Book list

(Updated April 2021)  

Here's a list of books that I've personally read at some point over the past 23 years that are about or related to adoption, pregnancy loss, infertility (ALI)  and life without children. (There are lots of other great books out there that I still haven't read, of course...! -- and as I read them, I will add them to the list.) I've listed them more or less in the order I read them (most recent first), with links to the book on Goodreads and to my review/blog post about it, if one exists.

(My Goodreads/year-tagged reviews began in 2013... I did review other books before that time, but they aren't as well tagged and are thus harder to find, so I may have missed a few. Plus there are other helpful books I read before I started this blog -- some of them packed away in a plastic bin in the closet.  I'll add these as I remember/rediscover them too.)  

Warning:  the capsule reviews within this list, as well as the reviews I've linked to,  may contain some spoilers.

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Childless living (not by choice):   

  • "She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster's Meditations on Life" by Donna Ward (2020). Highly recommended by Jody Day of Gateway Women, this book is a memoir in the form of a series of essays about how Donna came to find herself in her 60s with neither husband nor children. Stunning prose, lovely and lyrical, punctuated with some amazing, sharp observations about single life versus married life with children. My review
  • "Do You Have Kids?: Life When the Answer Is No" by Kate Kaufmann (2019). "...a thoughtful examination of what it's like to live a life without children -- the actual lived experiences of childless and childfree women," I said in my review. " This would be a great book to hand to anyone new to (or contemplating) a life without children, and also to parents who want (or need!) to understand us better." 
  • "Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day (2020 edition). A childless-not-by-choice classic. "It's a mixture of personal stories (Jody's own, plus the voices of some 40 other childless women -- and a few men!), historical background/cultural commentary... and self-help guidance... If you are struggling with involuntary childlessness, this book is an absolute must-read,"  I said in my review.
  • "Notes to Self" by Emilie Pine (2018). "...a slim volume of six personal essays from a definite female/feminist perspective... Pine's writing is amazing, simply stunning at times, and breathtaking in its honesty,"  I wrote in my review.  "Pine writes movingly about her journey through infertility, miscarriage and, finally, acceptance (as well as her sister's pregnancy loss) in an essay called "The Baby Years." There's also an essay titled "Notes on Bleeding and Other Crimes" that covers menstruation, menopause and body image."
  • "This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story" by Jackie Shannon Hollis (2019).  Jackie is "childless by marriage: "Jackie's husband Bill was clear from the beginning of their relationship that he did not want children. Jackie didn't think she wanted children either -- until the day she held her newborn niece and was suddenly overcome with a raging case of baby fever," I wrote in my review.  "This book was beautifully and honestly written.  It's a moving portrait of coming to terms with a childless life. Overall, it's a great read."
  • "Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness:  Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life" by Lesley Pyne (2018). Lesley and 19 other women tell their personal stories about how they worked through the grief of involuntary childlessness, created new meaning and found joy in their lives again. (My review.) 
  • "Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn't Happen" by Lisa Manterfield (2016). My review describes it as "a comprehensive -- yet warm & chatty -- look at the practical side of coming to terms with childlessness, with practical advice and tips, journaling exercises, and stories from Lisa's own personal experience."
  • "Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice" by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos. A follow-up to "Silent Sorority," in a short e-book/Kindle format. (My review.) 
  • "The Mother Within: A Guide To Accepting Your Childless Journey," by Christine Erickson. A short e-book (Kindle format), and "a great introduction to some of the basic issues and questions related to childless/free living if you're considering or new to this road less travelled" (as I wrote in my review).
