22 Non-Parenting Books Every Parent Should Read

Now that I’m a mom, I don’t have a tremendous amount of time devoted to hobbies. Writing is one of them (and seemingly the most time-consuming!). Cooking too, although that’s sort of been relegated to the “chores” category these past few years. And while I have many interests and moods (Gardening! Dancing! Calligraphy! Musicals!), I don’t devote too much time or effort into these hobbies the way I probably should. But then I have reading.

Aside from writing, reading has been a constant hobby, a friend that hasn’t left me in all these years (or rather, a friend I haven’t abandoned). After my baby was born, I felt empty because I couldn’t read as much as I used to. I remember finally chugging along through a long novel during those first few weeks and celebrating when I finally finished months later.

Sadly I didn’t get into reading until after college. Maybe having too many required reading deterred me from opening a book for leisure. But since then, I have a constant list of books to read, and some which I re-read. Many have the same themes, reflecting my interests. And, parenting book or not, they offer pointers I apply as I parent my toddler.

I’ve read my fair share of parenting books, many of which I recommend. But so many more books are applicable to parenting despite not being directly related our jobs as moms and dads. Many are psychology books, which offer a glimpse into how our brains process information and analyze our behaviors, often helpful when dealing with our kids. Others are about the rest of the world, influencing my own perceptions of what is truly necessary in our lives.

Some relate to personal finances which can help you define what’s enough for your family as well as guide you in your own financial know-how. And still others are about food, from slow food to fast food and how to grow and eat wholesome meals.

I’ve narrowed down this list to non-fiction books (just so that I have an excuse to make another one devoted to fiction in the near future). So without further ado, below are a few of my favorite non-parenting reads, in alphabetical order by author, that every parent can read, enjoy and apply:

22 non-parenting books every parent should read

  1. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely (psychology)
  2. Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan (world issues)
  3. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath (psychology)
  4. The Second Shift by Arlie Russell Hochschild (women’s issues and work)
  5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (food)
  6. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol (education)
  7. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy (women’s issues)
  8. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (world issues and fitness)
  9. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson (world issues and education)
  10. The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors by Hal Niedzviecki (privacy and social media)
  11. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink (psychology)
  12. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan (food)
  13. Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin (finances and consumerism)
  14. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser (food)
  15. Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet B. Schor (finances and consumerism)
  16. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz (psychology)
  17. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee (finances and consumerism)
  18. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris (psychology)
  19. All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren (finances)
  20. The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren (finances and consumerism)
  21. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Sheryl WuDunn (women and world issues)
  22. Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus (women, world issues and finances)

Have you read any of the books I listed? What are some non-parenting books that you love and recommend?

p.s. Check out the 14 books I read—and liked—in 2013.

Disclosure: Amazon links are my affiliate links. Thank you for your support!


Nina is a working mom to three boys—a five-year-old and toddler twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she's learning about being mom and all its joys and challenges. She also covers topics like how kids learn and play, family life, being a working mom and life with twins. Download her free ebook, "Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom" for more tips.


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    • says

      Steph, I really enjoyed both. The Paradox of Choice makes me not only think about how too many choices can inundate me, but also my kiddo. So I think it’s a good idea when we keep choices to two things, and not flood them with them too many times in a day.

      And the two income trap is pretty awesome too. Most people assume that the safe route is to live off of both parents having a job, but sometimes living off of a single income is actually safer because when the one breadwinner loses a job, now there are two people who are on the job market, but still living off of a one-income lifestyle. Versus a family living off of two incomes and one parent’s income is gone, it’s a bit harder to bounce back.

      I don’t think the author suggests we all be stay at home dads or moms (she works herself, obviously), but I think she does encourage people to try to live within one person’s income for basic necessities so that no one’s out on the street should someone lose their job.
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    • says

      Betty, my sister recommended Peep Diaries and I found it so interesting because it’s so relevant to our times, and how we’re a generation that likes to share a ton of things about ourselves, especially with the internet and social media.

      And yea, Three Cups of Tea is very inspiring! I’ve always liked the idea of changing communities by prioritizing girls’ education.
      Nina recently posted..22 non-parenting books every parent should readMy Profile

  1. says

    Thanks for sharing, I’m a book worm myself and always on the lookout for good reading material. That’s a great list and I will get back to it time and again for new titles!
    Oana79 recently posted..Random thoughtsMy Profile

    • says

      I had heard him on the news but wasn’t clear on the details. Hopefully his story isn’t completely fabricated? It’s so sad when good causes fall to poor actions a la James Frey, as I’ve read in so many other sources that educating girls really does change a community’s makeup for the better.
      Nina recently posted..22 non-parenting books every parent should readMy Profile

  2. Robin says

    Great list! I think my favorite of those you listed was In Defense of Food. It really changed the way we ate for the better without it feeling like a penance.

