29 Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day (Plus Your Soon-to-Be-Favorite New Books)


In his autobiography, Mark Twain wrote: “My mother had a good deal of trouble with me but I think she enjoyed it. She had none at all with my brother Henry, who was two years younger than I, and I think that the unbroken monotony of his goodness and truthfulness and obedience would have been a burden to her but for the relief I furnished in the other direction.” If that experience feels a little familiar, let us remind you that Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 13, 2018, and Parnassus can help you pay Mom back for all the “relief” she put up with from you.

In fact, whether you’re celebrating your own mom or a mother-in-law, grandmother, maternal figure of some sort, or just want to shower your mom-friends with a little extra love, you’ll find a worthy gift on this list or in the store. Come say hello!

Our staff’s picks for Mother’s Day . . .
Recommended by Ann

Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon Cover ImageIris Apfel: Accidental Icon 

Iris is 96 and still rocking the world of style. This book packs great advice on how to live without regrets and how many bangle bracelets can be worn at one time. Suitable for all ages and all maternal figures.

Recommended by Ann

51YTKNm9+iL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Moments of Seeing – Reflections from an Ordinary Life 

Katrina is simply the best mom-writer out there. Her work is filled with love and peace and appreciation. (This one is particularly suitable for good mothers.) I also love Katrina’s book Magical Journey.

Recommended by Karen

Circe Cover ImageCirce

Circe is the famed witch/goddess from Greek mythology, but did you know she was also a mother? Odysseus fathered her son, and it’s wonderful to hear the story from the perspective of the mother herself. Your mother will be so happy if you give her this very entertaining book.

Recommended by Kathy

The House of Broken Angels The House of Broken Angels Cover Image

Inspiring, funny, touching . . . this is the best story about a family I’ve read in years. Any mother would love it!

Recommended by Karen

Love and Ruin Cover ImageLove and Ruin 

If your mom loves entertaining historical fiction, she has probably already fallen in love with the books of Paula McLain, including The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun. While The Paris Wife, her debut, was the engrossing story of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage from the point of view of his wife Hadley, Love and Ruin tells the tale of another of Papa’s wives, the fiercely intelligent and independent Martha Gellhorn.

(See Paula McLain on Monday, May 14, as part of the Salon@615 series. She’ll be in conversation with Charles Frazier, who will also be signing his new book, Varina.)

Recommended by Mary Laura

Notes from a Public Typewriter Notes from a Public Typewriter Cover Image

Our friends at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, produced this collection of notes left by shop visitors on their display typewriter. Some are funny; some are clever; some are unexpectedly poignant. When you’re not sure what to give your mother or mother-in-law (or anyone else, really), grab a copy of this.

Recommended by Sissy

The Perfect Mother Cover ImageThe Perfect Mother 

Did you and your mom love Big Little Lies? A group of women, a missing newborn, and fantastic pacing make this the next thriller for you to share.

Recommended by Halley

Reservoir 13 Cover ImageReservoir 13 

A brilliant novel of mystery and humanity for literary moms who might be ready to try something new. Available in paperback!

Recommended by Betsy

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Cover ImageHourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage 

Newly out in paperback: Dani Shapiro reflects on 18 years of marriage — the ordinary days that, when stacked together, make a life — and how partnership and having a child shape the passage of time. Throughout, she holds the girl she dreamed of becoming alongside the woman that she is. There is not a speck of Disney in this love story, but it swept me up completely.

Tickets to see Dorothea Benton Frank

imagesA LOT of moms out there will be thrilled to know Dorothea Benton Frank has a new novel coming later this month: By Invitation Only.  Frank will visit the Nashville Public Library for a special talk with Ann Patchett and a book-signing as part of the Salon@615 series on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at 6:15 p.m. Reserve a seat for your mom right here! (Even better? Tickets for this one are FREE! Shhhh… we’ll let your mom think you shelled out the big bucks.)

Rae Ann just finished reading an early copy and says: “By Invitation Only will make you want to call up your mom — your entire extended family, actually — to come over for dinner. But your evening won’t be nearly as interesting as a dinner with the two families in this book.”

(Your mom might also enjoy other author talks and book-signings in fiction — such as Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours — and nonfiction, including Tara Westover’s Educated. See more on our event calendar!)

Recommended by Halley

Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History's Mightiest Matriarchs Cover ImageTough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs 

Where would we be without tough moms? Nowhere.

