What's a present that always fits, never goes out of style and yet you can never have too many of? Answer: a good book. If your mom doesn't know what to read next, help grow her to-be-read pile by picking her up one of these can't-put-them-down books for moms. (And then if you really want to put the cherry on top, lead her to a quiet place and let her have some uninterrupted reading time to go with it.)
Whether your mom loves memoirs, beach reads, true crime, thrillers or big award winners, you're bound to find something that'll interest her on this list. (And if your mom loves stories, but isn’t much of a reader? Try getting her one of these great audiobooks instead — some of them have casts that rival the most prestigious Oscar movies.) These aren't where you go for tips and tricks on raising kids — we're not talking parenting books here. And not all of these are specifically about being a mom, though some are, and there are plenty in them for moms to relate to. Instead, place one of these in her hands and she's off on a literary adventure!
"Ask Polly" writer Heather Havrilesky explores the concept of marriage, including her own, and with a subtitle like "On the Divine Tedium of Marriage," you know it's going to include both the ups and the downs. (Not that Mom would ever admit to the downs!)
If Mom spent her pandemic catching up on HBO's Station Eleven, get her this book from the author who wrote the Station Eleven novel. It takes place at a hotel on a remote island in Canada, and follows the intersecting lives of people connected to the hotel. (And if Mom likes it, Emily St. John Mandel has another book, The Sea of Tranquility, coming out on April 5.)
This novel switches perspectives between two members of the Chippewa tribe: Thomas, a night watchman following the passage of a tribal "emancipation" bill, and Patrice, a young girl who wants to make enough money to travel to Minnesota and go on the hunt for her older sister, who has disappeared. Louise Erdrich, whose own mother is French and Ojibwa, won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for this novel.
This book begins on Nina's 30th birthday — in jail. When she gets a self-help book in her cell, she vows to make a life change and find 30 things she loves about herself before her next birthday. This one goes out to all the moms looking for a little self-love.
Mothers who feel like they're being judged against an impossible standard (a.k.a everyone) will relate to Frida who, after a moment of bad judgement, has to prove to the government that she deserves custody of her daughter, Harriet. Jenna Bush Hager chose it for her book club, saying it was "so captivating, thought-provoking and beautifully written, everything I tried to pick up next paled in comparison."
Is there anything Dolly can't do? Dolly Parton and James Patterson team up to tell the story about — what else? — a musician with her star on the rise. Only she's got a secret, and she's afraid it might catch up to her.
Clearly, one of the the best books for moms is Sheila Heti's novel about grappling with what it means to be a mother. Few writers are brave enough to be as candid about the subject as Heti is.
Reese Witherspoon loved this book so much, she not only picked it for her Book Club, she's producing a movie of it, due out this July (and starring Normal People's Daisy Edgar-Jones). It's about a girl name Kya who grew up alone in the marshes of North Carolina who decides she's ready to connect to the outside world.
If your mom is into mysteries, nobody does twists and turns better than Tana French. Need proof: Check out Stephen King's rave review.
One-time winner of the National Book Award, this novel centers on grief; when a woman's best friend and mentor dies, she's left to care for a huge Great Dane that she never wanted. The relationship with the dog and her processing of her friend's death become intertwined.
Tayari Jones' novel focuses on a married couple separated by incarceration — until the husband's conviction is overturned and he unexpectedly returns home. Oprah picked it as a book club selection, and Barack Obama shared in a Facebook post that it was on his reading list, so this book has some pretty major fans.
If there's a new mom in your life, get her this memoir, which captures novice parenthood with such accuracy and honesty, it's a catharsis just to read.
If your mom is a foodie, this memoir from the former Gourmet editor-in-chief is a no-brainer. Not only does it offer glimpses into the restaurant world, it's also a look back on what it was like for "a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world." Plus, there are recipes!
This memoir lovingly delves into what it means to be a parent, a child, and a member of a family: Writer Nicole Chung, who was put up for adoption by a Korean family and raised by white parents in Oregon, goes in search of her family history before her own daughter is born. She contrasts what she learns with the adoption stories that are often told to transracial adoptees.
Taking a toddler on a road trip might sound like a chore for any mother, but, in Lydia Kiesling's hands, reading about a mother/toddler road trip across California is highly engrossing.
Susan Page, the award-winning Washington bureau chief for USA Today, details the unbelievable life of the former First Lady, and what it was like to be wife to one president and mother to another.
The former First Lady tells her life story, from her growing up on Chicago's South Side to her journey to the White House. If your mom is so inclined, you can opt for the audiobook and let your mom listen to Obama read it in her own voice.
Author Sara Batkie says this collection of short stories is about "young women trying and failing to connect, and the various ways they are and aren’t listened to." If anyone can relate to that, it's moms.
This is another novel about a mother/daughter relationship, even though it's loosely based on the Oedipus myth. It focuses on a young woman named Gretel whose mother disappeared when she was a teen — until Gretel gets a phone call from her years later, and goes off in a quest to be reunited.
If your mom doesn't start her day without tuning into The View, this dishy behind-the-scenes look will definitely be up her alley. (You know she can't look away.)
Smarsh, a fifth-generation Kansan, is a journalist who has written for The New York Times and The Guardian. For her memoir, she turns her keen eye on her own upbringing, growing up in poverty in the '80s and '90s, and examines what her experiences say about inequality in America. The book was named a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award.
The author of The Poisonwood Bible returns with a novel about two families, living a century apart: One must learn to cope when both husband and wife lose their jobs, another risks scandal when a scientist wants to celebrate the work of Charles Darwin. Together, they're two powerful portraits of families dangling on the edge.
Every mom thinks her life is a circus, but Tessa Fontaine actually ran off and joined the circus — well, a traveling sideshow at least. Her memoir, which also deals with her mother's illness, goes much deeper than circus tricks.
If your mom is a serial re-watcher of Crazy Rich Asians, get her this novel about Stanley, a wealthy businessman — or so his family thought. When Stanley is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and his family starts to make arrangements, they realize that he may not be what he claimed.
If she likes sci-fi or fantasy, get her this novel, from the Hugo Award-winning author of the Broken Earth series. In it, cities have become sentient beings that have to fight a common enemy.