Word to Your Mother

for mama

Oh, Mama! This is a big one. Not only does this edition of Musing come with all our monthly staff recs (on a Mother’s Day theme, of course), but for the first time, it will also include the latest picks from our Parnassus Book Club, Classics Book Club, First Editions Club, and YA First Editions Club. Need something to read? Look no further.

For Mom:

This will be a great gift for moms who love fiction based on a true story. It is written from the point of view of two women raised in the early 19th century Charleston. One is the daughter of a prominent slave-holding family and the other a slave. Both refuse to accept their given positions in not just Southern society, but American society for that time period. – Karen Hayes
It’s not hyperbolic to say that this book changed my entire notion of motherhood. The horror is being imprisoned in a single cramped room for seven years is transcended by a mother’s resilience, ingenuity, and love. Even freedom in the outside world may not be preferable if it means separation from your mother when you’re a 5-year-old boy. – Mary Grey James
A look at three generations of women in a Chinese-American family inspired by Amy Tan’s own discovery about her grandmother. Tan’s writing is beautiful and the story is mesmerizing. – Catherine Bock
This is the first book recommendation I ever made to my mom, and she absolutely loved it. I’m confident your mother will, too. – Niki Coffman
This is a greatest hits collection of essays from the popular live reading series of the same name, featuring essays by authors including Jennifer Weiner and Jenny Lawson. There’s something sweet, thoughtful, and funny for mothers of all life stages in here. – Mary Laura Philpott
Look past the goofy cover to what’s inside — trust me. Not every kind of parent gets a holiday, but every parent can enjoy this heartwarming story about making a family. This candid memoir of two guys’ quest to become parents is full of funny observations and sharp writing. – Mary Laura Philpott
Sarah Dessen is one of my dearest and most favorite authors. Her writing is poignant, vivid, and full of startling clarity about family, tragedy, and redemption. This novel in particular examines how hard mother-daughter relationships can be but also how in the end they are what saves us. And if you love this one — her latest novel Saint Anything is just as incredible. – Grace Wright
This month, in celebration of my inspiring and amazing mother, Susan Hulme, I have borrowed her words: “Having read Ghandi’s autobiography while traveling with my daughter in India, this book brings it all back. This book shares not only the inspiring words of Ghandi and his history, but shows the effect his life and teachings have had on artists everywhere.” A beautiful statement! – Grace Wright
Krakauer examines the all too common problem of rape on college campuses, methodically obliterating the prolific rape myths that have maligned victims and rape trials for decades, by citing endless evidence and heartbreaking victim experiences. This is an emotionally draining book to read — I felt white hot rage while reading it — but it is an inexcusable problem that must be fixed. I’m recommending it to everyone: mothers, yes, and daughters, but also sons and fathers. – Ashton Hickey
Thanks to the wicked minds of Kate Bernheimer and a cast of amazing authors, the classic fairy tales from your childhood can now assume their full screwed-up potential in all their tragic glory. Give this one to your evil stepmother. – Lindsay Lynch
I love this book because Mary Laura did the cover art photo. So I enjoyed reading it (and I gave it to my Mama), but it also makes me giggle when I see it on the shelf. – Sissy Gardner
If you haven’t read Nick Hornby before, now’s the time. You know his name from his hits: High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, About a Boy, etc. This book gives us Sophie and her journey from country girl to TV starlet, plus a great cast of funny, inappropriate characters. Great laughs, and also very clever. If your mom was the first funny girl in your life, she’ll love it. – Bill Long-Innes
One afternoon my wife Jamie and I were having lunch at the Silly Goose. A lady at the next table absentmindedly ripped a little succulent out by the roots. Jamie noticed that my fist immediately clenched, so she giggled. I said, “I am a defender of succulents.” This trait certainly comes from my Mom. If you give this book to your Mom, maybe one day you will be a succulent-defender, too! – Nathan Spoon
Brower gives first-hand accounts from long-time White House staffers to tell what it is like to be in service to America’s first families from the Kennedy administration on. This book will delight lovers of Downton Abbey, history buffs, and gossips. – Miram Mimms
I defy anyone to read this novel and not be stunned. It is one of the most remarkable stories about motherhood (and love and war and mental illness and religion and the South) that you will ever read. It is also one of the most devastating. – Miriam Mimms
A compelling story of the last days of the Ottoman Empire and of one Armenian family’s secrets which touch a young Turkish man’s life today. It’s a tale of love and war and of the resilience of human beings in the face of great odds. Any mom who liked And the Mountains Echoed or Between Shades of Gray would love this one. — Kathy Schultenover
My Mom loves the historical novels of Edward Rutherfurd. When I asked her which was her favorite she had a tough time deciding but settled on Russka. She said she learned the most from thissweeping epic novel. Rutherfurd’s narrative follows several families and illustrates the many layers of Russian society. An engaging and entertaining look at almost 2000 years of Russian history. – Andy Brennan

Parnassus First Editions Club — May Selection

This stunningly blended mix of pictures and prose features essays by noted authors (including Edwidge Danticat, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Russo, Elizabeth Gilbert, Susan Orlean, Alan Gurganus, Maile Meloy, Elizabeth McCracken, Jane Hamilton, and Billy Collins) alongside images by the acclaimed photographer Melissa Ann Pinney. A perfect gift for … well, just about anyone. The collection was edited by our own Ann Patchett. Make sure you’re subscribed to Musing, so you don’t miss our interview with Pinney next week.
Meanwhile, here’s a little excerpt from Ann’s introduction:

The story of Two starts on the third floor of my friend Melissa’s house, up the narrow stairs to her studio where photographs are framed on the walls and spread across tables and scattered and stacked on the floor. Giant cork boards cover two of the walls in the main room, and on those boards Melissa has pinned dozens and dozens of prints, each one containing some sort of pair: an elderly couple in a swimming pool, a woman with her dog, two winter trees cutting dark lines against the snow.

