This month has been entirely non-fiction. After a very stressful few weeks, I’ve been on a self-help binge. I try to solve all of my problems through books (not sure whether to attribute that to my introvert nature or my Type 5 personality). That isn’t a bad thing, of course. There’s a wealth of information out there, why suffer with a problem unnecessarily? For some reason we tend to believe things like parenting and relationships should come naturally. But they don’t. In fact, I love Herbert Spencer’s take on this:
“What is to be expected when one of the most intricate of problems is undertaken by those who have given scarcely a thought to the principles on which its solution depends? For shoemaking or housebuilding…a long apprenticeship is needful. Is it then that the unfolding of a human being in body and mind is so comparatively simple a process that anyone may superintend and regulate it with no preparation whatever? … Better [to] sacrifice accomplishments than omit this all-essential instruction.” Herbert Spencer
Without further ado, here’s a sneak peek at the things I’m working on.
The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Rearing the Preschool Child, Thomas Millar 10/10. Book of the month pick. Good luck finding this 1990s out-of-print book. But do try. Because it is absolute gold. My mother-in-law gave me this book a few months ago and it sat in the long queue of my reading list until I was utterly fed-up with certain toddler behaviors and started looking far and wide for a resource (see picture above for some of my personal parenting library). Honestly, I was tired of the modern parenting advice: Talk about their feelings, let them express their feelings. Most modern parenting advice is focused on correcting the parent and calming their responses. Which has its place and I’m not bashing it as part of parenting, but when that is your only method, you’ll soon find yourself living with a tiny tyrant who believes you are slave to their fits and emotions (ask me how I know). So I remembered this book and pulled it out for some good old-fashioned advice. And Millar delivered! It’s old-school without corporal punishment. This book is short. It’s easy to read. And it lays out a plan that walks you step-by-step through every conceivable toddler behavior (buy a good timer). My favorite thing? It provides reasons for correcting behaviors. He talks about training children out of egocentricity, teaching them to respect authority, and building a healthy conscience, among other things. He addressed one of my personal struggles, which was the transition from saying “no” to young children only for dangerous things to training them up in good behaviors (because it’s much easier to allow a messy room than letting them touch a hot stove). And he does it all with a heavy dose of absolute sass. You’ll need a sense of humor to read Millar. One of my favorite lines was about teaching a child to hang up his coat. Paraphrased, Millar says, “Sure, you can pick it up for him. Then when he’s grown, ask his wife how she feels about doing it for him too.” Oh snap.
No More Perfect Kids, Jill Savage I actually listened to this one instead of reading it. Why don’t I do that more often? It’s better than podcasts and I could fit in so much more “reading” in the little pockets of time like driving and running errands, washing dishes, etc. Back to the book itself: There have been moments that really connected with me, and other parts where I wasn’t sure I was the right audience (there was a lot of talk about older children). Based on this book, I’m now interested in her other one too, No More Perfect Moms. She has some wonderful tips on accepting our children for who they are. I think the part I appreciated most was early on, when she said we set our children up with an impossible expectation: We want them to be unique and special, yet also entirely normal and accepted. Yes.
Boundaries, Henry Cloud Everybody’s heard of this one, right? It’s hugely popular. I had no idea it was so Biblically based, but I was fine with that. In fact, coming from the “be nice” Christian culture, it was very helpful to see Biblical support for boundaries. I’m only about halfway through this one (picking and choosing chapters based on “hot spots” in my life). The thing I’ve learned so far: that I’m not nearly as good at setting boundaries as I thought I was. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Anger, Gary Chapman The relationship expert behind the Five Love Languages writes about discerning “good” anger from “bad” anger, how to handle either, and how to handle it in various relationships. I appreciated the brevity of this book and the quick summaries at the end of each chapter. It was a highly readable ebook for me. I’ve struggled with anger as a go-to defense in high-stress situations and am working on it. I’m not feeling any radical changes in my life yet, but hey, it’s only been a month. His thoughts on anger definitely float around in my head during potentially heated moments.
Help! My Bible is Alive!, Nicole Unice If you can get past the slightly cheesy title (sorry, Nicole), the book itself is wonderful. It has been a godsend (ha). Unice walks you through the basics of studying the Bible, and it really does make that big, intimidating, seemingly outdated book come to life. It’s an easy read for beginners, with plenty of depth for experienced Christians. I was familiar with many of the concepts, but actually walking through them in the book made it become personal. I find myself automatically dissecting verses in my head now. I started the month of October literally avoiding my Bible, and I now find myself reaching for it automatically. That’s as good a review as a book can get.
Honestly, there’s half a dozen more self-help books I’ve picked up this month, but these are the only ones I’ve really read through. If I get back to the others, they’ll be on my November list. Otherwise they’ll languish in book purgatory until I have a bad day and need tips. I’m a slow nonfiction reader, I can’t quite gobble them up the way I can a novel. But I love them nonetheless. Anybody else have a list of nonfiction titles waiting for you? What’s on your list?