Parenting Books: Do parents deserve thought-provoking books?

No question, parenting books appear more popular than ever. Amazon lists over 200,000 selections. Someone must be buying parenting books. Do you? I wonder why people seek these books and better yet, what kind they actually read, find useful and enjoy. I ask because, like every other psychologist and mommy blogger, I'm working on one too. When I've shown bits and piece of the manuscript (or even described it), I've found people like the idea but sometimes report the writing is too academic, too detailed, too serious in parts. A kind and generous reader likened it to reading an article in The New Yorker or Atlantic. A great if not particularly accurate compliment but she meant it wasn't the type of parenting book she was expecting or normally read. No surprise, it's a lot like this blog, both in style and content.

Another reason I bring this issue up, there are non-fiction books on the best-seller lists right now that are equally detailed, serious and academic as my manuscript. But they aren't written for parents. Is there a different standard for parenting books? If so, why? I suspect it involves a complicated societal relationship with motherhood. Although the status of women and mothers has come a long way since the 1950s at times parenting, the greater burden still placed on women, garners disrespect. Perhaps this also explains why news about children more often lands in the lifestyle or culture pages and not the more vaunted front page (or homepage). It's women's work and frankly, anyone can do it. In this age of supposed hyper-parenting why the disrespect for parenting literature? Has the vast heap of parenting books turned parents off book? Then why the pile up at Amazon?

The good news, a number of more intellectual books for parents have received a lot of praise and attention, say Eula Biss's On Inoculation. It isn't an easy read. Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon, by the way, almost 1,000 pages. Yet these remain the exception. Apparently books about children and pregnancy are to be relatively simple informative affairs. Amusing too.

So I must ask, do you seek parenting books out more for entertainment, practical advice or something else, perhaps a greater understanding of the parenting experts or their recommendations or research?


pseudosophistikate said...

I fall more into the "I'm tired and frustrated and need some advice to fix this so I'm less tired frustrated." The few books I have purchased have a solid mix of scientific research and personal experiences. When I need quick information, I skim over the personal stories to get to the facts. When I need reassurance that I'm not alone, I read through the stories.

As a working mom of a toddler, my leisure reading now consists of buzzfeed and a few blogs. I don't yet have the mental capacity to consume much else...much less hard reads outside the office.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Howdy Pseudo-SophistiKate,

Wow, I suspect you've succinctly nailed how, why and what a lot of parents seek written advice. I might need to quote you in the future.

Your blog gave me a real laugh, especially the latest post title is great - Please call back in 18 years. I'm enslaved to TIVO (w HBO2GO, Netflix and Amazon Prime).