You remember that game called Desert Island? (You know — the one where you pretend you’re stranded and can only take three things with you?) I detest playing that game (and not because I think it is a waste of time). Rather, it’s unrealistic. The point of the game is to name your three most precious items you couldn’t live without. But let’s be real: if I’m on a desert island, the last thing I’m really going to want is some precious memento. Give me a knife, a field guide to non-poisonous plants, and Robinson Crusoe to help keep me alive!

But I have given great thought to my book collection. When we recently sold our house, I packed away 90% of our book collection. There were only a few books that got to stay out for 6 months. Which made me think: if I lost all of our books in the move (or worse, we had a fire), what would be the first 6 books I would immediately purchase again?

Not surprisingly, these are also the top 6 books I find myself recommended constantly in conversation to everyone I meet. I’ll give you the short list here. Keep scrolling for a detailed review of each of them.

The House That Cleans Itself

This is, first and foremost, THE first book I would immediately replace. The House That Cleans Itself is unlike any other book I have read. Coming from the genre of organization/house cleaning, the purpose of this book is to give you tools to “tackle the disorder and disaster in your home.”

Confession time: I have read far too many books about organization, cleaning, housework, and home survival. This book is the only one that actually made a LASTING difference in my daily life. 

The premise of the book is to stop trying to change the behavior of those who live in your house. Got a family member who walks in the door and dumps everything they are holding in the entry way? Odds are, you’re not going to be able to convince them to neatly hang up their items in a closet and three different rooms. So rather than change their behavior, change your house. Put hideaway bins by the front door. Put a basket out for keys. Make your house fit your needs, not your needs fit the house.

When I first read this, I rolled my eyes. That’s just being lazy. You should be able to change your habits. But listen to the author from her own words:

“I naively assumed the mere resolve to change would be all it would take. With enough willpower and determination I really would be able to keep a neat and orderly home for the first time in my life. […] Despite my past failures and my limited homemaking skills, I persisted in the notion that I could do better if I only tried harder. So I tried harder. Yet chaos and disorder continued to reign. Oh, there were a few successes along the way – the occasional spring cleaning that was actually finished before the following winter, the rare party or gathering where we didn’t have to lock half the doors for fear our guests might see the messes behind them – and these small victories offered us glimpses of hope amidst the failure. But there were still more failures than successes.

My house keeping journey has definitely been more failure than success, so I decided to give her method a try.

And you know something? It worked. Overnight.

Some messes — like our kids’ book shelves — we had been fighting for YEARS. It was suddenly fixed in ONE night. You can read about my experience here.

If you’ve struggled with clutter, check out this excerpt:

“If you have a problem with clutter, chances are you have spent a lifetime hearing different methods for clearing away your stuff. Most experts suggest asking yourself several key questions, such as “Do I really need this?” and “Have I used it in the last year?”

I say that if you were capable of answering those sorts of questions, the clutter would never have built up in the first place. You don’t need better answers. You need better questions. If you really want to get rid of clutter, in my opinion the place to start is in understanding and embracing this single truth:

EVERY POSSESSION YOU HAVE, FROM THE TINIEST BUTTON TO THE BIGGEST PIECE OF FURNITURE, CONSUMES A PIECE OF TIME.

Think about it. You spend time on your stuff when you acquire it, when you clean it, when you move it, when you shove it into a box and put it into the basement, when you kick it out of the way because you stepped on it, when you leave it out and the kids mess with it, when you get it dirty and have to wash it, when you fish it out from under the bed, when you hold it in your hand and try to decide what to do with it, when you sort it again, when you store it again, when you decorate with it, when you think about how much you love it, when you feel guilty about how much it cost, when you try it on and it no longer fits, when you dust it… and so on.

[…] The questions to ask yourself about your stuff as you attempt to weed things out are not value judgments about when you used it last or when you might need it again. To clutterers, there are too many shades of gray in those questions. Instead, face the black-and-white reality of the trade-off you’re making. When you are de-cluttering, with every single item you own ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is this worth my time?
  1. Does what I get from this item provide a fair trade-off considering the time I’ll have to spend cleaning and storing it?
  1. Do I want to spend another second in the future fooling with it, or do I want to get rid of it now so it will no longer cost me a single moment of time?

