holiday gifts 2022

The Best Books for Every Type of Mom

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

The idea of a “mom book” is a little tricky, given that all of our moms have different tastes and interests. Yet books are always an appreciated gift if you get them right, and that’s really just a question of considering your mom’s specific reading habits. With that in mind, we’ve come up with recommendations for all kinds of moms, whether they’re into fiction, memoirs, essays, or the Real Housewives franchise. Our list of 31 books includes Strategist staff favorites and expert-recommended picks, spanning both 2022 best sellers and contemporary classics. While some of these reads are fresh off the presses, most should ship in time for Christmas Day if you act quickly. For more gift ideas for different kinds of people in your life (from birders to knitters to jet-setters), find all of our curated picks here. And for a gift that’s guaranteed to arrive on time, you can also find an exhaustive list of our most recommended e-gift cards right here. Oh, and if you’re shopping for both parents, see our guide to the best books for dads.

For the mom who’s seen it all

$15

The title essay of this 20-year essay collection from novelist and journalist Rachel Kushner recalls her undeniably cool and rather hard-partying youth: Other topics touched on include art, literature, and motorcycle racing.

For the mom who’s read every Hilary Mantel

If you’re worried she’s already read all the good historical fiction, try this nonfiction breakdown of life in Elizabethan England that’s one of Grammy-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens’s favorite books. “It’s by this woman who’s done a lot of living-history stuff, so she breaks down what it was like to live in Elizabethan England,” Giddens says. “Like, what did they wear? What did they eat? Did they take baths? It’s really interesting.”

Unfortunately the paperback version of this book won’t arrive on time for Christmas, but it’s still available instantly on Kindle.

For the mom more into supernatural history

Photo: Publisher

One of Vulture’s best horror books of 2022; writer Emily Hughes calls this suspenseful haunted-house tale “a classic historical gothic novel, impeccably executed.”

For the mom who doesn’t do genre fiction

Photo: Penguin Random House

Namwali Serpell’s second novel unfurls around the death of young protagonist C’s younger brother, Wayne. “What seems like a simple premise quickly becomes dark and twisted through the author’s expert use of repetition: Every few chapters, the book resets and C is forced to watch Wayne die yet again,” explains Vulture’s Mary Retta, who says this is one of 2022’s best books.

For the Bravo mom

A piece of Real Housewives memorabilia that’s also an entertaining read, this is the book that Jill Zarin was allegedly caught using a fake Amazon account to write positive reviews for. It covers everything from dating and parenting to money and family, and if you buy a copy from Zarin’s website, it comes autographed.

For the mom who prefers late-night TV

Photo: Photo by Publisher

One of Vulture’s best comedy books of 2022, The World’s Worst Assistant is a memoir by Conan O’Brien’s personal assistant, Sona Movsesian, who your mom may be familiar with from O’Brien’s beloved podcast. Mainly focusing on the years the author spent backstage at Conan and The Tonight Show, it’s both funny and full of oddly life-affirming anecdotes.

For the Southern mom

“When I first read Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples, I was a teenager in mid-1950s North Carolina,” says Anne Tyler, author of Redhead by the Side of the Road. “The linked stories about the inhabitants of a small town in Mississippi made me feel right at home; I recognized these people, and none of them surprised me.”

For the fast-reading mom

Every Strategist staffer who has read Gabrielle Zevin’s latest has loved it. While the plot summary doesn’t at first glance sound especially mom-worthy — it’s technically about indie video-game development in 1990s Boston and L.A. — we think she’ll be hooked, especially if she lives for a love triangle or has enjoyed campus novels in the past.

This popular book will no longer ship on time for Christmas due to stock issues, but is still available instantly on Kindle.

For the mom with a feminist bookshelf

One of our best books about Black feminism, this collection of works written by Alice Walker from 1966 to 1982 charts a path for womanism, an expansion of Black feminism that encompasses a wide variety of Black expression — mother to child, between two women, and people who appreciate women’s culture and are committed to the survival and wholeness of others.

For the slightly foul-mouthed mom

Any Samantha Irby essay collection is guaranteed to entertain, and this one in particular is a favorite of actor and writer Amber Tamblyn. Irby, as she says, “is one of our country’s most fierce and foulmouthed authors, whose literary takes on sex, family, and the body are unique in their comedic resonance and full gut-punch power.”

For the rom-com-loving mom

Or here’s a humorous essay collection by one of the original masters, Nora Ephron. Any of Ephron’s books would make a great mom gift, but Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Daisy Jones and the Six, recommends her most candid (and final) published work, I Remember Nothing, as a “great place to start” if your mom hasn’t read her before.