  • "The Next Happy:  Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward" by Tracey Cleantis (2015).  I wrote in my review:  "The really great thing about this book is that it isn't just an infertility survival guide or memoir (although Tracey does refer to her own story throughout the book to illustrate some of her points). It's applicable to anyone who has had to let go of a a cherished dream and try to find happiness elsewhere." Personal note: I filled out questionnaire for Tracey while she was writing this book, and am quoted in it, under a different name. 
  • "Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why it Matters in Life, Love and Work" by Peg Streep & Alan Bernstein.  There's not one word about infertility in this book, but its message strongly resonated with me as validation of my decision to stop infertility treatments. "The book not only promotes quitting as a valid option, it discusses why and how we should quit when something is not working for us," I wrote in my review -- which includes a comment from one of the authors! 
  • "Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness" by Melanie Notkin (founder of Savvy Auntie)(2014). Notkin's book is about women like herself -- single women who wanted both babies AND love (versus trying to go it alone). (My review.)
  • "I'm Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood" by Lisa Manterfield (2010). A wonderful memoir about how Lisa (founder of Life Without Baby) struggled with infertility and came to terms with childlessness. (My review
  • "Silent Sorority: A (Barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost & Found" by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos (2009). Pamela was one of the first bloggers I found in 2007 who was writing about a childless life after infertility (at Coming2Terms -- she's now at Silent Sorority the blog), and this was one of the first memoirs written from that perspective. A classic in the field, and the 2010 Team RESOLVE Choice Award for Best Book. (My review.) 
  • "Beyond Childlessness: For Every Woman Who Ever Wanted to Have a Child - and Didn't" by Rachel Black & Louise Scull (2005). I do not remember a lot about this book, and there is probably some valuable material here -- but I do remember getting frustrated with it at the point where it devoted a chapter to having a SECOND child. Secondary infertility is a very real issue, yes -- but it is NOT a form of childlessness, in my books...!
  • "The Childless Revolution: What it Means to be Childless Today" by Madelyn Cain (2001). Written by a woman who has children, this book explores a wide range of reasons why women today might not have children.  
  • "I Don't Need a Baby to Be Who I Am: Thoughts and Affirmations on a Fulfilling Life" by Joan Brady (1998). Another book that I read early on after leaving infertility treatments. I remember there was some good/positive stuff here, albeit a little too much of a "road to Damascus" conversion -- after all her angst about not having a child, the author very quickly shifts to lauding all the good things about a childless life. Still, some messages worth sharing. 
  • "Crossing the Moon: A Memoir" by Paulette Bates Alden (1998). I read this book very early on after leaving infertility treatments. I must admit I don't remember a lot about it. 
  • "Never to Be a Mother: A Guide for All Women Who Didn't -- Or Couldn't -- Have Children" by Linda Hunt Anton (1992). Another book I read very early on, which I don't remember a lot about. I do remember that it was fairly comprehensive. 
  • "Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again" by Jean W. Carter & Michael Carter (1988).  First published in 1988 -- when IVF was just 10 years old, and now-popular alternatives such as donor eggs were still several years away. This was, I think, the first book I read about childless/free living when we stopped infertility treatments in 2001 (probably one of the first written on the subject), and one of the few available at the time, and it was a good introduction to the subject. (Note: It also discusses adoption as a way of resolving infertility.) I remember being quite irked at the time by the authors' insistence that we needed to consciously CHOOSE to be childFREE, and all would be well... "Some choice...!"  I remember muttering. Over time, I've come to realize there is some truth in what they were saying. They also include some other advice that I did find helpful.   
Childfree by choice:  
  • "No One Tells You This:  A Memoir" by Glynnis MacNicol (2018).  The blurb on the book's jacket reads: "If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?" As MacNicol turns 40, she examines and comes to terms with "the husband-shaped hole" in her life (as well as her lack of/ambivalence about children). (My review.) 
  • "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006). Children are not the main focus of the book, by far, but Gilbert is childfree by choice and she does write about her thoughts about whether or not to have children, among other related subjects. (Barren Bitches Book Tour


