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Good books about motherhood (both fiction and nonfiction)


Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

     "In a hilariously charming domestic memoir, America’s celebrated master of terror turns to a different kind of fright: raising children."
The Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill.

      "If I tell you that it’s funny, and moving, and true; that it’s as compact and mysterious as a neutron; that it tells a profound story of love and parenthood while invoking (among others) Keats, Kafka, Einstein, Russian cosmonauts, and advice for the housewife of 1897, will you please simply believe me, and read it?” ~Michael Cunningham
The Millstone by Margaret Drabble.

     The story of an upper-middle-class unwed mother in 1960s London, from a novelist who is “often as meticulous as Jane Austen and as deadly as Evelyn Waugh”
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

      "Doris Lessing's real achievement in this book, I think, was simply in her matter-of-fact her handling of controversial matters (controversial in the period between World War II and the sixties, at any rate). She writes about the life of a divorced woman with a child, her relationships with that child, with her best (woman) friend, with her lovers, her comrades in the English CP, her body, the political world, etc., in ways that are remarkable for their straightforward candor."
The Women's Room by Marilyn French

      “An important fictional account of a whole generation of women . . . Arresting, very real and poignant.” ~ The Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar

      "Molnar's debut, about the first few sleep-decimated weeks in the life of a new mother...brings this particularly mind-eviscerating state of affairs into startlingly sharp relief in this uncompromising novel. And yet this is also an oddly affirmative novel, alive with a dangerous self-aware humor." ~ Daily Mail

      NY Public Library: Struggling with postpartum depression, a new mother, ill at ease with this state of perpetual giving, carrying, and feeding, strikes up a tentative friendship with her ailing upstairs neighbor, but they are both running out of time, and something is soon to crack."
Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy (to be published in 2024)

     "Anyone who has endured “the blurred days and the blurred nights” of early motherhood – or indeed anyone contemplating the possibility of embarking on them – be warned. You’re looking at a book-length panic attack....There were times when quite frankly I couldn't read on because it was the descriptions were so raw and jarringly close to home. A brilliant book but not an easy read."~Sarah Crown, The Guardian
Reproduction by Louisa Hall (to be published June 2024)

     A lucid, genre-defying novel that explores the surreality of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood in a country in crisis
The Green Road by Ann Enright

     Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart.
The Wren by Ann Enright

     "This is a powerful, thoughtful book by one of the great living writers on the subject of family. Speaking about love in terms both domestic and transcendent, Enright coos through newly connected wires." ~ New York Times

      "The power of Enright's novel derives not so much from the age-old tale of men behaving badly, but from the beauty and depth of her own style. She's so deft at rendering arresting insights into personality types or situations."~ Maureen Corrigan, NPR
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

      "Taffy Brodesser-Akner updates the miserable-matrimony novel, dropping it squarely in our times. . . . Brodesser-Akner has written a potent, upsetting and satisfying novel, illustrating how the marital pledge—build our life together—overlooks a key fact: There are two lives.”—The New York Times Book Review
Beloved by Toni Morrison.

       “A triumph.” ~Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review
Night Waking by Sarah Moss

       This one might be tough to read.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

      In this blazingly smart and voracious debut novel, an artist turned stay-at-home mom becomes convinced she's turning into a dog. • "A must-read for anyone who can’t get enough of the ever-blurring line between the psychological and supernatural that Yellowjackets exemplifies." —Vulture
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

      "Dense to look at, challengingly epic, the novel is built around one Ohio housewife’s monologue, flowing with dazzling lightness and speed. The detritus and maddening complexity of domesticity unfold in one breath, over a thousand pages. Shards of film plot and song collide with climate change anxiety; the terrors of parenting, healthcare and shopping lists wrestle with fake news and gun culture."~Booker Prize judge, Joanna MacGregor
After Birth by Elisa Albert.

       Acclaimed for its insight, outrageous humor, and power to spark fierce debate, After Birth is a daring and transformative novel about friendship, history, and the body.
Crazy by Jane Feaver.

       Funny, philosophical, sobering and wise, Crazy is crammed with insight and laced with great sentences~Claire Kilroy, Guardian
Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (short stories by Helen Simpson)

      This collection, Simpson's third and best yet, is a loosely linked set of stories about women - at work, at home and on holiday - that is poignant, perceptive, often sad and frequently funny.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

       "A classic for a reason. My mind was warped into a new shape by her prose and it will never be the same again." —Greta Gerwig
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

     If the first time you read it you loved the stories about the girls, read it again focusing on Mrs. March's role in the story.


Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich,

      'In order for all women to have real choices all along the line, ' Ardrienne Rich writes, 'we need fully to understand the power and powerlessness embodied in motherhood in patriarchal culture.'
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (the 50th anniversary edition)

      "Brilliant…[Friedan] succeeded where no other feminist writer had. She touched the lives of ordinary readers." ~ Louis Menand, The New Yorker
Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood a book of essays by Ann Enright.

     "Making Babies is a collection of short essays, some of them stream of consciousness, that move chronologically through the landmarks of motherhood. She writes with brutal candor and irreverence about the things that the feel-good baby books don’t tell you."~ Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal
A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk.

     "A funny, moving, brutally honest account of her early experiences of motherhood. When it was published it 2001, it divided critics and readers. One famous columnist wrote a piece demanding that Cusk’s children be taken into care, saying she was unfit to look after them, and Oprah Winfrey invited her on the show to defend herself."
Toddlers: The Mumsnet Guide: A Million Mums' Trade Secrets by Mumsnet and the Mumsnet Mums Morningpaper.

      Sensible, funny, "a breath of fresh air" (print on demand)



When I read the following two pieces, I realized that although I had read some of these novels and nonfiction accounts of motherhood, I had missed a lot of them. So this re-assembled list is a reading list for me (to refer to at the library) as well as for you, or parents you might want to give a book to. I have added quotes from other sources. Let me know of any book about motherhood that you would add to the list.
---Top 10 novels about motherhood (Claire Kilroy, The Guardian, 5-10-23) From Elena Ferrante to Taffy Brodesser-Akner, writers have captured the pressures that being a mother can inflict on marriage and on the creative self.
---Eleanor Birne's top 10 books on motherhood (Eleanor Birne, The Guardian, 3-30-11) From Anna Karenina to Anne Enright, here are 10 striking portraits of motherhood from fiction and non-fiction books.

The Guardian publishes a roundup piece on this topic every now and again; do a search and you can find a bunch of them online.

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