The 7 Best Baby Name Books of 2019

Simple, exotic, and cultural picks for the new addition to the family

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Picking a baby name isn’t just challenging: It can be downright overwhelming! Should you go with the latest trend or the classic mainstays? What if Aiden ends up looking like more of a Bruce? And searching for your little one’s moniker on the Internet quickly turns stressful, with all the competing websites giving you different information about what a given name really means.

If you need help brainstorming or want to get into more specifics of your top names a name book might help ease the stress. Here, the best baby name books to buy this year.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: 100,000+ Baby Names

Courtesy of Amazon

Bruce Lansky’s 100,000+ Baby Names wins points for its sheer volume of choices. The biggest book on this list by far, Lansky’s guide is the most popular baby name book in North America for a reason. Regularly updated to reflect the latest naming trends, the book begins with advice on how to pick a name that both you and your child will love. If you’re a baby name nerd, you’ll especially appreciate Lansky’s dedication to presenting trends over time and how they’ve shifted historically, so you can get an idea of how your baby’s name will be perceived years later when they’re going to school or (gulp!) applying for jobs.

There are also sections on names inspired by literary and historical figures; on “the impressions names make,” which allows you to see how your child’s name might be perceived by others; and on naming siblings and twins or triplets. If you’re interested, you can also browse through the sections on celebrities’ birth names or fun facts about naming practices and trends.

Best Method: The Baby Name Wizard

Sometimes the problem isn’t what to name your baby, but how to go about it. There are millions of names out there; how can you ever decide on one (and agree on it with your partner, for that matter)? Laura Wattenberg streamlines the process for you in The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby.

A fun read packed with anecdotes and helpful hints, The Baby Name Wizard uses a computer-generated algorithm to guide new parents methodically through names and their cultural origins, meanings, and “brother and sister” names to pick if this one is close but not-quite-right. Wattenberg also includes information on how to approach a name from a community-based, regional, and family perspective, rather than relying only on your personal taste or preferences.

Readers call this book paradigm-shifting and life-saving in terms of picking out the perfect name, especially in the last weeks of pregnancy when the last thing you want to be doing is combing through dictionaries and baby name forums in a panic.

Best Irish Names: A-Z of Irish Names for Children and their Meanings

If you’re proud of your Irish heritage or just like names with a Celtic ring to them, Diarmaid O. Muirithe’s A-Z of Irish Names for Children and their Meanings is a smart choice for paring down your options. Muirithe defines “Irish” broadly and liberally, drawing from saints’ names, Biblical names, anglicized Viking monikers, and old Welsh and Irish traditions to make her selections.

This book is a good choice if you’re a bit of a history buff, as quirky anecdotes from cultural history round out each name description. Muirithe tells a brief story and provides a cultural narrative about each name, rather than merely providing a lexicon to flip through, making for a much more absorbing read than many baby name books on the market.

Best African-American Names: The African-American Baby Name Book

Teresa Norman breaks down the origins, history, and traditions behind over 10,000 names in this guide to African-American baby names, The African-American Baby Name Book: A Treasury of Over 10,000 Unique, Traditional, and Creative Names for the New Millennium.

The book includes alternative spellings for contemporary takes on biblical names, as well as traditional Muslim names and creative reworkings of the classics. Except for the introduction, which delves into the history of various African and African-American naming traditions, Norman’s baby name book is primarily a straightforward tome, providing a truly massive alphabetical listing of names and (briefly) their meanings and origins.

Best Religious Names: The Name Book

Dorothy Astoria’s The Name Book: Over 10,000 Names—Their Meanings, Origins, and Spiritual Significance is perfect for families who want their baby’s names to have spiritual heft. Astoria gives particular attention to Biblical names, making this book a favorite for Christian parents, but also delves into the possible spiritual meanings of classic and contemporary names outside of Scripture.

Astoria’s comprehensive directory of Christian names will teach you about the linguistic and cultural origins of each name, along with its spiritual connotation (did you know Adalia means “courageous,” for example?) and an accompanying Scripture verse. The book also includes a section on birthstone and flower-inspired names, hints on how to approach naming your child, and a section on names with a particular cultural heritage.

Best Global Names: Neala Shane’s Inspired Baby Names From Around the World

Not looking for traditional North American names? Hoping for something a little different, with a special meaning that reflects your family, ancestors, or cultural heritage? Neala Shane’s Inspired Baby Names from Around the World is one of the best books on the market for international names.

Shane’s descriptions of over 6,000 names from around the world are particularly in-depth, delving into what she calls the “poetry” of each name: that is, its cultural backstory and detailed information about its meaning, steeped within mythical traditions, ethnic and national identity, and geographic origins. Each name is also accompanied by alternative spellings and a pronunciation guide. Each name in Shane’s guide also receives its own spiritual affirmation that draws from its deep-rooted meaning.

Best Unique Names: The Big Book of 7,000 Unique Baby Names

If you’re looking for your baby to stand out right from the get-go, a unique name is essential. There are no Bobs, Stephanies, Adams, or Susans in Laura Weaver’s Baby Names: The Big Book of 7,000 Unique Baby Names. Whether you’d like a long-lost traditional name that doesn’t fall off the tongue so easily nowadays or a contemporary name with a special flair, you’re likely to find something that suits your fancy here.

Weaver’s ultra-popular book is separated into sections based on origin, with collections devoted to African, Anglo-Saxon, Biblical, Chinese, German, Greek, Native American, Spanish, mythological, floral, celebrity, French, and gender-neutral names. Each name is accompanied by its meaning and regional background. From Augusta to Aisly, from Kosiya to Kokayi, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Weaver’s name almanac whether you want your baby to be known as an “elf ruler” (Avery) or “seacoast” (Ora).

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