11 Fascinating Books on Motherhood

Posted by Bijal Shah on

With the advent of every type of book under the sun when it comes to motherhood, it seems that writing about motherhood (in various shapes and sizes) has become quite fashionable. Whether its surprise pregnancies, struggling-to-conceive memoirs, postpartum depression, ambivalence about having children, novels on raising other people’s children, single parenthood, working mothers battling to have it all or reflections on motherhood and societal expectations, current literature seems to capture the epic subject of motherhood in all its glory and tribulations.

These are the latest trends in motherhood along with the books that capture their intimate and vulnerable stories. 

1. Adjusting to a Surprise Pregnancy

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready (Non-fiction) by Meaghan O’Connell

After an accidental pregnancy and discovering that the book she so badly needed to read did not exist, O’Connell produced this brutally honest book on the emotional and existential impact of motherhood. Using humour and personal stories this is a memoir that discusses the rapid change in state from barely growing up to looking after a little baby, The book also discusses the impact on the body pre- and post pregnancy, the pressure to make friends with other mothers and taking on a new identity overnight.

An intimate story for our times that all new mums can relate to, regardless of whether the pregnancy was planned or not.

2. Struggling to Conceive

An Excellent Choice: Panic and Joy on My Solo Path to Motherhood (Non-fiction) by Emma Brocke (Expected publication date: June 26 2018)

Another hilarious memoir about choosing to conceive on one’s own accord. At 37, British journalist Emma Brocke discusses her journey to conceiving a child on her own whilst in an early same-sex relationship. Undergoing fertility treatment in the US, Emma candidly discusses the societal pressures of choosing a non-conventional path, the anxieties of a non-biological conception, the frustrations and challenges of fertility treatment, and the life-changing joys of such a solo decision.

An engaging read, whether or not you are thinking of pursuing motherhood on your own.

3. Postpartum Depression

Things That Helped (Non-fiction) by Jessica Friedmann

A stunning collection of essays chronically Friedmann’s personal experience of postpartum depression that beautifully capture observations on race, class, culture, society, mental health and of course motherhood.

12 finely crafted essays that document the struggles of womanhood (both as mothers as well as working women) and the things that helped her recovery from postpartum depression such as art, spirituality and travelling to another country. Whether you struggle from postpartum depression or not, this is a book that is deeply connected to all our identities as mothers.

Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood and the Harem Within (Non-fiction) by Elif Shafak

Acclaimed Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s memoir about a very difficult personal criss after the birth of her first child in 2006. Suffering from postpartum depression, the typical symptoms of guilt, anxiety, and an overwhelming sense of shame take hold, Shafek questioned her own abilities as a mother and stopped writing.

After finding the courage and need to write again, she crafted this elegant memoir elaborating her experience with the condition and the conflicting voices in her head — each identities of different forms of womanhood — from the maternal to the spiritual to the critic, the multi-tasker and the go-getter pulling her in different directions. She collectively refers to these identities as her ‘harem’ and desperately seeks to unite the voices so that she can stop having conflicting thoughts and focus on her two loves, writing and being a parent, in peace.

A raw account of her feelings, Shafek’s work is an important literary examination on motherhood and well-being.

4. Postpartum Euphoria

The Motherhood Affidavits (Non-fiction) by Laura Jean Baker

An extraordinary addition to the literature of motherhood. More than a brave memoir the book examines the fragile balancing act between a marriage, motherhood and forging a career. Baker exquisitely draws parallels between her life as a mother to the lives of her husband’s (a criminal lawyer) clients. Each chapter in the book documents the story of one of her husband’s legal cases where a mother is involved either in the form of the victim, the witness, or the defendant. Baker discusses each mother’s experiences as though they were her own, empathising with them regardless of any criminal wrong-doing.

These parallel stories remind us of the daily struggles middle class American parents face raising children including the sacrifices made to give our children everything.

5. Whether to Have Children

Motherhood (Semi-fiction) by Sheila Heti (Expected publication date: June 7 2018)

Probably the most daring and thought-provoking book in this selection, Sheila Heti’s Motherhood is an eye-opener about the choices women are making today. Rejecting her Jewish heritage and values that dictate women should have as many children as possible whilst in their thirties, Heti presents her dilemma as making it a success as a writer versus bringing up children. She then worries that if she does not make it as a writer has she just lost out on having children, which she might regret later?

Filled with difficult questions and thought experiments such as who should she have children with if she decides to have children and should she let fate decide this by flipping coins, the book is a fabulous, hilarious and poignant follow up to her semi-fiction novel, How Should A Person Be”.

The book is littered with incredible anti-primal statements that will make you want to read them twice:

“I resent the spectacle of all this breeding which I see as a turning away from the living — an insufficient love for the rest of us, we billions of orphans already living.”

