With Love

Anna Quindlen’s Memoir, Hilary Mantel’s Latest, and Other Mother’s Day Gift Books

Mother’s Day 2012 coincides with a torrent of great titles for mom—in fact, great titles, period. Jimmy So picks the best.

Bring Up the BodiesBy Hilary Mantel

The English novelist’s Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize in 2009, and her macabre Anne Boleyn followup is cunningly gripping in a way few works of historical fiction since I, Claudius are.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake By Anna Quindlen

Mothers might remember the ground-breaking “Life in the 30s” column that Anna Quindlen launched for The New York Times 25 years ago, for which she won a Pultizer Prize. She returns with a “Life in the 50s” memoir that moms can relate to, thanks to her lucid, plainspoken observations.

My Two Moms By Zach Wahls

Zach Wahls’s video defending his two lesbian moms before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee went viral last year. Few people have such a moving personal tribute to the power of motherhood.

In One Person By John Irving

The novelist of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany turns to issues of sexual identity in this eagerly-awaited return. It’s a candidly adult novel filled with passion—in fact, it looks at passion from almost every angle possible.

Fifty Shades of Grey By E.L. James

By now you must know about Fifty Shades of Greytell me you've seen the hilarious SNL sketch this past week. Is your Inner Goddess telling you to get this book for mom as a joke? It might be poorly written, but it’s so entertainingly poorly written that she’d burst out laughing, “Holy Cow!”

Outside Over There By Maurice Sendak

A part of our childhood died a little with the passing of Maurice Sendak. Remember the first time you read a Sendak book? It’s probably the moment when you realized you grew up a little. Thank your mother for sharing this American treasure with you—let her know that you understand the challenge and sacrifice of raising a child with this moving tale of a girl who has to rescue her baby sister from goblins.

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Letters to a Friend By Diana Athill

Athill is the preeminent memoirist of old age, and her newest installment makes it clear that life sometimes gets a whole lot more interesting after retirement—especially if you publish your first best-selling book at the age of 82.

The Chemistry of Tears By Peter Carey

Chances are that Carey, who’s won two Man Booker prizes, will speak to most readers he reaches, male or female, father or mother. This story about a woman forced to mourn in secret gets to the center of discovery—even discovery about the nature of the universe.

Prague Winter By Madeleine Albright

Few diplomats have had a more turbulent childhood (Albright’s Jewish family was forced into exile just before the outset of World War II) and gone on to more distinguished careers. Prague Winter blends that historical upheaval with her family saga.

Derby Day By D.J. Taylor

D.J. Taylor reimagines a Jamesian world of late-Victorian social-climbing, and finds mystery and drama at the racetrack in this skillfully crafted novel.

The Conflict By Elisabeth Badinter

Get your mom riled up by posing the question: does modern women’s propensity to over-parent undermine the status of their gender? Is this the Tiger Mom of 2012?

Are You My Mother By Alison Bechdel

Another pick that’s likely not for the type of mom who takes things the wrong way. But if yours is interested in the psychological battle that goes into every family relationship, Bechdel’s new instant classic will be treasured. The pioneering graphic-novelist’s mother isn’t exactly thrilled that her daughter’s a lesbian, and Bechdel loathed showing the book to her. But there’s no shame in presenting a masterpiece.

Waiting for SunriseBy William Boyd

How about a little escapism? William Boyd will be the next writer to bring James Bond back to life, but his own spy-novel brand is also filled with gripping exotic espionage—and dashing men.

M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine and Other Libations Edited by Anne Zimmerman

Fisher was the most fizzy food writer America’s ever had. Her sentences made you want to bite into them—and juices would spill out. It’s one of the fine pleasures in life to get drunk on her writing.

Dreaming in French By Alice Kaplan

Bear her away to Paris with this chronicle of three strong, smart, stylish women (surely mom can relate) who spent their formative years in the surreal City of Lights.