september 2019 books

It’s been a whirlwind month around here, at home and at work, so I haven’t had much time to devote to reading. That being said, I did finish two books, coincidentally both related to pregnancy and motherhood.

Cribsheet by Emily Oster

I have seen this recommended on several occasions, most recently from high school friends who had read it and loved its evidence-based approach to child-rearing. The science nerd in me really loved this book, so much so that I’m contemplating buying a hard copy (gasp!) to keep on hand for reference during these next few years of having small children. The trouble is, I think the status of the data changes quickly! Anyway, this book is an excellent resource comparing parenting myths, concerns, and trends with actual data; Oster does a wonderful job of summarizing research-to-date on each topic and providing a recommendation. The chapter I found the most helpful was the one about whether to stay at home or be a working parent. She outlines an excellent way of considering this decision for your family, including the element of  what you want to do. So many articles I’ve read on the topic disregard the parents’ personal and professional desires, so this point was refreshing. Not to provide spoilers or anything, but the bottom line is that outcomes in children are nearly identical when comparing those with stay-at-home parents and working parents. Interestingly, the only group that has slightly improved outcomes is children with one full-time working parent and one part-time working parent. The idea is that there are 1.5 incomes for the family to provide financial security, but also one parent with enough time to take care of all matters at home and attend things like school plays and soccer games. I haven’t quite decided what the future holds for me professionally (I want to work, but I’m not sure how much and when), so this piece of information is useful. I will definitely be keeping this in mind as a gift for new parents.

5 out of 5 stars.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

I think this book was a recommendation I received because I love The Handmaid’s Tale (both the book and the TV show). There are a lot of similarities in that they both discuss what it would be like if bearing children were made into a commodity and describe a very particular environment for ensuring the delivery of healthy babies. Unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, in The Farm, the women giving birth are (very handsomely) compensated for their efforts. I was captivated by the descriptions of the retreat (Golden Oaks) where expectant mothers live for the duration of their pregnancies; what would a world be like where healthy pregnancies are the number 1 priority? The luxe robes and all organic-fare sound lovely, but as you might expect, the limitations on personal freedom are stifling and entirely unethical. Ramos explores a lot of interesting social questions throughout the book without necessarily providing an “answer” or making it clear where her opinion lies, which is not an easy feat for an author. I read this book in about 3 days, partially because the due date was looming, but mostly because it was just a damn good book. I would definitely read more from this Princeton grad in the future.

5 out of 5 stars. 

What did you read in September?

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