The best books about single mothers

16 authors have picked their favorite books about single mothers and why they recommend each book.

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Operating Instructions

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

This is the Mother of all boy mom books. It’s required reading for anyone learning to speak boy. Equal parts despair—Lamott is a single mom who sometimes wants to leave her crying boy outside on the stoop—and equal parts gut punches of hilarious wisdom and ardor about boy life and mom devotion.

Operating Instructions

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Operating Instructions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the journal of the birth of Anne Lamott's son Sam, and their first year together. Coping with being a recovering alcoholic and a single mother, Anne had to face the fact that her best friend since childhood was dying of cancer.


Who am I?

I'm a fourth-generation “Mainer” and the mother of two boy “wolves,” and I have a deep well of respect for boys and their imaginations in the masculinized culture we swim in. I've seen how much rich thinking is going on in the inner lives of boys. The teenage boy rendered in literature can be a stock character, and I was determined to give them more respect on the page and to explore what’s not said between boy moms and their sons that deeply connects them. I teach widely and write non-fiction as well as fiction and am a founder of a creative writing center in Portland, Maine for kids called the Telling Room. 


I wrote...

Landslide

By Susan C. Conley,

Book cover of Landslide

What is my book about?

Landslide depicts two wise, funny teenage boys and their mom trying to make it on the coast of Maine. The novel shows us teenage boys in all their sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll glory—with a mother who vows to stay into the trenches with them and keep loving them unconditionally. The story celebrates listening to Fleetwood Mac in a beat-up Subaru on the coast of Maine, and the light on the ocean, and the idea of being local. It investigates the slow fade of commercial fishing in Maine in the face of climate change, and it traces a mother’s attempt to speak “teenage-boy,” using humor as a survival tactic and as a love language to show what a family really is. 

About a Boy

By Nick Hornby,

Book cover of About a Boy

While not written for Young Adults, one of this book’s main characters is a young teen that I believe many of us can relate to; I know I certainly could, having been a total outsider and outcast when I was in school. Thank God, though, that I had both my parents and they were wonderful, and not ‘loopy’ like Marcus’s mom is made out to be. Still, I think that many of us are either going through similar experiences to what Marcus deals with throughout this story, or we went through them as teens. And I believe that, even though the character of Will starts out to be a somewhat reprehensibly selfish person, he learns, as we all need to, that the world doesn’t revolve around us as individuals. At least not all the time. 

About a Boy

By Nick Hornby,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked About a Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MILLION COPY NO. 1 BESTSELLER THAT BECAMEAN ACCLAIMED FILM STARRING HUGH GRANT AND NICOLAS HOULT

'A very entertaining and endearing read' The Times
___________________

Thirty-six-year-old Londoner Will loves his life. Living carefree off the royalties of his dad's Christmas song, he's rich, unattached and has zero responsibilities - just the way he likes it.

But when Will meets Marcus, an awkward twelve-year-old who listens to Joni Mitchell and accidentally kills ducks with loaves of bread, an unlikely friendship starts to bloom.

Can this odd duo teach each another how to finally act their age?

Hugely funny and equally heartfelt,…


Who am I?

What can better give expertise on the books one loves than decades of reading? I’ve always had a passion for sympathetic, strong characters, especially women. At the core of all my novels, readers will find a sympathetic and strong heroine. In Girlfriend Trouble, Lian is the catalyst that changes the lives of everyone around her for the better; or, more precisely, Lian’s compassion, wisdom, and serene nature are what change things. I’m probably too idealistic, but it’s better than being a cynic. There’s an element of this in all the books I’ve recommended, and those I’ve written. I like to think there’s more of it in the real world too.


I wrote...

Girlfriend Trouble

By Robert Shaw,

Book cover of Girlfriend Trouble

What is my book about?

Karate Kid meets Wimpy Kid in this YA coming-of-age story.

14-year-old Mikey dreams of the girl he longs to meet; she's so real he can almost reach out and touch her... if he didn't keep waking up and getting in trouble with the school bully. Then Mikey meets Lian in the real world, and she changes everything for everyone. Girlfriend Trouble is a funny, heart-warming story about tolerance, understanding, and the acceptance of the unpopular kids; it's about having self-confidence, self-respect, and respect for one’s peers, and about dealing with bullies both youthful and grown-up.

