If your mom’s a reader, you may be looking for a Mother’s Day book to buy right now. While there’s a certain genre to choose from (one unfairly termed “mom lit” — female-centric novels by Ann Patchett or Elena Ferrante that get snatched up for book clubs or beach reading), there’s a whole wide world of books out there that mom would love, like Gina Kolata’s investigation into one family’s battle with illness, or Colm Tóibín’s latest take on a classic Greek tragedy. We’ve put together a list of the 23 best Mother’s Day books — some coffee-table books (this would be helpful, too), some literary nonfiction, and some mom lit (which we still love) — that’ll arrive in time with two-day shipping.
For the mom who can’t resist a mystery
Inspired by the author’s own mother’s career, this literary whodunit takes an intrepid private eye to Yellowstone National Park and beyond, on a missing-persons case not as cold as she first assumed.
For the mom who loved Olive Kitteridge
Perhaps no one captures a certain contemporary feminine psyche quite like Pulitzer Prize–winning Elizabeth Strout; here, an adult Lucy Barton (of the best-selling My Name Is Lucy Barton) returns home after decades to grapple with the indelible stain of family.
For the mom who loves Elena Ferrante
Any mom who couldn’t put down the Neapolitan series would eat up this short and satisfying volume, which tells the story of a recently separated, quietly simmering translator on a reluctant search to find her disappeared husband on a sleepy Greek island.
For the mom who needs a beach read
If your mom’s idea of a good time includes lapping waves, sandy toes, and SPF 50, this lively look at a restless wife’s decision to enjoy six months of an open marriage will be the perfect racy summer companion. Apologize in advance that she’ll likely finish in one gulp.
For the mom who loves Swedish noir
Lisbeth Salander stans have a new, unlikely Swedish heroine: 18-year-old Maja was implicated in a mass shooting at a fancy Stockholm prep school. Through the course of her trial, the savage depths of her motivations and biography are plumbed.
For the mom who lives for high fashion
A lush synthesis of the last three centuries of couturiers, from stuffy courtwear to nonchalant normcore. The hefty tome by Yves Saint Laurent’s partner was a companion to a comprehensive 2016 exhibit at the Louvre.
For the mom who fancies herself a decorator
First, reassure her that the way she redid the living room is beyond; nothing compares to her new sofa; and, yes, it was worth the 36-week wait. Then offer this endlessly inspiring guide to women decorators (Bunny Mellon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elsa Schiaparelli) as a starting point for her next interior undertaking.
For the mom who remembers the Factory
Maybe she admired from afar, or maybe she even met him. Amazingly, this is the first time Warhol’s prints have been collected in one place, from the campy to the soul-stirring.
For the mom who has back issues of Ms.
Before pussy hats and punny protest signs, feminists took a different form. Whether she has a career in the arts or just admires those who do, every Gloria Steinem devotee will appreciate this thoughtful look at women who changed the world.
For the mom who loved ‘How to Murder Your Life’
Merkin’s unflinching, unputdownable memoir is like mainlining the truth, in all its perplexing complexity. Comforting is a strange descriptor for things that nearly destroy us; one can’t help feel closer to humanity when someone staggers forth, story intact.
For the mom who reads in small doses
A collection of essays from one of America’s finest living writers serves as a pointed swan song to the country that made her. Subjects include, but aren’t limited to, porn, politics, and Peter Pan.
For the mom who loves a medical mystery
If your mom is a rampant scientific-study forwarder or armchair surgeon general, this artful narrative tells the story of a family uncovering a vicious genetic illness, and their far-from-linear journey forward.
For the mom who contemplates existence
A diverse chorus of voices from the New York City storytelling collective comes together with tales from the precipice of the unknown, in all its terrifying, life-affirming hilarity.
For the mom who eats up a murder mystery
For the mom who loves art-based historical fiction
If you can still picture the year when Girl With a Pearl Earring lived lovingly on her bedside table, this fictionalized account of Christina, the polio-impaired heroine in Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, will offer mom another transporting peek behind the canvas.
For the mom who adores a family saga
For the mom who marched on Washington
If politics has her down, and yet she can’t look away, this novel from a master of the form provides a relevant respite. The story of an Evangelical and an abortion provider deftly illustrates the quintessential American chasm present long before Mar-a-Lago was in the lexicon.
For a mom who likes non-fantasy fantasy
If she loves a good story, but can’t do unreal — Lord of the Rings makes her roll her eyes — this story of four boys with identical DNA living four very different lives is just the sort of grounded-in-reality flight of fancy she can get lost in.
For the mom who’s watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ on Hulu
A little like the eerily significant Margaret Atwood novel, this love story amid the rubble of violence, uncertainty, and modernity feels at once otherworldly and all too real. (A certain Strategist editor already plans on gifting this one to her mom, who’s an immigration scholar.)
For the mom who wants to read about white-collar-life reckoning
In four galloping stories, the voice of the working class takes on the cognoscenti — a professor, a realtor, an academic, a novelist. No real surprise: It’s every bit as nuanced, human, and captivating as Russo’s breakout book turned movie, Empire Falls.
For the mom who majored in classics
She’s going to devour this captivating retelling of Clytemnestra and her mariticide (she’s fabled to have killed her husband, Agamemnon) by the virtuoso Irish writer.
For the mom who’s an Impressionist buff
If she still raves about the time you braved Saturday crowds for the Impressionist wing at the Met, this thoughtful and revealing examination of the tactile reverberations in Renoir’s work will be a far more detailed look at the visceral paintings she loves.
For the mom who spins after Arcade croissants
Introducing chia seeds, quinoa, and kale smoothies is a whole lot more palatable presented alongside no-fail eggs Benny and a killer blue-cheese burger.
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