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15 Incredibly Important Books About Motherhood

Some of the most beloved books about being a mom, according to Goodreads users.

Posted on May 12, 2018, at 12:41 p.m. ET

Goodreads recently let BuzzFeed know which books, according to its users, are some of the most popular explorations of different facets of motherhood. Below are 15 of the highest-rated, most-shelved titles — and, perhaps, perfect gifts for mom.

1. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Harper Collins, Nina Subin

A tight group of Brooklyn moms meet up twice a week, with newborns in tow, to bond over the joys and struggles of being new moms. But when one of the babies is snatched from his crib, the May Mothers' world is thrown into chaos.

Promising review: "In this world where we capture everything in 10-second snippets to share on social media, The Perfect Mother is a fabulous look at the intense pressure women and moms feel and also how quickly we judge each other for decisions they make without knowing all the facts. But at the heart is this group of women who support each other even as their worlds are falling down." —Jennifer

Get it from Amazon for $12.99+, Barnes & Noble for $12.48+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

2. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

William Morrow

Fearing for her newborn daughter's safety, Kavita travels to Mumbai to leave Usha in an orphanage. On the other side of the world, a Californian couple struggling with infertility begin the process that will end with them adopting her. The novel follows both families over the course of two decades — as Kavita comes to terms with the decision she had to make, and as Usha comes to understand her heritage.

Promising review: "Beautifully woven. A story of a relationship of a mother and daughter not connected by birth or lineage, two souls born in two different worlds, united by circumstances, bound together with love. Excellent read." —Sudeshna

Get it from Amazon for $0.10+, Barnes & Noble for $1.99+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

3. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Knopf

Inspired by a friend's question about how to raise a baby girl to be a feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie created this: Fifteen sharp, frank, funny, and poignant mini essays for empowering a daughter to be strong and independent.

Promising review: "As I went through this book, I just felt touched with the wonder of Chimamanda. ... If I start talking about this book I'm going to get all preachy about the contents, because they are words I've taken to heart. I can only suggest you get yourself a copy and gift it to people also, share the wise words with mothers and fathers, mothers- and fathers-to-be — just everyone. If you want to understand more on what feminism is all about, don't hesitate — this book is very clear, funny and easy to understand. " —Lara

Get it from Amazon for $4.16+, Barnes & Noble for $4.95+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

4. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Scribner

When Li-yan, a young woman living in a remote tea-farming village in China, has a baby out of wedlock, she abandons her newborn daughter — swaddled in a blanket with a tea cake — in a nearby city. As mother and daughter grow and change, worlds apart, they find themselves wondering about each other, and connected by the tea that has guided their family for generations.

Promising review: "Steeped in traditions and superstitions, this is a richly textured story. ... The role tea plays is at the heart of this story, and how the lives of both mother and daughter are entwined with it — its essence, its power, its connectivity. Beautifully written." —Jen

Get it from Amazon for $4.29+, Barnes & Noble for $8.47+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

5. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Scribner

It's Australia in 1926 and Tom Sherbourne has returned home after four years fighting in the war. He takes a job as lighthouse keeper on a remote island, bringing along his wife, Isobel, who has her heart set on starting a family. When a boat washes ashore holding a dead man and a living baby, Isobel convinces Tom to raise the baby as their own.

"I am left to treasure an unforgettably poignant image of human resilience in the face of love lost. A shifting, beautiful glimpse of the light that pervades even the deepest reaches of the human psyche, and the darkest waters of human morality." —Ave

Get it from Amazon for $0.25+, Barnes & Noble for $1.99+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

6. Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Knopf

Only Child is narrated by Zach Taylor, a first-grader who survives what no one should have to live through — a school shooting. His brother does not. While his parents cope with their loss through action, Zach surrounds himself with books and art, trying to understand why the real world has to be so unlike the one of his imagination.

Promising review: "I became completely engrossed in this tale of a family brought to breaking point by their grief and also their guilt at certain responses they had. It’s a beautifully written book, perfectly pitched without overdramatizing the family's situation, and it left me feeling hopeful for the world we live in even in its darkest hour." —Joanne

Get it from Amazon for $2.99+, Barnes & Noble for $8.29+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

7. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Random House, commons.wikimedia.org

Mom & Me & Mom is Maya Angelou's thorny love letter to her mother — the larger-than-life woman who abandoned Angelou in many ways, at many times, but also the woman Angelou credits as the reason she was able to become who she is.

Promising review: "There’s joy in hearing wisdom repeated, tales that your heart takes and translates into your life, your language, your being. I loved reading about the progression of the relationship [between] Maya and her mother, Vivien, when all those doubts had faded away, when proof of love was no longer required or questioned, and most of all I loved seeing more of her heart and its wisdom." —Cheri

Get it from Amazon for $4.45+, Barnes & Noble for $4.45+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

8. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Penguin Press

A suburban neighborhood erupts into conflict when a family decides to adopt a Chinese American baby, which sparks a volatile custody battle. As neighboring families take opposing sides, one family becomes obsessed with finding and revealing another's dark history — but doing so could bring everyone down.

