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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

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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
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter
  • A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
  • The Daughters by Adrienne Celt
  • Follow Her Home by Steph Cha
  • The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
  • The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
  • All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland
  • Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-BennHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • Grace by Natashia Deón
  • Blue Nights by Joan Didion
  • The Good House by Tananarive Due
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • This is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
  • Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
  • White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • The Ticking is a Bomb by Nick Flynn
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova
  • cover of we love you charlie freeman by kaitlyn greenidgeWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
  • All the Ugly and Beautiful Things by Bryn Greenwood
  • In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
  • Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  • Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
  • The Nix by Nathan Hill
  • The Mistress’s Daughter by A. M. Homes
  • Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
  • The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacobs
  • Lies My Mother Never Told Me by Kaylie Jones
  • silver sparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • The Liar’s Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  • Almost Crimson by Dasha Kelly
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • Out by Natsuo Kirino
  • Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless
  • The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
  • Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane
  • Disquiet by Julia Leigh
  • Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
  • Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  • burn baby burnBurn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
  • Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  • Rooms by Lauren Oliver
  • The Long Goodbye: A Memoir by Meghan O’Rourke
  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
  •  eleanor and park by rainbow rowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Push by Sapphire
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Sempel
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  • I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir by Nadja Spiegelman
  • The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard
  • Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege
  • Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Among Others by Jo WaltonAmong Others by Jo Walton
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? A Memoir by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • Shelter by Jung Yun
  • Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas