Book Reviews, Family, Fitness

A Recap of My 2019 Book List (The New Year’s Resolution I Actually Kept)

In January of last year, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I actually stuck to! My goal was to read at least two books a month. Now I read many books daily to my kids, but I wanted to actually start reading for myself: Fueling my drive for knowledge, bettering myself as a parent, and learning more about our body and nutrition. The books I chose were recommended by friends, referenced by other books I have read, or deal directly with issues I was facing in that season (ie. Pregnancy or Raising a boy). I’ve listed each with a brief description and recommendation, organized by topic.


Raising World Changers in a Changing World by Kristen Welch: I didn’t know who Kristen Welch was before reading this book, but now I know all about her charity work. I was disappointed because I felt like this was more of a brag book of her accomplishments, how she dragged her kids along in hopes to inspire good, and how that all played out in her family dynamic. It was cool to get a perspective on how missionaries selflessly live and being sure to inspire love in our kids, but I would not recommend this one unless you were dying to learn about Mercy House.

Mother & Son, The Respect Effect by Emerson Eggerichs: What an eye opening book! I knew that in my marriage, my husband desires respect as I desire love. However, I never imagined applying that same concept to our wild three year old. After potty training him for a year, call it coincidence, but when I started using the respect talk suggested in this book, Porter started using the toilet! Emerson is a Christian writer, and a times very conservative with how he comes across, but overall this is a must read for any mom of boys. The knowledge and ideas in this book have already impacted the relationship I have with my son.

Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom: I came across this book after reading an article claiming that children need 4-6 hours of unsupervised outdoor play a day! I know being outside is important in our family lifestyle, but I never knew the scientific evidence that actually backs it up, like how developmentally necessary it is. Angela explores evidence in the case for outdoor play to include better muscle development, brain growth, and building the other two senses: proprioception (body awareness) and vestibular (balance and movement).

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James Oh boy I needed this one! My Porter is different than anything I have ever expected. I’ve realized so much by raising him and was guided graciously through this book. I love how Stephen details each stage of boyhood with a tagline like “The Explorer Stage,” and then explains ways to nurture your boy through each. He explains that not “completing” a stage of boyhood can affect the person even as a man, and he would have to repeat or come to terms with that stage of boyhood to become a whole man. Definitely recommend this for moms of boys because it helped me to see Porter on a-whole-nother level!

The Call of the Wild and Free by Ainsley Arment While I don’t plan on homeschooling my own kids, I do care about their education deeply.  This book is geared for homeschoolers but I learned so much more…about what is important to develop our children’s character, how to better our family life and how to seize the moment of learning even in little moments. I was surprised to learn Ainsley is based out of Virginia Beach as well, but not surprised she focuses a lot of energy into opting outside. My biggest takeaway was meeting my children where they are to encourage a love for learning, art, and curiosity. I would recommend specifically for homeschooling mamas, but even someone like me can benefit…a mom who wants what is best for her kids.

Pregnancy + Childbirth

The Better Baby Book by Lana and Dave Asprey: I read this book years ago when I first found out I was pregnant with Cambri. It was definitely worth the re-read in preparation for our third arrival. The book is written by Lana Asprey, a doctor from Sweden and her husband Dave, the founder of Bulletproof Coffee. You will learn a lot about diet, supplements, vitamins, chemicals and hormones as you prepare your body to give birth. Their system, referred to as The Better Baby Diet, uses a lot of scientific based research. During the pregnancy of their two boys, the Asprey’s implemented a very strict regiment of not just diet, but exercise and life, too. The book offers great suggestions, although you don’t need to take them all, when preparing for baby. Definitely recommend this scientific approach!

Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina: Scientifically written, but I love learning about how our psychology and personality come to play in our lives. While all the off-the-wall analogies didn’t help me to understand the science better, the key points at the end of every chapter helped a lot. This book covers everything from pregnancy all the way to sleeping through the night tips, a good read for any parent interested in how a child’s brain is wired.

Expecting Better by Emily Oster: I absolutely loved this book. Emily brings to our attention common pregnancy advice but actually explains the evidence. In any decision, a party should be given facts for both sides for making decisions, but with a typical American pregnancy, women are suggested to make decisions solely based on hear say or it worked for me. Both Emily and I agree that this just doesn’t work for our families. With an education in detailing studies to find their actual reliability, Emily presents both sides of common advice. While she says each person should be able to make their own decision, she offers what she thinks is the best option supported by the evidence and then what she chose for her birth plan. Overall, I would consider this a must read for people planning to be pregnant or who are pregnant. I loved the evidence-based research offered in an unbiased approach.

