Recommend books for my mother

For Christmas this year, my mom has asked me to make her a list of books that she would enjoy. I can think of several offhand, but our tastes aren’t terrifically similar and she want a list of 25-30. I’m turning to my fellow Dopers for help. What should Ma read in 2004? She likes family sagas and regional, especially Southern, fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Lee Smith, Fannie Flagg, and Robert Inman. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Southern fiction? Does she know Flannery O’Connor? I’m rather fond of her work…

She probly wont like anything I have read recently… unless Mom has developed a desire to know about the ancient Middle East.:smiley:

**Paradise Hotel ** and Cold Flat Junction by Martha Grimes might trip her trigger. I really liked the latter one a lot.

There’s a southern mystery writer, I am blocking on her name, whose main character continously whines about the South being a conquered nation :smiley: :smiley: But I thought her writing sucked ditch water and the mystery was terribly transparent.

Check out Sharyn McCrumb. Her books take place in the South and are mysteries but without the whodunnit feel. I VERY much recommend If I had killed him when I met him where she blended a 100 yr old murder with a modern one and solved them both.

She might like Ellen Gilchrist. She does Southern and family sagas, but in her own way. It’s been so long I can’t recommend specific titles, I’m afraid. She doe slots of short stories, but some of her books are novels.

She might like James Wilcox, too.

… And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
Follows a group of friends who start a literary club when they are teenagers (right after the Civil War) until they are elderly, and well, dead. Lots of small town (Ohio) and family drama. It’s long.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus
Southern (I guess that was obvious, huh?) girl marries a much-older Civil War veteran. It’s dramatic and centered around a family, but a caution that some of it is a little harsh, it’s not a romantic view of the South. It’s not bad, either, just realistic. Since she likes Fannie Flagg, this should be okay.

The Williamsburg Saga by Elswyth Thane
FINALLY back in print after many years. It follows generations of a Southern family through most of America’s major wars. The first book, Dawn’s Early Light takes place in colonial Williamsburg, it’s good, but there’s a lot of hard core historical fiction tied up with the romance, like which general is taking which troops where and when. By the second book, Yankee Stranger, the war takes a backseat to the family drama.

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers Of Southern Living by Bailey White
This is based on a series the author did on NPR about her life in the South (if memory serves). Light and humorous.

Great stuff, keep it coming. I know she’s already read all of Bailey White and Sharyn McCrumb’s books, but I’ll check out some of the others mentioned.

For the hell and giggles, I mention Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, as it deals with alternate history on the Civil War from the side of the South.

And I also mention To Kill a Mockingbird.

A little spice for your mother’s reading appetite :smiley:


Read MacPherson’s Lament first. There’s a whole series related to those two books, but you can read just those two and enjoy them. Oh, and DO NOT eat while reading…McCrumb is breathtakingly funny.

Well, if she likes Southern regional stuff and mysteries, find out if she’s read any of Joan Hess’s Claire Molloy (bookseller cum sleuth in an Arkansas college town) or Arly Hanks (female police chief of an even smaller Arkansas town) mysteries. Most of the early entries in both series are out of print, but they’re usually around in libraries, and those who like that sort of thing do seem to like them.

Continuing the Arkansas theme, Donald Harington has published a number of wonderful novels about the near-mythical hamlet of Stay More, Arkansas, along with a few other unrelated novels and an amazing more-or-less-non-fiction work, Let Us Build Us a City: Eleven Lost Towns. The Stay More saga starts with The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks (the history of Stay More from its founding in the early 19th century through the late twentieth, as exemplified by the buildings of the town), continues through Lightning Bug, The Cockroaches of Stay More (a pastiche of Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles concerning, as the title implies, the insect population of Stay More, with the humans relegated to secondary roles), and The Choiring of the Trees, the last of the series to maintain the standard Harington established in the earlier works. Harington has published several more books about (at least tangentially) Stay More since Choiring (Ekaterina, Butterfly Weed, When Angels Rest, and Thirteen Albatrosses (or Falling Off the Mountain)) but except for Thirteen Albatrosses, which I haven’t read, I can’t really recommend them.

If she has a good sense of humor and isn’t easily offended:

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love
God Save the Sweet Potato Queens
both by Jill Conner Browne
I loved them (I’m 27) and I sent them to my Mom (she’s 47) and she loved them as well. They’re not fiction but they’re great nonetheless - very Southern, but also irreverent, bawdy and just plain fun. They also have some very sentimental parts.

I’ll recommend:

Tom Bodett, The End of the Road and The Big Garage on Clear Shot
Wacky but warm short stories about a fictional small town in Alaska (yeah, about as far from the South as you can get, but fun, easy reading).

Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen
Now under discussion in Cafe Society.

If she might enjoy Southern humor I would recommend anything by the late great Lewis Grizzard. I still miss him.

I gave my own mother a copy of Lewis Grizzard’s book about his mother. She stayed up half the night reading and giggling.

One of my favorite Southern books is Cold Sassy Tree.

If your mother likes long engrossing fiction, I’m going to recommend one that is not set in the South, nor is it multi-generational. But it is one damn good read: Forever Amber. It was written probably fifty or sixty years ago at least, but it is utterly absorbing. It is set in England at the time of Charles II, if I recall correctly.