If you want to find out the best way to shussssh your newborn baby to sleep, potty-train your toddler, or lose those last few pregnancy pounds, there are hundreds upon hundreds of books to choose from at your local bookstore. But if you want to know what it's really like to be a mom—we're talking the inside dope, the honest-to-goodness info about how parenthood smacks you silly and turns your life upside down—you have to dig just a little deeper. We asked moms to nominate their picks for the books that best prepared them for the emotions of parenthood.
Operating Instructions: A Journey of My Son's First Year, by Anne Lamott
Perhaps the all-time classic of mom memoirs—written in 1993, long before blogs were even invented—Lamott's honest, funny, and heartbreaking account of raising her son Sam as a single mom has moments of joy (baby's first ride in a shopping cart) and despair (panicking at how she will make ends meet) that all parents will instantly recognize.
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The Parent Trip, by Jenna McCarthy
Not to be confused with anti-vaxxer actress Jenny McCarthy, Jenna McCarthy writes hilariously about the ridiculous moments of motherhood we all experience—figuring out the breast pump, obsessing over the baby monitor, negotiating post-baby sex. You'll laugh so hard you'll forget you're covered with spit-up.
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Tucked at the end of this bestseller recounting Tina Fey's quirky childhood, her triumphs at Saturday Night Live, and how she juggles life as a mom, wife, writer, actress, and universal BFF is the three-page-long gem "The Mother's Prayer for Its Daughter." Read it. Memorize it. Hang it on your fridge.
I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson
We might not all be able to relate to high-powered businesswoman Kate's skirmishes with her bosses and flirtations with handsome colleagues in this 2003 novel, but every working mom will smile with recognition when Kate tries to pass off store-bought pastries as home-made for the gazillionth school bake sale of the year.
From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent, by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris
Okay, so you do want to have at least one phonebook-thick guide to breastfeeding, babyproofing, childcare, and taking care of your body after baby, and we love this one for its honest, mom-to-mom vibe.
Waiting for Birdy, by Catherine Newman
If you're expecting your second child, you won't be able to put down this memoir about being pregnant with number two while raising a toddler. Newman, a popular blogger, perfectly captures the fear and expectations of changing up a family you've just gotten used to.
Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
You'll read this award-winning 2014 novel about a young couple whose life is thrown into chaos by a new baby in just one night. As one Fit Pregnancy reader said, "It's one of the few books about new motherhood that allowed me to imagine the sheer range of the experience—the overwhelming fatigue and fear but also the transcendent joy and awe, the moments of acute loneliness but also and the depths of a kind of primal love unique to the mother-child relationship."