The Rumor

By Lesley Kara,

Book cover of The Rumor

Lesley has a beautiful way of engaging the reader, her characters are relatable, many of them will feel like people you already know, your friends, family, maybe even you. The story is captivating and imaginative, yet this book feels real. It could happen in your town; it could happen to you. This book has an intriguing, ‘girl next door’ feel to it.      

The Rumor

By Lesley Kara,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rumor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

__________

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there's no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago - no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How…


Who am I?

As a published author, Debra’s passion for fast-paced, unputdownable novels is unquenchable. She can be ruthless in her criticism, applying the rule, “three strikes and you’re out!”  A firm believer that life is too short to read mediocre books, if she isn’t grabbed by chapter 3, she puts the book down and moves on. She wants a book to make her life better, she wants to feel excitement at picking it back up again, and burying herself in the characters and moods, twists and turns, of a great story. Her writing reflects this same trait, if her words won’t keep the reader totally engrossed, then she won’t write them.


I wrote...

What Goes Around

By Debra Hinkley,

Book cover of What Goes Around

What is my book about?

Sarah is beautiful, virtuous, and talented but, as a teenager, she loses her mother in sudden and tragic circumstances. Determined not to let the loss define her, she leaves everything behind in search of something better. Befriended by sexy and exuberant Lori, she believes she’s on the right track but Lori has problems of her own and when the two girls are introduced to rich, spoilt Harry and his troubled cousin James, they become led by lust and jealousy. 

Four lives brought together by chance; changed by desire and controlled by a dangerous secret. How far will they go to get what they want and who will be left to pick up the pieces? What Goes Around is a powerful story of love, violence, and shattered dreams.

Cold Storage

By David Koepp,

Book cover of Cold Storage

I will admit I came to this book for the author. David Koepp is a renowned screenwriter whose credits include Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible, among many others. Screenwriters have to work within the confines of a 120-page format, so it’s no wonder that this novel moves at a lightning pace. I love that it features a deadly fungal organism that could end humanity, but the story is really about the three people desperately trying to contain it. 

Cold Storage

By David Koepp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cold Storage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Gruesome, terrifying, pulse-pounding' Stephen King

Shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year

'Frightening' Mail on Sunday

When Pentagon bioterror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction.

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. And only Diaz knows how to stop it.

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards - one an ex-con, the other a single mother.…


Who am I?

When I was nine, I was chased by a dog in the woods. It was barking and drooling and seemed intent on attacking me. For all I know, that dog was somebody’s pet, but I was terrified. It took me years to get over a fear of dogs, and even longer to get over a fear of the woods. I suppose that’s why I’ve always gone back to the wilderness as a setting for my novels; I love stories that tap into my strongest emotions. I’m also a physician, and I like exploring what makes us vulnerable—and resilient. 


I wrote...

Vanishing Edge

By Claire Kells,

Book cover of Vanishing Edge

What is my book about?

After a misadventure in the Australian outback that ended in her husband’s disappearance, ex-FBI agent Felicity Harland is trying to get back on her feet as a detective for the Investigative Services Branch of the National Parks Service.

In her first case, an abandoned campsite turns up on an alpine lake in the redwood forests of California. As Felicity tackles the mystery of what happened, she teams up with park ranger Ferdinand Huxley, a former Navy SEAL who brings some useful skills—and a welcome sense of humor—to the wilderness. Together, they work to uncover the circumstances behind the abandoned campsite while battling the forces of time, nature, and some shady characters with secrets of their own.

Through the Door

By Jodi McIsaac,

Book cover of Through the Door

I recommend this book not only for its gripping storyline but for its fascinating take on Irish mythology and seamless blend into our world too! I loved the characters, especially Cedar, the main protagonist in the book as she's thrown into the deep end and has to adapt pretty quickly to survive and save her daughter! And if you're like me and like to work out how it ends, there's enough here to keep you guessing. I certainly didn't see that coming!

Through the Door

By Jodi McIsaac,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Through the Door as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's been seven years since the love of Cedar McLeod's life left with no forwarding address. All she has left of him are heart-wrenching memories of happier times and a beautiful six-year-old daughter, Eden. Then, one day, Eden opens her bedroom door and unwittingly creates a portal that leads to anywhere she imagines.

But they're not the only ones who know of Eden's gift, and soon the child mysteriously vanishes.

