Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller
(If you click on that link, it reviews both of Karen Maezen Miller's books, as well as She Looks Just Like You by Amie Klempnauer Miller. The latter is a memoir of motherhood by a (nonbiological) lesbian mother. It is well worth the read as well.)
Momma Zen is full of essays and meditations I pick up and peruse over and over again. The subtitle is "Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood" and that is exactly what all mother's need to be reminded of: it's a crooked path. Miller is a Zen Buddhist Priest who recognizes that we are all so many things and that what the cure is for those things that ail us is to accept them and give them time and space to resolve. This book is full of little meditations, with a handy index in the back to direct you to the one you want for your particular hard moment. Entitled: "For the Hard Days" (because no one needs help during the happy times) it has meditations for everything from Balance to Trust. There's even a little "How to Meditate" primer thrown in for good measure.
What makes this book special is that she's not saying "this is how you do it," she saying "this is how I do it, and it helps me, so it might help you." And then leaving you to make your own decisions and form your own opinions.
(I read her blog and follow her on facebook. You can, too.)
Momfulness by Denise Roy
Roy has a Masters in Divinity and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Her first book, My Monastery is a Minivan was exactly what I needed when I found it. (Click on the link above to find my reaction to it.) While that book was a memoir, this is a handbook. It is full of little rituals to helps you mother (although it would work for fathers, too) with mindfulness, compassion, and grace. It's one I give frequently as a baby shower gift.
The Rhythm of the Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons.
by Amanda Blake Soule with Stephen Soule
Soule's other two books, The Creative Family and The Handmade Home both have a spot on my bookshelves. Those are craft-based books, though, so I didn't review them (maybe that could be my next big book list...) and somehow, even though I read this one in October, I neglected to review it. Which is a shame, because it is amazing. It is broken down by month, with an essay by Mama and an essay by Papa on each's reflections of that time of year. Following that are a handful of projects for each month/season that are easy for the whole family to participate in. As a mother of 5, she's well practiced in encouraging the young ones to get involved - her confidence inspires me to let go a little and let my own son try his hand at the things he shows interest in.
The have a blog, full of photos and adventures of their life on their farm in Maine - it's just enough outside of my realm of experience (SNOW! For months!) that if I have never felt anything but inspired. Find her here, and on twitter here.
What's Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot, Ph.D.
This is not a book for the casual reader. But it is chock-full of information on your baby's brain. If you follow the link above there's a decent review. I honestly have only picked this up since reading so that I could double check a few of her milestone charts, but I feel like I retained enough that it's helping my parenting. If you're a science nerd with nothing to read: you won't go wrong here.
If Your Kid Eats The Book, Everything Will Still Be Okey: How to Know if Your Child's Injury or Illness is Really and Emergency by Lara Zibner, MD.
This is another baby-shower gift, and here's why: she deals with the stuff that freaks a parent out in the middle of the night: swallowed coins, bumped heads, cuts, scrapes, fevers, poisoning, bites, rashes, the "plumbing"...she doesn't give two shakes if you've vaccinated or not, or if your doctor is homeopathic or conventional. She focuses on the injury and whether or not it needs to be seen by a trained professional. I've consulted it a LOT in the past two years, and I'm certain I will continue to as the years progress.
The best nugget of wisdom so far? (ok, there are two)
1) The 3/3 rule for head bumps: under 3 months of age, or if they fall over 3 feet onto their head, it's time to consult a doctor. (She lists other symptoms to look out for, but that the basic rule of thumb.)
2) Vomit always looks more voluminous than it is and the only color you should worry about is christmas-tree green or if it's pure blood.
If you're a parent or a care-giver, there's no reason not to have this on your shelf.
So that's a good start. Part two will publish after I've read Mayim Bialik's new book.