First and foremost you and your partner need to identify what styles of learning work best for you. Do you prefer in-depth technical details? Do chatty, personable writing styles make it easier for you to absorb information? You may find that you and your partner will be best served by having completely different styles of resources available to each of you, to best accommodate your individual learning preferences.
Once you've identified your preferred styles of books, start shopping. I find there are three main categories of "expecting" books:
- "Popular" style books geared towards making the material as accessible and unintimidating as possible.
- "Medical Expert" style books geared towards presenting as much authoritative, technical information as possible (despite the "authoritative medical" focus, there are many of these that still remain relatively readable, for example: the American Academy of Pediatrics provides good information without relying too much on technical jargon).
- "Specialty" topics are books that focus on one specific aspect of pregnancy or early childhood. These could cover anything from specific medical conditions to the challenges single parents may face, and everything in between.
Whether you go "popular" or "medical expert" depends on your preferences, but I would recommend getting at least one "medical expert" book to have as a reference manual, even if you don't plan on reading it cover-to-cover. While the authors of What to Expect When You're Expecting have a lot of good experience, I'd rather trust actual pediatricians for detailed medical advice.
I would also recommend getting books that cover pregnancy, and books that cover the first year of the baby's life. Most books fall into one or the other category, although some may cover both in sufficient detail. Once the baby arrives, you will not have much time for leisurely reading, so it is best to read ahead while you still can!
For both pregnancy and first year topics, I found a breakdown by age category to be the most useful format. Since development changes so significantly both during pregnancy and during the first year, a breakdown of each month, or period of 2-3 months, is very handy, particularly if it includes a list of milestones.
So, to summarize:
- Identify the appropriate style for you and your partner.
- Get books that cover both pregnancy and the first year of the baby's life.
- Choose books that have the appropriate "voice" for you and your partner.
- Select at least one "medical reference" book.
- Look for breakdowns of developmental periods, preferably with milestones.
- Pick up books on any "specialty" topics that you feel might be applicable/interesting.