Desperate for answers, Cedar digs into the past and finds herself thrust into a magical world of Celtic myths, fantastical creatures, and bloody rivalries. Teaming up with the unlikeliest of…


Who am I?

Ever since I was a child the world has fascinated me. I’ve grown up with a deep love of reading and passion for the natural world, so much so that this often inspires both my writing and my artwork. As an artist and writer I seek to showcase the wonder and magic in the world. I have been able to draw upon ancient legends for inspiration into how people’s minds worked in the deep past and use it to enrich my writing further to cement the stories into our world and become more tangible. As a part-time adventurer, it’s only natural that my novels should be that.


I wrote...

A Retreating Tide (The Mirror of Shadows)

By R.A. Whitworth,

Book cover of A Retreating Tide (The Mirror of Shadows)

What is my book about?

A thrilling adventure into the world beyond the ancient stones. Following Alicia, a woman who has no memory of her past and Nathan who’s desperate to escape the abuse he suffered in his, are thrust into an epic adventure through the wilds of the Eárie. In this world where hill tribes roam the mountains, and sprites live in underground caverns they will need to learn what it takes to survive the wilderness as well as the parasitic threat known as the Shadows. 

Gravity Is the Thing

By Jaclyn Moriarty,

Book cover of Gravity Is the Thing

Yes, she is one of ‘the’ Moriartys, and this surprise shift away from her usual young adult fiction works is more than worthy of her famous surname. This book is sublime, whimsical, dreamy, chatty, fun, sad, joyous, and all with a sense of surreality that you strangely and completely enjoy. I found myself swept away as the lead character, Abigail, seeks to find answers to the tragedy that has haunted her since she was young and oh, how I walked that path with her. The strange retreat she is on will keep you guessing and the sweetness of her story will stay with you long after the final page.

Gravity Is the Thing

By Jaclyn Moriarty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gravity Is the Thing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Clever and magical' - Women's Weekly

'Author Jaclyn is the sister of Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies) and has the same talent for great plots. This unusual novel tugs at the heartstrings.' - Good Housekeeping

Twenty years ago, Abigail Sorenson's brother Robert went missing one day before her sixteenth birthday, never to be seen again. That same year, she began receiving scattered chapters in the mail from a mysterious guidebook, whose anonymous authors promised to make her life soar to heights beyond her wildest dreams.

These missives have remained a constant in Abi's life - a befuddling yet oddly comforting…


Who am I?

Ever since I was a young girl, I have fallen deeply into the pages of novels that feature strong female characters, with Anne of Green Gables and Little Women capturing my imagination early. As an Australian, I’ve also always enjoyed books set here but anywhere where I can walk in a relatable character's shoes is fine by me. The magical experience of being immersed in ‘her’ world, feeling what she feels, relating to her, being frustrated with her, celebrating with her, loving with her…what are books if not gifting us such experiences? Every book I have penned has been based on this ideal, an intimate experience, a close relationship. A BFF.


I wrote...

Sisters of Freedom

By Mary-Anne O'Connor,

Book cover of Sisters of Freedom

What is my book about?

Sydney, Christmas, 1901. Federation has been achieved but Australian women are yet to gain the right to vote. Bolshy, boisterous Frankie Merriweather is a fervent advocate for women's rights, determined to dedicate herself to the cause and never marry. She can't understand her artistic sister Ivy wanting a life of ease and beauty with law student Patrick Earle. Meanwhile, their married sister Aggie volunteers in an orphanage, longing to hold a baby in her arms.

When an accident takes Ivy, wounded and ill, into the violent and lawless zone of the Hawkesbury River, a year of change begins. Ivy's burgeoning friendship with her saviour Riley Logan, a smuggler, and his sister, the poverty-stricken but valiant Fiona, will alter the lives of all three women forever.

The Monk Downstairs

By Tim Farrington,

Book cover of The Monk Downstairs

This is the story of a divorced mom who rents her downstairs apartment to a Catholic monk whose spiritual well has run dry twenty-three years into his vocation, leading him to walk away. I love disgruntled, disillusioned Mike, who can’t help being a stand-up guy, and whose ongoing, sometimes combative correspondence with a former colleague tracks the vagaries of his spiritual life. I love Rebecca and the way she handles insane emotional and practical responsibilities and somehow keeps on going. Most of all, I enjoy the understated, wry way these two fall in love. Farrington’s prose style is beautifully transparent, and he’s intelligent and funny about Christian belief and practice and about romance. There is also a good sequel, The Monk Upstairs.