Pregnancy loss:  

  • "I Had a Miscarriage: A Memoir, a Movement" by Jessica Zucker.  A psychologist specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health issues, Zucker suddenly found herself relating to her patients in an entirely different way after her second pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 16 weeks. Her social media hashtag #IHadaMiscarriage went viral, and led to the creation of her popular Instagram account of the same name. "A great addition to the existing (and, happily, growing) literature about pregnancy loss," I said in my review
  • "Unimaginable: Life After Baby Loss" by Brooke D. Taylor (who blogs at By the Brooke). The story of Brooke's pregnancy with her first daughter, her "Baby Duck," Eliza, who was stillborn in December 2010, and what happened next. "I've read lots of pregnancy loss books & memoirs in the years since the stillbirth of my own daughter.  This ranks right up there with the best of them," I wrote in my review.
  • "Out of Grief, Singing: A Memoir of Motherhood and Loss" by Charlene Diehl. A beautifully written account of how Diehl came to terms with the loss (in November 1995) of her daughter, Chloe, who was born by emergency C-section at 28 weeks after Diehl was diagnosed with pre-ecclampsia, and died six days later in a NICU.  (My review.) 
  • "The Brink of Being: Talking about Miscarriage" by Julia Bueno. Bueno uses the experience of her own miscarriages as well as other to explore various aspects of this often misunderstood loss.  "It deserves to be widely read, not only by those who have experienced loss, but those around them, including family members & friends as well as medical professionals, human resources experts and others," I wrote in my review
  • "The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir" by Ariel Levy (2017).  Based on a stunning article Levy wrote for The New Yorker about her traumatic miscarriage at 19 weeks -- while on assignment in Mongolia (!) -- and how her life fell apart in its aftermath. So far as I know, Levy remains childless. (My review.) 
  • "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir" by Elizabeth McCracken (2008). One of the best stillbirth/subsequent pregnancy memoirs I've read, beautifully written (containing one of my all-time favourite observations about grief: "Closure is bullshit."). (Barren Bitches Book Brigade pick).  
  • "Coming to Term: Uncovering the Truth About Miscarriage" by Jon Cohen (2005). 
  • "Life Touches Life: A Mother's Story of Stillbirth and Healing" by Lorraine Ash (2004).  One of the few stillbirth memoirs I've read where a "rainbow baby" doesn't follow.  
  • "Motherhood Lost: A Feminist Account of Pregnancy Loss in America" by Linda L. Layne (2002).  A feminist view of reproductive loss (mentioned briefly in this post).  
  • "Shadow Child: An Apprenticeship in Love and Loss" by Beth Powning (2000).  This was the first stillbirth memoir I remember reading, not too long after my own loss. Powning's loss happened in the 1970s, years before she finally dealt with her feelings about it and wrote this book. Slow-moving but beautifully written. The hardcover copy I picked up at the bookstore was signed by the author. 
  • "Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby" by Deborah L. Davis (1991). A classic "how to" book full of helpful advice on surviving pregnancy loss. I relied on this book heavily in the days after my daughter's stillbirth. 

Subsequent pregnancy after loss:  (which I never achieved, but I did read about it when I was still hoping...) 

Grief & loss (general):  

  • "The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief" by Nora McInerny (2019). Nora shares some of her hard-earned wisdom about grief.  "You don't have to be a widow (let alone young, or hot!) to read this book or to get something out of it. You just have to be human," I wrote in my review
  • "No Happy Endings: A Memoir" by Nora McInerny (2019). A sequel to "It's Okay to Laugh" (see below), about Nora's life as a single mom, her second marriage and subsequent pregnancy after miscarriage. My review said, "It's more of the same mix of humour, hard-earned wisdom and brutal honesty." 
  • "It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too):  A Memoir" by Nora McInerny (2016). "In the space of just a few months in 2014, when she was just 31 years old, McInerny lost her second baby (to miscarriage), her husband, Aaron (to brain cancer), and then her father, Steve (also to cancer)," I wrote in my review.  Nora went on to found The Hot Young Widows Club support group and the podcast "Terrible, Thanks for Asking."  Non-spoiler alert:  I laughed and cried while reading this wonderful book. :) 
  • "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy" by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (2017). This book blends Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer of Facebook)'s personal story of how she and her children rebuilt their lives after her husband's sudden death in 2015 at age 47, with stories and advice from others she has met who have bounced back from traumatic loss and other challenging life experiences. (My review.
  • "Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What it Costs Us" by Nancy Berns (2011). Berns is the mother of a stillborn son, and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, who teaches and researches in the areas of grief, death, violence, justice and social constructionism. "While it addressed the topic of closure in ways that I would expect as a bereaved parent (the pressure we feel from others to "move on" with our lives, for example), the book was also a huge eye opener for me with regard to how many different ways the concept of closure is being applied in our world today -- and how many different parties are seeking to profit from it (financially, politically and otherwise)," I wrote in my review
  • "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold S. Kushner (1981). This was a huge help and comfort to me after I lost my daughter.  I especially recommend it to people who are struggling with their faith after a loss.  


  • "The Baby Matrix" by Laura Carroll (who is childfree by choice).  An eye-opening and thought-provoking critique of pronatalism -- the pervasive belief that everyone should have children -- and an argument that our thinking around parenthood and reproduction is outmoded and in dire need of an overhaul.  (My review.) 
  • "Why Have Kids?  A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness" by Jessica Valenti (2012).  A traumatic birth experience led feminist writer Valenti to explore the disconnect that exists between the popular, idealized images of parenting and motherhood, and the cold hard reality.  Includes a chapter devoted to those who choose NOT to have children, and some of the reasons why. (My review.) 

