10 Books On Motherhood To Read
We asked Amy Pearson from Mother / Other to curate a list of Motherhood books specially for our audience. Her musings and book reviews are delightful and infectious and we're sure her selection will bring, in Amy's words, "something for you to connect with as a Mother".
As both a Mother & an avid reader, I found it difficult to wrap up my favourite books with themes of Motherhood – so I decided to focus on non-fiction. You may notice that this list leans heavily towards the deep existentialism that Motherhood can bring for some, but not all women. I think that’s because I’ve felt so much validation from these authors bearing their souls, and less alone in my own identity crisis that my Motherhood experience brought with it. I’ve also added a few in the mix that made me laugh out loud because boy do we need it! Whichever mood you prefer, this list is bound to bring something for you to connect with as a Mother.
Ten Books on Motherhood - Essential Reading Curated by Amy Pearson
1. Motherhood & Creativity (FKA The Divided Heart: Art & Motherhood) by Rachel Power
This is the book that originally sparked my idea for the podcast Mother/other. I stumbled upon a copy of this book (with the original title ‘The Divided Heart’) in a second hand bookshop one day and immediately felt a connection to the conundrum Power was exploring. Australian writer, Rachel Power, interviews a variety of creative Australian mothers from actor Claudia Karvan to musician Clare Bowditch, and with each interview comes a unique yet validating perspective on the divide between our creative identities and an innate pull towards our children. This is the quandary that will forever interest me, and the driving concept of Mother/other. I couldn’t recommend this book more highly!
2. A Life’s Work: On Becoming A Mother by Rachel Cusk
Rachel Cusk is by far one of my all-time favourite writers, and this book is absolutely one of the best memoirs on motherhood I’ve ever read. In this phenomenal account of vulnerability, Cusk unsurprisingly tackles her own identity crisis, and the extreme life strains that come with Motherhood. It reads like a thriller (believe me!), and it will shake you to your core. Cusk is a brilliant thinker and writer, I was left hanging on every word.
3. Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann
Another Australian book, this time told through essays and written by a Mother going through the throes of PND. Friedmann expresses her struggles in such a raw and vulnerable way, yet there are so many moments of beauty throughout this dark and unsettling read. I discovered this one prior to having kids of my own, and yet the dark themes of Motherhood evoked such a sense of understanding within me – many scenes will be embedded in my memory forever. With such stunning and illuminating writing, I was instantly yearning for Friedman's next book (I’m still patiently waiting). I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favourite essays in the book.
'I look at Mike's sleeping body when I wake, and marvel at the ongoingness of his presence in our bed, this solid, freckled pillar of strong bone and love. For the moment, in the richness of a morning, it is vividly, intensely enough.' - Rings
4. After the Storm: Postnatal Depression and the Utter Weirdness of New Motherhood by Emma Jane Unsworth
Isn’t the title alone just something?! My favourite most recent account of Motherhood, by an upcoming guest of the podcast. Unsworth has a lot of important things to say about PND and the effects of birth, postpartum & motherhood. She not only discusses her own experience and her inability to acknowledge that there was something wrong at the time but also discusses this topic with professionals to give a much broader picture about how many women this affects and why. I laughed, I cried and I recommend it to all mothers presently and forthcoming.
5. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
A non-fiction retelling of O’Farrell’s seventeen brushes with death. Each story is a snippet into the life of a woman who has lived through an array of life-altering experiences. O’Farrell’s beautifully descriptive language places you right there with her as if you’re reliving it all through her eyes. Some experiences are rather gruesome, terrifying also, but they each portray thought-provoking truths about human existence and the fragility of life.
This one is also a masterpiece of an audiobook, so I recommend it on audio to anyone who thinks they don’t have the time to pick up a hard copy. You can put it on while you’re doing the endless piles of laundry or preparing many meals and snacks. Let me just say that this is an emotionally intense collection, and each story lingers long after its conclusion.
*Trigger warning in here for child loss/miscarriage as this could be quite a painful read for some.
6. Sad Mum Lady – Ashe Davenport
Another wonderful Australian Mother who tells it like it is. Ashe is such a brilliant writer, these essays had me flip-flopping between tearing up to laughing out loud with hilarity – which is exactly what you want from something that hits so close to home. Ashe writes of her own experience with PND, and her struggles to make friends with other Mums during the first few years of Motherhood (which I can strongly relate to). I was lucky enough to interview Ashe for the podcast after the release of Sad Mum Lady, and I enjoyed talking with her about the depths that Motherhood can take us and how she turned that experience into such an admirable collection of essays. Everyone needs to read this, even those who aren’t Mothers!
*Trigger warning with this one for suicidal thoughts.
7. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
I will start this off by saying that if you aren’t open to honest and unambiguous discussions of sex, bodily excretions, gender, anxieties, fears and death… then this book isn’t for you. I somehow managed to pick it up at the most pivotal time of my life, whilst pregnant with my first child. Nelson tackles a really unique topic – a philosophical exploration of sex and gender during motherhood – in a way that I’ve never seen done before. The Argonauts is so mind-altering, I found myself in spirals of thought that I had never been down before, and I was left hanging on her every word.
The pregnant body has been saturated by society’s patriarchal image, which is so difficult to erase, but Nelson truly unpacks what it means to have a birthing body and her thoughts are quite ground-breaking. This is one of the few books that I’m certain I’ll read multiple times, as there is no end to the curiosity that Nelson brings to the human body and her experience of Motherhood.
8. Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science & Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes
This is the most inclusive, enjoyable, and empowering book on pregnancy that I’ve found during my journey of Motherhood (and I’ve read a LOT of books on pregnancy). Brimming with everything from cultural and personal experiences to science, whilst written through a Feminist lens. I both laughed to tears and cried while reading this one, and I’m sure you will too. This should be on every pregnant person’s to-be-read pile!
9. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell
Here is a book that is immensely relatable as a Modern Woman. It’s heartbreaking, funny, honest, endearing, and absolutely necessary – all millennials who want to have, or do have children should read this at some point. It’s probably not the best book to read when you’re expecting, though, as it has rather graphic descriptive scenes of birth which isn’t ideal for your frame of mind while pregnant. Another brilliant audiobook, so if you don’t have much time on your hands (literally and physically) try the audio version!
*Trigger warning for a traumatic birth scene.
10. Family, Food & Feelings – Kate Berry
Last but not least, I’ve included this wonderfully colourful and life-affirming cookbook by Kate Berry. Spanning a year of life told through recipes, photography, and musings on Motherhood, this book is broken up into school terms. Family Food & Feelings is about exactly what the title suggests, and it’s done so well. I read this from cover to cover when it arrived on my doorstep and it brought me so much joy and excitement for the future with my children: dreaming of the many road trips we’ll take, lunch boxes I’ll prepare, cooking together in the kitchen, making their birthday cakes, etc. Kate has written about her experience of Mothering with such vulnerability, and these sentiments are littered throughout the book, bringing with them a deep sense of connection to the reader. This is so different from a regular cookbook in that there is nothing to hide behind, Kate shows her experience of Motherhood through a true lens: there’s mess, there’s boredom, and there’s chaos – but there’s also so much love and beauty.
Amy is the founder, producer and host of Mother / other. She is also a web-designer, photographer, home-cook, bibliophile, and sometimes writer. You can find her musings, and relevant book reviews on the journal, or you can see more of her work at sunmotherstudio.com.