[…] Stuff eats time.” (The House That Cleans Itself, pp. 80-81)

There are many freeing anecdotes in The House That Cleans Itself, including personal testimonies and humorous stories about messes-gone-wrong that will honestly make you laugh. She has a practical 8-step approach to apply her methods which include things I’ve never thought of — like taking a photo of your room and seeing what hot spot/mess your eye immediately goes to.

I love this book so much I re-read it every year and learn something new each time. Seriously. Get The House That Cleans Itself.

8 Great Smarts

I stumbled across 8 Great Smarts at a homeschool conference. My good friend (who ironically had told me to buy The House That Cleans Itself) raved about the author, Dr. Kathy Koch.

So we sat in on one of her speaking sessions and were blown away.

8 Great Smarts details how everyone is born with 8 different “smarts.” We all have a combination of these eight (no one is lacking!), but each of us have distinct strengths in one or two areas:

  • Body Smart
  • Logic Smart
  • Music Smart
  • Nature Smart
  • People Smart
  • Picture Smart
  • Self Smart
  • Word Smart

In a culture that prioritizes performance, straight A’s, and book-smarts, I love how this book emphasizes that EVERYONE has Smarts. There is no “dumb person” — only people fighting against their Smarts, rather than working with them. To the parent who is worried that the world may think their child is “dumb” or “behind,” this book is your lifeline.

Each Smart has a dedicated detailed chapter that explains what this Smart strength means (and what weaknesses accompany it), how they best learn, what drains them and how they recharge, common relationship pitfalls, recommended career choices, ways they best process information, etc. She also provides fantastic information on how to grow and strengthen that particular Smart.

8 Great Smarts has been THE most enlightening book I’ve read along my parenting journey. It has helped me understand how my children, spouse, and I are very different — and how to love each of them well according to their own unique personalities.

For example, my husband is a classic Nature Smart. He’s an engineer by trade, loves patterns, thrives on details, gets great joy out of examining and analyzing. While he has always enjoyed spending time outdoors, it wasn’t until he read the chapter about Nature Smart that he realized why — it literally revives his soul. (Life has been crazy, so he was sacrificing outdoor time help our family. Did you catch that? He was accidentally sabotaging himself. But now that we know how crucial outside time is for him, we make it a priority — and everyone is blessed by it.) 

8 Great Smarts is a quick, easy, and fascinating read — and has managed to revolutionize all of my relationships.

It’s No Accident

If you thought you were home free about paying attention to your kids bowels after they were done with diapers, think again. I wish someone would have warned me that it only gets more important to pay attention.

It’s No Accident is a brilliant book by Pediatric Urologist Dr. Steve Hodges. He gives information about constipation, bed wetting, UTI’s, panicked peeing, accidents, and more. The surprising connection? Poop.

He redefines the term “constipation” — and explains how poop is the problem for so many urinary issues. Best of all? The book is full of medical research and clinical studies. This doctor knows what he is talking about.

If you have a child who is struggling with bed wetting or frequent UTIs, you absolutely MUST read It’s No Accident.

He has chapters dedicated to proper bathroom posture, what to do when you get too backed up, how to help your child eliminate well in a public place (anxiety/withholding is a huge problem, especially with elementary aged children in school), exercises to help your colon/tone your pelvic floor, what nutrients are necessary to keep the bowels flowing properly, and why most doctors don’t do anything about the #1 cause of UTIs in little girls.

Confession: I actually picked this book up again last night to read… for me. I just had a litany of tests run this past week for some digestive problems and the X-ray came back with conclusive proof: my bowels are stopped up with poop (despite me passing several soft stools a day without effort — TMI alert). I’ll be using his protocol to help clean me out and get things running smoothly again.

Poop happens. And nothing is more embarrassing than bathroom troubles, wetting the bed, or peeing one’s pants. I guarantee you’ll find yourself referring to It’s No Accident often once its on your shelf.

