100 Must-Read Books About Complicated Mothers

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Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

This post is sponsored by Mother Nile by Warren Adler

mother-nile-book-coverA dazzling triumph from the NYT bestselling author of The War of the Roses – high-caliber historical fiction that plunges readers into a rich, dark world of sex, power, politics, drugs, and Egypt.

A sweeping and ambitious novel spanning across two eras and the city at the center of it all,

Mother Nile is the story of Si, the American-born son of an Irish father and Egyptian mother, who goes on a journey through the winding streets of the City of the Dead in Cairo to solve a half-century-old mystery. When his mother makes an urgent plea on her deathbed, Si knows that he must go to Egypt to uncover the truth about his long-lost half-sister, conceived during his mother’s affair with King Farouk.

Mothers. We wouldn’t be here without them. (Yet.) There is probably no more complex relationship than that of a mother and her children. Some people claim their mother to be their best friends, others haven’t talked to their mothers in years. Some mothers left too soon, while others are way too meddlesome. Whether a mother is a saint, a monster, or something in between, here are 100 great books about complicated mothers, both real and imaginary. (Okay, it’s 99 books and one short story, because Flannery is too good to miss.)

  1. You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
  2. Afterbirth by Elisa Albert
  3. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
  4. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
  5. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
  6. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  7. The Seventh Book of Wonders by Julianna Baggott
  8. The Incarnations by Susan Barker
  9. Are You My Mother? A Memoir by Alison Bechdel
  10. The Mothers by Brit BennettThe Mothers by Brit Bennett
  11. Psycho by Robert Bloch
  12. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  13. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  14. 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter
  15. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
  16. The Daughters by Adrienne Celt
  17. Follow Her Home by Steph Cha
  18. The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
  19. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
  20. All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland
  21. Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
  22. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  23. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-BennHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  24. Grace by Natashia Deón
  25. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
  26. The Good House by Tananarive Due
  27. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  28. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  29. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  30. This is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
  31. Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
  32. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  33. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  34. The Ticking is a Bomb by Nick Flynn
  35. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  36. A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova
  37. cover of we love you charlie freeman by kaitlyn greenidgeWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
  38. All the Ugly and Beautiful Things by Bryn Greenwood
  39. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
  40. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  41. Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
  42. The Nix by Nathan Hill
  43. The Mistress’s Daughter by A. M. Homes
  44. Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
  45. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacobs
  46. Lies My Mother Never Told Me by Kaylie Jones
  47. silver sparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  48. The Liar’s Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  49. Almost Crimson by Dasha Kelly
  50. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  51. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
  52. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  53. Carrie by Stephen King
  54. Out by Natsuo Kirino
  55. Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless
  56. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
  57. Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane
  58. Disquiet by Julia Leigh
  59. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
  60. Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
  61. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  62. burn baby burnBurn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
  63. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  64. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  65. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  67. Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
  68. Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
  69. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  70. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  71. Rooms by Lauren Oliver
  72. The Long Goodbye: A Memoir by Meghan O’Rourke
  73. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  74. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
  75. Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
  76.  eleanor and park by rainbow rowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  77. Push by Sapphire
  78. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Sempel
  79. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  80. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  81. I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir by Nadja Spiegelman
  82. The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
  83. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  84. The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard
  85. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
  86. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  87. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
  88. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  89. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege
  90. Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng
  91. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  92. Among Others by Jo WaltonAmong Others by Jo Walton
  93. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  94. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  95. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  96. Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
  97. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? A Memoir by Jeanette Winterson
  98. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  99. Shelter by Jung Yun
  100. Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas