Books I’ve Read because of My Mother

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, as I’m sure you are all aware (or you are now — quick go buy a card or make plans to call your mom). It also happens to line up with my birthday this year as it often does, so first I’d like to give a shout out to my mom: happy You-Gave-Birth Day!

Now my mom may not be quite as voracious a reader as I am (in fact, most of my book recommendations come from fellow geekette Kayla’s mom rather than my own) but when she does read, she has pretty good taste. Below are a list of books that I read upon  recommendation from my mom (or because I finished everything else in the house and scavenged her bookshelves for more reading material). If you’re looking for a good mother-daughter bonding activity, why not start a book club together? Either join an official one or start your own club of two. Feel free to choose a book from my list below or ask your mom what books she enjoyed at your age and read/re-read them together.

  1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant — My mother and I are both interested in the feminist side of Judaism so this woman-oriented retelling of a Bible story, is up both of our alleys. My grandmother, too, loved this book and I’m looking for others like it to recommend to her. It expands upon the story of Dinah, sister of Joseph. It first describes her life growing up in the household of Jacob and his four wives (Leah, Rebecca, and their two handmaids) and goes on to provide a different perspective on her “rape” — the only part of her life that made it into the Bible. In those days, rape referred to when a woman had sex with a man who her father did not approve of; it had nothing to do with her own personal choice. This story then turns a gruesome few lines of scripture into a rich coming-of-age and love story of a girl growing up in the age of the Judeo-Christian Patriarchs. It was recently made into a television miniseries, which fellow geekette Megan reviewed here.
  2. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel — ever since she read this book, my mom has been obsessed with the paleo-historical feminist genre which has since developed beyond this one author. Jean M. Auel continues to be the master of it though, even if her protagonist Ayla unrealistically manages to become the inventor of everything from sewing needles to bras to animal domestication. There’s something about reading about an ancient pseudo-historical goddess-worshiping society that provides the perfect escape from the trials of modern life.
  3. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous — According to my mother, this is the book that taught her all the curse words she needed to know to survive being a teenager. First published in 1971, this book tells the tale of a teenage girl named “Alice” and her rapid descent into a life of drug addiction. It has garnered many angry reviews on Goodreads for being a piece of “anti-drug propaganda” written under the guise of a true diary to propagate unrealistic information about drug use. Whether or not this is the case, as a piece of fiction that was part of my mom’s teenage reading repertoire and then part of mine decades later, it was a very interesting read. It certainly gives insight into how drug culture was viewed in the seventies. Many of the reviews also talk about the young age at which many kids read this and whether their exposure to sex, curse-words, and drugs in literature will ruin them forever. My mom must have been fairly young when she read it if she didn’t know any curse words yet and I was either in middle school or early high school when I read it. I’m thankful that my mother never tried to censor the books I read. She would be honest with me if she thought a book had content I wasn’t ready for, but she knew I was a mature and intelligent reader and she never tried to hide any books from me or forbid me from reading them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the way parenting should be done. Censorship is more harmful than letting your kids read what they want and then having intelligent, honest discussions with them about what they have read.
  4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig — To be honest, I’ve been in the middle of this book for a couple years and only pick it up now and then. But my mother loved it as a young adult and I actually have the copy that she read in her youth, complete with highlights, underlines, and notes in the margin. This peek into my mother’s younger mind is actually the most interesting part of the book. The story is about a man who goes on a motorcycle journey across the American Northwest and goes on a bit of a spiritual and philosophical journey along the way. According to the blurb Goodreads, it “transformed a generation” but I couldn’t get into it. The philosophical musings seemed disconnected from the plot but the plot was really just about this guy fixing his motorcycle in great detail, not something I could relate to. I do intend to go back to this book however, to continue to look for what my mom saw in it and read her annotations. If your mom still has a copy of a book that she marked up in her youth, I highly recommend you ask her if you can borrow it. No better way to bond with your mom than to use a book to time travel into her past.
  5. One for the Money (Stephanie Plum #1) by Janet Evanovich — If you’re looking for a more light-hearted read to share with your mom, go for Stephanie Plum. Stephanie Plum, desperate for money, decides to try her hand at bounty hunting. The catch is, the criminal in question is her ex-lover and there’s some mojo going on with her mentor as well. A love triangle and many outlandish situations ensue. I remember when all my mom’s friends were passing this series around, discussing its love interests the way we used to discuss Twilight (they basically had Team Joe verses Team Ranger debates). It comforted me to find that real adults can indulge in such silly books as I was beginning to feel the flack for reading Twilight. No, there’s not much deep content to the Janet Evanovich books, but if they’re your thing you can devour them like candy. I personally found the main character a bit pathetic so I never bothered to read the rest of the books.
  6. The Time Travelers’ Wife by Audrey Niffenegger — I remember my mom reading this book ages ago so when I was looking for a new audio book to keep me entertained on long trips and saw this title, I decided to give it a go. It alternates perspectives between Henry, an inadvertent time traveler, and Clare, his soul mate, at various points throughout their lives. Due to Henry’s time travelling, he was present throughout Clare’s childhood and yet also meets her for the first time when they are in their twenties. This unconventional love story was extremely popular a few years ago (around 2007-2008 judging by the bulk of Goodreads reviews) which may have been when my mom read it. The premise stuck with me since then until I finally got around to reading it this year. I’m still in the middle of it, so expect another review in my Book Challenge Updates post when I finish.

Did your mom read any of these books? Or are you a mom who would recommend one of these books to your daughter? Got any literary Mother’s Day plans? Let us know in the comments below!


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