Promising review: "To me, these characters jumped from the pages; they have the mannerism (she's so observant, akin to Adichie in that sense) and the motivations of people you know in your own life. ... That's what makes this story so good — there is no black and white, despite the obviously drawn lines between the differing characters. Ng exists in the gray, and her mission, it seems to me, is to pull you into the gray too and think about how murky and complicated and messy life is." —Maxwell

Get it from Amazon for $11.01+, Barnes & Noble for $10.58+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

9. How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

St. Martin's Press, Jerry Bauer

Kate Reddy (whom readers might have fallen in love with in I Don't Know How She Does It) is getting close to her 50th birthday, and she's jugging a lot: Her children have grown into unruly teens, her mother's health is failing, her husband is going through a midlife crisis, and, in the midst of it all, she's dealing with a growing desire to return to the workforce. Can she make it work?

Promising review: "Allison Pearson’s penetrating observations of what it's like to be the filling in this midlife sandwich are satisfyingly astute — she just gets it and hits the nail on the head again and again. Some of her observations are wildly funny, others bittersweet, but above all a comfort to know that there are others out there in the same boat. She describes a comprehensive list of menopausal symptoms with aplomb and hilarity and every page has the reader either laughing out loud or nodding in earnest agreement. ... This is a book which I know I will return to and which I can't praise highly enough." —Moirelyn

Get it from Amazon for $14.99+, Barnes & Noble for $20.53, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

10. And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O'Connell

Little, Brown

In her memoir, Meaghan O'Connell writes about accidentally getting pregnant in her twenties, and working through the ambivalence she's always felt toward motherhood as she becomes a mother herself.

Promising review: "This is the book on motherhood that I've been waiting for. ... Refreshingly candid about pregnancy, birth, and the early days of motherhood, And Now We Have Everything spoke deeply to me. There were parts where I was laughing so hard that tears streamed down my face, times when I was gently weeping as I remembered, and moments where I just felt so thankful that this was written proof that I was not alone in my experiences, both good and bad." —Samantha

Get it from Amazon for $13+, Barnes & Noble for $13.50+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

11. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Hachette, Leta Warner

When 15-year-old Bee's mother goes missing, she begins the search through medical records, diary entries, and emails to find her — all of which come together to hilariously reveal what brought the Seattle-based architect, wife, and mother to her limit, and why she had to drop it all.

Promising review: "The first 75% of the book is just a delightful satire, on the wealthy and privileged, on the self-deluded and spiritually empty — but what really makes it are the bits of real emotion that are constantly peeking through. This story genuinely made me feel things, and like I mean that in all caps, FEEL THINGS." —Ashley

Get it from Amazon for $1.46+, Barnes & Noble for $1.99+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

12. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Grand Central

In early 20th-century Korea, a young woman's unexpected pregnancy puts her poor family at risk of public shaming. When a minister offers to marry her and start a new life in Japan, she can't say no — and for generations to come, her descendants grapple with the consequences of living in exile from their home country.

Promising review: "Lee's writing is light and elegant, and for such a long novel the pace rarely falters. It keeps you turning pages, mourning and grieving and celebrating with these characters who feel as close as family by the end. I raced through this in a couple of days and now feel sad that it's over. Above all else a nuanced exploration of cultural identity, Pachinko is an incredible achievement. I cannot recommend this highly enough to fans of family sagas, historical fiction, fiction set in East Asia, or really any reader who just wants a good story." —Rachel

Get it from Amazon for $9.42+, Barnes & Noble for $6.66+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

13. Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

Henry Holt

In her memoir, Heather Harpham writes about her unexpected pregnancy, which led to splitting up from her partner, Brian — despite being in a loving relationship, she wants to be a parent, and Brian does not. But when her daughter is born with a life-threatening disease, Brian returns as the pair figure out how to help their child survive.

Promising review: "The book is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, but it's never too daunting or too difficult to read. The writing style is really beautiful and often poetic. She is a very good writer and her story is important and eye-opening about what happens to a relationship under intense stress, how you make life-changing decisions for your kids, how you stay strong for your kids, and how you find the happiness in the little things." —Lisa

Get it from Amazon for $5.47+, Barnes & Noble for $4.16+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

14. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Flatiron

Rosie and Penn are parents who only want the best for their family. When 5-year-old Claude, the youngest of their five sons, says he wants to be a girl when he grows up, the couple fumble as they try to figure out how to best support Claude. But keeping Claude's identity a secret only leads to more confusion.

Promising review: "This book will make you a better parent, willing to step back and see that we are all just doing the best that we can with the gifts of the children that God has given us. The title touches on this theme of how with each problem that arises, all we can do is try our best as parents and see what happens. And this is how it always is." — Kathryn

Get it from Amazon for $5.99+, Barnes & Noble for $9.05+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

15. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

Viking

Raised in Pennsylvania but born to a South African mother, Thandi has always felt like an outsider, wherever she goes — alienated from each of her conflicting identities. When her mother dies of cancer, she finds herself grappling with all of the questions left unanswered, looking for something solid to ground her.

Promising review: "The writing is economical: the sentences sharp, direct, and to the point, which really creates an atmosphere charged with raw emotion. I found myself dog-earing so many pages because in the midst of a very frankly written passage, I would come to a sentence so beautiful and poignant, stopping to marvel at the author's amazing ability to turn a phrase. ... I was blown away, and I cannot wait to read more from this fabulous talent." —Rod-Kelly

Get it from Amazon for $8.42+, Barnes & Noble for $9.99+, or from a local bookseller through Indiebound here.

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