As my child’s ninth birthday was approaching a couple of weeks ago, he asked me, “Mama, shouldn’t we celebrate you on my birthday since you did all the work to get me here?” Insightful, isn’t he?
Well, the time to officially celebrate all the amazing women in our lives—moms, grandmas, aunts, wives, sisters, and friends—has arrived. Mother’s Day is this weekend, Sunday, May 13, and Midtown Reader’s booksellers are ready to help you find the perfect book to commemorate the remarkable women who have made a difference in your life. In fact, several of our booksellers have provided personal recommendations in this week’s blog to help you find the books that will capture your appreciation for (and inspire) the influential women in your life.
And, the second-best gift for these important women? Providing a few moments of peace and quiet for them to enjoy these marvelous books. Happy Mother’s Day!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
Recommended by Sally Bradshaw: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my mom’s favorite books. When I read it, I could picture her as a little girl staying up all night to finish it. Now I understand why Mama always gave us a spoon of leftover sweetened condensed milk when she was baking—it was in memory of Francie Nolan, Betty Smith’s wonderful protagonist.
First published in 1943, this story of a young girl coming of age in an impoverished area of New York City broke my heart, but its hopeful and uplifting heroine makes it a classic—and a great Mother’s Day read.
Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Recommended by Jill Hart: This is the perfect beach read for a busy mom who needs to get in touch with her soul! Drawing inspiration from her time at the beach, Anne Morrow Lindbergh casts an unsentimental eye at the trappings of modern life that threaten to overwhelm us and encourages us to find a space for contemplation and creativity in our own lives. I actually keep several copies on hand to give as gifts throughout the year.
Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea on Captiva Island in Southwest Florida, and one of her five children wrote the introduction. Every time I crossed the bridge onto Captiva Island (my home away from home) as a young woman, I had this book in my beach bag. Lindbergh’s words speak to me there, and I learn something new each time I read it.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
Recommended by Hannah Beth Ragland: As an ardent book lover, I have given my mom many books as gifts over the years, and she has told me that her favorite is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.
See’s novel explores the life of a woman coming of age in rural 19th century China. At the tender age of seven, Lily’s family matched her with Snow Flower so that they would bond as kindred sisters (known as a laotong in Chinese culture) for eternity. Relying on a unique language that Chinese women created to communicate outside the influence of men, Lily and Snow Flower send messages over the years on fans and handkerchiefs, reaching out from isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship is suddenly threatened.
This book resonates with my mom because it plumbs the depths of female friendships and the bonds women form to survive in a patriarchal society while also embracing universal themes like the joys and tragedies of motherhood, loneliness, and love.
Llama, Llama Red Pajama, Anna Dewdney
Recommended by Chanta Combs: When I became a new mom, my mom gave me this book (with a matching stuffed llama in red pajamas) to read to my son/her grandson, Henry. It became an instant classic in our home. Once Henry learned to crawl and then run (I don’t remember a lot of walking in those early days), he would grab his stuffed llama and crawl into my lap for me to read this funny, tender book to him.
At bedtime, Baby Llama starts to worry as soon as his Mama leaves the room. His whimpers turn to hollers, and before long, it's an all-out llama drama. Anna Dewdney's infectious rhymes and expressive artwork will ring true for all moms who have young children with amazingly creative tactics to avoid bedtime. I highly recommend this book for all expecting and new moms—it’s a wonderful way to bond with their little ones!
And a few more Midtown Reader faves…
The Mothers, Brit Bennett
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is 21, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious.
But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
The Motherhood Affidavits: A Memoir, Laura Jean Baker
With the birth of her first child, Laura Jean Baker finds herself electrified by oxytocin, the “love hormone”—the first effective antidote to her lifelong depression. Over the next eight years, her “oxy” cravings and her family only grow—to the dismay of her husband, Ryan, a freelance public defender. As her reckless baby–making threatens her family’s middle–class existence, Baker identifies more and more with Ryan’s legal clients, often drug–addled fellow citizens of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Is she any less desperate for her next fix?
Baker is in an impossible bind: The same drive that sustains her endangers her family; the cure is also the disease. With a wrenching ending that compels us to ask whether Baker has fallen from maternal grace, this is an extraordinary addition to the literature of motherhood.
Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, Joanna Gaines
Full of personal stories and beautiful photos, Magnolia Table is infused with Joanna Gaines's warmth and passion for all things family, prepared and served straight from the heart of her home, with recipes inspired by dozens of Gaines family favorites and classic comfort selections.
Magnolia Table includes 125 classic recipes that the whole family will enjoy—from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to small plates, snacks, and desserts—representing a modern selection of American classics and personal family favorites. Complemented by her love for her garden, these dishes also incorporate homegrown, seasonal produce at the peak of its flavor.
Just When You’re Comfortable in Your Own Skin, It Starts to Sag: Rewriting the Rules of Midlife, Trisha Ashworth & Amy Nobile
Whether married, single, widowed, divorced, with children or without, at some point women inevitably ask the question, "What's next for me?"
Here, women will find a road map for how to embrace and thrive in this new phase of life. With helpful quizzes, friendly advice, and inspiring quotes from women who have been there, this smart and engaging book gives readers the tools to turn a midlife crisis into a midlife opportunity. Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile share their own perspectives and experiences to bring clarity, guidance and support while reassuring readers they're not only on the right track…but that the best years are still to come.
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready, Meaghan O’Connell
With her dark humor and hair-trigger B.S. detector, former Tallahassean Meaghan O'Connell addresses the pervasive imposter syndrome that comes with unplanned pregnancy, the fantasies of a "natural" birth experience that erode maternal self-esteem, post-partum body and sex issues, and the fascinating strangeness of stepping into a new, not-yet-comfortable identity. Channeling fears and anxieties that are still taboo and often unspoken, And Now We Have Everything is an unflinchingly frank, funny, and visceral motherhood story for our times, about having a baby and staying, for better or worse, exactly yourself.
The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at 63, has been a central pillar of the women's movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer—madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can't quite place—feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life—away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she'd always imagined. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time.