The Greatest "Contemporary, Mothers & Children" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Contemporary

Contemporary books are a genre that focuses on stories set in the present day, often exploring current social, cultural, and political issues. These books are typically written in a modern style and often feature relatable characters dealing with real-life situations. Contemporary books can cover a wide range of topics, from romance and family drama to coming-of-age stories and thrillers. The genre is constantly evolving to reflect the changing world we live in, making it a popular choice for readers who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and issues.

Mothers & Children

The "Mothers & Children" category in literature encompasses a diverse range of books that delve into the intricate and profound relationship between mothers and their offspring. This genre explores the joys, challenges, and complexities of motherhood, as well as the developmental journey of children under the nurturing influence of maternal figures. From heartwarming tales of unconditional love, sacrifice, and bonding to more nuanced narratives that address issues such as identity, independence, and the impact of maternal relationships on personal growth, this category offers readers a deep emotional connection and insights into family dynamics. It includes memoirs, parenting guides, fiction, and psychological studies, providing a multifaceted look at the various stages and facets of the mother-child bond, making it a rich resource for anyone interested in the emotional tapestry of family life.

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  1. 1. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

    The novel explores the life of two sisters, Ruth and Lucille, who are raised by a series of relatives in a small, secluded town in Idaho after their mother's suicide. The girls' lives are profoundly affected by the eccentric and transient lifestyle of their aunt Sylvie, who becomes their guardian. The narrative delves deeply into themes of family, identity, womanhood, and the impermanence of life, ultimately leading to a divide between the sisters as they choose different paths in life.

    The 273rd Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The World According to Garp by John Irving

    The novel follows the life of T.S. Garp, the illegitimate son of a feminist mother, who becomes a writer. Garp's life is filled with unusual experiences and characters, from his unconventional conception to his untimely death. He navigates through a world filled with sexual violence, infidelity, and gender issues, and his life story is punctuated by his own literary creations. His mother's feminist ideals and the tragic events of his life deeply influence his writing and worldview.

    The 301st Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

    The book is a tale of two childhood friends, one of whom believes he is God's instrument. The story is set in a New England town during the 1950s and 1960s and follows the lives of the two boys, one small and with a strange voice, who has visions of his own death and believes he is an instrument of God, and the other, the narrator, who struggles with faith. The novel explores themes of faith, fate, and the power of friendship against a backdrop of historical and political events, including the Vietnam War.

    The 462nd Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

    "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" is a novel about the life of the Tull family, which is marked by abandonment and discord, but also love and resilience. The story is told from the perspective of each family member, providing a unique viewpoint on the family's dynamics and history. The matriarch, Pearl, struggles to raise her three children, Cody, Ezra, and Jenny, after their father abandons them. Each child deals with the abandonment and their dysfunctional family in different ways, shaping their adult lives. The novel explores themes of family, love, abandonment, and the idea of home.

    The 1029th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

    The novel centers around the coming-of-age story of the protagonist, Annie John, in Antigua. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, she grapples with her complex relationship with her mother, her self-identity, and the colonial influence of the British on her island home. As she matures, her once close bond with her mother becomes strained, and she struggles with feelings of separation and independence. The narrative explores themes of colonialism, gender, and the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.

    The 1037th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Oranges are not the only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

    This novel follows the coming-of-age story of a young girl adopted by a religious fanatic, who believes her daughter is destined to become a missionary. As the protagonist grows up, she begins to question her mother's strict religious beliefs and discovers her own sexuality. The book explores themes of identity, love, and religion, as the protagonist grapples with her place in the world and her evolving understanding of herself.

    The 1067th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

    The novel tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, a second-generation Indian-American, who struggles with his unique name and his dual cultural identity. Born to immigrant parents from Kolkata, India, Gogol is named after the famous Russian author, Nikolai Gogol, a decision that shapes his life in unexpected ways. As he grows up, he finds himself torn between his parents' traditional Indian values and his desire to fit into mainstream American society. This internal conflict is further complicated by his relationships with women of different cultural backgrounds. The book explores themes of identity, cultural assimilation, and the immigrant experience.

    The 1104th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

    The story revolves around a woman who returns to her southern hometown to care for her ailing father. After his death, she is confronted by the harsh realities of her past and the complexities of her present. She navigates through the difficult dynamics of her family, her father's young second wife, and the superficial social circle of her community, all while grappling with her own grief. The novel explores themes of memory, loss, and the often complicated relationships within families.

    The 1123rd Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

    "The Last Samurai" is a unique, intellectual novel that follows the life of a young boy named Ludo, who is raised by his single mother, Sibylla. Sibylla, a freelance transcriber, educates Ludo in various subjects from Greek to mathematics, using the film "The Seven Samurai" as a moral compass. As Ludo grows older, he embarks on a quest to find his father, using clues from his mother's past. His journey leads him to several men who could potentially be his father, each encounter teaching him more about the world and himself.

    The 1877th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro

    "Who Do You Think You Are?" is a collection of short stories that follow the life of a woman named Rose from her childhood in rural Ontario through her adulthood as she navigates the complexities of relationships, personal identity, and social class. The stories explore themes of self-discovery, the nature of memory, and the impact of personal history on one's present. The narrative is a deep exploration of the human condition, revealing the intricacies of the protagonist's experiences, emotions, and perceptions.

    The 2047th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn

    The novel follows the life of Patrick Melrose, a man battling with his drug addiction and his troubled relationship with his parents. Patrick tries to come to terms with his mother’s decision to leave her estate to a New Age foundation rather than to him, her only son. The story delves into the complexities of inheritance, parenthood, and the lasting impact of childhood trauma. The narrative shifts between the perspectives of Patrick, his wife, and their two young sons, providing a multi-dimensional view of the family's struggles.

