Cribsheet: A Data-driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting…

I’ve tried several times to start reading books on pregnancy, parenting, or child development, and haven’t stuck with any of them. Not because I know everything (in fact, I’m learning every day how little I know about parenting), but because most of the books stress me out. Making decisions about your child is hard – the information seems endless and the stakes are high.

A colleague of my husband’s gifted him Emily Oster’s Cribsheet, and I picked it up one night at 3 a.m., because it was the only book lying close enough to reach while nursing my 2-week old. And in two pages I was hooked. Because in this book, Oster isn’t offering solutions or prophesizing catastrophic results for you and your child if you stray from her advice. Rather, from the beginning, Oster promises only to present the data and some helpful considerations as you make your own parenting decisions.

So when the Washington Post called this book “freeing” for parents, I had to agree. Oster presents the information you need to make informed decisions, without all the fear-mongering or judgement of so many other parenting books. I’d highly recommend this one for new or soon-to-be parents.

And if you like cribsheet, you might like to know that Oster also has two other books for parents, including Expecting Better and The Family Firm. The later of these is on my TBR list now – have you read it? What did you think?

Review: Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass, the latest from plant biologist and professor Robin Wall Kimmerer, has been on bestseller lists (and my personal TBR pile) for quite some time. And now I understand why: this book really has something for everyone.

Not since “Boys in a Boat” have I read a book where, each time I talk to someone about it, I end up talking about something different. My nerdy cousin loved Kimmerer’s descriptions of plant biology. My friend loved the relatable, simple anecdotes from Kimmerer’s life that she uses to communicate critical messages. Environmentalists and activists are using this book to spread awareness about the history of land abuse that Kimmerer outlines in the later chapters. And me? Well I loved all of that, but was especially drawn to Kimmerer’s detailing of traditional Native American cultural beliefs and practices.

And what’s really great about this book is that, even if all those things aren’t for you, Kimmerer’s writing makes it easy and interesting to learn about all these things (and more). Most importantly, I think she has written a book that simultaneously provides a dire warning and a hopeful how-to guide for getting back to a healthy relationship between humans and nature, which is something we desperately need.

Did you read it? Let me know what YOU loved about the book in the comments below!

Ready to read it? Get the book from an independent publisher by going to my affiliate bookstore at bookshop.org!

Fran Lebowitz: Essays vs. Docuseries

I didn’t know of Fran Lebowitz until recently, when I watched the docuseries Pretend It’s A City on Netflix. Several friends recommended this series to me, thinking I would love it, and they were so right. The series is really just a collection of conversations with writer Fran Lebowitz, who is hysterically funny, mostly on the topic of New York City.

Naturally, after enjoying the series so much, I was keen to look at some of Lebowitz’s writing, and so I picked up The Fran Lebowitz Reader, which is comprised of her two published books: Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. Both are collections of short, humorous, non-fiction essays, and one thing I really enjoyed was the brevity of these short pieces – I could easily fit short reads on short breaks from work or during Hulu commercials.

And yet, I have to admit that I didn’t find Lebowitz’s short essays quite as entertaining as her interviews. Of course, Pretend It’s A City was filmed many years after the publication of Lebowitz’s books, so perhaps her humor or viewpoints had changed or matured in a way that appeals to me. But for me, The Fran Lebowitz Reader came off slightly more silly and perhaps slightly less cynical than Pretend It’s A City. That said, there are certainly a few comic gems in the written collection, and both the docuseries and the book proved to be, for me at least, an entertaining and close depiction of life in New York City.

Review: The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion’s National Book Award-winning memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, is a book about loss, grief, and Didion’s slow return to a new “normal” after the death of her husband. It is not a book about gratitude.

But a state of deep gratitude is exactly the “magical thinking” that this book led me to. Because I have simply never experienced the kind of loss or grief that Didion is dealing with in these pages, and I have never been more aware or grateful for that. I can’t pretend to understand or identify, but I can certainly appreciate the vulnerability that Didion shares, and the comfort her story has brought to thousands of readers.

Because of my , I must admit that parts of this book failed to truly resonate with me. At times, even, I felt like Didion was bordering on repetitive or off-topic. But Didion makes it clear that this is part of the point. That is, Didion’s “year of magical thinking” is really a year of not being able to think clearly – at least not in the way that she did prior to her husband’s death. And, Didion seems to say, that’s okay. Grieving, she explains, is nothing like what we’re taught to expect.

I hope it is a very long, long time before I need to read these memoirs again, before I need the comfort and solidarity that they offer. But I am filled with gratitude, knowing that this book will be there when I do, because I know I’ll turn to it then and find Didion’s wisdom as timeless and perceptive as so many others have.

Craft in the Real World Is The Craft Book We Need Right Now

Two years out of an MFA program in Creative Writing, I still love talking and reading about craft. And as I’ve said in previous blog posts, usually when I learn something about writing, I find I’m also learning about reading. And that was the first thing that struck me when I picked up Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses – within just the first few pages, Salesses helped me realized several biases, preferences, and assumptions that I have been bringing to the books I read without me ever realizing it. (As someone who writes book reviews all the time, this revelation was huge, and since finishing I’ve been thinking constantly about what biases I pass on in my reviews… for me, this book was invaluable for that reason alone).

But odds are, if you’re considering this book, you’re also wondering what it can teach you about craft. The answer is: a lot. Salesses draws attention to the ways in which the biases we have as readers can (and DO) limit and silence us as writers, editors, and educators. But what is so incredibly powerful about this book is that it not only points out what is wrong with the way we teach writing, but it offers actionable strategies that can help us do better. From workshop formats to writing exercises, Salesses provides an extensive list of alternatives for educators or workshop participants.

If you are a writer, student, educator, editor, or publisher, you want to read this book. Because by allowing for greater diversity in the way we write and the way we teach writing, we open our own opportunities and the broader opportunities for literature – we invite more stories, told in more ways, that can reach more people. And isn’t that the point?

Get the book.

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