bit of an expert. For once and for all, runny eggs and sushi are ok! YIPEE! There is ZERO evidence bed rest is helpful. (!?!?) Any toxins you encounter during the two weeks between conception and your missed period have no effect if your pregnancy goes to term. THAT information would have saved me a lot of anxiety with my first two pregnancies. 

Oster also addresses the process of labor and delivery. As a passionate advocate for natural birth, I was happy to see Oster ultimately decided on natural birth after assessing the data. Although, I was disappointed that she neglected to address water as a natural pain remedy because I found it to be an incredibly effective pain relief method in my first birth (especially as compared to my second birth outside the water).

I was also happy with Oster's analysis of home birth risks. She seems to do a fair and reasonable assessment of the studies and concludes the risks are low. One small issue I had is she seems to make the same mistake many people do when assessing the risk of serious complications during a home birth, which is ignoring the fact that serious complications could also arise in a hospital. Medical errors are real. Antibiotic resistant infections are real. The risks of these complications are small but so are the risks of having a life-threatening complication at home and not getting to the hospital in time.

My last small criticism also (not surprisingly) has to do with my own experience. Oster puts a great deal of emphasis on the training of one's midwife, eventually concluding that a certified nurse midwife is the best choice over a direct entry midwife due to training. I would argue one should not completely ignore experience. A direct entry midwife that has successfully attended 300 births is an infinitely better choice than a certified nurse midwife with fewer than 50 births under her belt. The training is absolutely an asset but experience should be an important factor to consider. 

My small criticisms aside I found Oster's book to be empowering. Far from the condescending tone taken in most pregnancy books, she offers up the facts and encourages women to make up their own minds. Good advice, indeed.

What's your favorite pregnancy book? Any pregnancy advice you'd loved to have debunked!?!

5 Powerful People Who Keep Me Motivated


It's that time of year. Time for resolutions and goals and reassessing what you do right and what you can do better. This is one of my favorite times of the year because I LOVE self-improvement. I'm a bit of a junkie if I'm being honest.

It probably all started in middle school when I read my first self-improvement book that recommended I list all the things I wanted to accomplish in my life. It was a comprehensive list that included Read the Bible (check!) and meet Dean Cain (still waiting...). 

From that very first list I was hooked and I'm always looking for big and small ways to improve my life. Over the years, I've found myself going back to the same experts over and over again when looking for inspiration. These are people that are also incredibly invested in the power of personal growth. These are people whose entire livelihood is based on their power to motivate. These people are my gurus. 

Gretchen Rubin 

In 2009, Rubin published her blockbuster bestseller The Happiness Project, which recounted her year long happiness experiment. For one year, she carefully examined and applied the science of happiness to see what stuck. I love this book so much that I re-read it every year month-by-corresponding-month. I have found that Rubin's approach of making small daily changes to impact your overall happiness incredibly useful and empowering. Not to mention, her honesty about her own weaknesses and challenges is completely refreshing. I read her blog religiously and can't wait for her new book on changing habits. 

Brené Brown 

When I first saw Brené Brown's TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability I was completely overwhelmed by her authenticity, her insight, and her incredible compassion. I am a hard core devotee of her Daring Greatly style that embraces the idea that everything great in life involves overcoming fear and facing vulnerability. Every time she opens her mouth I learn a little bit more about myself and how to face all the emotions that come with being me. 

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt is not for the faint of heart, but I promise you this - his positivity will wear. you. down. His goal is to "help you live with more passion, work with greater focus, and lead with extraordinary influence." He's not here to help you manage your emotions but help you manage your time and your work and your goals. He is my effeciency and productivity guru and I love his podcasts and blog for all the hardcore real-life tips he offers. 



Tara Sophia Mohr

I first found Tara Sophia Mohr through her 10 Rules for Brilliant Women. At first I thought she was your average inspire-business-women expert, but she has proven to be so much more. Better than almost anyone else she manages to address the socio-political AND emotional impact of being a woman in America today. She is the best combination of big picture insight and small picture advice. I absolutely love her. 

Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things

I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert in 2007 along with half of the female population. I read her blockbuster memoir Eat, Pray, Love and was swept away by her incredible personal struggles, wanderlust, and ultimate victory over heartbreak and self-doubt. I also loved her follow-up memoir on marriage Committed: A Love Story. When it was announced her next book would be a novel, I worried I wouldn't love Elizabeth's fiction as much as her reflections. 

How wrong I was.