Last Sunday I test drove Mother’s Day. I had to. I live in a fraternity as the lone female in a house with two teen-aged boys and a husband. With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I thought it best to provide a subtle hint for a gift I would really like this year. They can skip the electronics and hold the Jean Nate drugstore cologne. I want a book. I went to the local bookstore and kindly made this list for them.
When I picture my men folk in a book shop, stumped by all that bound paper, I know they will need my help in the same way only I can home in on lost iPods and cell phones. I have real fear about what they could bring home. On the Mother’s Day display table I saw this tome, She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother. Guys, if that comes into the house, you three are toast. And, a special shout out to the sixteen-year-old: No, I will not enjoy the complete transcripts of South Park, even if it exists. (Hedging my bet here…)
I know my guys will select a book for me based on its cover and a peak at the back ad or flaps. So, like a fluke entranced by a lure, I swam the main aisles and combed the endcaps to create this list of what caught my eye and why. Dudes: it doesn’t get any easier than this to make The Mother (or T’Mo, on text messaging) happy on Sunday.
I was elated to see The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery, by Alan Bradley (Delacorte; $24). His debut novel in the series, The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie, introduced Flavia; a twelve-year-old British girl-sleuth hell bent for mischief and isolated on her familyâ€™s country estate, post World War I. She is Miss Marple Jr. and as thoroughly enjoyable as Bradley’s sprite plots. It will be such a delight to spend time with her again.
Anne Lamott’s new book is the novel Imperfect Birds (Riverhead Books; $25.95). I would read anything by this great writer: a manual on industrial dry cleaning, health insurance forms, Brita Filter instructions. Ms. Lamott makes words sing. When I worked in publishing and traded books with fellow publishing types, I bought hers. I went to a reading for Traveling Mercies and purchased the book, along with three copies of Bird by Bird the best book on writing (and life) to date. Always meet your icons if you can.
In Innocent by Scott Turow, (Grand Central Publishing; $27.99), memorable Chicago lawyer Rusty Sabich is back. To this day, every time I unload the dishwasher and pick up a glass I think of Presumed Innocent. Sadly, he’s back on trial for murder. You’d think an ace lawyer would have learned the first time he was accused of murder in the first to knock it off. Not barrister, now judge, Sabich. Aside from a keen interest in his continuing propensity for woe, the dust jacket with its metallic–gold fingerprints also caught my eye and should attract my shoppers.
Andrea Levy has a new novel, The Long Song (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $26.00). I did not read Ms. Levy’s last novel, the prize-winning Small Island. I admit I discovered her from the recent two-part series on Masterpiece Theater. But if the PBS production did her work justice, I would relish a chance to indulge in this next story about Jamaican/British transplants in London and the racial conflicts in their lives.
I know I didn’t want the book about the fat mom, but hereâ€™s one on myths about mid-life brain drain that begs to be read by all graying Baby Boomers. The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch (Viking; $26.95), says the news about your aging, tired cerebellum is not all bad. Bring it on! If you feel squeamish about giving this title as a gift, include a bag of Mint Milano cookies to soften the blow.
The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing and Bench Clearing Brawls by Jason Turbow (Pantheon; $25) is a book that should bring my baseball I.Q. up from the current level of an eleven-year-old boy to at least that of a fifteen-year-old. With this book I can become a perfect Tinker to Evers to Chance know-it-all. A special message to my nineteen-year-old: please do not read it first and spill Starbucks mochachino droplets on the pages. In time, I promise to lend it. Trust your mother. BTW, a ticket to a Yankees’ game makes an effective and apt bookmark.
I do want to read A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir by Norris Church Mailer (Random House; $26), mostly I want to go to her house and just stare at this survivor. Too bad Norman Mailer’s bunch didn’t have a reality TV show like Ozzie Osborne’s family. Clearly they would have been more interesting with the stabbings and other perpetual brouhahas. This memoir is most likely the next best thing to being there. I have complete faith it will not disappoint. Reader bonus: Your family will shine in comparison.
While my sons are at it, they can save on their carbon footprint and also pick up an early birthday present for me. Being born on the first of July guaranteed every cake displayed fruit patriotically formatted with whipped cream into a highly recognizable red, white and blue pattern. This is the fault of one little upholstery worker from Philadelphia. Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla R. Miller (Henry Holt; $30) should explain all the history and make you a fly on the wall when Ben Franklin suggest she sew the new nation’s flag. Now we’ll know what transpired when one woman made the lasting icon of America.
Any one of these books will delight me no end and other than the book itself, all I ask is some time to read. A few hours in the hammock (wait, that broke in a midnight Frisbee game) or a repose in the wicker chair out near the lilacs would make a peaceable day. So take the car, I’m offering the keys, and go out for dinner. I’ll stay at home on Sunday and read. Did I mention the Milanos? Thanks boys.
P.E. Logan is communications professional and a writer in New York. She has worked at various adult trade publishing houses including Random House, Putnam, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster for almost three decades. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and other periodicals.