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Great American Read

Great Reads for Mom: PBS Talks Books With 15 Female Authors

Looking for a Mother’s Day gift? PBS Books has put together a list of exceptional books by some incredible women.

April 25, 2018

For Mother’s Day, PBS Books has put together a list of exceptional books by some incredible women we’ve had the pleasure to meet. If you have a special mother in your life and she loves to read, share one of these titles with her.   The art of storytelling — being transported to another place and time — is a rare and precious gift and every one of these books delivers.

 “Pachinko,”  a National Book Award finalist for 2017 by Min Jin Lee, is a sprawling, beautiful novel chronicling the cultural struggles of four generations of a Korean family, beginning in 1910 during the time of Japanese colonization. It’s a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland.

“The Mothers” is set within a contemporary black community in Southern California. Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.


“Far from the Tree”  by Robin Benway, a 2017 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature, is a touching, funny story about the strength and love of unconventional families, the power of siblings, and the different definitions of family.


“American Street,” a wonderful young adult debut novel and National Book Award finalist by Ibi Zoboi, and it draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing her unique lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture. A timely story of U.S. immigration, Zoboi explores the challenges and costs of seeking the American dream.


“Ordinary Light: A Memoir, by Tracy K. Smith,” a Pulitzer Prize winner and current U.S. poet laureate, shares her remarkable coming-of-age story examining the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, the bonds between a mother and daughter, and what it means to be black in America.  

 Today  Will  Be  Different  by  Maria  Semple  was  named  a  notable  book  of  2016  by  just  about  everyone  in  the  publishing  world.  It  is  a  hilarious,  heart-filled  story  about  reinvention,  sisterhood,  and  how  sometimes  it  takes  facing  up  to  our  former  selves  to  truly  begin  living.  EMBED  CODE:    

“Pashmina,”  the dazzling debut graphic novel by Nidhi Chanani, is part adventure story, part girl power-infused magical realism, part colorful work of art. Through the eyes of her Indian American teenager protagonist, Pryianka, Chanani explores the mysterious—and sometimes uncomfortable—truths of her family’s past, as well as the mystic elements of Indian culture that ultimately help Priya navigate the two worlds that make up her life.  


“Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors... Who Changed History”  by Sam Maggs, tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors.


“The Mothers” is a taut, gripping, and satisfying book that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page. Jennifer Gilmore’s eloquence about the human heart—its frailties and complexities—and her razor-sharp observations about race, class, culture, and changing family dynamics are spectacularly combined in this powerful novel.

“Sharp, The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion,” by Michelle Deanchronicles ten brilliant women who came from different backgrounds and had vastly divergent political and artistic opinions. But they all made a significant contribution to the cultural and intellectual history of America and ultimately changed the course of the twentieth century, in spite of the men who often undervalued or dismissed their work.


“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. It’s a story of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.  


“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi, follows the parallel paths of two Ghanian sisters--each born into different villages, each unaware of the other — and the very different lives that unfold for them and the descendants of each through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem.  

“Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage” by Dani Shapiro, the best-selling novelist and memoirist delivers her most intimate and powerful work: a piercing, life-affirming memoir about marriage and memory, about the frailty and elasticity of our most essential bonds, and about the accretion, over time, of both sorrow and love.  


“An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones, is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. It is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.


“Collected Poems 1974-2004–2016” by Rita Dove. Ms Dove is a former U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-1995), a recipient of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and one of our most esteemed literary lights. Three decades of powerful lyric poetry from a virtuoso ofthe English language in one unabridged volume.