10 best Mother's Day books of 2010

You know the favorites. But so does she. Here are the 10 best new books to give for Mother's Day.

After "Eat, Pray, Love," what makes a good Mother's Day gift for a book-loving mom?

Looking for a book for Mom? Try Googling "10 best books for Mother's Day" and you pretty much already know what you will get. And let's face it: She's already read "Eat, Pray, Love." Last year you gave her "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." And she's the one who first read "The Giving Tree" to you.

So if you want to surprise Mom with something she doesn't already have, you might want to consider one of these 2010 releases. They're not classics – not yet – but at least a few of them are on their way.

1. "The Happiness Project," by Gretchen Rubin. How do you make a pretty-good life that much better? Gretchen Rubin researched wisdom literature from time immemorial and came up with a surprising to-do list that included cleaning her closets, making her bed, quitting nagging, and adjusting her attitude. A lot of it's just common sense but it works and Mom will thank you. (If she doesn't say, "I told you so.")

2. "A Mountain of Crumbs," by Elena Gorokhova. Elena Gorokhova's memoir of her childhood growing up in the cold war-era Soviet Union may be her own story but the book's true star is her mother. A doctor who loses two husbands – to alcoholism, illness, and the ravages of World War II – Gorokhova's mother is also an idealist who truly believes in the workers' state and isn't afraid to write to Stalin with suggestions on how to better it. She's tough, she's funny, and she has everything to do with who her daughter becomes.

3. "The Girl Who Fell from the Sky," by Heidi Durrow. This beautiful debut novel about a girl who tragically loses her family is harrowing at times, but it is also a sweet meditation on the power of a mother's love. Rachel Morse's mother was Danish and her father African-American. Rachel must now learn to live without her mother – although her grandmother and aunt, in their different ways, try to fill the gap – but, in many ways, Rachel's mother is with her wherever she goes.

4. "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand," by Helen Simonson. This marvelous love story is also a delightful glimpse into life in a small English village. Assuming that your mom likes Jane Austen and Alexander McCall Smith – and is there really a novel reader who doesn't? – this one is a slam-dunk.

5. "Breakfast with Socrates," by Robert Rowland Smith. This one's for the thinking mom. From commuting to running errands to working out in the gym – all the commonplace mile markers in our most ordinary days have philosophical implications. Robert Rowland Smith – an Oxford don-turned-management consultant – unwraps these for us. Best of all, he manages to be hip and funny as he does.

6. "The Best Spiritual Writing of 2010," edited by Philip Zaleski. There's plenty to sink one's teeth into in this collection of essays that jumps everywhere from the busy streets of Jerusalem to a hero of the Warsaw ghetto to a plea that we slow down and ask ourselves whether we are losing our ability for concentration. Overall, it's a book that reminds us that the spiritual can be found "in our breathing in and out, and in the space where we leap and don’t know what we’ll find."

7. "It Is Well with My Soul," by Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson. Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson was 106 as her memoir about her long and courageous life headed to press. Her motto of "Warrior trumps worrier" will delight readers of all ages.

8. "The Double Comfort Safari Club," by Alexander McCall Smith. Bush tea and empathy flow freely in this latest installment of the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series. It doesn't matter whether or not your mother has followed the earlier adventures of Botswanan detective-entrepreneur Precious Ramotswe – it is pretty much impossible not to be charmed by these books.

9. "The Parisians," by Graham Robb. The New York Times called this book "a valentine to the City of Light." Need I say more?

10. "Slow Love" by Dominique Browning. Dominique Browning was the high-profile editor of House & Garden magazine – until she wasn't. After 13 years at a prestigious job, Browning must come to peace with losing the work that once seemed to define her. The low-key epiphanies she scatters throughout her memoir are "sometimes enlightened, sometimes entertaining, sometimes both."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

Please add your own Mother's Day recommendations. Join the Monitor's book discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

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