Recommended by Keltie

Women in Sunlight Cover ImageWomen in Sunlight 

Vintage Frances Mayes! Like the heartwarming autobiographical heroine in Under the Tuscan Sun, these three newly (and unexpectedly) single women approaching certain milestone birthdays will make you want to stand up and cheer — and remind you that your life is yours to change, at any age. (WARNING: This book will make you hungry for cibo italiano, and possibly have you searching Expedia for airfare deals.)

Recommended by Betsy

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver Cover ImageDevotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver 

No one says it like Mother Mary. Crack it open, find page 349, and read “The Journey.” It will steal your heart, and you’ll want to gift this collection to anyone who has ever mothered.

Recommended by Keltie

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering Cover ImageMagnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering 

If there’s a woman in your life who loves HGTV’s Fixer Upper (who doesn’t?) and adores the Queen of the Magnolia Empire, Joanna Gaines, this is the perfect gift!

Recommended by Andy

The Punishment She Deserves: A Lynley Novel Cover ImageThe Punishment She Deserves: A Lynley Novel 

My Mother’s Day present was always easy when there was a new Elizabeth George novel. Despite the daunting size of her multi-layered crime novels, they consistently deliver, and the latest is no different. In this story, one of the most respected and revered citizens of Ludlow is arrested and then found dead in his cell.

Recommended by Cat

Women & Power: A Manifesto Cover ImageWomen & Power: A Manifesto 

This came out back in December, and now Beard is going to be on the PBS/BBC Civilizations series. So get your history buff mom this slim volume to accompany Beard’s fantastic TV presence.

Tickets to see Jon Meacham and Governor Bill Haslam

9780399589812For the history-lover who can’t stop reading the news: Together with our Salon@615 partners, Parnassus is pleased to present a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham, in conversation with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. The pair will be discussing Meacham’s new book, The Soul of America, in which Meacham helps us understand the present moment in American politics and life by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear. This is a ticketed event, and each ticket will include a copy of the book. Meacham will sign books following the program. Get mom (and yourself?) a ticket here.

Tickets to see Mark Bittman

9780544790308Forget that old stereotype about the grill being Dad’s territory. If yo mama rocks those open flames, she’ll love a chance to see celebrated food writer, speaker, and cookbook author Mark Bittman in conversation with Pat Martin of Nashville’s famed Martin’s BBQ. Get tickets right here.

(If foodie-books are up mom’s alley, make sure to take her to the events for Edward Lee’s Buttermilk Graffiti and Virginia Willis’s Secrets of the Southern Table, too!)

First Editions Club

Warlight Cover ImageHonestly, you could ignore the rest of this list and just give your mom a 3, 6, or 12-month prepaid subscription to the Parnassus Books Signed First Editions Club, and you’d win the day. Recipients who join now will start their membership with our May selection, an autographed first edition hardcover of Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, the Booker Prize-winning author of The English Patient. (Ondaatje will be here at Parnassus on May 19, too!)


Undead Girl Gang Cover ImageFor teens and YA fans of any age: What if you started a book club just for you and your mom, and every month you read an amazing, heart-stopping, autographed young adult novel? All you’d need is a subscription to ParnassusNext, and if you started now, your first book would be our darkly comedic May selection, Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson.

Book Club + Gift Card

FC9780062563675-1.jpgHere’s an idea: Give your mother a gift certificate in any amount you choose, and tell her she’s officially invited to join the Parnassus Book Club. (She is! And so are you, for that matter.) Our book club meetings are free to attend and open to anyone. Just get the book, read it, and come chat with fellow book-lovers and our discussion leader, Kathy Schultenover. Upcoming selections and meeting dates:

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Tuesday, May 15, 6:30pm; Wednesday, May 16, 6:30pm; or Thursday, May 17, 10am

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Monday, June 18, 6:30pm; Wednesday, June 20, 6:30pm; or Thursday, June 21, 10am

Classics Club: Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Monday, May 21, 10am or 6:30pm

And a book to pre-order — recommended by Mary Laura

9780062667601That Kind of Mother 

This one’s not out until next Tuesday, May 8, but we simply couldn’t publish a Mother’s Day list without it. Rumaan Alam (Rich and Pretty) is such a natural and entertaining storyteller. You can’t go wrong giving your mom-friends his latest novel, about the exhaustion of new motherhood, the family/nanny relationship, pregnancy, adoption, race, and love. (Plus: That cover! Those birds!) Reserve yours now, and come pick it up on Tuesday the 8th.

