Thursday, October 10, 2013

Books My Mother Recommends

Mother Knows Best (Mother Recommended Week)

In my last post, I told you what a great influence my mom was in my love of reading.  The obvious joy and intrigue she found in books had me wanting the same thing. I had to see what she found so addictive between those pages. It turns out that for the most part, we like the same types of books. Of course, that’s not always the case. 

Unlike my mother and sisters, some people claim to not enjoy reading at all. They say they “can’t get into books.”  I’m shocked and saddened. :(  They just don’t know what they’re missing. Time restraints, learning and attention disorders aside, I really think all that most people need is the right book to spark their interest. I believe there’s a reader in everyone itching to surface. If a person is not an enthusiastic reader, then they probably just haven’t found the right genre, writing style, or even author who grabs their attention.  There has to be a true “book connection” out there for every person.

So, in continuation of Mother Recommended Week, below is a list of some of my mom’s favorite books, ones that grabbed her attention, books she had a “connection” with.  Maybe one of these books is the force that will turn a lukewarm reader into a bona fide bookworm.  As expected, my mom had a hard time whittling down her selection—there are so many books she’s read and loved.  In no particular order, check out the ones that immediately popped to mind.

Click on titles in blue to see reviews.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende—Set in the 1800s, follow the life of an orphaned girl in Valparaiso, Chile. Eventually she falls in love and undertakes a dangerous journey in the hold of a ship to try and pursue her love, who is seeking his fortune in the California gold rush.   (This book also gets a thumbs-up from me.)    

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende—A sweeping family saga set in Chile with enveloping political and personal turmoil.  (Still on my “to read” list.)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See—Sisters Pearl and May leave China as the Japanese bomb Shanghai in 1937.  They begin anew in a Chinese community in Los Angeles. To stay in the country they must marry strangers and carve out new lives while keeping old secrets. (Loved this book, too. See review.)

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See—Two Chinese girls are lifelong friends who have a special bond.  As they grow older and move apart they communicate in Nüshu script on a fan, which is passed between them throughout their differing lives.  (This book also gets a thumbs-up from me, my sisters, and a few friends who have read it. Fascinating.)

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden—This book tells of a geisha working in Japan before and after WWII. Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha, how she is trained and transformed into this highly regarded “entertainer.” They are NOT call girls. (Another thumbs-up from me and my one of my sisters. The movie is also good, but husbands may not find it as wonderful as the women.)

Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow—Story of a fashionable young New York lady who impulsively marries a wild trader and together they follow the harsh trail her to a new and exciting land called California. (Still on my “to read” list.)

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer—Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he promised to deliver. But when he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter's recipient, he becomes privy to a secret that will alter the course of his—and his family’s—history. From the small Hungarian town of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in labor camps, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a family shattered and remade in history’s darkest hour. –Book description on Amazon. (Still on my “to read” list.)

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris—A woman tells of her childhood in a small French village during the German occupation and what led her mother to be a woman so hated that she fled never to return. (Good book!  See review.)

The Wind Cannot Read by Richard MasonThis is the timeless story of a man who grows to love a woman during a turbulent time in history. They share a forbidden love, painted against the backdrop of a bitter and bloody war. When Michael has little else to keep him going, in the depths of a terrible jungle, there is the vision of his love, his Sabby. The author has created a wonderful work, well written and woven through with many background elements, history, culture, romance, war. "Though on the sign it is written, don't pluck these blossoms, it is useless against the wind, which cannot read..." –Customer book description on Amazon. (Still on my “to read” list.)

Water for Elephants by Sara GruenAfter the sudden death of his parents, a veterinary student joins a circus.  As he learns the ropes in this world of animals and eccentric people, he falls in love with the brutal owner’s wife. (One of my favorites!  See review.)

Plantation Trilogy (Deep Summer, The Handsome Road, and This Side of Glory) by Gwen Bristow—A sweeping saga set in Louisiana beginning before the Revolutionary War and goes right after WWI. (Still on my “to read” list)

Happy reading,


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:


  1. Oh my goodness, so many books I love, as well. Same as your mother, I have always been very interested in reading about China and the life there. One of my first favourite authors was Pearl S. Buck. I know I didn't read all of her novels but it seems like it. I also loved the "Plantation Trilogy" read it decades ago and have never met anyone who read them, as well. Incredible.

    I also love most of the other books you mentioned, especially the Allende novels. There is a third one I can recommend that goes with this family, "Portrait in Sepia". I need to put some of the others on my wishlist. The only book on this list I did not enjoy was "Water for Elephants" even though I love elephants. But not really the circus, that might be one of the reasons.

    Anyway, same as you say, I feel sorry for anyone who cannot enjoy a book. I have successfully passed on my joy of reading to my two sons who now both study very reading-involved subjects.

    Marianne from Let's Read

    1. Thanks for the comment. Like you and my mother, I find there's something fascinating about the Chinese culture, probably because it's so different from ours. Have you read "Chinese Cinderella" by Adeline Yen Mah? It's an autobiography of a little Chinese girl who's mother dies shortly after her birth and she how she is reduced to a second-rate citizen in her stepmother's family. Very good. Very gripping

    2. That is my opinion, as well. It is so contrary to our lives and beliefs and that what makes it so fascinating. No, I have not read "Chinese Cinderella", will put that on my wishlist because I am sure that would be interesting. So, thank you for the advice.

      I am presently reading "Once on a Moonless Night" bei Sijie Dai who Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress which I thoroughly enjoyed. The author lives in France and writes in French, his books are more contemporary than any of the Pearl S. Buck books, for example, but they are just as beautiful.

      Marianne from Let's Read

  2. I love books that give us a glimps into a different era or culture, as these all do.

  3. Besides.... Perhaps Mother "DOES" know best.... most of the time anyway. lol