Our Moms on Their Favorite Books


Mother’s Day is this weekend, and it’s not too late to run to the local bookstore to pick up a literary gift for your bookish mom. A few of us asked our own mothers to share their favorite books with us, so consider these various titles vetted as a mom-appropriate gifts.

Editor in Chief Judy Berman’s mom loves A Separate Peace by John Knowles:

“Although other favorites include Howard Fast and, more recently, Penelope Lively, my mom’s #1 book is summer-reading staple A Separate Peace. The classic 1959 novel of the friendship between two very different prep-school boys appeals to her, she says, because it’s the smart, hard-working kid of relatively modest means — not the reckless rich one — who lives to tell the story.”

Weekend editor Alison Natasi’s mom loves From the Terrace by John O’Hara:

“O’Hara’s books always captured what was going on in the moment. He took the time to develop his characters. This is my favorite book of his. He also wrote many short stories — now largely forgotten, which is a shame. The styles of writing and stories have changed, but a good writer will always be appreciated.”

Alison’s mom is also a big fan of Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country:

“Beautifully written novel about a girl who realizes she is a boy. The life she leads in England is painful, wonderful, and overall compelling. I was bowled over by the sensitivity and compassion of the writing, because it allowed you to see the real person Mary is as she struggles to be who she wants to be, someone of worth. The humor in the book keeps the story on an even keel, and I could not put it down. This will always be on my top ten list.”

Proving she’s a voracious reader with a variety of tastes, Alison’s mother also picked Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn:

“A memoir that will bring you down in ten seconds flat. His long lost father is an alcoholic, and there’s lots of Irish pathos in this one, holy cow. Being Irish myself, I understood it all, having lived with my own alcoholic father. Read it for a reality check. Read it so you know what it means to be a serious playwright, author, and poet. It is a perfect example of the genre that Flynn obviously lived through.”

Editorial assistant Chloe Patanzi’s mom loves a Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns:

A Thousand Splendid Suns because it moved me. It’s about love that is innocent and pure and extremely strong. The fact that it is set in a war zone gave me perspective on how easy my childhood was and indeed how my life now is. While we worry about the little things, others are living a very different life.”

My mom loves a classic love story, such as Gone With the Wind:

Gone With the Wind is a great love story with the most unforgettable characters, set in a world that’s almost unimaginable today. The extraordinary detail and length make it an investment, but I’ve managed to read it three times and loved it more each time.”

Finally, my mom also shares her adoration for Amy Tan’s debut novel, The Joy Luck Club:

The Joy Luck Club gave me insight into a different world, and I was fascinated by the beliefs and traditions that shaped the early lives of the four women friends. Although they leave the physical world of their youth, the impact of growing up in a place where women have no power stays with them. The women’s relationships with their own daughters are especially interesting, marked by cultural changes in addition to the more typical generational differences.”