“When a person has a child, they are turned towards their child. The rest of us are left in the cold.”

6. Mothering Someone Else’s Children

That Kind of Mother (Fiction) by Rumaan Alam (Expected publication date: May 8 2018)

A remarkable story about two women destined to meet. Rebecca Stone met her black nanny, Priscilla Johnson at the birth of her own baby — however when Priscilla dies in childbirth, Rebecca takes the overwhelming decision to adopt Priscilla’s child. Wanting to raise both children equally, That Kind of Mother is a touching story about a mother’s struggle to navigate unfamiliar territory when the world and society is determined to treat each child differently.

A touching, yet thought-provoking novel about motherhood written by a man which makes it even more remarkable.

7. Motherhood Thrillers

The Perfect Nanny (Fiction) by Leila Slimani

A very different take on motherhood, The Perfect Nanny is a thriller set to whet the appetites of those readers who enjoy thrillers. Two loving parents invite a seemingly pleasant woman to look after their children. Little do they know the consequence of her angelic presence. Two children are murdered. How and why it happened is a puzzle. Creepy, ugly and show-stopping.

The Perfect Mother (Fiction) by Aimee Molloy

A newborn baby belonging to a single mother, Winnie goes missing on the Fourth of July celebrations after a group of new mothers step out for a night of celebrations at a local Brooklyn bar, leaving Winnie’s baby with a babysitter. The women determined to help Winnie find the baby get involved in a media circus led by an obsessed woman investigative reporter. One by one, secrets unravel and nothing is what it seems. Told from multiple perspectives, the book’s unpredictability will leave you at the edge of your seat.

Set to become a major motion picture and Vanity Fair’s most anticipated book this summer, this one definitely tops the Motherhood Thriller’s list.

8. The Struggles of Motherhood

Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty (Non-Fiction) by Jacqueline Rose

A simply stunning narrative on the burdens and expectations placed on mothers. The books explores a diverse range of material (including poetry, drama, law, newspaper reports, art, social history, psychoanalysis and feminism) to draw out the cruelty society has imposed on mothers . The book calls upon society to recognise the role mothers have been asked to play throughout history and how terrifyingly inhumane and heartless their treatment has been. A thought-provoking piece that stands up for women and mothers everywhere.

The Joys of Motherhood (Fiction) by Buchi Emecheta

A touching tale from the African continent about a Nigerian woman, Nnu Ego who like others around her is transitioning from village life to colonial living. Married to a no-good alcoholic who takes up second and third wives, Nnu Ego is left to look after her children on her own with no financial support. Hoping that her first-born son will assist her financially, he proves to be a traitor leaving for America for further studies. Nnu is left to bring up the other children with little money.

She has no other choices as a woman in those times except to raise her children well. A feminist book that acknowledges how much of a man’s world it used to be and still is where women have no other choice but to help build it.

A powerful novel that speaks the truth for many women across the world to this day.

9. The Anxious Mother

The Tao of Motherhood (Non-fiction) by Vimala McClure

A positive, upbeat book on parenting (suitable for both mothers and fathers). The principles are adapted from Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching and remind us of the joys and love of parenting, providing our children with much-needed support and guidance to allow them to become fully-fledged, fulfilled beings in their own right.

Our role as parents is not to mould them into what we would like for them but to love them unconditionally and allow them to express who they truly are so that may live authentically as possible.

A guide that you will refer to over and over again. It’s encouraging style and timeless wisdom, creates a sense of calm, particularly on those challenging days.

10. Expecting Mothers

Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (Non-fiction) by Adrienne Rich

A universal piece of literary non-fiction, the irony in the text lies in the fact that whilst motherhood is a personal experience, we are so often told by society and the ‘institution’ what it means to be a mother.

Published in 1976, it is still just as relevant today and surfaces on many feminist reading lists challenging status quo. If you are a new mum or expecting mum, this book offers hope and encouragement to help you find your optimum personal and professional life journey.

11. The Working Mother

Lean In (Non-Fiction) by Sheryl Sandberg

Its the small changes that women can make, that will add up to become universal changes for all of womankind. This is the key message of Sandberg’s book in which she encourages women to be courageous about asking for what is essentially the same rights and treatment that men are privy to.

If there was one reason to read this book then it would be for the sake of your daughters — to create a world for them where motherhood and working is an easier prospect. A highly recommended read for your husband, brother or sons too.

Is there a book that should be on this list? Feel free to comment below with your book recommendation!


More book prescriptions can be found at our A-Z of Book Prescriptions.

A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at bijal@booktherapy.io or www.booktherapy.io.

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