Every mother is different, and those of us with a good mom in our lives know how lucky we are to have her. While it can take an entire lifetime to truly appreciate your mom, Mother’s Day is a great reminder to show your love. Whether you’re celebrating your own mother, or another wonderful woman in your life, here are some suggestions for the perfect books to buy her. Because she deserves a gift that not only matches her personality, but demonstrates a deeper bond than any bath set or sweater can manage. Books, as usual, to the rescue.
For the Book Devourer, try Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins
Your mom has read everything. Ev-ery-thing. She’s a member of six book clubs and is known as the mom who shows up for every social occasion, school board meeting, and volunteer effort with at least one book in her voluminous tote bag. Finding a book for your mom isn’t a matter of nipping down to the local Barnes and Noble and picking something that looks good—you need to be cutting edge. Hawkins’ follow-up to the mega-smash The Girl on the Train hits shelves May 2, meaning you have decent odds of giving her a book she hasn’t read yet.
For the Fun Mom, try Terms of Endearment, by Larry McMurty
Your mom has always been a party-planning, sleepover-hosting, cookie-baking mistress of merriment. There’s never a dull moment with her, whether we’re talking one too many glasses of wine with her pals or movie night in the family room. For your effervescent mom, Terms of Endearment is not only a classic novel by one of the best living American writers, it’s also a character study of a mother and daughter who both suffer from a severe overabundance of personality.
For the Den Mother, try Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Your mom is everyone’s mom. Your best friend called your mom first to tell her about the engagement, and your boss refers to her by her first name. She’s the sort who magically makes everything better by effortlessly caring for everyone in her line of sight. For her, the evergreen classic Little Women will resonate, with its story of Mrs. March and her devotion to her daughters, while also offering a subtle hint that you totally get how great she is.
For the Master Planner, try Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple
Your mom always has a plan. Every day has been organized, scheduled, and prepared for. As a kid your lunches were precise works of science. As an adult, you know exactly when your mom will call, and how long you’ll speak with her. Where’d You Go Bernadette might seem an unlikely choice at first, but its story of a mom who tries to control every aspect of her life until she simply can’t any more will work for the uber-organized as both catharsis and escape.
For the Wanderlust Mom, try Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Your mom plans vacations years in advance, and every time you watch TV together she pays more attention to the location shoots than the story. Every country mentioned on the news, she wants to go to. Eat, Pray, Love is the perfect choice, both because it takes you on a journey to some of the loveliest places in the world, and because it totally gets the power and transformative magic of travel.
For the Brainy Mom, try What If?, by Randall Munroe
Your mom knocks out crossword puzzles in her spare time and has long-running online beefs with strangers over deep philosophical matters and string theory. What If? is the brainchild of ex-NASA scientist Munroe, who draws the brilliant online comic at xkcd.com. Readers often send him hypothetical “what if?” style questions, which he answers with rigorous scientific discipline and hilarity. These have been collected here, and your brainy mom will love it.
For the Exhausted Career Mom, try The Chilbury Ladies Choir, by Jennifer Ryan
For as long as you can remember, your mom was a harried blur pulling on heels as she exhorted you to get your school stuff, a woman who came home late with her laptop and a raft of files under one arm. What she needs is some escapist fare that isn’t dumb or fluffy—and The Chilbury Ladies Choir is ideal. Ostensibly a cozy story of women in a World War II–era town who are dismayed—then resistant—when informed that with all the men serving in the army the local choir should shut down, it’s really a charming, delightfully complex look at small-town life and the female friendships that drive it.
For the Merry Retiree, try A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
Your mom did her work, raised her kids, and is enthusiastically romping through her golden years. Too often we assume that anyone over a certain age—especially women—just want to sit around and nap all day, but there’s plenty of living to be done. So forget books with an “appropriate” theme for a retiree—instead, think about a book like A Little Life, that was maybe too long for her to get around to when it was first released. Now she has the time and the attention for this absorbing, fascinating, brilliant character study.
For the Marathon Yoga Mom, try Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
Your mom is always in yoga pants, and has a collection of marathon medals. She’s rocking a body all of her friends—and you—are jealous of. Don’t go too on the nose with some book about yoga, but dive headfirst into the zeitgeist with Moriarty’s fantastic thriller. The moms in this novel are your mom (minus the murder, we hope): they run every day, go to yoga, try to eat sensibly, and live well, with a side of some serious drama.
For the Artistic Mom, try Love in a Cold Climate, by Nancy Mitford
Your mom always has a paint-splattered apron on, or her hands are always slightly pink from clay. Mitford’s lovely writing is ideal for any mom—or any person who likes to read. But the dreamy, sharp humor of this novel will be ideal for your arty mom, as will the character of the Bolter, based on a real-life society woman who scandalized everyone at the time with her habit of fleeing her many marriages.