Here is a collection of titles that we have come to love and rely on:
My number one favourite parenting book, often called the bible of all baby books: "The Baby Book, by Dr. William Sears & Martha Sears". This is as close to an instruction manual as you are going to get.
We love this book and still refer to it often. This book makes a great shower gift for that mom-to-be. Dr Sears worked at Sick Kids in TO and is the attachment parenting guru. He and his wife (who is a nurse) have written over 20 parenting books and maintain a great website for parenting questions: www.askdrsears.com.
Another one that we used was "Canada's Baby Care Book, by Dr Jeremy Friedman & Dr Norman Saunders." This book was good for basic information and it included lots of pictures of common conditions and cute babies. The authors are also doctors at Sick Kids (they write a lot of books there!).
"The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley", is another lovely attachment parenting book. This is an alternative to the "cry-it-out method" and I read this book when Liam was still waking up 3 times during the night at 18 months. I should have read it much much earlier. There are lots of good ideas in here about how to establish good sleeping habits and how to lovingly wean baby from sleep associations and teach them to fall back asleep on their own. To implement the plan to change ingrained sleeping habits requires consistency though and I discovered I'm far too wishy-washy for that. I also discovered that I liked to cuddle with Liam in the middle of the night. I guess the main point I found out from this book is, if I really wanted to change our sleeping habits bad enough I could. To this day, although he is sleeping through the night (80% of the time anyway) he still needs me to cuddle him to sleep, and I'm ok with that.
"Montessori From the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three, by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jesson" was a wonderful gift from my cousin Therese, a Montessori teacher, and I read this when I was pregnant with Adeleine. Amazing, amazing book. Great introduction to the wonderful world of Montessori theory. We enrolled Liam in Montessori school not long after reading this. This book gave us great ideas of how we can implement Montessori practices at home and little changes we can to make to our home environment to further foster our children's independence. For example: low shelves for ALL their toys and books, low hangers for their coats, low shelves for mittens and shoes, accessible dresser and kitchen drawers so they can get their own clothes and dishes and sooooo much more! Such practical yet powerful ideas. This is one of those books that you read and say "Of course! That makes so much sense! Why didn't I think of this before?!" Engineering parents out there will especially LOVE this book, the Montessori theory will appeal to your "unique" mindset and it is all backed up with modern scientific proof. My next read is "Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius", just because I want to know...and yes, I'm a nerd.
Finally, "The Preemie Primer, by Dr. Jennifer Gunter" is a book I desperately hope no one has to read. Adeleine was born 13 weeks premature and this book helped me get through those long, hard days in the NICU. The author is a Canadian OB/GYN who had premature twin boys. She also has a preemie website here: www.preemieprimer.com, where she blogs about preemie issues. She spelled out the good, the bad and the ugly which helped me prepare for what was to come and deal with what had happened. This book let me know I was not going crazy, which was nice. If you have a friend that has a baby who was born prematurely give them this book, a hug and a cup of tea.
One more I will mention, although I do not own this one, is "Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding, by Dr. Jack Newman". This is the breastfeeding bible. Every lactation consultant I have met (and I have met MANY) quotes Dr. Newman. This is the book I should have bought and read before my first child, but instead winged it and learned much of it the hard way. You can also get much of the information from Dr. Newman's website here: www.drjacknewman.com. He's a breastfeeding god. And again, he's Canadian. Yay!