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Relying on books to tell us how to live: The baby book edition

I have a love/hate relationship with books that tell you how you're supposed to do things.

On the one hand, they offer lots of useful information that can help you understand things better and put life in a better perspective. On the other hand, if your life or ideas deviate from that book, you sometimes think there's something wrong with you.

And sometimes different books under the same category will tell you two different things, often totally conflicting.

So what do you do then?

Read everything! Ha, I jest ... but only slightly. I think you should always explore your options when you're trying to gain life perspective from a book. Because most of the time, it's just people who have gone through the thing you're about to go through, offering some advice and tips. A lot of it is common sense, yes, but there is also a lot of very specific information you should know before embarking on certain adventures.

I've gotten to the point in my life where I'm thinking about "the next step" (daunting, huh?). Lately I've been perusing the pregnancy staple "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and I find it rather informative. It's in its umpteenth edition and since it's been around so long, you've got to expect (ha!) some good information.

But I also received a new book, "The Pregnancy Countdown Book" (Quirk Books), in the mail a few weeks ago.

It's small and jam-packed with interesting information, using language that is a little more accessible (conversational) than "What to Expect." I instantly feel like I'm talking to a best friend when I read the passages. It has a little bit more of a message board feel to it. Less formal, perhaps, but still equally informative.

For the record, I don't think that these books have to be enjoyed separately — they each have their purpose, though also a lot of overlap. But you'll find that with most books on the same subject. You could buy 10 different wedding magazines and they're all going to have variations of the same theme.

As previously mentioned, "What to Expect" is the go-to pregnancy guide and it attained that status for a reason: it's good. It's got tips, information about the stages of pregnancy and quite literally tells you what to expect.

"Pregnancy Countdown" is structured as a countdown (duh!) from conception to birth, thus assembled a little differently than "What to Expect," but also with tons of great information about what's happening to you physically and emotionally as you embark on parenthood.

Each book includes some real-life words from women, but I feel like I can relate to the language in "The Pregnancy Countdown Book" a little more.

"The Pregnancy Countdown Book" will be available at retailers nationwide next Tuesday, April 3.