Whether the new year starts in September or January is a matter of some debate. As far as I’m concerned, a fresh start is always a good thing, regardless of what the calendar says. So in the spirit of the spirit of clean slates and lofty goals, I asked several of the librarians at CMPLD to recommend some titles for starting off the school year right — specifically, their favorite weeknight cookbooks and parenting guides. They responded with a bevy of tried-and-true resources (and one promising new release).
If managing family dinner makes you want to live on yogurt and takeout, look no further than Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: A Love Story, which covers everything from picky eaters to late soccer practice to entertaining with small children, in a funny, relatable style. A former editor at Real Simple magazine, Rosenstrach’s food is interesting without being “weird,” and none of it requires daunting culinary skills. My failsafe recipe is her Turkey Chili, which is so good that my fourteen-year-old VOLUNTARILY HUGS ME when she comes home from school and smells it bubbling away on the stove.
Sonia (Adult Services) recommends The Family Dinner: Great Ways To Connect With Your Kids, One Meal At A Time, by Laurie David — particularly the recipe for Black Bean Soup. She also swears by Anne Byrne’s The Cake Mix Doctor, saying, “For after dinner treats or bake sale ideas, I always get rave reviews whenever I bake something from this book.” (Fun fact: Sonia bakes for the library staff quite a bit, and her treats are always delicious. Listen to Sonia, my friends.)
Haley (Adult Services) calls Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change The Way You Cook, from Kristen Miglore and the team at Food52.com, “A great go-to book with down to earth recipes that are, dare I say, truly genius. The No Knead Bread is a favorite in our house!” She’s also eagerly anticipating Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. This followup to Deb Perelman’s excellent Smitten Kitchen Cookbook comes out at the end of October, and Haley is looking forward to browsing the beautiful photography and the great sounding recipes, saying, “Perelman never disappoints!”
Of course, dinner time is only half the battle. Once your crew is well-fed, here are three books that can help you start the year off right.
Worried that this might be the year you transform into a helicopter parent? Jean (Adult Services) suggests How To Raise an Adult: Break Free Of The Overparenting Trap And Prepare Your Kid For Success, by Julie Lythcott-Haims. The author, a former dean of admissions at Stanford, discusses the the very real ways that we, in trying to do too much for our kids, are actually limiting their potential. Jean found it easy to read and very relevant.
Want to improve communication between everyone in the family? I strongly recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. This book is a classic for a reason — Faber and Mazlish are big on respectful communication and active listening, and the examples they provide act as mini-scripts to handle conversations that might normally leave you flummoxed or frustrated. They also have versions of this for very small children, teenagers, and a another book on sibling rivalry. It’s a great companion to How To Raise An Adult, actually — the strategies in this book will help achieve the goals of that one, no matter what age you start at.
On a lighter note, Design Mom: How To Live With Kids is filled with ideas on how to create spaces in your home that invite togetherness, conversation, and creativity. Gabrielle Stanley Blair runs the popular blog Design Mom, and the book captures her warm, inviting tone perfectly. (Fair warning: it will make you want to buy a piano and paint it green.)
Lastly, if you’re looking for a sweet, funny movie to get you back into the swing of things, try School Of Rock, with Jack Black as down-on-his-luck guitarist who lands a substitute teaching position at a fancy private school, and decides to transform his fifth-grade class into a rock band. And if, after viewing, your child decides they MUST learn electric guitar, the staff at CPMLD can provide suggestions for music books, too.