Does your mom love to read? Is her (or your) idea of paradise a quiet reading nook, a pina colada, and hours of uninterrupted page-turning?
Great! Then mom will appreciate our Best Books for Mom list.
Kindly note that books don’t necessarily have to focus on a mom to make the cut. Bonus points if they do. But our list is about compelling, captivating reads that mom can enjoy in that quiet nook with her chilled drink and some alone time. So our list is based on – but not strictly limited to – the following criteria:
- Must be an enjoyable, uplifting read (who wants a downer on Mother’s Day? Ack!)
- Superlative writing
- Credible dialogue and a solid, poignant story
- Strong, three-dimensional female characters who learn, develop and grow
- Bonus points if all of the above include a dose of spunk and sass
That being said, Kimber and I are rushing in where angels fear to tread with our purely subjective, 100% unscientific list of Best Books for Mom on her special day:
The Mitford Years is a series of fourteen novels by American writer Jan Karon, set in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. The novels are Christian-themed, and center on the life of the rector. It also includes Father Tim’s good dog, Barnabas, Cynthia, Dooley, the Lord’s Chapel faithful, and Esther Bolick’s famous orange marmalade cake!
Brimming with memorable, mischievous characters, insight, and humor. If you’re looking for a generous dose of Delightful, drop in at Mitford!
2. The Edge of Nowhere, by C.H. Armstrong
This historical novel is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days of the “Dirty Thirties.” The protagonist is a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners spitfire named Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene.
Victoria is a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. Now elderly, she has a tumor on her pancreas. So the novel opens with a letter. It’s penned by Victoria and addressed to her grandchildren. Dated November 12, 1992, the epistle begins:
“I know you refer to me as ‘the meanest woman you’ve ever known.’”
The rest of the book – 261 pages – fills in the blanks. What emerges is the fictionalized story of a woman who refused to be a victim. Loosely based on the life of the author’s grandmother.
3. Twenty Wishes, by Debbie Macomber
Anne Marie Roche wants to find happiness again. At thirty-eight, she’s childless. A recent widow. Alone. She owns a successful bookstore on Seattle’s Blossom Street, but despite her accomplishments, there’s a feeling of emptiness.
On Valentine’s Day, Anne Marie and several other widows gather to celebrate hope and start a list of twenty wishes. Lists include things they’d always wanted to do but never did.
Some of the items on Anne Marie’s list: learning to knit, falling in love again, doing good for someone else. When she volunteers at a local school, an eight-year-old girl named Ellen enters her life.
As Ellen helps Anne Marie complete her list, they both learn that wishes can come true…but not necessarily in the way you expect!
Set in rural North Carolina over a span of about 20 years, Where the Crawdads Sing is a wistful, bittersweet story about Catherine Danielle Clark, aka “Kya.” Also known as the Marsh Girl. The story centers on Kya’s young life as she navigates the wilds of North Carolina alone. It’s a masterful tale of love and loss. Abandonment and rejection. Loneliness. Hope and longing. And survival against the odds.
Powerful and poignant. I read Crawdads cover-to-cover in one sitting.
5. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliott
An oldie but a goodie.
The true story of Operation Auca, an attempt by five American missionaries – Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian – to reach the Huaorani tribe of eastern Ecuador. All five of the men were killed by the tribe.
The 1957 best-selling book was written by Jim’s widow, Elisabeth. Decades later, its story of unconditional love and complete obedience to God still inspires new readers.
6. One True Thing, by Anna Quindlen
Ellen Gulden is a successful magazine writer in New York City. Then she learns that her mother, Kate, is dying of cancer. Ellen’s father insists that she quit her job and return home to become a caregiver. A high-powered career woman, Ellen has never felt she had much in common with her mother, a homemaker and the heart of their family. Yet as Ellen begins to spend time with Kate, she discovers many surprising truths, not only about herself, but also about the woman she thought she knew so well.
Later, when Ellen is accused of the mercy killing of her mother, she must not only defend her own life but make a difficult choice—either accept responsibility for an act she did not commit or divulge the name of the person she believes committed a painful act of love.
7. Christy, by Catherine Marshall
Another golden oldie.
In the year 1912, nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston leaves home to teach school in the Smoky Mountains. There, she comes to know and love the resilient people of the region, with their fierce pride, their dark superstitions, their terrible poverty, and their yearning for beauty and truth.
But her faith will be severely challenged by trial and tragedy, by the needs and unique strengths of two remarkable young men, and by a heart torn between true love and unwavering devotion.
8. Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson
Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another for most of her life. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, the 16 year old leaves Iowa and moves to Montana, solo. There she hopes to prove up on her late uncle’s homestead claim.
Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove. Her quest to make a home is championed by new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German husband, and their children.
For the first time in her life, Hattie feels part of a family, despite schemes to buy her out and increasing pressure to be a “loyal” American at a time when anything—or anyone—German is suspect. Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle’s claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home.
9. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
The first and most popular novel in a nine book series by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. The series centers around the main character, Anne Shirley, a strong-willed and imaginative orphan girl.
Set in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Just plain fun!
10. Black Berry and Wild Rose, by Sonia Velton
Fascinating tale of the fictional household of master silk weaver Elias Thorel and his young wife, Esther. Probably the best thing you can say about Elias is he’s a Pecksniffian clod. Esther, however, has a talent for painting and design. She also has a big heart.
Set in eighteenth century Spitalfields, England, the novel chronicles acrimony between master weavers and journeyman weavers, rich vs. poor, and the beginnings of trade unions (called “combinations” in the book). It also touches on the plight of young women from lower classes who have few choices in a society where wealth buys not only privilege but “justice,” too.
The protagonist, Esther Thorel, is loosely based on the life of Anna Maria Garthwaite, a foremost silk designer of the mid-eighteenth century. The title takes its name from an actual silk design.
Happy Mother’s Day!
What titles would you add?
This post originally appeared on Mother’s Day 2020.