When I started thinking about what I could offer my friends and readers as a Valentine, I couldn’t get away from the idea of compiling a booklist of marriage and parenting books that have inspired me over the years.
When I decided to put together this reading list, I had a few criteria:
1. I had to have actually read the book, so no books that I’d heard were good but haven’t actually seen for myself.
2. I had to remember the book in a positive way (or I gave it a good review on Goodreads). I’ve read many books on love, marriage, and parenting, but these are the titles that stand out. They changed me or how I think. They inspired. If they’re memoirs, that means I was moved by the story presented (although I am not testifying as to whether they’re 100% true).
With all those disclaimers, which books made my cut?
1.The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References)Just thought I’d start the list with the one real relationship authority. I appreciate this ESV for Kindle, because it’s free, but I highly recommend the KJV as well. Nearly everyone has a Bible of some type around the house. Maybe it’s time to pick it up again? (If your church has a version preference, then that is what you will want to consult first but other versions can be helpful when studying.)
Books for Married Folks:
1. Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needsby Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. My husband and I both highly recommend this one. It sounds simple, and it is, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean “easy”.
2.Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?by Gary Thomas. A needed corrective to the current pursuit of our own personal happiness at the cost of others. (Side note: I think God designed marriage both to make us holy and happy. The truths of this book don’t take away from that.)
3.Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbandsby Gary Thomas. Wives are typically the ones who read relationship books. That might not be fair, but that’s how it is. So, how do you take all that information you’ve gathered in your reading and actually help your marriage? This book helps bridge that gap.
4.Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Graceby Gary and Betsy Ricucci. This slim little volume is packed with helpful perspective.
5.Boundaries in Marriageby Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Cloud and Townsend are the boundaries experts. If you feel like yours are frayed or non-existent, this is a book you should read.
6.A Marriage Without Regretsby Kay Arthur. Arthur’s personal story of past marriage failure gives her an interesting perspective.
7.The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lastsby Gary Chapman. I’ve listed this for married couples, but I really think anyone can benefit from this book (and there are companion books for singles, men, children, etc.) Being the INTJ that I am, I made my husband a helpful list of how he can show me he loves me with ANY of the love languages. You don’t have to go that far, but finding out how you express love and how those around you express their love is profitable information.
8.Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Marriages in Crisisby Dr. James Dobson. Probably the oldest book on my list. Still contains insight. I don’t really buy into the concept of love needing to be tough only at certain times. Love always has to be tough. Love never fails. It “bears all things” and endures. (1 Corinthians 13). That doesn’t sound easy or soft to me.
9.Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Timeby Steven Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Revolutionary and highly recommended.
10.Every Heart Restored: A Wife’s Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband’s Sexual Sin. Companion book to the above.
11.Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillmentby Shannon Ethridge. Yet another companion book in the series. (All of the books are excellent. Choose the one that most suits your need.)
12.The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Differenceby Shaunti Feldhahn. Think all marriages are doomed to failure? Think again. None of these “secrets” are impossible to attempt.
13. Intimate Issues: Twenty-One Questions Christian Women Ask About Sexby Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus. I know, now we’re all blushing. But this aspect of marriage is far too important to ignore.
14.Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect Itby Jerry B. Jenkins. Common sense that is less common today.
1.Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, How to Say Noby Henry Cloud and John Townsend. My #1 recommended parenting book.
2.The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Childrenby Sally Clarkson. Clarkson is an inspiring writer. You can think of her as the Titus 2 woman you may or may not have in your “real life”.
3.Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesusby Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. There are things I don’t love about this book (the sample conversations, for one) but it contains some valuable insight that I’m not aware of in other parenting books.
4.The 5 Love Languages of Childrenby Gary Chapman. Yep, kids have them too.
5.Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Knowby Dr. Meg Meeker. HIGHLY recommended for all dads.
6.The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanityby Dr. Meg Meeker. Dr. Meeker brings her commonsense to the subject of motherhood.
7.What a Difference a Mom Makes: The Indelible Imprint a Mom Leaves on Her Son’s Lifeby Kevin Leman. Leman has written many books on marriage and parenting, but this is probably one of my favorites.
8.For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kidby Shaunti Feldhahn. Primarily for parents of adolescents.
9.Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Yearsby Dennis and Barbara Rainey. This one is valuable and I’ve consulted it more than once.
10.Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Childby Anthony Esolen. This is not just for homeschool parents. This is biting satire and every parent ought to read it.
11.How to Unspoil Your Child Fast: A Speedy, Complete Guide to Contented Children and Happy Parentsby Richard Bromfield. Quick, easy read, but helpful.
12.The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline that Really Works!by John Rosemond. Rosemond is the parenting expert my husband recommends most often. He’s written many books, and almost any of them would be worth your time.
13.Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Senseby Ellyn Satter. Highly recommended for parents of picky eaters. The books by Satter will help you end your family food wars.
14.Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real Worldby Christine Field. Because the goal is raising our kids to be adults, not perpetual children.
15.Treasuring God in Our Traditionsby Noel Piper. Tradition is such a powerful influence in a family. This lovely, slim little book will help you refine what your traditions are (or need to be) and why they matter.
16. MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengthsby Janet Penley. I found this extremely helpful in understanding how my own personality worked as a mother and with the personalities of my children.
1. The Four Lovesby C.S. Lewis. I always find insight in Lewis’s writing, even when I don’t understand all he’s talking about.
2.The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever Afterby Elizabeth Cantor. Austen had incredible perception about relationships between men and women (and families as a whole). This book describes some of that wisdom.
3.Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtshipby Joshua Harris. My husband and I have not bought into the whole courtship paradigm, but it is helpful to consider the principles.
4.And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purityby Dannah Gresh. I fully intend to have our daughters read several of Dannah Gresh’s books as they go through their teen years.
Memoirs or Biographies
1. A Grief Observedby C.S. Lewis. The classic look at grief, inspired by the loss of his wife.
2.A Severe Mercyby Sheldon Vanauken. Moving and deep.
3. Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (The Crosswicks Journal, Book 4)by Madeleine L’Engle. This, perhaps, might better be listed as fiction based on fact. But it is a moving story, no matter what the actual facts might have been.
4.Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulagby Orlando Figes. Better than any historical fiction.
5.Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriageby Edith Gelles. One of the most famous, and admirable, first couples.
There you have it: my top book recommendations for marriage and parenting. I know I’ve probably left off some favorites, so: what titles would you add to this list?