Hi everyone, and Happy Friday! It’s been a long week, hasn’t it? But we made it! And just around the corner is a very important, family-centered holiday: Mother’s Day!
If you’re still shopping around or struggling to find a perfect gift for your mom, your best friend, or another family member who’s a mom—take it from one mama (me!): books are always a great gift!
Books can understandably be a gamble, though, and a probable reason why some people steer clear of purchasing them for other people. Some common concerns, I think, are: Maybe they already have this one… Does she like this genre? Wasn’t there a prequel to this?
So, to ease some of your concerns, I’ve compiled a list of 12 guaranteed-lovely reads to give your mom or fellow mom this May. And to make your search even easier, I’ve offered a few categories: books for motivation and inspiration, conversation-starting non-fiction, and emotionally-immersive fiction (and links, of course!).
Enjoy! I hope this helps you find something for the mom in your life (and maybe yourself, too!). And comment below if you think I’ve missed a particularly important title (there are so many, after all!).
Motivation & Inspiration
Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy by Jamie C. Martin, $12.18
When the volume of family life clashes with your personality, frustration, guilt, and overwhelm naturally result. In Introverted Mom, author Jamie C. Martin lifts these burdens from your shoulders, reminding you that your steady strength is exactly what your family needs in this chaotic world.
Jamie shares vulnerable stories from her own life as well as thoughts from other introverted mothers, letting you know you’re not alone. Her practical suggestions and creative inspiration are enhanced with quotes and insights from four beloved writers—Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, L. M. Montgomery, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Together, Jamie and this band of fellow introverts gently point you toward hope, laughter, and joy.
Whether you’ve just realized you’re an introvert, or if you’ve known it all along, this book is for you. It’s time to honor who you are and savor life as an introverted mom.
2. Memory Making Mom: Building Traditions that Breathe Life into Your Home by Jessica Smartt, $11.59
Be a different kind of mom. Break through the distractions and create lasting memories.
What’s the solution to gaining the balanced, meaningful life you desire with your family? Create traditions that bring joy and significance. Popular “Smartter Each Day” blogger and mom of three, Jessica Smartt explains why memory-making is the puzzle piece that today’s families are longing for. She highlights the tradition-gifts kids need most with 300+ unique traditions including Food, Holidays, Spontaneity, and Faith. She also offers practical encouragement to modern parents to keep on adventuring—even when they are fighting distractions, are on a budget, and exhausted.
3. Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood by Jamie C. Martin, $11.95
You can apply the same techniques of efficiency, intention, and purpose that you’ve used in other careers to your most important position in life—motherhood. Steady Days takes you through the process of becoming a professional mother: one who is organized and excited to spend time with your young children. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by a lack of direction in your parenting, this book can help. You already have the skills you need to be an incredible mother. Empower yourself by reading Steady Days and implementing the ideas to benefit those important little people who call you “Mom.” To learn more about the author, Jamie C. Martin, visit her blog at www.SteadyMom.com.
Conversation-Starting Memoirs & Non-fiction
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama, $13.86
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
5. Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir by Jayson Greene, $15.00
For readers of The Bright Hour and When Breath Becomes Air, a moving, transcendent memoir of loss and a stunning exploration of marriage in the wake of unimaginable grief.
As the book opens: two-year-old Greta Greene is sitting with her grandmother on a park bench on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A brick crumbles from a windowsill overhead, striking her unconscious, and she is immediately rushed to the hospital. But although it begins with this event and with the anguish Jayson and his wife, Stacy, confront in the wake of their daughter’s trauma and the hours leading up to her death, Once More We Saw Stars quickly becomes a narrative that is as much about hope and healing as it is about grief and loss. Jayson recognizes, even in the midst of his ordeal, that there will be a life for him beyond it—that if only he can continue moving forward, from one moment to the next, he will survive what seems unsurvivable. With raw honesty, deep emotion, and exquisite tenderness, he captures both the fragility of life and absoluteness of death, and most important of all, the unconquerable power of love. This is an unforgettable memoir of courage and transformation–and a book that will change the way you look at the world.
6. The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams, $16.15
That Julie Yip-Williams survived infancy was a miracle. Born blind in Vietnam, she narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grandmother, only to flee with her family the political upheaval of her country in the late 1970s. Loaded into a rickety boat with three hundred other refugees, Julie made it to Hong Kong and, ultimately, America, where a surgeon at UCLA gave her partial sight. She would go on to become a Harvard-educated lawyer, with a husband, a family, and a life she had once assumed would be impossible. Then, at age thirty-seven, with two little girls at home, Julie was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer, and a different journey began.
The Unwinding of the Miracle is the story of a vigorous life refracted through the prism of imminent death. When she was first diagnosed, Julie Yip-Williams sought clarity and guidance through the experience and, finding none, began to write her way through it—a chronicle that grew beyond her imagining. Motherhood, marriage, the immigrant experience, ambition, love, wanderlust, tennis, fortune-tellers, grief, reincarnation, jealousy, comfort, pain, the marvel of the body in full rebellion—this book is as sprawling and majestic as the life it records. It is inspiring and instructive, delightful and shattering. It is a book of indelible moments, seared deep—an incomparable guide to living vividly by facing hard truths consciously.
With humor, bracing honesty, and the cleansing power of well-deployed anger, Julie Yip-Williams set the stage for her lasting legacy and one final miracle: the story of her life.
Emotionally-Charged Fiction (Adult and YA)
7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, $16.80
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
8. I Was Anastasia: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon, $10.48
Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.
Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.
Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.
Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.
As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself.
The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.
9. A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do: A Novel by Pete Fromm, $17.10
Five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Award Pete Fromm returns with his big-hearted new novel, a love story about family and resiliency and second chances. For young couple Taz and Marnie, their fixer-upper is the symbol of their new life together: a work in progress, the beginning of something grand, all the more so when they learn a baby is on her way. But the blueprint for the perfect life eludes Taz when Marnie dies in childbirth, plummeting the taciturn carpenter headfirst into the new, strange world of fatherhood alone, a landscape of contradictions, of great joy and sorrow. With a supporting cast as rich and compelling as the wild Montana landscape, the novel follows Taz’s first two years as a father―a job no one can be fully prepared for.
With more than eleven books in over twenty years, Pete Fromm has become one of the West’s best literary legends. A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How To Do beautifully captures people who end up building a life that is both unexpected and brave.
10. Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum, $13.29
Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future.
Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.
Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.
Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?
11. The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, $12.32
Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since the day she died.
Her dad is drowning in grief. He’s also the only one who has been able to see and hear her since the accident. But now she’s got a mystery to solve, a mystery that will hopefully remind her detective father that he needs to reconnect with the living.
The case takes them to a remote Australian town, where there’s been a suspicious fire. All that remains are an unidentifiable body and an unreliable witness found wandering nearby. This witness speaks in riddles. Isobel Catching has a story to tell, and it’s a tale to haunt your dreams–but does it even connect to the case at hand?
As Beth and her father unravel the mystery, they find a shocking and heartbreaking story lurking beneath the surface of a small town.
12. The Poet X: A Novel by Elizabeth Acevedo, $14.39
Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpré Award!
Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
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