Start a mother-daughter book club with these reads about relationships, travel, and coming of age.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated April 21, 2020

Some people celebrate their mom with pricey Mother’s Day gift ideas or elaborate Mother’s Day activities; others try to keep their mother involved in their day-to-day lives, and still make an extra effort to connect with their mom—through a mother-daughter book, perhaps. We’ll be honest: Staying close to mom, even emotionally, isn’t always easy as we get older, so we’re always looking for ways to stay in touch and keep plenty in common.

One of the best ways to have plenty in common is reading books together. You can read any type of book with your mom, but reading the best books for moms and daughters is a great way to dive deeper into your relationship and spark heartfelt, emotional conversations about your connection and lives.

Looking for the right mother-daughter book? Try one of these picks. Emotional, gripping, and thought-provoking, they’re sure to give you and your mom (or you and your daughter) plenty to talk about, particularly if conversations have been strained lately. Once you start reading together, you’ll never want to stop, even if you run out of books about mother-daughter relationships. (If that happens, you can always broaden your reading list to include the best books to read right now.)

Penguin Random House

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

Deeply psychological, gripping, and hugely popular—the novel was a New York Times bestseller and has a new miniseries adaption on Hulu starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington—Little Fires Everywhere explores what happens when a rule-following, perfectionist mother and community leader collides with a secretive artist who has just rolled into town with her teenage daughter. Teeming with mystery, family and community drama, and the trials and successes of motherhood, this book will give any mother-daughter duo plenty to talk about.

To buy: $16;


The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan

Amy Tan is a master at writing about loving, frustrating relationships between mothers and their daughters (see her bestselling The Joy Luck Club). This book spans nearly half a century and two continents, and focuses on Violet, the daughter of Lulu, an American courtesan in Shanghai. Violet’s life is lonely but stable. She spends her days spying on courtesans and playing with her cat. When the Qing Dynasty falls in 1912, though, mother and daughter are separated: Lulu goes back to San Francisco, and Violet is sold to a rival courtesan house, setting in motion a 40-year journey of loss, love, and self-discovery.

To buy: From $16;

Simon & Schuster

French Milk, by Lucy Knisley

In this memoir, both Lucy and her mother are approaching major birthdays…so why not face them in Paris? As Lucy enters adulthood and her mother enters her 50s, each finds small joys on a month-long stay in the city’s Latin Quarter. Traveling with your mother is no small feat, and French Milk is a lighthearted, adorably illustrated travelogue, perfect for foodies, mothers, francophiles, and anyone else who would like to vicariously live in Paris for a month.

To buy: From $16;

Penguin Random House

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s no exaggeration to call Americanah a new classic. Adichie’s love story centers around the self-assured Ifemelu and the thoughtful Obinze, two high school sweethearts who find themselves continents apart. It’s a perfectly modern comedy of manners, skewering the cultural elites of America and Nigeria alike, and a sprawling coming-of-age story for a globalized world. Readers of any generation will be able to identify with Ifemelu’s dating pitfalls, her political awakening, and her ongoing search for a sense of self while caught between two different worlds.

To buy: From $15;

Penguin Random House

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

The eight stories that make up Jhumpa Lahiri’s stunning Unaccustomed Earth whisk readers from Cambridge to India to Seattle to Thailand. In each tale, characters grapple with shifting ground in their thorniest relationships: a father who’s been hiding his affair from his adult daughter, a sister trying to give her brother the perfect childhood she never had, a girl and boy who find each other in Rome, as if by fate. Each tale is beautifully poignant and masterfully crafted.

To buy: From $16;

Harper Perennial Modern Classics

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Francie Nolan is a shy, bookish girl coming into her own at the start of the 20th Century. She is growing up strong and capable despite living in poverty in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, much like the spindly trees that grow up from the concrete. This book will easily make you and your mom laugh, cry, reminisce, and stop to notice all the most important things in life (like sidewalk trees and reading a good book on a fire escape).

To buy: From $16;

Penguin Books

Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife is a firsthand account of life as a midwife’s apprentice in the slums of post-war London. Jenny finds herself overwhelmed by the harsh realities of living in the East End, but she slowly learns to let go of her prejudices and connect with her fellow women. She’s completely candid about the beauty and the occasional horror of learning to deliver babies in the 1950s, making for a tense, ultimately life-affirming story of birth and rebirth that mothers and daughters will both appreciate.

To buy: From $15;


Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler

Every mom is different. Some moms might prefer heart-wrenching period pieces, while other moms are only interested in tell-all memoirs. All moms, however, can agree that Amy Poehler is a hilarious genius. Yes, Please is one of those rare books that will make both you and your mother snort out loud with laughter. Poehler reminisces on her childhood, her early days of trying to make it in comedy, her years on SNL and Parks and Recreation, and her experience becoming a mother herself. This is the book to read when both you and your mom need a major pick-me-up.

To buy: From $16;

Penguin Random House

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas spans so many different times and places in one long, interconnected story, it’s guaranteed to have something for both you and your mom. Sure, your mom might be drawn to the 19th century European romance chapters, and you might prefer the plot about clones working at a dystopian McDonald’s in South Korea sometime in the future, but both of you will come away with a lot to talk about. Mitchell’s mind-bending epic boomerangs from a perilous sea journey in the near past to an isolated island in the distant future, following friends, lovers, and enemies who seem to crop up in different forms all across time and space.

To buy: From $16;