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May 5, 2006 1:23 PM   Subscribe

My mom loved The Secret Life of Bees and The Year of Magical Thinking. She couldn't get through much of The Time Traveler's Wife. What else might she like?

My mom isn't a big reader but she'll generally have a book on the go. Right now she's having a rough time and I'd like to get her a few great books to read before going to sleep. She also kind of enjoyed the Life of Pi and I think she read A Million Little Pieces and enjoyed it. She doesn't like those books that are mindless fluff (like that Shopaholic series), but she's not into the Atwood heaviness either. I'm thinking about something like A Kiss from Maddalena, Frangipani, Middlesex, A Mermaid's Chair, or The Brothers K.

I haven't read most of those though (well, none other than Middlesex) so I'm not sure if they'd be appropriate. Things that I'd like to exclude: time travel, sci-fi, 'weird' stuff (c'mon, think about a mom book club), really depressing stories, old English or complicated prose/chronology. She wants a good read, it can be thoughtful or sad in places, but not overwhelmingly heart-breaking or juvenile.

Any suggestions? Would any of the ones I listed above work? I'll go browse though a dozen or two at the bookstore to pick out a few for her, so more recommendations would be much appreciated.
posted by barnone to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think The Jane Austen Book Club and What Casanova Told Me might fit the bill. I read both within the last year, and they were fairly easy, enjoyable reads.
posted by phoenixc at 1:32 PM on May 5, 2006

Maybe Bel Canto?

You might try plugging her favorite authors into Gnooks and see what comes up.
posted by amarynth at 1:33 PM on May 5, 2006

posted by scody at 1:38 PM on May 5, 2006

Maybe Kent Haruf--Plainsong (and its sequel).
posted by leesh at 1:48 PM on May 5, 2006

She might like Tracy Chevalier's books.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:49 PM on May 5, 2006

amarynth - wow, that gnooks link is awesome (the literature map is cool). Thanks for posting it!
posted by j at 1:54 PM on May 5, 2006

Unless - Carol Shields
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Memory of Running - Ron McLarty
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
posted by moonshine at 1:57 PM on May 5, 2006

The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:58 PM on May 5, 2006

'Underworld' Don Delillo
Phillip Roth's 'The Plot against America'
Perhaps 'heavy' but satisfying, very accessible and literate.
posted by lois1950 at 1:59 PM on May 5, 2006

no offense, but I dunno about recommending Underworld in this particular context. Its sheer weight (both literally and figuratively) can be pretty overwhelming, particularly for a newcomer to DeLillo. (And I say this as someone who really likes his work.)
posted by scody at 2:11 PM on May 5, 2006

Anne Tyler is great and she's got a new book out just now. Give your mother a few Tylers. When she finishes them, she might let you borrow them. If you're lucky.
posted by pracowity at 2:21 PM on May 5, 2006

The History of Love by Alison Krauss
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
A Perfect Night to Go to China by David Gilmour
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
The Dog Fighter by Marc Bojanowski
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
Waking the Dead by Scott Spencer
The Fuck Up by Arthur Nersesian
Endless Love by Scott Spencer
The Dying Animal by Philip Roth
posted by dobbs at 2:24 PM on May 5, 2006

Maybe Chocolat, by Joanne Harris. My mum loved it, and also swears by Harris's cookbook. Also, I adored The Lovely Bones, but I did find it to be "overwhelmingly heart-breaking", YMMV.
posted by featherboa at 2:30 PM on May 5, 2006

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon was high on my Mom's list.
posted by karmaville at 2:45 PM on May 5, 2006

Mark Salzman's Lying Awake. A short novel about a middle-aged, cloistered nun who experiences mystical visions that may or may not be the result of epileptic seizures.

Kate Phillips' White Rabbit

Monica's Woods' My Only Story
posted by mmw at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2006

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time
The Dogs of Babel

Not sure why I'm on a dog or death kick, but my mother enjoyed those. I did too, sort of. Polished off each one in a night.
posted by emelenjr at 3:17 PM on May 5, 2006

Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi

Empire Falls by RIchard Russo
posted by tristeza at 3:31 PM on May 5, 2006

Barbara Kingsolver- Poisonwood Bible may be too heavy, but Prodigal Summer is pretty wonderful.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is delightful. It's the first of a series, but I've only read the first.

Middlesex was good... for a long book, it didn't get too weighty or trite with the subject matter.
posted by kimdog at 3:38 PM on May 5, 2006

Motherless Brooklyn
Fortress of Solitude
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
I, Claudius (one of my personal favorites, not least because Claudius is such a witty narrator)
posted by stefanie at 3:53 PM on May 5, 2006

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

Shopgirl by Steve Martin is a nice quick read

The Accidental Tourist by the previously recommended Anne Tyler
posted by FlamingBore at 5:05 PM on May 5, 2006

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

A wonderful story of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah.
posted by alteredcarbon at 5:32 PM on May 5, 2006

psss... Life of Pi [walks away]
posted by theholotrope at 5:47 PM on May 5, 2006

If it's before-sleeping reading, why not a book of short stories or essays? That way if she doesn't like one story she can move on to the next. Best American Short Stories series comes out annually, and if she especially likes a particular story, you can hunt out books by that author.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:01 PM on May 5, 2006

I enjoy anything by Jodi Picoult. Real life, yet not sappy.
posted by alexmikayla at 7:18 PM on May 5, 2006

I get blue in the face trying to convince people that they'll enjoy it, but Larry McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove' series is unbeatable. Incredibly readable and thrilling. My sister read the first book (over 700 pages) in a week.
posted by Mrs.Doyle at 11:40 PM on May 5, 2006

Response by poster: Wow - some great ideas here. Thanks everyone, I'll print this out and go spend some time at the bookstore. I can already see that there are a few on here that she'll love and that I never would have seen. A million thanks!
posted by barnone at 8:29 AM on May 6, 2006

Small correction to dobbs' great list above: The History of Love is by author Nicole Krauss rather than singer Alison Krauss!

Also, Bee Season and/or Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg...
posted by judith at 10:52 AM on May 6, 2006

I second The Red Tent. I read it and loved it.

Also: The Other Boleyn Girl - takes some liberties with history, but is a really enjoyable read. I've read another Phillipa Gregory and didn't really like it because it was pretty much a dressed up romance novel, but The Other Boleyn Girl was quite good.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:40 PM on May 6, 2006

Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

(Disregard the fact that both were made into shitty movies.
posted by radioamy at 6:06 PM on May 6, 2006

It's not fiction, but I just have to put in a plug for Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reischl (former food critic for the NYT). I checked the audiobook out of the library for a roadtrip last weekend, and it was thoroughly delightful. In my case, it helped also that the audiobook narrator was excellent in her own right, really bringing the different characters to life - but the writing itself was yummy and the adventures the author got herself into quite hilarious. Since I had immediately vowed to get a copy to my own mom, perhaps yours would enjoy it, too.
posted by shelbaroo at 12:48 PM on May 8, 2006

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