For the sports mom

From $15
Photo-Illustration: retailer

Abby Wambach’s autobiography is one of the best sports memoirs out there, according to sports reporter and commentator Kate Fagan. In this candid memoir, Fagan says that the former star forward of the U.S. women’s national team “isn’t here to build her brand or make you love her; she’s here to be honest about her life, about her drinking, and about the inside workings about the peaks and valleys of being a professional athlete.”

For the mom who only reads books with multiple timelines

Photo: Publisher

Station Eleven author Emily St. John Mandel takes speculative fiction to new heights in her latest book, which takes place both on early 20th-century Earth and a moon colony established 500 years later.

For the hostess mom

$22

A bright and cheerful artist-inspired dinner-party guide that throws out the rulebooks penned by Martha Stewart et al.

For the vegetarian mom

Whether she’s a lifelong vegetarian or experimenting with meat-free Mondays, she’ll find it easy and fun to work her way through these simple yet flavorful Asian-inspired recipes for noodles, dumplings, and more.

For the green-thumbed mom

Photo: Retailer

Strategist writer Lauren Ro recommends this book by gardener David Culp which offers an overview of “how to plant for climate and aesthetics” to create “a garden that’s dynamic in every season.”

For the mom who wrote her thesis on Donna Haraway

A blend of memoir, art, and critical theory that’s optimistic about the feminist revolution, this unusual manifesto is one of our favorite Black coffee-table books.

For the mom in tech

Photo: retailer

“Most books about the Valley look at the view from the top,” or so New York contributing editor Reeves Wiedeman told us when we asked him about the best technology books. “They’re about the founders and funders who run the place from on high.” In contrast, this memoir offers “the funniest, darkest, sharpest, and most human view from the ground, among the worker bees building the platforms taking over our lives.”

For the mom in business

According to Janifer P. Wilson, founder of Sisters Uptown in New York City, this book is about “ultimate Renaissance woman” Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire in America, whose story “is a testament to the resilience, the wonder, and the power in each of us.”

For the mom who cheers for the Squad

New York Magazine’s biography of the bartender turned politician shaking up Washington and her own political party draws on hundreds of interviews exploring her early life, historic election, and career thus far.

For the mom who runs three book clubs

Shopping for an avid reader is hard. Rather than guess at what novel she has and hasn’t already got on her shelf, here’s a book about the pursuit of reading itself: specifically Tolstoy’s most famous tome.

For the mom who never misses her daily walk

$16

Rebecca Solnit’s profound history of walking will appeal to any mom who’d rather leave her car in the garage and engage with the world on foot.

For the mom who never misses a Netflix special

“Celebrity memoirs by women are often stealth accounts of the challenges of being a working mother, or a straight woman who earns more than her male partner,” Sharon Marcus, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, tells us. “Dear Girls offers plenty of insights on both fronts.” It’s also very funny.

For the mom with a MoMA membership

$27
Photo: Publisher

This giftable coffee-table book offers an overview of Chicago’s career, including reproduced sketchbooks and journals showcasing the process behind her greatest works, such as The Dinner Party.

For the music-loving mom

The 33 ⅓ book series sees music writers reflect on landmark albums from past and recent decades. This reappraisal of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville will please any Gen-X rock mom.

For the mom who’s more into classic rock

“A Book of Days”
$23
$23

Patti Smith’s latest book is a yearlong photo diary that documents both her international travels and everyday life in New York City. Alongside contemporary photos that might be familiar to your mom if she follows Smith on Instagram, there are also never-before-seen archival images from the musician’s childhood and ’70s punk years.

For the mom who’s a lifelong learner

When we asked experts to identify the best books about Asian American identity, three of them cited Helen Zia’s Asian American Dreams as a good place to start. Part memoir and part history, the book, published in 2000, covers key crisis moments of the Asian American political experience, including the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin and the Los Angeles riots, as it traces the role of activism in the formation of the concept of Asian Americanness.

For the mom worried about the world ending

“Everyone needs to read” this book about sanitation rights in rural Alabama, says Arielle V. King, a student and environmental-justice advocate. “Catherine is just brilliant.”

For the crafty mom

This unusual book of sewing projects encourages readers to patch up ripped and stained clothes in creative ways. It’ll appeal to moms who can’t quite get on board with fast fashion.

For the poetry-loving mom

Photo: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

This poetry book tells the story of Nguyen’s mother, a motorcyclist who belonged to an all-female stunt troupe in Vietnam. It was a 2021 National Book Award finalist and comes recommended by Nguyen’s fellow poet Erin Taylor.

For the mom who’s seen it all

For the new mom

As on-the-nose as this mom book recommendation might be, we do think she’ll enjoy it. Jenny Offill called this memoir about Cusk’s entrée into motherhood “a secret handshake among new mothers.” And Polly Rosenwaike, author of Look How Happy I’m Making You, says it’s “an antidote to all the sentimentalities about what it means to become a mother.”

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The Best Books for Every Type of Mom