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"). 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

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

By Zoë Kim,

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

Why 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.


Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization

By Scott Barry Kaufman,

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

Why 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.


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

By Alison Gopnik,

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 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.


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

By William Stixrud, Ned Johnson,

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

Why 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.


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

By William B Irvine,

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

Why 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!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in parenting, self-actualization, and self esteem?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about parenting, self-actualization, and self esteem.

Parenting Explore 116 books about parenting
Self-Actualization Explore 105 books about self-actualization
Self Esteem Explore 53 books about self esteem

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Walden, How to Raise an Adult, and Letters from a Stoic if you like this list.