1. Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld) – A novel set at a boarding school in the Northeast. It has been a long time since I was in high school, and I have never attended a boarding school, so this was an interesting read to gain a bit of insight into a world I have never experienced. The book was well written, the characters were believable and compelling, and it was an interesting story. A pretty light read, definitely heavier than Nicholas Sparks, but not what I would consider heavy literature.
2. The Birth Book (Sears) – A good basic overview of the process of birth and ways to ready for it. I felt like it was a well-balanced account of birth in its many different forms – from natural to medically managed. After reading it I feel like I have a much better understanding of how labor works and what my body will do. Understanding those things should make me more able to cope with it when the time comes.
3. Gang Leader for a Day (Sudhir Venkatesh) – Audiobook. I really enjoyed listening to this one. It was a story about a sociologist who embedded himself with a Chicago gang located in the Robert Taylor Homes. It was interesting account of how integral gangs are in some neighborhoods and how much influence they have.
4. Nineteen Minutes (Jodi Picoult) – Bought this one in Fukuoka when I had just finished Prep and needed another book for the long train rides. It ended up being a really enjoyable read, forcing readers to question some commonly held beliefs and assumptions. The author crafted each character, even the one who would traditionally be considered the villain, in a way that made me reconsider how I would feel about them.
5. When You are Engulfed in Flames (David Sedaris) – In progress. Honestly, I am not finding this one quite as funny as the other Sedaris stuff I have read (which is, I believe, all of it). It is just a collection of stories, so I pick it up here and there when I am in the mood, but it hasn’t flown off my nightstand as his previous work did.
6. Deciding the Next Decider (Calvin Trillin) – A collection of poetry about the 2008 presidential race. A funny little book that makes light of much of what happens, and reminds us that so much of the race and the campaigning is just over-the-top.
7. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League) – A book about breastfeeding by a world-recognized breastfeeding organization. So far it has been useful, even if the text and photos seems a bit dated at times. I am trying my best to arm myself with as much information as possible before venturing into motherhood.
8. Possible Side Effects (Augusten Burroughs) – This, like Sedaris, is a collection of personal essays. However, unlike the Sedaris book I have in progress, I am finding this one to be a bit more enjoyable. Somehow the writing style and topics are just sitting with me a bit better.
9. The Breastfeeding Book (Sears)
10. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Bryson) – Audiobook. A memoir of Bryson’s childhood. Funny and interesting, just as you would expect.
11. Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent (Meredith F. Small) – An interesting examination about different parenting styles and choices from around the world and how those parenting styles correspond (or don’t) with the specific biology of infants. The author tends to come down pretty hard on typical Western styles of parenting (babies sleeping alone, scheduled feeding, etc.) but she supports her critiques with solid evidence and well-supported arguments. Overall an enjoyable, and interesting, book to read. It was also one that made me more confident that no matter what choices we make as parents, so long as we are loving and responsive, our child will turn out just fine.
12. Keeping Faith (Jodi Picoult) – While I really enjoyed this book as a whole, I found that it didn’t cause me to think quite as much as her previous books that I read. The previous books had storylines that I thought were believable and compelling. Stories that I could relate to and found myself questioning. This one, on the other hand, was compelling but I also thought it was a bit more far-fetched. It was about a girl who was thought to be having visions of God, performing miracles and being affected by stigmata. I am not saying, with certainty, that I don’t believe in such things. It is just that they are a bit further from my reality and didn’t cause to me to think and question life as much as the previous storylines (about a family that conceived a second child to save their first terminally ill child and about a high school shooting).
13. Always Looking Up (Michael J. Fox) – Audiobook. As a recovering pessimist, I really enjoyed listening to the way that Michael J. Fox looks at his life situation and diagnosis and manages to find the positive in all of it. It was also fun to hear about all the little life anecdotes that he shared. I know we all have stories like that from our own lives, but Fox managed to tell them in a way that was funny, interesting and uplifting.
14. Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains and Politics of Breastfeeding (edited by Maureen Connolly and Dana Sullivan) – Great book, one that I would consider giving as a gift to any newly pregnant woman considering breastfeeding. This book is a series of essays by women that have either breastfeed, tried to breastfeed, or chose not to breastfeed. Each one of them present their stories in a way that makes it easy to find at least a handful of stories that you can relate to. After reading the book, it is clear that there is no right path for everyone, simply the path that works best for your family.
15. Lucky Man (Michael J. Fox) – Audiobook. After reading his most recent book, and enjoying it, I couldn’t help but go back and read his first. While much of the material seemed somewhat familiar, his decision to retire from Spin City for example, it was still an enjoyable book to listen to. Some of the stories were new, some of the themes were the same, but it was still refreshing to hear someone take a positive spin on what many would consider so devastating.
16. A Long Way From Chicago (Richard Peck) – A really fun piece of childrens literature. A collection of stories from two children visiting their grandmother each summer. Set in the early 1900’s, I find myself being a bit wistful for the types of adventures the characters had and the grandmother that made it all possible.
17. The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch) – Audiobook. I really liked this one. I admired Pausch’s outlook on life despite his terminal diagnosis. If he can look at life with such a positive attitude, surely anyone can. Given where I am in my life right now, I particularly enjoyed some of his insights on parenting. I hope that Ewan, like Randy, feels like he won the parent lottery.
18. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) – In Progress.
19. The Baby Sleep Book (Sears) – In progress.
20. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown) – Read aloud, in progress.