Mother’s Day kicks off the beginning of summer reading season, that time of the year when we turn to the books that we’ve been hearing about all spring — and to the latest must-reads hitting shelves. Whether mom wants a true tear-jerker, or a family drama or sweeping historical romance, she’ll find the perfect page-turner in our top ten. From funny to fashionable, these ten authors bring unique perspective to the mothers in their own lives, and to stories of parenthood that are anything but ordinary.
1. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult ($28, Atria)
From the Hollywood-ready pen of Jodi Picoult comes the story about becoming a parent on one’s own terms. After a failed pregnancy and the breakup of her marriage, music therapist Zoe finds comfort in the arms of another woman, Vanessa. Embracing the new direction of her life, she makes plans for Vanessa to carry one of the fertilized embryos stored away since Zoe’s marriage. But when Zoe’s ex-husband Max decides he wants custody, he bursts back onto the scene — with his evangelical church behind him.
2. My Mom, Style Icon by Piper Weiss ($19, Chronicle)
Piper Weiss never wanted to dress like her mother. That is, until one afternoon when she went rifling through her mom’s closet for a clutch to carry to a wedding. Out of the wardrobe came crocheted belts, fringe vests, and two worn photo albums: evidence of a life stylishly lived. Who is this woman? she wondered, so she set out to investigate her mom’s outfits and adventures, and founded a blog where readers could write in about their own mothers. The result is a heartfelt fashion history that honors the women who raised us – and the fab photos of them make you hope chic might be genetic.
3. The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt ($14, Picador)
When Mia’s husband of thirty years announces he’d like to “pause” their marriage so he can have a fling with his assistant, all hell breaks loose. But for Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of What I Loved, chaos is the internal kind. Mia’s introspective journey of healing takes her from her marriage to a psych ward and then home to the town where she grew up, where her aging mother, a class of pre-teen girls, and the unhappy single mom next door hold insights to her own relationship.
4. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin ($25, Knopf)
"If anyone wants to call his or her mother after reading this book, it would please me very much," author Kyung-Sook Shin has said of her novel, in which a devoted matriarch from a rural town travels to Seoul to visit her children for her birthday, and vanishes in a crowded train station. The book plays out from four perspectives: the missing mother’s, her son’s, her daughter’s, and her husband’s. Each of them is forced to confront the small tragedies and unfulfilled longings that come with being a family.
5. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson ($25, Simon & Schuster)
Thompson jumps across time and space to follow one Iowa family's transformation in the decades from the Vietnam War to the present. Anita, the beauty of the brood, finds herself trapped in the marriage she once desired. Her brother Ryan ends up in a career rut that nothing can fix — except maybe a second chance with an old girlfriend. Recession, alcoholism and posttraumatic stress syndrome all leave their marks on a family that is at once resilient and maladjusted.
6. 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson ($26, Pamela Dorman Books)
Silvana and Janusz have only been married a few months when World War II forces them apart. When the fighting ends, he finds her — and their infant son — in a refugee camp and they begin the troublesome work of picking up where they left off. But will it be possible when the scars of war and Janusz' affair with a French girl lurk in the background? Debut novelist Amanda Hodgkinson answers that question with grace, poetry and hope.
7. Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within by Elif Shafak ($26, Viking)
One of Turkey's best-selling writers, Elif Shafak, turns to memoir to make sense of the internal conflict that comes with motherhood. Suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her first child, Shafak wonders if she has to give up part of her true self to be a devoted wife and mother. She digs into the lives of authors such as Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker, she investigates her own "inner harem" — the voices that argue within her — to create what Booklist calls "an epic poem to women everywhere."
8. If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary ($24, Atria)
Past sins have contemporary consequences in this complex tale of race and inheritance. Philadelphia contractor Lonnie returns to South Carolina to the woman who raised him, his great-grandmother Selma, to try to get her to sell her land so he can pay for her long-term care. Unfortunately, the land isn't technically hers, and untangling racist inheritance laws will bring Lonnie up against the men behind his great-grandfather’s violent end.
9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain ($25, Ballantine)
At the end of his memoir A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway writes of his first wife, Hadley Richardson, "I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her." These poignant words about a doomed relationship inspired Paula McLain to tell Hadley's side of the story, whisking readers to jazz-age Paris where Hemingway is both the man of Hadley's dreams and the undoing of her happiness. The love story is based on letters between the writer and his wife, and steeped in the booze and betrayals of the Lost Generation.
10. The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Christina Hopkinson ($25, Grand Central)
Hopkinson's comic novel opens with Mary, a mother of two, finding a coffee mug under the TV room couch. It's been there so long that mold is growing up its sides "like a green-tinged cappuccino froth” — and Mary only drinks store-bought soy lattes, so the cup is definitely her husband's. She starts keeping a sort of star chart — rewarding hubby for his good habits, and noting the bad ones. Through the lens of this domestic obsession, Hopkinson delivers a wry take on a marriage that has gotten a little too messy.