Relevant fiction:
  • "Sorrow and Bliss" by Meg Mason (2021). As this novel opens, 40-year-old Martha has just broken up with her husband of 8 years. She's had a nearly lifelong struggle with an unnamed mental illness, which has prevented her from fulfilling her secret desire for a baby. The dark, melancholy tone is tempered by humour, wit and a strong cast of supporting characters. My review
  • "Confessions of a Forty-something" by Alexandra Potter (2020). "Forty-something" Nell is back in England, after both her business and her engagement go bust -- but a lot has changed since she left. The book covers Nell's first year back in London, as she tries to get her life back on track. "Anyone who's ever been single &/or childless in their 40s (& beyond), &/or found themselves living a life they had not planned for will recognize themselves in this book and in Nell.  It's full of spot-on observations and painfully familiar situations. It's also frequently hilarious," I said in my review. (A Gateway Women/NoMo book club pick.)  
  • "The Midnight Library" by Matt Haig (2020). "What makes a life worth living?  What would you do differently, if you had the chance to choose a different life? These are the questions that lie at the heart of this book."  Following an attempted suicide, Nora Seed wakes up in the Midnight Library -- presided over by a friendly librarian she knew during her school days -- where she's offered the opportunity to explore her past regrets and different life paths. (A Gateway Women/NoMo book club pick.)  (My review.) 
  • "Cathy's Christmas Kitchen" by Tilly Tennant (2020).  A light romance with not just one but THREE strong childless female characters (including our heroine). (A Gateway Women/NoMo book club pick.) (My review.) 
  • "Convenience Store Woman" by Sayaka Murata (2016). Our heroine, Keiko, is both a misfit (no husband, no children, no proper job) and -- at the convenience store where she's worked part-time for the past 18 years -- the ultimate conformist. "A lot of food for thought about identity, belonging, "normalcy," the pressure to conform, the working world (being a "corporate cog") and what society expects of us,"  I wrote in my review." Quirky and comical, with some dark undercurrents." (A Gateway Women/NoMo book club pick.) 
  • "The Home for Unwanted Girls" by Joanna Goodman (2018). Set in 1950s Quebec, this book is based on a true and shameful chapter in Quebecois history in which Quebec's orphanages (mostly run by the Catholic church) were converted into psychiatric hospitals. (My review.) 
  • "Up Beaver Creek" by Sue Fagalde Lick. Sue blogs at "Childless by Marriage," and draws on her own experiences for this novel about a childless widow trying to build a new life for herself. (My review.) (A Gateway Women book club pick.) 
  • "Juliet, Naked" by Nick Hornby (2009).  Annie's longtime boyfriend Duncan is obsessed with a reclusive singer/songwriter named Tucker Crowe.  Annie, nearing 40 and increasingly dissatisfied with her stagnant relationship, writes and publishes a critique of Crowe's latest album, which changes everything for all three of them. From my review: "Beyond childlessness (as well as some thoughts on parenting, art and obsessive fan worship), the novel explores the questions that many of us (childless or not) face as we head into midlife: What makes life meaningful? How do you shake off years of inertia, seize the initiative & start being an active participant in your own life? And what happens when (even despite your best efforts) life doesn't turn out the way you thought or hoped it would?"  Spoiler alert:  The book end with the hint of a possible pregnancy.
  • "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green (2012). Not ALI-related, but beautifully written and lots of material to ponder on grief and loss/death. (My review.) 
  • "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult (2004). About a pair of sisters -- one battling leukemia, and the other conceived using IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to ensure she could be a bone marrow donor for her sibling. Fiction, but lots of food for thought here. (My review.) 
  • "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger (2003).  Featuring time travel as well as infertility & multiple losses (but yes, there is a miracle baby).  (Barren Bitches Book Brigade pick
  • "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant (1997). Infertility, loss and childlessness in a Biblical setting (based loosely on the Biblical story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob & Leah, sister to Joseph, niece of Rachel).  (Barren Bitches Book Brigade pick)
  • "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005). Not infertility-related per se, but about a group of students who have an unusual origin story and destiny, which raises lots of questions pondered by those of us who pursue infertility treatments. (Barren Bitches Book Brigade pick / Library book club pick
  • "The Baby Trail" by Sinead Moriarty (2004). This was a Barren Bitches Book Brigade pick, but it's only mentioned on this blog as an upcoming pick. If I remember correctly, only two of us signed up for it (me and Baby Smiling in Back Seat), and Mel put us in touch to talk about the book between us. I never actually finished the book.  It was a "comedy" of sorts about trying to get pregnant, and it just didn't sit right with me. Your mileage may vary.  
  • "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood (1985). A dystopian novel in which the few fertile women left are pressed into service as "handmaids" to bear children for the infertile ruling class. (Barren Bitches Book Brigade pick -- the first one I participated in, and one of the reasons why I started my blog!  Other posts about "The Handmaid's Tale," both book & TV versions, here.) 
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