In our household, a book is a perfect gift for any occasion. Birthdays, Father’s Day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, well, you get the idea. Mothers Day is no different, and I always enjoy the weeks leading up to it because I get to spend time browsing books online and when I get busted I can say “I’m researching so you know what to buy me for Mothers Day.”
At the moment I am particularly fond of biographies and autobiographies, particularly those about “regular” people and so far this year I have met a myriad of other mothers in the pages of books. What better gift for Mothers Day than the stories of other mothers?
So here are my personal recommendations for Mother’s Day books about moms and the occasional grandmom, that moms everywhere can enjoy.
Marie Curie And Her Daughters
Science writer Shelly Emling draws on personal letters released by Curie’s only granddaughter to show how Marie influenced her daughters yet let them blaze their own paths: Irene followed her mother’s footsteps into science and was instrumental in the discovery of nuclear fission; Eve traveled the world as a foreign correspondent and then moved on to humanitarian missions.
Few people know about Curie’s close friendship with American journalist Missy Meloney, who arranged speaking tours across the country for Marie, Eve, and Irene. Months on the road, charming audiences both large and small, endeared the Curies to American women and established a lifelong relationship with the United States that formed one of the strongest connections of Marie’s life.
Factually vibrant, personal, and original, this is an engrossing story about the most famous woman in science that rips the cover off the myth and reveals the real person, friend, and mother behind it.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk
Emma Gatewood told her family she was going for a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from the genteel, farm-reared, sixty-seven-year-old great-grandmother she had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. By September 1955 she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin, sang “America, the Beautiful,” and proclaimed, “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”
Driven by a painful marriage, Grandma Gatewood not only hiked the trail alone, she was the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times. At age seventy-one, she hiked the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity and appeared on TV with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter. The public attention she brought to the trail was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance and very likely saved the trail from extinction.
Author Ben Montgomery interviewed surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail, unearthed historical newspaper and magazine articles, and was given full access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk shines a fresh light on one of America’s most celebrated hikers.
I’ll See You Again
Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you that the death of a child is the single worst event that can happen to a parent. Jackie Hance, mother of three vibrant, lovely little girls–Emma (8), Alyson (7), and Katie (5)–would have said the same.
Jackie’s sister-in-law, Diane Schuler, took her two children and the three Hance girls on a weekend camping trip just a couple of hours away. But on the ride back from the trip, Jackie received a horrific phone call from her eldest daughter, Emma, whose last words to her mother were, “Something’s wrong with Aunt Diane.” Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway, killing herself, her daughter, three men in another car, and all three of Jackie Hance’s darling daughters.
A year after the tragic death of her daughters, Jackie and her husband Warren, both still deep in the throes of grief, accepted the services of an IVF specialist and became pregnant with her fourth child–a daughter they named Kasey. Terrified of loss, Jackie found herself on the edge of insanity during her pregnancy but has managed to move cautiously forward.
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me: A Memoir
Family relationships are never dull. But Sherman Alexie’s bond with his mother Lillian was more complicated than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything.
Lillian survived a violent past but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It’s these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman.
When she passed away, the incongruities that defined his mother shook Sherman and his remembrance of her. Grappling with the haunting ghosts of the past in the wake of a loss, he responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is a stunning memoir filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive.
A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.
For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?
These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.
Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time.
The Century Girls
The Century Girls features six women born in 1918 or before who haven’t just witnessed that change, they’ve lived it. War came and went, and modern society demanded continual readjustment but the Century Girls lasted the course, and this book weaves together their lifetime’s adventures. What they were taught, how they were treated, who they loved, what they did and where they are now.
With stories that are intimately knitted into the history of the British Isles, this is a time-travel epic featuring our oldest, most precious national treasures. Edna, 102, was a domestic servant born in Lincolnshire. Helena is 101 years old and the eldest of eight born into a Welsh farming family. Olive, 102, began life as a child of empire in British Guiana and was one of the first women to migrate to London after the war. There’s Ann, a 103-year-London bohemian; 100-year-old Phyllis, daughter of the British Raj, who has called Edinburgh home for nearly eighty years; and finally `young’ Joyce – a 99-year-old Cambridge classicist who’s still at work.
It is through the prism of these women’s very long lives that The Century Girls provides a deeply personal account of British history over the past one hundred years. Their story is our story too.
My Secret Mother
When Phyllis Whitsell was just eight months old, her mother died of tuberculosis. At least, that what’s Phyllis grew up being told. But Phyllis never believed it was true. She prayed every night for God to take care of her birth mother, holding onto the hope that she was alive and out there, somewhere.
Finally, after years of searching, Phyllis finds her birth mother-Bridget, known locally as Tipperary Mary. But the loving reunion Phyllis had hoped for is complicated by a painful past. The mother she discovers is a broken woman-a victim of early onset dementia, an alcoholic, and a woman crushed by years of missing the daughter she gave up.
Phyllis, by this time a community nurse with her own children, keeps the discovery from her family. She begins to care for Bridget-visiting her at home, buying her new clothes, tending to her maladies and giving her as much love as she can. All the while, Phyllis struggles with telling Bridget her true identity. And when she eventually introduces her son to his grandmother, Bridget doesn’t believe her. Bridget never fully understands that her tender new caregiver is the daughter she lost so long ago.
My Secret Mother is the extraordinary story of forgiveness and compassion, as a daughter’s search for her mother becomes a journey from abandonment into love
thank you for this list, I am excited to read many of these.