“I’m starting to think about a new book,” she told me. “Things in pairs. Two things.”

I stood and looked at the wall. I’ve certainly had the experience of reading books that grabbed me from the first sentence, but I didn’t know I could be grabbed form the first image. I’d never encountered a book pinned up page by page before and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

Young Adult First Editions Club — May Selection


There’s a particular kind of buzz that you hear a lot in the world of young adult literature, where a book is described as “the next ____________,” where ____________ is whatever YA movie adaptation has just done particularly well at the box office. You may have heard that kind of buzz about our May selection, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes.

I’m here to tell you, that buzz does this book a disservice. Forget everything you’ve heard. This book is not the next Hunger Games. Sabaa Tahir is not the next J.K. Rowling. But a year or two from now, I do think we’re going to be hearing that a lot of books are the next Ember in the Ashes.

I find myself reluctant to tell you much about this book. I want you to discover its world and story for yourselves. What I will tell you is that, in it, you’re going to meet characters who have to make impossible choices, who are each in their own way constrained by their circumstances, and who long for hope and freedom in a world of capricious violence and injustice. Their story, like the best stories, will leave you breathless, racing through its pages to find out what happens, but dreading the end of the story, when there are no more pages to turn.

An Ember in the Ashes is a special book, a book better than the buzz that precedes it. It’s a story of hope in the face of despair and light when darkness seems poised to swallow the world. I hope you love it as much as I did. I hope it takes your breath away. — Stephanie Appell

Parnassus Book Club

Come discuss the book!
Monday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 21 at 10 a.m.
Read ahead for June:
Join us for a discussion led by the author, Lily King!
Wednesday, June 17 at 6:30 p.m. – with the author
Thursday, June 18 at 10 a.m. – regular meeting (without the author)
Next up for the Classics Book Club:
Discussions held Tuesday, June 23 at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

BONUS! More Ideas for Your Book Club (or Your Mom)

from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager

My favorite question in author interviews is, “What books are on your bedside table?” I think it reveals something about a person — not sure exactly what — but I find it fascinating to see what people “intend” to read.  Taking a look at mine reveals what? A jumbled mess of hope-to-reads and carefully chosen titles await . . . Here they are:

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl
Three bookaneers (literary pirates who steal writers’ manuscripts) sail to Samoa to steal Robert Louis Stevenson’s latest work and make a fortune for themselves. I loved Pearl’s The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Last month I read Flynn’s Sharp Objects.  This one shows how she has continued to evolve as a writer, eventually hitting it big with Gone Girl.  Here, the young survivor of her family’s murder tries to find the real killer 25 years later, hoping to free her imprisoned brother who was convicted long ago.  I’m half-done and can’t put it down, and yes, it is very dark.

Deep South by Paul Theroux (Not yet available for pre-order. Due out Sept. 29)
The acclaimed travel writer turns his eye on our own region, but not on Nashville, Charlotte, or Atlanta. Over four years, he makes road trips to small towns and rural areas of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and other states in the South, talking to people of all types, races, and social standing to give an outsider’s picture of the Southern states today. Fascinating — and sure to be controversial, especially “down here.”

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
The Gilded Age, Edith Wharton novels, Downton Abbey — I love all that. So I look forward to reading this story inspired by the unhappy marriage of Consuelo Vanderbilt near the turn of the last century when rich young women often were sent to England to marry aristocracy there.

Oh, the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
I lived in the Bay Area during the time of this memoir, the 1970s.  Being at home with two babies, I guess I lived vicariously through the society pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and Herb Caen’s daily columns. This memoir by the son of one of that city’s society mavens (herself a thinly-veiled character in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City) promises to be an “exhilarating tour of life in the strangest, wealthiest, and most grandiose of families.” I lucked into this one for $1 at a library sale seven years ago, and I’m still looking forward to reading it.

9780143125846_p0_v1_s260x420The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
This one has all the elements of books I like: strong women, exotic settings, important historical discoveries. Plus, it has just been optioned for development by PBS Masterpiece. WGBH referred to the main character as, “the rare heroine of literature whose fortunes are neither rescued nor ruined by a man.” The author is Ann’s dear friend, too. What else can I say? I’m eager to give this one a try.

No telling when I will get to all these books with my book club reading schedule. In the meantime they occupy space, and seeing them on my nightstand is comforting to me. I doubt I’ll ever run out of things to read. – Kathy Schultenover

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Can’t decide on something for mom? Let us help! We love to make personalized recommendations. Or if you’d like to be on the safe side, you can always give a gift certificate and let her choose whatever her heart desires. She can use it in the store or online!