Don’t let your kids have all the fun summer reading experiences this season. While some of these books are more educational than others, these three memoirs, two self-help/memoirs, single novel and one self-help book illuminate what it means to be a modern-day parent.
"The Chicken Who Saved Us: The Remarkable Story of Andrew and Frightful" by Kristin Jarvis Adams
This memoir written by a mother of an autistic boy with a life-threatening illness is a page-turner that illuminates the inner workings of a mother’s heart. While Adams doesn’t always understand her son Andrew, she hears him confide in his pet chicken Frightful. One such confession: "I think my body is trying to kill me." The narrator easily wins the reader’s trust when she frantically emails a pastor she’s never met to ask for help during a middle-of-the night meltdown.
"This Is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel
This novel centers on a family with five sons — that is until the youngest one, age 5, shares that she actually identifies as a girl. When the family moves to Seattle, they don’t intend to keep Poppy’s transformation a secret, but suddenly it is. The slow unveiling of that secret includes a boisterous storyline and fully drawn characters that ring true, including the gut-wrenching insights bestowed by fictional parents Rosie and Penn.
"A Year Right Here: Adventures With Food and Family in the Great Nearby" by Jess Thomson
Food writer Thomson meticulously plans a year of trips exploring the food of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and son. While readers have front row seats to razor clamming on the Washington coast, truffle hunting in Oregon and a winery tour in British Columbia, it’s the way Thomson’s preparations are thwarted that make this book an interesting read. An operation in New York City to help her son with mobility limitations of cerebral palsy upends Thomson’s schedule and her center of gravity, giving readers the honor of watching her navigate helping her son heal. Her own limitations causes by an autoimmune disease turns the chapter on the 100-kilometer bike ride with gourmet food into a heroine’s journey.
"Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning" by Claire Dederer
While Dederer’s first memoir "Poser" examined her adjustment to motherhood, this dives down, down, down into her midlife angst. While on the surface she’s a happily married mother of two kids who lives on Bainbridge Island, Dederer’s erotic awakening finds her flirting with an author, taking cry-soaked walks with friends and examining her childhood journals that end the night before she became a married woman. With honest, razor-sharp and witty prose, Dederer takes a scalpel to her life (including a chapter entitled "How to Have Sex with Your Husband of Seventeen Years") and gives readers an inside scoop of growing up in Seattle during the ‘80s and ‘90s.
"How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life With Children Ages 2-7" by Joanna Faber and Julie King
Thirty-five years ago, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote a book that’s still passed between parents: "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk." Now Faber's daughter Joanna and her friend Julie King wrote a follow-up after years of leading workshops for parents and professionals based on her mom's book. Tailored for parents of kids’ ages 2 to 7, this is the book to reach for whenever you don’t quite know what to do next.
"How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids" by Jancee Dunn
This part memoir, part self-help book is designed for anyone who’s ever gone through the relationship shake-up that is parenting a child. It’s an uncomfortable read made easier by Dunn, who lays out her worst qualities (anger and vomit mouth). During her journey to remake her family of three, she cross-examines marriage gurus and a FBI hostage-negotiator, divulges the latest relationship research and subjects herself and her husband to our country’s most renowned couples and sex therapists.
"Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy" by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
While this self-help book is about how Facebook COO Sandberg dealt with her husband’s unexpected death, it’s a good read for anyone who is looking to build resilience (co-author Grant is well-known for bestseller "Originals") . Keep highlighters handy while reading, as insights litter these pages that include a range of stories of people who have overcome various challenges. Sandberg’s other famous book, "Lean In," makes an appearance when the rabbi of her husband’s funeral tells her to "lean in to the suck." Parents will appreciate the chapter on raising resilient kids, although the entire book teems with information on creating strong families and communities.