Put down What to Expect When You're Expecting — there may be plenty of literature out there for current and hopeful moms-to-be, but the books you need to read before you have a baby don't include a single diagram of your vagina or the word "crowning" unless it's in reference to royalty.
Because you know what? Becoming a parent is this incredible thing that feels both totally natural and freakishly weird at the same time. It comes with more nuances and gray areas than any other area of life, and it is worth every moment. But books about pregnancy, books about adoption, and books that make you question whether you were ever meant to be a parent aren't what you need to read before you have a baby.
Having a baby is about more than just biology and it can't always be explained in easy phrases like, "the best thing that will ever happen to you" and "a rewarding and fulfilling journey." Whether you're waiting for the call from the adoption agency, trying a new fertility treatment, feeling your baby kick inside of you, or years away from becoming a mom, here are 17 books you actually need to read before you have a baby. They are books that will touch every mother, and not just because she's about to have a child, but because she's a woman. They will empower you, prepare you for motherhood, remind you that you aren't alone, and reassure you in every sense. Basically? They're like tiny manuals for becoming a mother, except the lessons are subtle, and you won't be able to put them down. (Also, not one author compares your baby to the shape of a banana one week and then a grapefruit the next. I mean, how does that even make sense?)
1'You Are A Badass' by Jen Sincero
Motherhood can often feel like a loss of identity, which is why every future mama should read You Are A Badass. It's more than just a self-help book; it's a warrior cry of how awesome you are and how you deserve the life you want. You'll feel more confident, empowered, and ready to tackle anything, including poopy diapers.
2'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
How can you become a mother without reading the quintessential tale of a strong mom and her daughters in Little Women? Not only will it fulfill all of your sibling dreams and desires, but it will also remind you of the incredible bond between families, mothers and children, and what you can do with that strength.
3'Harry Potter' Series by J.K. Rowling
I'm just going to assume that you've already read the perfect Harry Potter series, but it's worth a re-read, especially before you have a baby. Not only will you hardly ever have time to dive back into Hogwarts once your little one comes, but knowing the love of a child will make the book even more emotional, particularly the relationship between Lily and Harry. Seriously, now that I'm a mom, I can't read these books without sobbing all over the place.
4'Tiny Beautiful Things' by Cheryl Strayed
A friend gifted me Tiny Beautiful Things when I was pregnant with my daughter ,and I am forever grateful. Full of responses that Strayed wrote to those who asked for advice in her Dear Sugar column, there is a story that will resonate deeply with everyone. It's a must for any person, but the book has been described as a balm and who needs that more than a mom?
5'Peter Pan' by J.M. Barrie
It's a classic, but I don't know many people who have actually read Peter Pan, which is a shame, especially if you're preparing to become a mother. Motherhood is actually a huge theme of Peter Pan and Wendy's description of a mother to the lost boys will make your heart ache (in a good way).
6'Baby Proof' by Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors and her novel, Baby Proof, is wonderful. It tells the story of a couple who both agree not to have children, until the husband changes his mind. Now, having a child is a must for him and their relationship becomes full of compromises, heartache, and balance. It's a lesson that proves a baby changes everything and that sometimes you truly have to fight for what you want — even if it goes against everybody.
7'I Heart My Little A-Holes' by Karen Alpert
Raising a child is not for the faint of heart and that's evident in I Heart My Little A-Holes. If you ever wanted a real book that explained to you just how messy and hard parenthood is, you're welcome.
8'The Nanny Diaries' by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
If you're planning on hiring someone to help care for your child, then The Nanny Diaries is a must. It's a hilarious look at the nanny situation in Manhattan, but it's also a heartbreaking tale of what happens when parents treat their child as an accessory.
9'I Don't Know How She Does It' by Allison Pearson
Whether you're a working mom, a stay at home mom, or a combination of both, I Don't Know How She Does It will remind you that you're not going at it alone. The novel is about a working mom juggling a million things in the air, and the panic she feels when she realizes that her life is completely different than she thought. Read this before you have a baby so you'll know that the class snack is not worth losing sleep over, OK?
10'Little Earthquakes' by Jennifer Weiner
A fun, lovely read, Little Earthquakes follows the stories of four very different women as the embark on motherhood, highlighting the comedic moments along with the tragic ones. It's a light novel that will have you both excited to become a parent and ready to handle anything.
11'A Window Opens' by Elisabeth Egan
Every mom-to-be will know the struggle of "having it all" and A Window Opens tackles that struggle beautifully. The novel centers around a wife and mother of three who leaps at a career change that could be everything she's ever wanted. But, of course, nothing comes easy, and she has to decide if having it all is actually what she wants.
12'Room' by Emma Donoghue
Parts of this book are incredibly hard to read, but Room is a must for any future mom's bookshelf. Imprisoned in just one room, little Jack only knows it as his life, but his mother has a different idea of what life is like in the room and the future for her and her son. The book is a powerful look at the love of a mother and how deeply a child can feel it in, even in the most devastating circumstances.
13'The Rainbow Comes And Goes' by Anderson Cooper & Gloria Vanderbilt
A bond between a mother and her child is unbreakable and Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper illustrate that beautifully in their memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes. Read this book before you have a baby, and then spend the rest of your life jotting down all the stories, life lessons, and conversations you want to share with your little one. Trust me, this book will make you want to share all of your insights and teach you just how important it is to reconnect with your child at every stage.
14'The Secret Life Of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd
I've cried when reading lot of books, but is The Secret Life of Bees a full-on sob-fest. Losing her mother has been devastating, but Lily Owens, a young girl living in 1964 South Carolina, but wondering how it happened and where her mother came from might be even more upsetting. I don't want to give anything away about this book, so let me just say this — put it in your library. You'll long for that connection between a mother and child, and this book will teach you that love knows no bounds and can carry on through others, time, and places.
15'A Mother's Reckoning' by Sue Kelbold
When I heard that A Mother's Reckoning was being published, I was desperate to read it. You should be, too. It is the memoir of Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters. If you've ever parent-shamed, if you've ever blamed a kid's childhood for their decisions, and if you've ever struggled with mental illness — read this book. Just read it. It is heartbreaking and gripping and I literally couldn't put it down.
16'Operating Instructions' by Anne Lamott
Because babies don't come with a manual, pick up a copy of Operating Instructions. Lamott tells the story of her son's first year beautifully and it will leave you crying with both laughter and sadness. Motherhood isn't easy, and she makes sure that every one who picks up this book knows that. From the fear you'll feel over the little things, to the immense responsibility that is almost suffocating, Lamott nails motherhood.
17'Alexander Hamilton' by Ron Chernow
Because one day you're kid is going to sing all the songs from Hamilton the musical and you're going to need answers to their questions. Also, if you don't read Alexander Hamilton before you have a baby, you'll never get a chance to, OK? Mark my words.