The best books for finding your bliss as a parent

Who am I?

I strongly believe that anyone who is willing to reflect thoughtfully on life can make progress toward inner peace and contentment. I have pursued my lifelong interest in human development first through a Ph.D. in applied linguistics (with a focus on individual differences in second language development) and then through the study of Stoic moral psychology and philosophy. These days I have ample opportunity to study human nature in the best laboratory of all: parenthood!

I wrote...

Tranquility Parenting: A Guide to Staying Calm, Mindful, and Engaged

By Brittany Polat,

Book cover of Tranquility Parenting: A Guide to Staying Calm, Mindful, and Engaged

What is my book about?

Parenting is stressful. For many parents, who are always busy, usually tired, and probably not trained in dealing with children, the words "tranquility" and "parenting" do not go together. Don't you just wish there was some technique out there that could help you become calm, content, and confident parent? Something that you could have on hand all the time to help you through your most challenging situations and stressful days? Well, there is something, and it comes from a wisdom tradition that has been helping people through difficult situations for about 2300 years. The psychological techniques developed by ancient Stoics have recently been rediscovered, and Stoicism is enjoying a renaissance among people from all walks of life who are looking for fulfillment, tranquility, and yes, the meaning of life. Modern Stoicism has straightforward answers to all these questions, as well as practical techniques for achieving eudaimonia (the Greek word for "human flourishing"). 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Minimalism for Families: Practical Minimalist Living Strategies to Simplify Your Home and Life

Why did I love this book?

Maybe you’ve heard of minimalism. It’s a way of life that helps you shed all the stuff you don’t need in your life so you can focus on the people, activities, and priorities that bring you joy. But is it possible to be a minimalist with children at home? Absolutely! Zoë Kim shows you how in this relatable and easy-to-read guide to getting the whole family on board with minimalism. You’ll learn how to pare back your commitments, declutter your home, and take a more intentional approach to family life. From cleaning out the first drawer to developing lifelong minimalist habits, you will appreciate the newfound time, space, and sense of peace that minimalism brings.

By Zoë Kim,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Minimalism for Families as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Share the joys of minimalism with your whole family.

Make room for what really matters. Minimalism for Families shows you the real costs of the things you own and helps you discover that cutting non-essential items makes for a happier, more satisfying home and life.

Spend less time stressing about your stuff and more time together. Filled with practical advice to help you and your family clear out your house, Minimalism for Families helps you build stronger bonds, spend more time together, and start enjoying the benefits of living clutter-free.

Minimalism for Families includes:

An introduction to minimalism―Find out what…

Book cover of Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization

Why did I love this book?

You’re probably familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, an undergraduate psychology staple that explains how a person’s basic needs (such as security) are foundational to higher needs (such as self-actualization). But did you know Abraham Maslow never actually drew that pyramid? Popular psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman follows in Maslow’s footsteps, tracking down his later research and personal writings to uncover what the famous humanist really thought about personal development. It turns out that the image of the pyramid is both misleading and incomplete: it is missing its top level, self-transcendence.

Kaufman walks us through an updated vision of Maslow’s work, culminating in our ability to rise above everyday affairs and connect with our higher aspirations and ideals. In the process, we learn how to cultivate the proper mindset for growth and turn our aspirations into reality. Transcend is not about parenting per se, but it is chock full of insights into reaching your own potential and, in turn, helping other people reach theirs.

By Scott Barry Kaufman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Transcend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


How to realise your full potential and live your most creative life.
When psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman first discovered Maslow's unfinished theory of transcendence, sprinkled throughout a cache of unpublished journals, lectures, and essays, he felt a deep resonance with his own work and life. In this groundbreaking book, Kaufman picks up where Maslow left off, unraveling the mysteries of his unfinished theory, and integrating these ideas with the latest research on attachment, connection, creativity, love, purpose and other building blocks of a life well lived.

Kaufman's new hierarchy of needs provides a roadmap for finding…

Book cover of The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us about the Relationship Between Parents and Children

Why did I love this book?

As parents, we all want to shape our children and give them the best lives we can. But sometimes our natural concern for our child’s future can get out of hand and turn into helicoptering and overparenting. Renowned child psychologist Alison Gopnik has an important message for parents: stop worrying! “Our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child,” Gopnik tells us. “Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children of many unpredictable kinds can flourish.”

Gopnik is at the forefront of research showing that many well-intentioned parenting interventions have little or no impact on our children’s success in life. She advocates parenting not as a carpenter—cutting and shaping our child to fit our exact specifications—but as a gardener, cultivating and coaxing growth by attending to the unique characteristics of each child. Young children do much of their learning through social interactions with loving caregivers, and it is through these relationships that they acquire the foundations for a good life. So rather than trying to make your child a chip off the old block, put away the hammer and get out your spade: help your child learn, explore, and grow in his or her own natural way.

By Alison Gopnik,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Gardener and the Carpenter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Gardener and the Carpenter, Alison Gopnik, one of the world's leading child psychologists, illuminates the paradoxes of parenthood from a scientific perspective and shatters the myth of "good parenting".

Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call “parenting” is a surprisingly new invention. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion-dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult.

In The Gardener and the Carpenter,…

Book cover of The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives

Why did I love this book?

If you choose just one parenting book to read all year, make it this one! Just as The Gardener and The Carpenter recommends a more relaxed approach to raising young children (see above), The Self-Driven Child explores in great detail how letting go a little (or a lot) can benefit your older child.

Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist, and Johnson, an SAT tutor to teens in high-pressure environments, have decades of experience working with stressed out, underperforming, or highly driven teens and tweens. They sagely remind us that in order to develop properly, children need a sense of autonomy and control over their own lives. When parents try to take over tasks and decisions that rightfully belong to the child, children may lose their motivation, self-confidence, and ability to successfully navigate challenges.

To combat the 21st century epidemic of overparenting, Stixrud and Johnson offer compelling research and highly relevant strategies to help restore family harmony. From homework battles to technology use to making space for “radical downtime,” these experts walk you through the why and how of letting your child run her own life. And by easing up the pressure you place on your child, you will also be releasing some of the pressure on everyone else. You just might find that by giving your child a sense of control over his life, you regain a sense of control over your own.

By William Stixrud, Ned Johnson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Self-Driven Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Instead of trusting kids with choices . . . many parents insist on micromanaging everything from homework to friendships. For these parents, Stixrud and Johnson have a simple message: Stop." -NPR

"This humane, thoughtful book turns the latest brain science into valuable practical advice for parents." -Paul Tough, New York Times bestselling author of How Children Succeed

A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking motivation. Many complained they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school…

Book cover of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

Why did I love this book?

When it comes to finding your bliss, nothing beats the ancient philosophy of Stoicism! Originating in Greece over 2,000 years ago, this insightful life philosophy will help you focus on what matters and overcome fear, anxiety, and anger. Although the term stoic (with a lowercase s) has, over the centuries, come to mean someone who is grim and unemotional, Stoicism (with an uppercase S) is actually a proven system for finding more resilience and happiness in life.

William Irvine is a patient guide as he explains why everyone needs a philosophy of life and how Stoicism in particular is well-suited for the 21st century. Irvine provides concrete mental techniques and practical advice on topics like putting up with insults, detaching your self-worth from material possessions, and making peace with illness and death. If you’re the kind of person who wants a rich and meaningful life—and you’re willing to put in some mental work to get there—this book is a must-read for you!

By William B. Irvine,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Guide to the Good Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.

In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using…

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