Green Mama-to-be by Manda Aufochs Gillespie: Our first two pregnancies with Cambri and Porter were not planned. And while both ended in healthy babies, when we decided on a third, I was more determined than ever to give it optimal health and set it up for a lifetime of success. If that isn’t evident by the books I’ve already read, as we approached the month of “conception” I’m interested more and more in what is going on with my body and how to have the easiest possible pregnancy. Manda breaks this stage of life up into pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth, and even explores the postpartum period. Again, she recommends dietary changes months in advance of conception. She isn’t as scientifically spoken as some of the other books I’ve read, but she has done her research and conveys it in normal terms. She is Canadian, so a lot of the stats reflect that of her country, but were still very insightful for my neighboring land. What I really appreciated about the book was besides just giving researches-based advice, she also provides recipes for many all-natural alternatives for every need of pregnancy. Not only are we discussing nutrition, but chemical household cleaners, water and air quality, herbal remedies, essential oils, drugs during labor, plastic exposure, and toxins in the rest of our environment. Even though I consider myself a naturalist, I learned so much from this book and was truly inspired to make more changes in my lifestyle reducing the possible impacts of harsh chemicals in my pregnancy.

The Mindful Mom-to-be by Lori Bregman This book was my favorite pregnancy book I read all year. It was full of midwifery practices complimented by science. It covered every aspect of pregnancy all the way through birth and the postpartum period. I listened to this on audio, and found myself grasping for a journal because of all the tidbits of knowledge I wanted to remember or recipes I wanted to try. Must read for any pregnant mama!

The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland This book was recommended by my best friend and fellow mama, Sammy. I love that it breaks down pregnancy week by week, so you read a chapter a week. Admittedly, because I am not due until February, I have not technically finished this book. I would recommend this for anyone who has a natural mindset in regards to pregnancy. Each chapter is tailored to your aches and pains for each week..featuring what’s happening with you and baby, a main topic of discussion, a birth affirmation, and a recipe to try. Full of lots of tidbits of knowledge based off science and tradition, I would gift this to any new mama!

Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel: This is a must read for, just as the title says, anyone who is attempting a natural birth in a hospital. This book made me feel much more comfortable and confident with my decision to attempt an epidural free birth at a military hospital. I definitely recommend this one!

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin This book was referenced in a lot of other literature, and for good reason, even referred to this as “the Bible” of childbirth. The first part of book shares many, many, many birth stories. I appreciated the value of these stories as they came from a wide variety of women, who tried different approaches and what did/didn’t work, and so gave some helpful tips for overcoming pain. However, I felt at one point I needed to stop reading them. You see, Ina May runs a birthing community if you will called “The Farm.” What a beautiful experience is must be and a truly brilliant idea to give birth on the Farm, however, that is not where I will be delivering my child. The stories really highlighted all the perks of this “facility” and painted a lot of the hospital births in a negative manner. Since hospital birth is what I am choosing, I do not need any more fear or doubt spoke into my mind about the likelihood of my natural birth plan not playing out in the medical setting. I guess it’s good to hear the real side of things, it’s just that I know a natural hospital birth is possible and I am already hearing horror stories from family and friends so the last thing I want to do is read more. Overall, though, there are lots of stories that inspire and empower a pregnant mama that yes, your body CAN do this.

The second half of the book really looks into the knowledge of Ina May, which is really why I am reading this book. It gave a lot of insight parallel to what I’ve read in the previous books listed. Since Ina May prefers the natural birth, she offered lots of statistics that supported this. However, a lot of the research she refers to is from a period of time a while back. She also mentions several times how great the ceserean rate at the Farm is (practically no c-sections were performed) and how hospitals in the same time frame had rather high c-sections rates. She paints it to seem, again, that the Farm is the only place you should give birth, and looks over other possible theories for the c-section difference…ie most women who give birth at the farm probably go there because they want a natural birth, are having healthy pregnancies, and eat the natural food they grow there. I think Ina May is brilliant, and I do not want to discredit her role in the evolution of midwifery here in the United States. However, the book seemed more as marketing material for “The Farm.” If you can get past the plugs, there is lots of good information listed. She shares her best tips for labor and pain management, and the scientific reasons why they work.

Hypnobirthing the Original Method by Michelle Leclaire O’Neill Because I am attempting my first natural birth, it has been of utmost importance to explore anyway possible to manage pain. From all my friends and recommended by many mama’s in online chat groups, hypnobirthing keeps reappearing. This book is a little older, but gives you a great idea of what hypnobirthing is all about. It helps you to examine your past feelings and ideas about pregnancy and birth while teaching you new strategies. I would recommend this for anyone who wants to learn how to manage their emotions and pain during pregnancy and childbirth.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League This a great book to save for your final month of pregnancy, or even for your first month postpartum. If you are on the fence with breastfeeding, this book will give you lots of insight as to how you can manage a breastfeeding relationship, why it is good for both you and baby, and many, many resources to make it happen. The writers are very realistic, even giving statistics on how simply breastfeeding for only two weeks is better than nothing at all. There are lots of tips and tricks shared from a plethora of women involved in the La Leche League. Even having breast fed two babies myself, there was so much more to learn! While I am sure the intent of the book is to increase La Leche group memberships, I am certainly excited to give birth and join this club of mamas!

Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke The book follows the same format as Nancy’s childbirth class. She takes us along with her class and the issues they are facing, while giving us the information we need along the same timeline. Lots of good knowledge here, especially in regards to both partners developing a mindful approach to the birth. I would recommend for either expecting mother or father.

Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy This takes a unique approach than the rest of the pregnancy books I read. Tina’s book is more of a history book regarding the evolution of how we were born, looking way back into ancient cultures and how social norms throughout the ages impacted birth. For instance, once male obstetricians came on the scene, they thought it was inappropriate to see female genitalia and would blindly assist births with cloths draped over the female so the doctor could not see anything. There were lots of other shocking and interesting nuggets of information, some disturbing. I do not know if I would read this book while pregnant again, instead only  recommending it pre-conception.


How to be an Insanely Good Online Fitness Coach by Scott Abel: I debated including this read because I did not finish it. I started reading this book in hopes to better myself as an online personal trainer. However, the first chapter contained no new knowledge for me, and was so simplified it sounded like it was written for a freshman Exercise Science college student. I felt it was a waste of time and would not recommend for a fitness professional who already has a career.

NASM Weight Loss Specialist: Technically, this isn’t a book, but a paid for program written pdf format. I could not put my laptop down, really. The text focuses on developing yourself as a trainer to specifically help overweight or obese clients. Some of it seemed like review from my college course, but I appreciated the information shared. There were lots of new facts (as a lot has happened in the field since I graduated in 2013), and some good strategies for dealing with psychological aspects for clients. I enjoyed, and would recommend to any of my colleagues as we try to inspire change in the ever-growing obesity epidemic.

Healthy for Two by Pamela Bercutt and Ellie Petri I couldn’t put this book down, although that may be because of my infatuation with the human body, especially during pregnancy. Pamela and Ellie are practicing pelvic floor physical therapists and their viewpoint of natural body movements to help support the pelvic floor during and after pregnancy is definitely refreshing. They have lots of good ideas for movements, especially yoga suggestions. I would recommend this for any pregnant woman trying to maintain her fitness.

Just For Fun

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines: Such an easy read, but that may be because I am such a huge fan! This book recalls the trials and story of the Gaines family, starting when Jo and Chip first met and even delving into their childhoods. After reading all these science-based books, this was a welcome break. However, I still learned some things. I picked up on some of Joanna’s styling ideas and learned to trust the voice in my head.

Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith: Recommended by my old teacher, this was outside my normal comfort zone, but I love nature and wanted a light read so I gave it a try. This book had me laughing out loud from page three! Matt and Karen are a quirky couple with a love for the outdoors. They detail their 2010 tour of 58 National Parks through emails to their friends. It is a dream of mine to visit lots of national parks, so this was a fun read. It is not a tour book, but rather a collection of stories. It was an easy read that told me about some national parks that I did not even know existed, like one where a town convinced the federal government to handle their “nature” polluted with trash and beavers built a marsh over an old car junkyard. Or informed of me of animal species I had never heard of like Marmots. And it constantly had me googling to learn about location and even more about our beautiful country. I can’t wait for my Matt to retire (like 15 years-ish) so we can travel like Matt and Karen!

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede: Recommended by Matt’s Grandma, this one did not disappoint. I was only 10 when the attacks on New York City happened, and while I knew it was a significant time in history, I didn’t realize how it affected so many normal, everyday lives. The book describes the experience of many pilots and aircraft crew as they hear the news of the terrorist attack which leads to all air space in the United States being shut down and many planes being landed in Newfoundland. The pilots feel a sense of needing to take care of their passengers, but also a fear that they may also be terrorists. Passenger were from around the world, traveling to the United States on vacation, returning home with newly adopted foreign babies, and even parents of a NYC Firefighter. How would 9/11 have affected my normal, adult life if I was traveling abroad during this time? And how did a tiny town in Canada house all of these pilots and passengers unexpectedly for days? This book taught me so much about humanity, how people can bond together in such a heartbreaking circumstance and how great the Newfie hospitality really is. Definitely recommend!!

Into the Fire by Dakota Meyers: I feel like I’m not a true Teen Mom OG Fan if I don’t read this book. Dakota Meyers is one of the “new dads” on the show, but his high profile background is very interesting to me, especially as a military spouse. Into the Fire recalls Dakota’s experience in a controversial battle. Once I got to the battle scene, I literally couldn’t put the book down! The scenes described seemed so movie-like, and then you realize this was Dakota’s raw experience in real life. While some of the military jargon was a little hard to keep up with, the overall story is literally unbelievable, and I am glad I had the chance to see it through a survivor’s eyes. A fast read that I would definitely recommend!!

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan: A seemingly well to do, career driven reporter suddenly starts having seizures, acting psychotic and experiences extreme mental highs and lows. Susannah explains this real life adventure in her own recollections, and (for the times she can’t remember) doctors notes, videos, and family memories of this horrific period. You feel right next to Susannah as doctors grasp at straws trying to diagnose her, only to find out she has a very rare problem.

Enough by Sharon Jaynes I chose this book as a self development and mindset changer. I’ve struggled my entire life with feeling “Good Enough,” and this book helped to change that while moving me emotionally past some old baggage I’ve held onto. Sharon uses some religious references, so I would recommend this for any Christian woman who wants a mindset change.



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