It Takes a Library

Eugene writer Melissa Hart’s Better With Books offers literary guidance for kids and parents

As a parent, I question myself daily. There is no instruction manual. I find myself posing questions to my “village” of more-experienced parents quite often. One thing practice has made very clear is that I’m glad I don’t have a teenager.


After endless conversations with moms and dads I know, I have to admit that the mere thought of parenting a teen turns me into a panicky stress ball. Being in my early 30s, I am still fairly young — but already things are so different from my own teen years. 

As I watch my friends navigate these turbulent, emotional waters I find myself questioning whether I will come through my son Atlas’ teenage years with my sanity intact.

Thankfully, after a weekend of reading, I find myself feeling more prepared. Sure, I have another six years to go, but it never hurts to start early. My sudden sense of enlightenment is all thanks to Eugene writer Melissa Hart and her new parenting guide, Better With Books

At first I was skeptical. A book of books? There may be no definitive guide to parenting, but this is an innovative approach to helping young people handle the sensitive issues they are braving.

In Better With Books Hart presents a carefully curated and diverse annotated list of 500 books by other writers that can be read by teens and parents alike on some of the hardest-hitting topics.

With sections on immigration, race, poverty, mental health and many more, Hart gives us invaluable resources for tackling these issues head-on, armed with empathy and education. Each section begins with well-written introductions that illustrate the need for these conversations, followed by an expansive list of relevant books sorted into preteen and teen reading lists.

Hart includes a small synopsis of each book presented, so you can quickly choose the most appropriate one for your situation. After doing a little side research of my own, I can confidently say Hart’s book brings us some of the top literary options.

There is value in the books for adults and young adults alike — from finding solace in a personal struggle to discovering a path to relate to someone else’s difficulties. Reading is an engaging way to pursue compassion and understanding through real and fictional life experiences. 

This book is a must-have for parents of preteens, teens, educators, counselors, librarians — for anyone who spends time with youth. We have no way to measure the impact of placing the perfect story in the hands of a young adult in need or a parent struggling to understand what their teen is going through.

Attend a live reading with Melissa Hart and pick up your copy of Better With Books 3 pm Saturday, April 27, during Tsunami Books “Healthy and Happy Kids” event. For more information, visit