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  • Writer's pictureErica Tatum-Sheade, LCSW

My Favorite Books of The Year

This time of year always calls for reflection on how things went and planning on how to improve in the future. In 2020 I made a commitment to myself to read a book a week, it could be a book for fun, for self-improvement, or related to work. We all remember how 2020 went, so instead of setting a new intention for 2021, I simply recommitted to the intention that I had set for 2020. Those who have been in my office know that I love books - not just a little, but really love books. So as Spotify and Apple Music are giving us our most played songs for the year, here are my top 5 books that I read this year. And why.

Top 5 Parenting Books

"Raising Good Humans" by Hunter Clarke-Fields MSAE

Why I Love This Book: For most parents, our goal is to raise good humans, right? What I love about this book, in particular, is that it doesn't just focus on the child's behavior, but also the steps that we as parents can take to make sure that we are doing the work as well. It helps parents to learn how to be more compassionate and mindful in how we respond to our children.

Parenting The New Teen in The Age of Anxiety by Dr. John Duffy

Why I Love this Book: Parenting has changed over the years, especially as social media has grown and children are being exposed to the internet younger and younger. Our teens today live in a world that most of us never experienced growing up. In this book, Dr. John Duffy gives parents helpful tactics to help navigate the new challenges that our children face: vaping, social media, depression, and more. Using real-life examples, he helps to paint a picture of how parents can support their teens in the world they live in today.

"Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen" by Michelle Icard

Why I Love This Book: High school is a huge transition, not only for our kiddos but also for us as parents. This book offers tactics to use when talking to your teen about many challenging topics. You can read the book cover to cover, or you can pick topics that fit for your family using the provided "conversation starters" to help get things going. I love Icard's BRIEF Model: Begin peacefully, Relate to your child, Interview to collect information, Echo what you're hearing, and give Feedback to use when talking to your teen.

"Social Justice Parenting" by Traci Baxley

Why I Love This Book: This was quite a surprise when it showed up. I had exchanged messages about parenting with Traci after coming across her page on Instagram, and I immediately pre-ordered her book. When it showed up I was excited to dive in, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. This book provides parents the real-world details to aid in developing compassionate, socially-conscious kids.

"The Power of Showing Up" by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Why I Love This Book: Siegel is one of my favorite clinicians in the field of mental health when it comes to understanding the developing minds of children and adolescents. In this book, Siegel explains the most important factor in predicting if children will be successful later in life: having one significant caregiver "show up" consistently. This book details what parents need to do to ensure the "Four S's," which Siegel says are the building blocks of human development (Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure).

Top 5 Books for Little Kids

"Consent (for Kids): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You" by Rachel Brian

Why I Love This Book: It's never too early to start talking about boundaries, respect, and consent with children. This book is illustrated in a comic book style and is easy to read for young readers. I discovered Rachel Brian after her viral video "Tea Consent" was shared with me. This book was a huge hit with the 8-year-old in our house, and my two teenagers even had a few laughs reading some of the stories.

"What Do You Do With A Problem" ("...An Idea" and "...A Chance") by Kobi Yamada

Why I Love This Book: This is really three different books, but I love all three of them. Kobi Yamada has an amazing way of weaving a tale, and the stories are paired with amazing illustrations. All three books follow the main character taking on an obstacle and learning to embrace a growth mindset.

"The Rabbit Listened" by Cori Doerrfeld

Why I Love This Book: I absolutely love this book! I purchased three copies: one for my office, one for the waiting room, and one for home. The main character in this book is struggling with his blocks, and he encounters several different animals along the way that offer different solutions to his problem. What I love is how this book not only introduces empathic listening and reaching out to the right helpers, but that it also gives us parents some clues on how to help our children when they are experiencing challenges.

"The Wild Robot" by Peter Brown

Why I Love This Book: Have you ever felt out of place and not sure if you belong? That's the story of Roz the Robot, who finds herself on an island where she doesn't quite fit in. This was actually recommended to me by one of my kiddos at the office who said I would love it. This is definitely for an older reader (4th-5th grade), or to be read together because there are some parts that can be a little hard for sensitive readers.

"The Boy with Big Big Feelings" by Britney Winn Lee

Why I Love This Book: Mainly because I have a kiddo at home with big big feelings, and it's not often that we see books talking about emotions with a male as the main character. If you want to help normalize having big feelings with your own kiddo, this story is a great way to show them that everyone has big feelings at times.

Top 5 Books for Tweens

"Guts" by Raina Telgemeier

Why I Love This Book: This was another recommendation from a kiddo. "Guts" follows the true story of Raina Telgemeier learning that her tummy troubles are much more than an upset stomach, and that in fact they are related to the stress/anxiety she is experiencing. This story is written as a graphic novel (which have been very popular in my home, as they read differently from a normal chapter book).

"Nat Enough" by Maria Scrivan

Why I Love This Book: Natalie is struggling with the question of whether she is "enough," and she doesn't believe that she fits in. The story is about Nat finding out who she truly is, and learning to trust and embrace her authentic self.

"Just Between Us - Mother and Daughter - A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal" by Meredith Jacobs and Sofie Jacobs

Why I Love This Book: Okay, this isn't really a book but a guided journal to be shared between mother and daughter. The way the journal works is that you take turns answering the prompts, and then share it with each other. It's a great way to learn more about your daughter, and for her to learn more about you - specifically when you were her age - and to learn who you were before you became "Mom."

"A Smart Girls Guide - Drama, Rumors, and Secrets" by Nancy Holyoke

Why I Love This Book: I'm a huge fan of the American Girl "Smart Girls Guides," they are easy to read and cover a huge range of topics. This particular book is perfect for those entering upper elementary/middle school and having to deal with relational aggression and change dynamics as friendship circles start to grow and branch out. I love the quizzes in the book too to help keep readers engaged and thinking about how they handle certain situations.

