If you're pregnant and need a break from advice books, try one of these good books to read.

By Rebecca Renner
Updated April 11, 2019
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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.

Credit: Cover of Workman Publishing


When you find out you're pregnant, it can feel like you're suddenly bombarded with advice and warnings from your doctor, family members, and friends (not to mention whatever alarming health news you might stumble upon online). Not only can it feel like a lot of noise, but a little terrifying, too. If you're looking for a reassuring yet still medically accurate and up-to-date pregnancy book, The New Rules of Pregnancy is like the modern woman's What to Expect. Covering not only the well-covered basics—what foods to avoid, tips for alleviating unpleasant symptoms—Simone, Worth, and Claro (two doctors and a health writer) dive into topics like writing a birth plan, self-care, and navigating the so-called "Fourth Trimester."

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

Credit: 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.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

Credit: 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, the money is barely enough to buy clothes and food for her growing child, Land dreams of something more.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.

Credit: 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.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

Credit: 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.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

Credit: 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.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.