Guides and Handbooks


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The Danish concept of hygge embraces everything comfy, cozy, and homey, and may be part of the reason that Danes are the happiest people on Earth.  In brief chapters, Meik Wiking breaks down “how to hygge,” teaching readers how to reject artifice, embrace genuine friendships, and find peace and joy in simple things like mood lighting, baking, and spending quality time with small groups of loved ones.  There are a lot of anecdotes, recommendations, and instructions (such as recipes) in this brief book, some of which are more compatible with an American lifestyle than others.  Overall, this book reads kind of like a Real Simple article; it creates a pretty picture of what life could be, with lots of ideas that you may or may not be able to apply in certain aspects of your own life.  A light read that may interest people who want a glimpse into another culture, or readers looking for ways to simplify or relax in their own lives.

Pregnancy and Childbirth Prep

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My apologies for the unannounced hiatus from blogging. I was overly optimistic about my ability to continue reading extensively for pleasure as my pregnancy drew to a close and last minute baby preparations took over my life. But now I’m back to reading and this post hopefully marks the return of regular book reviews. I’ll kick things off with some quick evaluations of a few popular pregnancy guides.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
Probably the most well-known pregnancy prep book on the market today, What to Expect covers pregnancy week by week, discussing symptoms, common issues, and things to think about: decisions that will need to be made about the birth and also decisions about what will happen in your early days of parenting. The writing style is informal and somewhat trendy with many light-hearted references to the “baby bump” and other common social aspects of the modern American pregnacy, such as designing a nursery. There is also an online community associated with the book, where expectant mothers can connect with other expecting mothers. This book will resonate with many pregnant women, but not all will relate to the writing style and some of priorities the book presents as universal. The book’s main weakness is its organization. Many useful tidbits of information and are interspersed throughout the week by week discussion, which can make them difficult to locate again.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
Although a new edition of this book has not been released in several years, the information included in it is still relevant and valuable. This book is well organized, including a section on pregnancy week by week, but also including chapters devoted specifically to different issues surrounding pregnancy so that if you are experiencing symptoms or thinking about issues at a different time than is typical, you can easily locate the information that you need. One of the more useful sections is an index of pains and other potentially alarming symptoms with an assessment of whether it is normal or worth an immediate call to your healthcare provider. The focus of the book is on physical and mental health, so while you will find broader topics such as choosing a childcare provider, you will not find as much of a variety as you find in What to Expect. The writing style is less playful, but still accessible and easy to read. I personally found this resource the most helpful.

Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
The focus of this book is on mental and logistical preparations for childbirth with a heavy emphasis on natural, non-medicated birth. It includes strategies for overcoming or facing fears, strategies for natural pain management with suggestions for how to practice before labor, and a few pregnancy tips such as a nutrition guide. Not all of the stories, techniques, and beliefs presented in this book will resonate with all readers, but I highly recommend it if you have a lot of birth-related fears or if you are planning on a medication-free birth. There are chapters with practical strategies you may find very useful.


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I’ve been reading a lot of wedding planning books these past few weeks, and while most of them aren’t worth mentioning, I was particularly impressed with A Practical Wedding.  While most wedding books are filled with pretty pictures to give you ideas for your wedding “look,” A Practical Wedding is filled with questions to give you ideas for your wedding will “feel.”  By picking apart wedding “traditions” and their history, this book gives engaged couples a great starting point for deciding what is important to them.  Then, as the title would imply, it provides practical advice for how to put your plans into action while also sticking to your budget.

A Practical Wedding also addresses some of the rarely-discussed emotional aspects of wedding planning—not the “what to do if your bridesmaids aren’t supporting your rustic-vintage-rainbow-emu theme” problem that the other magazines seem more eager to discuss, but rather weddings in the face of grief, health problems, etc., and how to negotiate the deeper emotional and logistical issues of creating a new family out of your and your fiance’s families of origin.  I definitely recommend reading this book, ideally at the beginning of your wedding planning process.  It can help you sift through the wedding culture madness and frame your wedding planning with the values that are important to you and your fiance.