Cure Your Child With Food

Cure Your Child With Food is an updated version of the original What’s Eating Your Child? I should state up front that I preferred the original title because I don’t believe food is the answer to everything. But authors don’t get to pick the titles of their book — so don’t let the title repulse you. The content in this book is solid.

Author Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND is a highly esteemed certified nutritionist. Her work Beyond being a certified nutritionist, her work includes tons of scientific studies and research from pediatric allergy specialists, pediatric neurologists, and pediatric gastroenterologists. Her book explores the connection between diet and common childhood ailments, including anxiety, recurrent ear infections, stomach aches, picky eating, reflux, rashes, eczema, bumpy skin/chicken skin, hyperactivity, fatigue, sleep difficulties, night terrors, behavioral problems, sensory processing, and so much more.

A quick stroll through the internet will yield thousands of blog sites claiming that food is the cause of all their kids’ problems. So when a medical doctor recommended this book to me, I was intrigued. This is a scientific look at the connection between nutrition,  behavior, and illness. The chapters are arranged so you can target specific problems as needed. (Gotta admit, the table of contents are pretty impressive.)

We found Cure Your Child With Food inexplicably helpful in our own lives — and so has everyone we have recommended it to.

The Healing Kitchen

Hands down, The Healing Kitchen is my all-time favorite cookbook. The pictures are lush, the organization is brilliant. She provides multiple meal plans (such as, dishes she recommends if you can only cook 2-3 times a week) and each meal plan includes a picture for the visually-oriented person.

I’ve tried tons of recipes and each one is flavorful and delicious.

But the real reason you need this book? It’s allergy friendly. It’s egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, gluten/wheat-free, nightshade-free (tomato, pepper, bell pepper, white potato), and nut-free. Hahaha – I know what you’re thinking right now. Yes, there are plenty of foods left on that list.

Even if you don’t have food allergies in your own home, I’m betting you know someone who does who would be blessed by a safe meal from a friend.

The Healing Kitchen is perfect for anyone struggling with auto-immune difficulties (the intended market), food allergies, or someone who wants to get out of their cooking rut.  The meals are easy to assemble, use normal ingredients (no weird sauces or herbs), and are DELICIOUS.

Her sausage hash recipe? Insanely good.

God Made All Of Me

When I first read God Made All Of Me, I cried painful tears. I cried for all the children in the world who have been physically or sexually abused. I cried for all the adults who have grown up with that silent shame. And I cried for the fact that this beautiful book provided a way to gently begin the discussion and to teach future generations how to protect themselves.

The author (who worked as a case manager at a sexual assault crisis center and a domestic violence shelter) has one distinct goal: “To convey to children that their bodies or particular parts of their bodies are not shameful. This misconception fuels confusion, embarrassment, and secrecy, and often prevents children from recognizing or reporting sexual abuse.”

God Made All Of Me is a simple, beautifully-illustrated picture book that can be read to children as young as two years old. It goes way beyond the “good touches/bad touches” and “stranger danger” training we received as kids. It talks about the differences between surprises (it’s your birthday!) and secrets (a tact abusers often use). It also has your child list safe people they can turn to when they need help, and how they should never give up asking for help if nobody listens.

God Made All Of Me equips parents to talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch of others. God Made All Of Me allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes. […] It gently opens the conversation about sexual abuse that every family needs to have, facilitates open conversations about appropriate and inappropriate touch, and overcomes confusion, secrecy, and embarrassment about bodies with truth.”

This is a story we re-read with our children often. I love how it communicates important truths without being scary, graphic, or putting fears into heads when they shouldn’t be there.

Although God Made All Of Me is written from a Judeo-Christian perspective, every child — irregardless of religion — needs the truths communicated in this brief picture book.

The 6 Books Every Parent Needs On Their Shelf

So there’s my list of the 6 books every parent needs on their shelf. Just in case you need the list again:

Got others that you would put on your list? Tell us in the comments below!

Check the 6 books we think every parent needs on their bookshelf. Read our reviews and learn why we recommend these books to everyone we know.