Monday, November 17, 2008

Gifts That Keep on Giving

This week's task for Weekly Geeks is to create a gift-giving guide. If you're looking for guides to fiction, check out the suggestions on Literary Escapism, Behold the Thing that Reads A Lot, and others (follow the link to Weekly Geeks for all of them). For my post, I've decided to focus on books that can serve as guidance or inspiration at various phases of life.

My first book recommendation is for someone going through a hard time, especially anyone coping with chronic or terminal illness: Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen. I read this book several years ago and it's one of the most uplifting books I've ever read. It's a collection of stories about healing, pulled from Dr. Remen's years of working with terminally ill patients and their families and her experiences with Crohn's disease. Several excerpts are available on Dr. Remen's website to give a better feel for the book than I can. As a side note, I wasn't dealing with any kind of hardship when I read it and I found plenty that was relevant to my life.

Next, I have a recommendation for New or expecting parents: The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears (and the new edition features two of their sons, also doctors). Because almost every parent I know cites this as their favorite new-parent book, it's my fallback baby shower gift. Dr. Sears has a lot of good information, but he also has the understanding, reassuring "bedside manner" that new parents need (and, unfortunately, don't always get) in a pediatrician. From childbirth to breastfeeding to helping babies sleep to dealing with toddler temper tantrums, The Baby Book is an invaluable resource that will be referred to again and again.

I hesitate to recommend the next book for a specific category of person because I'd hate for someone to reject it on that basis. I didn't fit this category when I read it; it's a book for anyone. But, I would especially choose Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck, for someone parenting (or pregnant with) a child with a disability.

This is a funny and poignant memoir of a woman whose second child is diagnosed in utero with Down Syndrome. I read it several years ago and loved it so much I read it aloud to my husband in the evenings after we put our kids to bed, while he did the dishes and baked chocolate chip cookies. It was thought-provoking and, as I said, funny, and we ended up with delicious cookies at the end of it. Win-win.

For anyone raising a boy, I recommend the book Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph. There are a lot of books out there about boys and how to raise them, and as the mother of two, I had read nearly all of them when I got to this one. This is the only one that impacted how I parent.

Biddulph gives research-based information about the physiology of boys (one example: males' fine motor skills tend to develop later), and follows it with practical suggestions (such as delaying school entrance by a year, to give those fine motor skills a chance to catch up). Moving up through adolescence and young adulthood, Biddulph gives ideas for giving boys the type of support they need to transition successfully to manhood. In fact, I need to reread this over the next couple of years, as my oldest nears his adolescence. I should probably put this one on my wish list!

For boys and girls aged 8-12, The Big Book of Boy Stuff and The Big Book of Girl Stuff, by Bart King. Kids seem to love these books, and they're full of ideas for things to do and silly jokes and tricks.

I was going to recommendMary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia for anyone raising girls, but it's gotten such mixed reviews, and I can't remember it all that well. I know I've had friends read it who loved it. Does anyone have thoughts on this one, or other good books about raising girls?

For a family with a teen in crisis:
When No One Understands: Letters To A Teenager On Life, Loss, And The Hard Road To Adulthood
by Brad Sachs. The book consists of twenty letters that psychologist Sachs wrote to his troubled adolescent client who wouldn't speak to him at the beginning of therapy. There's a lot of wisdom within these pages, a view of adolescence that is not only accepting of its difficulties but celebrates them. For any adult dealing with a frustrating teen, this book will offer hope. If they leave it lying around, maybe the teen will pick it up and get some of that hope and wisdom, too, at a time when it's desperately needed. Personally, I'm not a teen and don't have a teen yet, but I really enjoyed Sach's letters anyway.

Are there books you like to buy as gifts?


  1. These are good books for parents. I might as well gift one or two to my brothers!

    Here is my WG #25 post

  2. Wait! Your husband does the dishes and bakes cookies?? Does he have a brother? ;-)

  3. Gautami, They really are great parenting books. If you do gift them, I'm 99% sure your brothers will like them.

    Caite, yep, I totally scored when it came to husbands (and he does have a brother who's single, but I'm not sure about the cookies!).

  4. I second the recommendation on Sears' Baby Book, and I will have to look and see if I have Raising Boys (it will go on my Friday Finds list if I don't).

    Oh, and... Tag, you're it!

  5. My recommendations must include Replay by Ken Grimwood. The story of a man who gets the chance to live his life over and over and over again and what he does/changes each time. Think of a much more serious "Groundhog Day". Also Barbara Wood's The Blessing Stone. AMAZING book that takes you from the beginning of time to today. Also, for kids, I hear anything by Tamra Orr is good (snicker).

  6. Thank you, excellent.