If you’ve got friends thinking about, going through, or trying to get over a recent divorce, any of these 10 books would make a great gift for the holidays or, really, any time. I’ve picked 10 of the books that I and other divorced moms I’ve talked with have found most helpful at various points throughout the divorce “life cycle.” You can find reviews of all these books here.
A few gift giving tips: don’t give all these books at once. That would overwhelm your friend. Pick one that seems most likely to be helpful for where she is now, or maybe give her one a month over the next year as she faces different challenges and rebuilds her life.
Besides my top 10 divorce recommendations, I’ve included a couple of bonuses because every divorced mom needs a little something to lighten up and take her mind off her day-to-day challenges.
1. For the Mom Who Can’t Decide Whether or Not to Divorce: Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay
This wonderful book by Mona Kirshenbaum offers just what it says in the subtitle — a Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship.
The book provides a series of questions, supported by examples and stories, to help you decide whether or not to stay in a relationship. Based on the premise that ambivalence about the relationship is what causes the most pain, this book is designed to get you off the fence. Like a series of diagnostic tests, the book’s questions are structured to build upon each other. If the answer becomes clear early on, you can stop reading and take action. That makes this book a great shortcut to clarity about whether or not to divorce.
2. Financial Help for the Mom in the Midst of Divorce: Divorce Think Financially, Not Emotionally
This book by Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA (that’s Certified Divorced Financial Analyst) offers a comprehensive guide to what women need to know about securing their financial future before, during, and after divorce. It’s a practical, easy-to-read book with boatloads of financial and other guidance for women preparing for divorce, as well as for those who want to protect themselves in case divorce is in their futures.
The focus is on the financial aspects of divorce, with the main tenet being that the financial decisions women must make during the divorce process will have significant impacts on their future well-being, so it’s important to remove the emotion from the decision-making process.
3. For the Mom Looking to Heal and Grow from Divorce: Spiritual Divorce, Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life
One of the first books from internationally known personal transformation expert Debbie Ford grew from her firsthand experience of divorce. This book offers a process for healing from divorce and using the experience as a catalyst for an extraordinary life.
Based on the idea that the pain of divorce can be a spiritual wake-up call, the book is organized around seven spiritual “laws,” with examples, exercises, and action steps for each law that you can take on your own to support your own healing and growth.
4. For the Mom Who Needs Hope at Any Stage of Divorce: Chicken Soup For the Soul: Divorce and Recovery
The 101 true stories included in this book by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Patty Hansen, come from people in all walks of life and offer many perspectives on divorce. You can read just one story or a whole bunch in one sitting, depending on what you need. You might find ideas or encouragement for your own circumstances, and you will certainly find a lot of hope.
5. For the Mom Seeking a Spiritual Framework for Her Divorce (and Life): Broken Open, How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow
This book opens with a quote from Anais Nin, “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” That quote summarizes the book in a nutshell.
Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute, weaves her own experiences of divorce, death, and other life events with the stories of others to create a thoughtful and enlightening narrative. Her own first marriage, divorce, and subsequent journey provide the initial context for the book; her story is a wonderful example of how women can create lives they love after divorce. An appendix provides a toolbox of specific practices and tools.
6. For the Divorced Mom Seeking Peace in Turbulent Times Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
In this small book, Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun (and divorced mother) offers a way of relating to the impermanence of life and its uncertainties so that we can find peace of mind while becoming more loving and conscious of others. The material in the book is loosely based on the Buddhist tradition of the Three Vows, which are presented as three commitments available to people of any religious tradition or of none.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to find much to appreciate from one of the wise women of our time.
7. For the Divorced Mom Who Can’t Stop Beating Up On Herself: Self-Compassion, Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind
In this wonderful gift of a book, Dr. Kristin Neff combines theory, practice and personal experience to help readers find an effective way to happiness in their lives. She teaches that by learning to practice self-compassion, we can find joy in all areas of our lives from parenting to partners to the workplace and, most importantly, with ourselves.
Dr. Neff established self-compassion as a field of study and has been conducting research in this area for over a decade. This book combines research and scientific data with stories and experiences that make it easy to read and put into practice. I can’t think of a divorced mom who couldn’t benefit from a little self-compassion!
8. For the Mom with Teens (or Kids of Any Age): Parenting Teens with Love & Logic
This book applies the Love and Logic approach, originally described in the book “Parenting with Love and Logic,” to parenting adolescents. The term “Love and Logic” comes from two essential components to parenting. Love refers to maintaining a healthy relationship with our kids, and Logic refers to the consequences that occur as they make decisions and live with their mistakes while we as parents provide empathy without rescuing or controlling.
The Love and Logic approach was developed by Foster Cline, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in working with difficult children, and Jim Fay, an educational consultant who has 31 years of experience as a school principal and educator. You can’t go wrong with any of the Love and Logic books, but this one geared toward teens has great, practical examples and includes a section on the barriers in ourselves as parents that keep us from being as effective as we might want to be.
9. For the Mom Who Wants to Move from Guilt and Shame to Wholehearted Living: Daring Greatly
This is the third in a series of books based on Dr. Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability, and her best yet. [The first two are: “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “I Thought It Was Just Me.”]
The title of the book is taken from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt stating that it’s not the critic who counts but the man (sic) in the arena giving his all and daring greatly. The key point is that vulnerability, while difficult, is the answer to our feelings of not being enough, being on the outside looking in, and wondering what life would be like if we weren’t protecting ourselves from failure, risk and criticism at every turn.
Based on solid research, and interspersed with stories and examples from her personal life and the lives of hundreds Dr. Brown has interviewed, this book offers divorced moms practical information, describing how we can each benefit from being appropriately vulnerable in our own lives. There are specific chapters on schools, workplaces and parenting.
10. For the Mom Who Needs Help with Finances after Divorce: Women & Money, Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny
This book from well-known financial guru Suze Orman was written just for women. While there are dozens of financial books available (many of them good), I recommend this on as a starter because it’s well-organized and broken into manageable pieces a newly divorced mom can digest without feeling overwhelmed.
The book includes a five-month plan to help women to take control of their finances. In this “Save Yourself” Plan, each month is dedicated to a specific topic women should know about, and includes a checklist of actions Ms. Orman recommends you take. She provides clear, unambiguous advice and recommendations; a divorced mom can’t go wrong by starting with the financial basics in this book.
11. Bonus Book Tip #1: A Good Story (Fiction): The Silkworm
I love to read, and I could recommend dozens of enjoyable works of fiction, but I’ll pick just one here – or maybe two. The Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (otherwise known as J.K. Rowling) are great whodunits. Though very different in style from the Harry Potter books, these adult novels showcase Rowling’s astute character development and fast-paced writing style.
12. Bonus Book Tip #2: Something to Make Her Laugh: What if?
Every divorced mom needs some laughter and lightheartedness in her life. For those times when she can’t be online watching funny cat videos, try a collection of her favorite comics or cartoons.
Amazon.com has a new paperback collection of the complete Far Side, one of my favorites from years back find it here.
Or for something more contemporary, Randall Munroe, the creator of the popular webcomic xkcd, has a collection of his comics out in a new book called “what if?”. If you’re not familiar with this comic, Mr. Munroe offers hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. If you look at his website online, the mouse-overs are often the best part.