"The Confidence Code for Girls" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Why I Love This Book: What's not to love about a book teaching girls to be more self-confident, which is one of my favorite areas to work on with clients? I like how this doesn't exactly read like a book and is something you can pick up when you need a refresher or have some time to do some reflecting, but you can also definitely read it as a normal chapter book. "The Confidence Code for Girls" gives action steps that girls can take to help build their self-confidence. Bonus: there's a guided journal that you can purchase along with the book as well.

Top 5 Books for Teens

"Living The Confidence Code" by Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, and JillEllyn Riley

Why I Love This Book: After doing groups with them for a number of years, I have learned that teens would rather hear from other teens when it comes to self-improvement. This book shares the stories of real-life girls who learned to embrace who they are in order to succeed. A perfect follow-up for girls who have already read The Confidence Code.

"Stuff That Sucks: A Teen's Guide to Accepting What You Can't Change and Committing to What You Can" by Ben Sedley PhD

Why I Love This Book: I first gave copies of this book away as a gift for one of the girl's groups that I run that was ending - it was so loved that I bought additional copies. This is a self-help book for teens learning to recognize shame, worry, sadness, loneliness, and anger - and how to deal with them so that they aren't getting in the way of what really matters to them. This is a great conversation starter book for teens looking for the words to express what they are feeling to trusted caregivers.

"Letters to a Young Brother" by Hill Harper

Why I Love This Book: This is an older book that I purchased and left on the shelf for a while before picking it up again this year. Hill Harper took letters and emails that he had received during his motivational speaking. A little dated, but a great book to help young men looking for more motivation.

"Just As You Are: A Teen's Guide to Self-Acceptance and Lasting Self-Esteem" by Michelle Skeen PsyD and Kelly Skeen

Why I Love This Book: This is actually a workbook for teens to work on developing self-acceptance and self-esteem. While not a replacement for therapy, this is a great self-paced workbook for teens working on self-acceptance. Bonus: this self-help book is written by a mother-and-daughter team.

"Big Life Journal - Teen Edition: A Growth Mindset Journal – Interactive Journal for Teens with Writing Prompts – Journal for Teens & Tweens – Inspirational Goal Planner Guided Journal"

Why I Love This Book: Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of guided journals - the prompts and illustrations in this one are great to keep teens engaged. This particular journal uses the principles of positive psychology to help build mental fortitude in teens, goal setting for future planning, and even a little bit of CBT.

Top 5 Books for Personal Development

"Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself" by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Why I Love This Book: Boundaries are the most important aspect of developing our sense of self and are absolutely necessary in order to have a true work/life balance. Nedra uses cognitive behavioral principles to help walk us through the best way to set boundaries for ourselves. Bonus: there's a workbook companion you can purchase to go along with this book as you do the work around setting boundaries.

"Untamed" by Glennon Doyle

Why I Love This Book: Glennon Doyle does a great job of storytelling in this book, and I love a good story. She takes us on a tale of learning to let go of who we think we are supposed to be in order to embrace who we truly are.

"Woman, Take Off Your Cape! Stop Saving the Day and Start Saving Your Health" by Dr. Candace McMillon-Dantley

Why I Love This Book: I call this a self-care book, not just self-help. Dr. Candace explains to us that our need to rescue/help others before ourselves is part of the reason why we feel so overwhelmed and worn out. In this book, she helps us to identify the weight of the cape we wear, how it affects our health, and gives us steps to drop the cape.

Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Why I Love This Book: Not only is this book funny, but it's practical. Jones challenges us to face our fears in order to move forward and get not just what we want, but what is rightly ours. I listened to this one on Audible as well as read the hardcover because I love listening to Jones and the way she tells a story. She has a great podcast you can follow her on as well.

"The Gifts of Imperfection" By Brene Brown

Why I Love This Book: So I have technically read this one before, with the tenth-anniversary release I read it again during a book study/group with other professionals. We took a deep dive into each guidepost along with creative journaling with a focus on shifting to more wholehearted living. Revisiting this one was perfect for reevaluating and setting goals for the upcoming year.

Bonus (Because I love Books!) Top 4 I Always Recommend To Friends

"How To Hug a Porcupine - Negotiating The Prickly Points of The Tween Years" by Julie Ross

Why I Love This Book: This is one of my favorite books to recommend to parents when parenting in the teen years. I have found it to be practical, and the information in it to be perfect for parenting in today's world.

"Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood" by Lisa Damour

Why I Love This Book: Parenting teenagers is hard, especially for teen girls. Our girls today are faced with challenges that we could never have imagined. Lisa Damour does a good job of breaking down the areas our girls need us the most. I tend to recommend this book to parents of my middle schoolers to prepare themselves for the high school years, but it's also good for those with high school daughters as well.

"Do It Scared" by Ruth Soukup

Why I Love This Book: I'm all about choosing courage over fear, and after reading this book I understand that fear can ride with us but it doesn't get to stop us from achieving great things. Ruth provides us with a way to identify our fear archetypes and provides us with ways, based on those archetypes, to embrace the courage to do it scared.

"You Are Your Best Thing" by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown

Why I Love This Book: When I was going through my Daring Way Certification, one of the constant topics was that certain voices were missing from the research. This book is the answer to those questions that came up, and is one I would suggest getting on Audible. It's a collection of stories from different authors who share their experiences of vulnerability and shame. Hearing the stories directly from the authors adds a level of connection that you do not feel just reading the book.

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