The Monk Downstairs

By Tim Farrington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Monk Downstairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rebecca Martin is a single mother with an apartment to rent and a sense that she has used up her illusions. I had the romantic thing with my first husband, thank you very much, she tells a hapless suitor. I'm thirty-eight years old, and I've got a daughter learning to read and a job I don't quite like. I don't need the violin music. But when the new tenant in her in-law apartment turns out to be Michael Christopher, on the lam after twenty years in a monastery and smack dab in the middle of a dark night of the…


Who am I?

As someone who grew up agnostic and somehow ended up an Episcopal Church lady, I’m intrigued by writers who deal with Christian belief respectfully without leaving their sense of humor behind. I don’t believe that faith is required to be moral—my nonreligious parents are more principled than many Christians I know—but I like to see characters work out that tension between what we’re taught in Scripture, what we believe or want to believe, and how we actually live it out in daily life (sins and all). I especially enjoy watching this happen in that peculiar petri dish of personalities that is any local church.


I wrote...

The Awful Mess: A Love Story

By Sandra Hutchison,

Book cover of The Awful Mess: A Love Story

What is my book about?

Thirty-something divorcee Mary seeks a fresh start in tiny, affordable Lawson, New Hampshire after her husband finally gets a woman pregnant, and it isn’t her. But Lawson’s unhappily-married Episcopal priest may be interested in more than just her heathen soul, and a handsome cop confuses her by supporting gay rights, but opposing sex before marriage.

Mary’s just beginning to open up to new possibilities when a crushing job loss, a scandalous secret, and a disintegrating ex threaten everything she has left. But in this witty and affectionate tale of small-town life, she may discover that the connections we make can result not only in terrifying risks, but unexpected blessings.

Did I Say You Could Go

By Melanie Gideon,

Book cover of Did I Say You Could Go

Ruth and Gemma are two moms with opposing lifestyles. Ruth is affluent, while Gemma is struggling to make ends meet. Shunned by the other moms, Ruth clings to Gemma, showering her with gifts and trips and the two become best frienemies. Their toxic relationship is a fun ride, and two separate incidents years apart leave both moms finding themselves on the wrong side of scandal. This book got messier and messier with each page, and I was there for it. Every time I thought I had figured out what was going on, I’d read a sentence and question everything.

Did I Say You Could Go

By Melanie Gideon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Did I Say You Could Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A suspenseful, gripping novel about families and friendships torn apart at the seams by obsession, secrets, and betrayal with relentless twists and turns that hurtle forward to a shocking confrontation.

When Ruth, a wealthy divorce e, offers to host the Hillside Academy kindergarten meet-and-greet, she hopes this will be a fresh start for her and her introverted daughter, Marley. Finally, they'll be accepted into a tribe. Marley will make friends and Ruth will be welcomed by the mothers. Instead, the parents are turned off by Ruth's ostentatious wealth and before kindergarten even begins, Ruth and Marley are outcasts.

The last…


Who am I?

As a reader and a writer, I am drawn to the darker side of human nature. Dysfunctional families, toxic relationships, liars, murderers, bring on the bad. An avid reader of horror and thrillers, I love a jaw-dropping twist. I aim for that feeling in my own novels, opening up reader questions and slowly delivering satisfying answers until the final big reveal. While inside my head is very dark and murdery, outside I live a very normal, law-abiding life, in Tampa with my husband, our four kids, and two dogs.  


I wrote...

We're All Lying

By Marie Still,

Book cover of We're All Lying

What is my book about?

Cass lives an enviable life: a successful career, two great kids, and a handsome husband. Then an email from her husband’s mistress, Emma, brings the façade of perfection crumbling around her, setting off a chain of events where buried secrets come back to haunt her. A taunting email turns into stalking and escalates into much worse. Ethan and Cass try to move on, then Emma disappears. No longer considered a victim, Cass finds herself the prime suspect and center of the investigation. Her dark secrets—including ones she didn’t know existed—threaten to destroy everything they’ve worked for.

A fast-paced psychological thriller with jaw-dropping twists, the novel examines buried family secrets and how desperation can lead to fatal mistakes when We’re All Lying.

With the Fire on High

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Book cover of With the Fire on High

I didn’t know this book was considered “young adult” until my teenage niece pointed out that she’d been assigned the book in school. Yes, protagonist Emoni is a senior in high school, but she’s an old soul. She has to be, given the challenges she faces as a teen mother and a mixed-race woman. Emoni is strong and inspiring and determined, but her greatest gift is cooking. When Emoni makes a meal, her amazingness gets into the food and brings joy to its eaters. I love magical realism and this reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate, another novel in which she who prepares a meal infuses it with emotion. 

Emoni struggles, but she is surrounded by love and she gives it in return to the grandmother who raised her and the daughter she conceived as a high school freshman. Emoni has dreams of cooking school but she’s also…

With the Fire on High

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked With the Fire on High as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A delicious, evocative story' THE GUARDIAN

From the author of THE POET X comes a sumptuous prose novel, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas' On the Come Up, Justin Reynolds' Opposite of Always and Nicola Yoon

Ever since she got pregnant, seventeen-year-old Emoni's life has been about making the tough decisions - doing what has to be done for her young daughter and her grandmother. Keeping her head down at school, trying not to get caught up with new boy Malachi. The one place she can let everything go is in the kitchen, where she has magical hands - whipping…


Who am I?

My usual answer, when someone asks me where I live in Philadelphia, is: “Have you seen the Rocky movies, where he’s running through that open fruit/vegetable market? I’m three blocks from there.” I’ve called Philadelphia home for more than 20 years. I’m clearly a big fan, having now written four books about the city. I include a reference to the city’s most famous fictional character in my children’s alphabet book Philadelphia A to Z. In More Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell, I got to tell stories about the country’s largest public art program. In This Used To Be Philadelphia, I told the then and now stories of dozens of city locations.


I wrote...

Walking Philadelphia: 30 Walking Tours Exploring Art, Architecture, History, and Little-Known Gems

By Natalie Pompilio, Tricia Pompilio,

Book cover of Walking Philadelphia: 30 Walking Tours Exploring Art, Architecture, History, and Little-Known Gems

What is my book about?

Walking Philadelphia:30 Walking Tours Featuring Art, Architecture, History and Little-Known Gems is my first collaboration with my photographer sister, Tricia. I tried to include stories I would enjoy hearing. You’ll learn how to correctly order a cheesesteak, the many meanings of “jawn,” and some unexpected Philadelphia firsts, including the country’s first kidnapping for ransom.

For my five books, I chose works of fiction set in the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection, as the city’s promotional materials often add.) Two of these books—As Bright as Heaven and Philadelphia Fireare linked to historic city events. Long Bright River, Such a Fun Age, and With the Fire on High touch on real-life social issues including teen pregnancy, substance abuse disorder and racial prejudice. Each story is very different. Each book deserves a read.

Simply Love

By Mary Balogh,

Book cover of Simply Love

This book was my first experience with Mary Balogh and I instantly became a fan. She is now one of my favorite romance authors. This book broke my heart in the best of ways. Sydnam is injured from the war. He is missing an eye and an arm. Still, he managed to easily make me, and Anne, swoon over his artistic soul. Anne is a single mother with a background just as heartbreaking as Sydnam's but I never doubted for a moment they would end up happily ever after. I rooted for them all the way. 

Simply Love

By Mary Balogh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Simply Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anne Jewell is a teacher at Miss Martin's School for Girls, a genteel academy in Regency England. Now she must confront the disturbing tragedy that gave her a beautiful son but locked her heart away for many years ago. While on a summer holiday in Wales, Anne meets Sydnam Butler, a taciturn hero of the Peninsula Wars. Gentle yet courageous, he is unlike any man Anne has ever encountered. But he too carries scars of the past. When Anne returns to Miss Martin's, she makes a surprising discovery and has no choice but to test Sydnam's love. Their passion becomes…


Who am I?

I think it is so important for everyone to be able to see others get their happily ever after. Illness and disability doesn't mean a person can't or shouldn't find love. Everyone should be able to find love. I love seeing characters find their happily ever after even if they aren't physically perfect. 


I wrote...

Wedding the Widow

By Jane B. Night,

Book cover of Wedding the Widow

What is my book about?

Wedding the Widow is a historical romance. Charlotte is widowed, pregnant, and unable to continue her journey westward on a wagon train. Augustus, whose previous girlfriend left him when he became an amputee, agrees to a marriage of convenience however it doesn't take long for both parties to realize there is a real potential for love.

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