good reads

You know what is wonderful for moms/parents? Or commuters? Audiobooks. You can even get them from your local library, for free. There’s no way I can read with my busy toddler running around/whining to be held. But I do drive a lot, and while lying quietly with a bottle before naps or bedtime, or just playing on the floor, I can listen to a book. Here’s what I’ve read and liked recently:


Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
A teen in foster care befriends an elderly woman and learns about her experience as a rider on the “Orphan Trains” of the 1920s. The flashback parts of the story were really captivating, and the present-day story was ok.

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
Very similar to the movie “The Painted Veil”, a young woman has no choice but to accept an arranged marriage to a doctor in colonial South Africa. This story moved right along and brought to life the politics of diamond mining during this time period, as well as the cultural and physical landscape of South Africa in the 19th century.

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
A half-American, half-Chinese child is sold into a courtesan house, and must make the best of life from that point on. She does eventually marry, but loses her husband to an outbreak of influenza, and loses her daughter to a legal loophole. She goes on to become 3rd wife to an abusive Chinese husband, before finally escaping in hopes of reuniting with the mother she lost long ago. A story of the bond between friends and mother and daughter. Very engrossing!


Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt
This is the memoir of an expat living in rural China who volunteers in the local orphanage and becomes deeply attached to the children’s cause. I think this is a must-read for anyone who works with “orphans”, whether they be adopted or foster children or children in foreign orphanages.

PARENTING (Non-fiction)

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior
A good read citing many well-done studies focusing on the effects of parenting on the parent. Mostly, the author explores the incongruity between studies that find that parents rate time with their children lower on a fun scale than they do other activities, and yet consistently rate parenting as their most rewarding activity in hindsight. Also brings valuable perspective to the history of parenting trends (such as the fact that working mothers today spend more “quality time” with their children than housewives did in the 1960s, self-reported).

Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
Another parenting book that uses recent and peer-reviewed studies well, and also delves into the scientific learning processes that take place within a child’s brain. If you’re interested in knowing how your kid ticks, this is a pretty good read. The take-home message is simple, though… kids learn through play and hands-on manipulation, so no amount of force-feeding facts and figures will increase their IQ.

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

2 thoughts on “good reads”

  1. Fiction:
    The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn’s new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who’s raised 17 children, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, who’s found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.

    Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
    Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
    Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

    Room by Emma Donoghue
    To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
    Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
    Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

    Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
    A Brief Encounter for our time, The Last Letter from Your Lover is a sophisticated, spellbinding double love story that spans decades and thrillingly evokes a bygone era. In 1960, Jennifer Stirling wakes in the hospital and remembers nothing—not the car accident that put her there, not her wealthy husband, not even her own name. Searching for clues, she finds an impassioned letter, signed simply “B,” from a man for whom she seemed willing to risk everything. In 2003, journalist Ellie Haworth stumbles upon the letter and becomes obsessed with learning the unknown lovers’ fate—hoping it will inspire her own happy ending. Remarkably moving, this is a novel for romantics of every age.

    Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
    Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

    The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry
    Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, witnesses, children raised in closets and cages, and victims of family violence. Here he tells their stories of trauma and transformation.

    To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam
    Who are the children of foster care? What, as a country, do we owe them? Cris Beam, a foster mother herself, spent five years immersed in the world of foster care, looking into these questions and tracing firsthand stories. The result is To the End of June, an unforgettable portrait that takes us deep inside the lives of foster children at the critical points in their search for a stable, loving family.

    NutureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
    One of the most influential books about children ever published, Nurture Shock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library’s worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring–because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.

    These are just a few of my more recent favorites!

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