    The 2766th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

    The novel is a vibrant portrayal of the lives of twelve different characters, primarily black British women, spanning over a century. Each character has their own unique story, tackling issues such as feminism, politics, sexuality, and identity. The narrative is a blend of poetry and prose, exploring the interconnected lives of these women and their personal struggles and triumphs. It is a powerful exploration of race, gender, and the changing face of Britain.

    The 2946th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

    A young woman travels to Morocco with her two daughters in search of a more fulfilling and adventurous life. The novel explores the experiences of the two young girls as they navigate this new and unfamiliar culture, their mother's search for spiritual enlightenment, and their struggles with poverty. The narrative is a poignant exploration of childhood innocence, the complexities of motherhood, and the clash of cultures.

    The 3082nd Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

    "The Children's Bach" is a captivating novel that explores the complexities of family dynamics and the pursuit of happiness. Set in Melbourne, the story follows a group of interconnected characters as they navigate their relationships, dreams, and disappointments. Through beautiful prose and keen observations, the author delves into themes of love, loss, and the search for meaning in everyday life, creating a poignant and thought-provoking narrative.

    The 3133rd Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

    The book revolves around the Richardson family and the mysterious mother-daughter duo who move into their rental home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. The lives of the seemingly perfect suburban Richardson family become intertwined with the lives of Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist, and her daughter Pearl. As the children of both families form relationships, secrets are uncovered, leading to a dramatic climax. The novel explores themes of motherhood, identity, and the moral complexities of following rules versus following one's instincts.

    The 3671st Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima

    "Territory of Light" follows the story of a young woman navigating life in Tokyo after separating from her husband. Over the course of a year, she grapples with the challenges of single motherhood, her evolving identity, and the quest for independence, all while living in an apartment bathed in disconcertingly bright light. The novel poignantly captures her emotional landscape as she experiences moments of joy, the trials of raising a child alone, and the struggle to find peace and a sense of home in her new reality.

    The 3880th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

    "Flight Behavior" is a thought-provoking novel that explores the effects of climate change on a small town in Appalachia. The story centers around a young woman who stumbles upon a forest filled with a massive population of monarch butterflies, which have migrated there due to changing weather patterns. This unusual event brings a flurry of scientists, reporters, and religious leaders to the town, causing upheaval in the community and forcing the protagonist to reevaluate her understanding of the world.

    The 3935th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

    "Demon Copperhead" is a short story by Barbara Kingsolver about a young woman named Codi who returns to her small hometown in Arizona to care for her father, who is dying of Alzheimer's disease. As she reconnects with her past and the people in her community, Codi discovers a dark secret about her family's history and must come to terms with the truth. The story explores themes of family, identity, and the impact of the past on the present.

    The 3952nd Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

    "Dept. of Speculation" follows the story of a woman navigating her life as a writer, a wife, and a mother. The novel explores her journey through marriage, motherhood, and the struggles of maintaining her own identity amidst these roles. It also delves into the hardships of dealing with infidelity and the complexities of love and relationships. The narrative is presented in fragmented pieces, reflecting the protagonist's scattered thoughts and emotions.

    The 4081st Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

    "The Neapolitan Novels" is a four-part series that explores the intricate and lifelong friendship between two women from Naples, Italy. The series spans several decades, beginning in the 1950s, and provides a detailed examination of the women's lives, struggles, and the societal pressures they face. The narrative delves into themes of identity, friendship, love, violence, and socio-political changes in post-war Italy. The series is known for its rich character development and vivid portrayal of female friendship.

    The 4112th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

    This novel tells the story of a Bangladeshi woman named Nazneen who moves to London at the age of 18 for an arranged marriage to a man 20 years her senior. The narrative explores her life in the city, her struggles with her unhappy marriage, her affair with a young radical, and her attempts to reconcile her traditional upbringing with her new surroundings. The book also explores the lives of immigrants in the UK, the clash of cultures, and the struggle for identity.

    The 4185th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante

    This novel follows a woman who returns to Naples after her mother's mysterious death, determined to understand the enigmatic life her mother led. As she delves into her mother's past, she uncovers a web of secrets and discovers more about her own identity in the process. The narrative explores themes of mother-daughter relationships, identity, and the power of the past.

    The 5224th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Child Of Fortune by Yuko Tsushima

    The novel follows the journey of a single mother in her thirties navigating the complexities of independence and motherhood in modern-day Japan. Struggling against societal expectations and financial hardships, she embarks on a transformative quest for self-discovery and empowerment. As she grapples with her past and uncertain future, the protagonist's experiences illuminate the universal challenges of identity, resilience, and the search for happiness amidst life's trials. Her story is a poignant exploration of the human spirit's capacity to endure and the profound impact of personal freedom on one's destiny.

    The 5955th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

    Set in the Midwest shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the book follows a young woman named Tassie Keltjin as she navigates her way through college life and a new job as a nanny for a sophisticated and mysterious couple who have adopted a mixed-race child. The story delves into themes of love, loss, and the complexities of racial identity, as Tassie becomes more entangled in the family's life and secrets, ultimately experiencing a tragic loss that changes her perspective on life.

    The 6049th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. White Oleander by Fitch, Janet

    The novel follows the tumultuous life of Astrid Magnussen, a young girl who is placed in a series of foster homes after her mother, Ingrid, is imprisoned for murder. As Astrid navigates the challenges of her ever-changing environments, she grapples with issues of identity, resilience, and survival. Each foster home presents its own set of trials and lessons, shaping Astrid's journey toward self-discovery and independence. The story delves deeply into themes of maternal influence, abandonment, and the quest for personal strength amidst adversity.

    The 6100th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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