    I would add How Children Learn by John Holt and Nurtured by Love by Suzuki, though they are peripherally about parenting as they are about schools; a similar one would be Unconditional Parenting or any book by Alfie Kohn, who is actually best known because of his attempts to reform our educational system. All three made me stop and think critically about how we view children’s education in our society. Definitely one of John Gottman’s relationship books as his advice is actually backed by research and a good marriage is key to good parenting. I also found that Little House on a Small Planet helped me rethink wants vs needs and how we live in our home. Finally, The Overworked American and The Overspent American led to some great conversations between my husband and I about how we wanted to structure our time and spend our money. In Praise of Slowness did as well. Sorry…I’ll stop now. :-) Thanks for the list!
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  3. says

    Robin, I really liked In Defense of Food, too. I actually read his earlier book, Omnivore’s Dilemma and loved it as well, but as far as recommendations, I think In Defense of Food is a bit easier to digest and more straightforward.

    And I also read How Children Learn! His style is a bit different from what I prefer, but I still liked his message. It was such a good reminder that we don’t often have to “teach” because kids are constantly learning. And I also liked the example he gave that just because a kid calls a cow a cat, that it isn’t necessarily wrong, but that it’s his way of categorizing similar-looking animals (four-legged), and that it’s actually pretty impressive when kids can make that connection.

    And I also read both The Overworked American and The Overspent American (we have similar tastes!). I’m a fan of Juliet Schor and to this day still live frugally not because we have to (even though we probably do have to) but because I try to disentangle myself from consuming just to consume.

    Thanks for the other book suggestions; I have already placed them on my to-read list and will let you know what I think once I get to reading them!
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  4. says

    I finished “Predictably Irrational” and I couldn’t believe how much I could relate to most of his topics! For example, I love free stuff but it’s true that once the novelty wears off it just collects dust at home or I end up tossing it out, so it was interesting to read the analysis behind this impulsive behaviour to take stuff as long as it doesn’t cost a penny. The one thing I never am pressured into is choosing the same dish at a restaurant as my friends, haha. Nothing comes between me and what I want to eat!

    I just found myself nodding along to a lot of his questions and how I would’ve probably fallen into the predictable results of his experiments. There were also a lot of obvious conclusions to his tests but it wasn’t until he explained the reasoning that it made sense. I think it’s good to read into insights like his every now and then just to reevaluate your actions and be more careful of temptation, impulses, and mannerisms. Thanks for introducing this author to us, I’ll look into his other books when I get a chance.

    I’m onto the Peep Diaries now, this one isn’t as much of a page-turner yet, but I’m only a few chapters in.

    Thanks, Nina!
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    • says

      Yay, glad you liked it Queenie! Isn’t it so interesting? Logically, and based on economics, you’d think that humans would make the best decisions, but we totally don’t. I guess that’s the human part of being human. I love psychology topics like these because it just goes to show that we don’t always act the way we think we do, or we think all it takes is some reasoning or will power, but that’s not always the case.

      I don’t remember how Peep Diaries start, but I still enjoyed the whole premise of it, especially as a parent in the world of social media and the internet, and how much we share about ourselves online.
      Nina recently posted..Books about going to schoolMy Profile

      • says

        Exactly! I think most of us generally agree that we have a decent educational background and somewhat similar life experiences to assume we’re making the most independent, rational decisions, but having this behind-the-scenes look speak volumes of how predictable we are, especially with peer-pressure, and even when it comes to minute behaviours such as taking a free piece of candy!

        I’ll let you know my review of Peep Diaries! Hopefully I’ll finish it sometime before I go back to work in May :/
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    • says

      So funny Laura. I don’t have too many hobbies, but other than blogging, reading is definitely one of them. I think if I had other obligations I wouldn’t be able to read as much. I definitely don’t read as often as I did before kids, though. I could go through a book a week. Now it’s about half that. Which I guess for a mom is still pretty impressive lol.

      One thing that helped me find time to read was when I was nursing or pumping. I stopped breastfeeding the twins now but talk about being able to catch up on my reading list. At 20 minutes a pop, five times a day, I was in reading land :)

      Even though time is zilch for us moms (especially blogging moms) I would highly recommend picking up books for blog topics. Especially anything to do with kids. Makes you want to just write a bunch of posts talking about the topic. So it’s like a two-in-one!