11 Best Books to Read About Motherhood When You're Pregnant

Step away from the advice books, and try one of these good books about motherhood.

The weeks before you give birth are full of anticipation, and finding good books to read on pregnancy and parenting can be so comforting. It's an exciting but scary time of what-ifs, worry, and planning. Millions of other parents-to-be have felt the same way you are. Some of them have even put those trials and joys into good books, including wonderful novels, for those of us who are self-help adverse.

The minute you conceived, someone probably bought you a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Expect a lot of unsolicited advice, both on the internet and in person. Other books will tell you what to eat, what not to eat, how to plot out your birth plan like a 1,000-page fantasy novel, why you should have a home birth, why you shouldn't have a home birth, everything you never needed to know about breastfeeding, how to have the most stylish hipster baby in daycare, which organic baby food is the best, why screen-time is bad, why screen-time doesn't matter, how to start your baby on the track toward an Ivy League education before they can talk—are you ready to scream yet? Take a deep breath, put down the stress-inducing baby books, and try some different reading material.

Studies have shown that women become more creative after giving birth. Novels by mothers contain beauty and insight, and mothering memoirs show determination, drive, and oh-so-necessary humor. If you're more of a strictly nonfiction kind of reader, other good books rise above the average how-to fare. Instead of going for a book that will scold you into changing diapers differently or convince you to buy a $1,000 stroller, steer toward edifying reads that will help you organize and improve your life, even while chaos is breaking loose.

There are plenty of good books by mothers in every genre and style. Let them welcome you into the ranks of parenthood with their captivating stories.

01 of 11

The Seven Day Switch

The Seven Day Switch Book

Two very different moms switch places, Freaky Friday style, in this funny book about motherhood that'll help you decide what kind of mom you do (or don't!) want to be.

02 of 11

Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin

Motherhood So White book

This brutally honest book about black motherhood offers a look at the differences faced by parents of color v. white families.

03 of 11

Dear Mother: Poems on the hot mess of motherhood by Bunmi Laditan

Dear Mother Poetry Book

If you're a fan of Laditan's hilarious Honest Toddler posts, you might be expecting more snark than sentimentality. But this poetry book about motherhood offers plenty of humor, sweetness, and seriousness in its pages.

04 of 11

Ask Me What's For Dinner One More Time: Inappropriate Thoughts on Motherhood by Meredith Masony

Ask Me What's for Dinner One More Time book

This sassy (and hilarious) essay collection from the That's Inappropriate blogger shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of life as a parent. It's the perfect funny book about motherhood for a light pregnancy read.

05 of 11

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect Mother Novel

This (fortunately) fiction book about motherhood explores what happens when an infant goes missing and the secrets within the mother's circle of friends come out into the open. (Though skip this if you're the worrying type!)

06 of 11

Mom & Me & Mom, by Maya Angelou

Mom and Me and Mom by Maya Angelou

If you're looking for uplifting books about black motherhood, try this memoir from Maya Angelou which explores her troubled relationship with her mother—and how she was able to rebuild it after her mother abandoned her at age three.

07 of 11

Eleven Hours, by Pamela Erens

Cover of Eleven Hours, by Pamela Erens
Tin House Books

No other novel shows the wonder of childbirth quite like Pamela Erens's Eleven Hours. The story begins when Lore checks herself into the hospital alone. Despite the absence of a partner or friends, she had planned out every aspect of her birth. She doesn't want any intervention or monitoring, but will she get what she wants? The plot swirls lyrically around her memories and her reluctant bond with Franckline, a nurse in the maternity ward. Past and present collide as Lore labors to give birth to her child.

08 of 11

Maid, by Stephanie Land

Cover of Maid, by Stephanie Land
Courtesy of Hachette Books

Mothers will do anything for their children. In Stephanie Land's debut memoir Maid, she chronicles the struggle of providing for her daughter as a single mother in the Pacific Northwest. The book opens with Land's daughter taking her first steps in the homeless shelter where they live. Land's determination is palpable: She wants a better life for her daughter than this. She claws her way up into an apartment of her own, paying her way with work as a house cleaner. Even though she comes home aching every day and the money is barely enough to buy clothes and food for her growing child, Land dreams of something more.

09 of 11

Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte

Cover of Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte
Courtesy of Macmillan

You've probably heard by now that you won't be sleeping much after you welcome your bundle of joy (and noise) into the world. Parenthood can be challenging and exhausting, but you don't have to feel like you've lost yourself while you're creating a life for someone else. Journalist Brigid Schulte lays out how our always-on culture can get the best of us and what you can do to take back some time for yourself.

10 of 11

The Baby Plan, by Kate Rorick

Cover of The Baby Plan, by Kate Rorick
HarperCollins Publishers

If you're looking for a humorous, light novel that pokes fun at the absurd world of modern mommy-to-be culture, look no further than Kate Rorick's The Baby Plan. With the main characters—Nathalie, Lyndi, and Sophie—you can laugh at all the attention-craving, thousand-dollar stroller buying, over-the-top gender reveal party planning that has somehow become part of your new life.

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What I Told My Daughter: Lessons from Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women, edited by Nina Tassler

Cover of What I Told My Daughter, edited by Nina Tassler
Simon & Schuster

If you're more in the mood for wisdom, pick up a copy of What I Told My Daughter, an anthology of essays edited by Nina Tassler. Each essay is by a different strong, famous woman, such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sharon Osborne, Whoopi Goldberg, and Gloria Estefan. Together, they share their knowledge and reflect on the vital lessons that shaped their daughters' lives.

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