You all know how we love the books. The following is a list of books that any mom would be happy to have on her bookshelf, bedside table, or sitting beside her in the carpool lane.
At first glance, this list looks a little like the inside of Erin’s head: fascinating but frazzled. So we decided to tidy them up for you. Carry on, but more importantly, read on. These are all gems of the highest order.
For History-Loving Mommas
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
Our book club read this book a couple of months ago. If you could really dub a book about the plague a beach read, this is the one that could make that leap. That particular brand of easy, summer breezy reading, this book makes you forget that you are swallowing heavily doses of real history. It’s the kind of learning that goes down easy and leaves the reader wanting more, which is saying a lot, because, well, it’s the plague.
Paris Red: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon
Everybody’s talking about this book, and they should be. The guiltiest of pleasures, this book inhabits the very essence of Paris while also revealing the passionate, transformative relationship between Manet and his model muse Victorine. The lush language, the practically pulsing imagery, and the fierceness of Victorine herself powers up this novel to full wattage. This novel will stir even the staidest heart. A deeply evocative piece of writing that transports the reader not just to a time and place, but to the very heart of the affair that changed the history of the art world, this book is a must read.
For Science-Loving Moms
The Martian by Andy Weir
Erin has already shoved this book into the hands of every person willing to take a book from a crazy lady. But in all seriousness, this book knocked her socks off. The premise is that Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars after an ill-fated mission. But he is so not dead. Watney’s humor and humanity breathe life into this well-paced and thoughtfully constructed story about a man’s struggle for survival in an unforgiving environment. He makes us laugh, gasp, and root for his plucky ultimate underdog self. Add to this already amazing mix that this is a real science brand of science fiction and the result is unputdownable fiction. You can just thank Erin later or, at the very least, not run from her when she is shoving books at you.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver herself and her inimitable talent is part of what makes this book work. There are other stories like this one about eating locally, about families trying to live on their land, about treating the environment well. This tightly controlled story is all these things and yet something else entirely unique and special. Kingsolver’s gifted narrative skills elevate this book from a memoir of her family’s year of eating locally to the deeply entertaining and obsessively readable prize that it is. The sidebars, the recipes, and the sound research charm our science-loving hearts, but even more precious and appreciated is the very tone and tenor of this book. Never once does it devolve into smugness or snobbery, a pitfall of the genre. Kingsolver is the master of this domain, and we are better people for having this book in our lives.
For Moms Who Love NPR
If NPR is your jam, then you know its book lists are killer. These two topped all the lists for 2014 and with good reason: these are two very powerful reads. They will almost make up for the fact that your kids keep changing the radio station.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Broken hearts are good for one thing: creating some powerful books. In this case, Helen Macdonald has lost her dad and then her way. So she does what all grieving girls do, she decides to train a goshawk. Weaving together stories of her grief with her experience training the hawk and anecdotes about T.H. White who also trained hawks, Macdonald is spinning a special kind of magic here. Her vulnerability, her bare-faced honesty, her well-researched and deftly placed bits about White mesh with her rich wells of talent to bring us something far more encompassing and satisfying than a memoir of her grief. This is writing at its highest level with sentences that hold up to rereadings. We are not grateful for her loss so much as deeply affected by it and the lovely piece of writing it spawned.
Redeployment by Phil Kay
When this book won the National Book Award, Erin was skeptical. After the first page, she felt some remorse for her cynicism. With every turn of the page, it was clear that Erin has no business judging the big literary guns when they decide to bestow their blue ribbons on their favorites. Phil Kay grabs our hand and forces us to take a long, hard personal look at the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no place to hide emotionally in this book and that is a very good thing. Kay is a gifted storyteller and the stories themselves are well-crafted offerings the reader gladly accepts. Alternately funny, brash, philosophical, and fearless, these stories are always honest in an “eyes wide open” kind of way that makes it impossible to look away.
For Moms Who Love a Good Beach Read
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer
This was a book club read for us a couple years ago, but its charms are fondly remembered. Told through a series of letters, this book is in many ways a love letter to language itself as it explores the ways that written language helps bring us to each other. Sound a little deeper than your usual beach fare? Maybe, but it’s part of what makes this book so special. The great story and funny warm characters will have you turning the pages quickly, but its the deep rich vein of love for humanity, literature, and a lovely little island off the coast of England that will give you a reading experience you’ll long remember. Just stick it in your beach bag now.
The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller
Oh, Sue Miller. We just love her. She brings us stories that don’t just entertain but make us think. This book about two women on opposite sides of the marital timeline but facing similar issues within them is no exception. Miller can craft a conversation like nobody’s business, but its her adept pacing and characterization that make her novels little living, breathing things. In this case, she has breathed life into the very concept of marriage itself and in turn created a fascinating, fun read. No small feat, but one we will gladly take.
For Moms Who Just Need a Good Laugh
The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets: Featuring More of the Most Hilarious Parents on Twitter edited by Kate Hall, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel, and Jessica Ziegler
Sometimes you just want to get your funny on. Busy moms will appreciate the bite-sized morsels of hilariousness in this book. A great culling of clever from the tweeter sphere, this book will entertain for as long as you will let it.
I Still Just Want to Pee Alone: Volume 3 edited by Jen Mann
The latest compilation of essays on motherhood from some of our most favorite bloggers on the web, this book is the third in a series of books that we wish had been around when we were new moms. How great it would have been to have these stories not only for commiseration, but to lighten us up so that we could find the funny in the sheer ridiculousness that is parenting small children. Hilarious, tender, and true, these books are a reassurance that imperfection is normal and something to be celebrated as well as gently poked for fun. But if you love this, there is more where this awesomeness came from!
Don’t just read one! Read the whole series!
We hope you enjoy all of these books as much as we have!
-Erin and Ellen
Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”
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