Rae Ann has a great idea: Refresh Mom’s coffee table! Relocate her dusty old photo albums (full of your baby pictures) to a nearby shelf and put out a spread of art, humor, and inspiration titles she’ll love. Throw in the latest copy of a great literary magazine, too.
For moms who’ve been known to pour coffee with one hand while holding a book in the other: spills happen. Adorable kitchen towels are the solution.
Speaking of coffee . . . MUGS.
Teeny-tiny-book earrings!
Sissy says you can’t go wrong bundling up a Parnassus Books gift certificate with a pretty Mother’s Day card, a candle, and a few boxes of literary-inspired matches!
Every cat-mom needs these socks, because their other socks are probably covered in cat hair.
Notepads, journals, and stationery galore for the woman who writes EVERYTHING down. (Tip: get a box of cards for yourself and send your mom a note. Who doesn’t love getting mail?)
Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.21.09 PM.png
If you REALLY want to impress your mom (say, you forgot Mother’s Day last year and really owe her one), give her a Lumio. It’s a gorgeous lamp concealed as a hardcover book that opens to 360 degrees and comes with a custom micro-USB charger, magnetic wooden pegs for mounting, and a beautiful leather strap for hanging.
And now a quick look at some bookseller favorites from the NEW RELEASES table . . . 
Recommended by Halley

The Mars Room Cover ImageThe Mars Room 

The Mars Room is a masterpiece of fiction, about a subject too often avoided — the reality of American prisons and the people inside them. Kushner handles the lives of her characters with elegance and honesty. You’ll be up all night and mourn when you turn the last page.

Recommended by Halley

The Pisces Cover ImageThe Pisces 

This is the best erotic merman novel I have ever read. Yes, it’s also the only one, though I can’t imagine another book comparing in brilliance and imagination to The Pisces. But it’s also about people, and struggle, what we think we want, and what we really want. I haven’t felt this way since I was four and saw The Little Mermaid for the first time. I am obsessed. (Note: I’d rate this one NC-17.

Recommended by Sissy

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning Cover ImageLove and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning 

Newly out in paperback, this is a surprising look at middle age, lust, and memory.

Recommended by Keltie

Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes Cover ImageHuman Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes 

Did you know that most of the seven bones in the ankle are completely useless? (As are tail bones, which are vestigal remnants of, well, actual tails.) This book is full of these gems, and it’s everything I love in a science-y read: funny, accessible, surprising, and informative. For liberal arts majors everywhere who like to fancy themselves scientifically literate!

Recommended by Keltie

The Map of Salt and Stars Cover ImageThe Map of Salt and Stars 

This haunting, lyrical book seamlessly weaves the parallel tales of Nour, the daughter of a mapmaker living in present day Syria, and Rawiya, a 12th-century girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to travel the world as an apprentice to a mysterious, but legendary, Arabian mapmaker. Nour brings to life the desperate images of the Syrian War and refugee crisis we see on television. Rawiya’s story reminds us that Nour’s story is not new: we’re all just trying to find our place in the world, to get home. Turn off the news and read this now.

Recommended by Rae Ann

Two Steps Forward Cover ImageTwo Steps Forward 

Two strangers meet as they walk the Camino de Santiago from France to Spain, each making the pilgrimage for very different reasons. This funny, smart story about how a journey changes us is part travelogue, part comedy, all heart.

Recommended by Keltie

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All: By M. T. Anderson, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Lisa Ann Sandell, Jennifer Donnelly, Linda Sue Cover ImageFatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All: By M. T. Anderson, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Lisa Ann Sandell, Jennifer Donnelly, Linda Sue Park

I love the concept of this book: six prominent YA authors take on the six wives of Henry VIII, with M.T. Anderson providing the tale’s connective thread by speaking from King Henry’s perspective. Anne Boleyn is, of course, the most infamous of the cast, but these authors make the “survivors” the most interesting companion chapters. If you have a young British history buff on your hands (or a budding Royal-watcher inspired by this month’s Big Wedding) this book will be a hit!

Don’t live in Nashville? We’re happy to send something out to you or your mom. Order by this Friday, May 4, choose PRIORITY SHIPPING, and let us know in the notes at checkout that it’s a gift. We’ll wrap it for free and ship it wherever it needs to go in time for Mother’s Day!