I’ve never been a big reader of parenting books. I’m also not a believer in parenting ‘experts’, especially childcare gurus with no children of their own. However, I do believe in seeking out relatable advice from those who practice rather than preach. For me, the best parenting books are written by people who don’t patronise mums and dads or treat children like they’re some alien species.
When I wrote Bringing Up Race, my goal was to write a book that would appeal to readers whether they were parents, educators, aunties, uncles, grandparents, godparents or had no actual kids in their lives. Readers looking to better themselves and to become part of a kinder and more conscious society. Ultimately, I wrote a book about bringing up humans and that’s the type of parenting book that I like to read myself.
So here are some of the best parenting books that I’ve read or that are on my reading list because they come highly recommended. Raising kids is hard work. These guides may offer some help, hope and a little humour at a time when you need it most.
9 Best Parenting Books for People Who Don’t Read Parenting Books
Hunt Gather Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans
Science journalist Michaeleen Doucleff embarks on an illuminating world trip with her headstrong child Rosie. After struggling to parent her threenager effectively, and getting fed up with most advice from parenting books, she takes a scientific approach. She discovers that the Western parenting model is based on some topsy-turvy ideas (she has an acronym for it, WEIRD) and she decides to spend time with Mayan, Inuit and Hadzabe families to find out why their kids seem so naturally helpful, independent and tantrum-free. During her travels, she learns to let go of most of her beliefs around what makes good parenting and she develops a happier, healthier relationship with her daughter. There have been some accusations of White privilege and otherism and gender bias (e.g. where are all the Dads? asks Fatherly) that are hard to brush off. Typically, the White woman abroad with the natives trope sends my eyebrows into overdrive. However, I think Doucleff comes across less as a ‘White saviour’, more as a mother desperately in need of help. Taken on those terms, I found this to be an engaging read with plenty of actionable tips for parents in the thick of it.
The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)
The Number 1 bestseller by Philippa Perry, this warm and witty book certainly lives up to its title. A therapist and a parent of a young adult, she strikes a beautiful balance between a professional counsellor and an empathetic friend. It can be didactic in the way she sets out what to do and what not to do if you want to raise a happy, wholehearted child. A few critics have called it judgemental but I found it to be quite the opposite. Perry’s book will help you reexamine the way you were raised and how your relationship with your parents formed so much of your personality today. It’s a great read — whether or not you have little ones in your life.
Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent
Remember Tiger Mom? It was a phenomenon that had alpha mothers roaring for joy. However, as part of a more conscious parenting movement, Chinese American mum Iris Chen proposes a different way. Having felt the pain and pressure of being raised by and becoming a tiger mama herself, she decided enough was enough. Untigering is a call to declaw and develop a softer, more open parenting style. She offers insights that can heal your relationship with your kids and your own childhood wounds.
How To Raise Kids Who Aren’t A**holes: Science-Based Strategies for Better Parenting from Tots to Teens
You had me at “a**holes”. Seriously, what a great title and concept for a book. Melinda Wenner-Moyer was inspired to write this around the rise of Trumpism and her desire not to bring another douchebag into the world. A former Slate magazine columnist, Melinda put her science hat on and investigated what it takes to raise children who become decent, personable and ethical citizens. In other words, the kind of people you might actually want to hang out with when they grow up. Melinda kindly featured me in her fantastic newsletter Is My Kid the Asshole – read the piece here.
Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work
For a variety of reasons, more and more parents are deciding to raise their kids outside traditional classrooms. Homeschooling parents tend to follow a curriculum. Unschooling goes a step further by letting the child’s interests direct their learning. Author Akilah S Richards offers a powerful alternative to the rigid education system with a focus on decolonising, healing and intentional community-building.
The Honest Toddler
I’ve been a fan of Bunmi Laditan for years having followed her popular blog, The Honest Toddler, when my boys were small. If you’re looking for a careful and prescriptive manual, hint: this ain’t it. The Honest Toddler is a book (inspired by the blog) that serves up parenting advice from the perspective of a toddler. It’s absolutely hilarious and relatable and it will bring a chuckle to your cheeks when everything else fails. Deceptively simple brilliance.
How to Build a Human: What Science Knows About Childhood
That word again: human. Because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. How do we raise whole people? And how do we parent without getting overwhelmed by all the parenting advice out there? Author Emma Byrne answers these questions and more in a practical guide that’s an easy and enjoyable read. A science writer, she encourages parents to take a scientific approach to child-rearing by doing your research, examining the evidence and experimenting with what works for you (since every child is an individual). If this sounds like hard work, don’t worry as she’s done most of the heavy lifting for you in a book that tackles everything from sleep challenges to food battles.
Go The F*ck to Sleep
A work of utter genius. And the perfect baby shower gift. There’s a reason it has hundreds of ecstatic reviews. Forget those cosy bedtime rhymes and read this one instead (you might want to bleep out the F-bomb). At least it will cheer you up when your child will not go the f*ck to sleep. I recommend the audio book read by none other than Samuel L Jackson.
Bringing Up Race: How to Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World
It would be daft of me not to mention my own parenting book here. Bringing Up Race is a powerful invitation to have thoughtful, honest and transformative conversations about race in our homes, schools and communities. The book draws on research, personal stories and interviews with 20+ contributors from different ethnic backgrounds. I’m delighted that it’s earned starred reviews including this most recent one on BookPage. If you want to talk to your child about race but you’re not sure how to handle it, Bringing Up Race can help open up these important discussions.
Check out my list of Parenting Books* on Bookshop.org to find some of these titles and more!
(*I earn a small amount as commission if you buy from my list, your purchase also goes to supporting independent bookshops).