What Should My Parents Read? You Decide!

7 Oct

Now that I’ve become the official book person of the family, I’m expected to have an answer for every reading query. My mom is going through one of her big book hauls – my parents live way out in the boonies, so she puts in big orders with Amazon or the provincial library system in a planned, deliberate fashion. None of this willy-nilly wandering into the nearest warm bookshop because it’s raining or I have to kill 10 minutes or they have a great window display. I’m pretty sure that in the past, most of mom’s wishlist came from prize longlists (Giller, Governor General), magazine features (Maclean’s, TIME), and the odd breakfast TV show (Canada AM).

But this year, she’s turning the reins over to me. And, well, you. What books should she buy or order from the library this year? (it’s a pretty great system – if they don’t have it, they buy it and send it to her local branch. Then the lady at the local branch phones the house, and if you have any Sears orders to pick up, you can do that, too. Handy!).

I asked my parents to list some books they read and liked recently – a couple of these were already thanks to my booky meddling, but now they want more. So please drop some recommendations – old or new, fiction or non-fiction – down in the comments.


I’m having trouble remembering what my favourite reads have been.  Geez!
Okay, recent reads I’ve enjoyed were Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden and The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews and also Everything is Illuminated by J.S. Foer. Of my all time favourites the first that come to mind are Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance because it had a big impact on me, and Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.   One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read both for the power and scope of the ideas and the beauty of its writing, with one of the most intimidating titles of all time, is called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.


I’ll give you a list of books I read and enjoyed while we were in Italy.

– Sacred Hearts, Sarah Dunant

– Still Alice, Lisa Genova

– Late Nights on Air, Elizabeth Hay

– Legend of a Suicide, David Vann

– The Monster of Florence, Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

– A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

– Strawberry Fields/Two Caravans, Marina Lewycka

11 Responses to “What Should My Parents Read? You Decide!”

  1. Kinga October 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Oh, I love your parents! Well…I know your parents, so I think it’s normal that I’d exclaim that. They are fabulous people.

    Here’s my list. Some books have D next to them, more suitable for your Dad and some have M next to them, more suitable for your Mum.

    The Vinyl Cafe series by D. McLean (but as they’re Canadians, they’ve probably read them all)
    Ditto for M. Atwood
    Any of the Booker, Orange prize winners are good-ish, too.
    A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry (D)
    World Without Us (D)
    anything at all by Maggie O’Farrell (but maybe start with The Vanishing Acts of Esme Lennox)(M)
    The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (M)
    Star of the Sea, Redemption Falls by Joseph O’Connor (D)
    Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor.
    That They May Face The Rising Sun by John McGahern (D) (it should reflect the slow pace of life that their rural location would offer)
    anything by Muriel Spark (M)
    the whole Jackson Brody series by Kate Atkinson (Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News but I’ve not yet read the new one) (D)
    An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges
    The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters (M)

    I could sort of go on and on, but I’ll stop there. I hope this helps and I hope they like some of these.

    • Lija October 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

      Thank you for your very extensive list. Someone on twitter actually recommended Sebastian Barry for mom, so I’ll definitely try to get them to get a hold of one of his.

      Hah – you’re probably right about the Vinyl Cafe!

      I have a feeling I’ll sneakily be using these recommendations for myself, too.

  2. Racquel Valenica October 8, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    I know that my mom loves Carol Shields and Jane Urquhart, but I’m not sure if that’s much of a selling point. I mean, this is a woman who drinks re-heated coffee… like, she heats up cold, hours-old coffee in the microwave and drinks it!

    No offense, Mom. But seriously.

    I’m trying to get everyone on the planet to read 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez because I think it’s one of the greatest books ever written. Wow, that was a bold statement… still, I stand by it.

    Louise Erdrich is another tragically under-read author, so anything by her rules. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill kind of reminded me of a darker Flying Troutmans. Also, Timothy Findley is pretty rad (but I think most people have already read The Wars and Not Wanted On The Voyage) and can we talk about Barney’s Version by Robertson Davies?! Ack.

    OK, this is turning into the Canadian canon, which probably isn’t terribly helpful. Maybe some Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner or The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor to round things off?

  3. Kerry October 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Great idea. I will only list two titles for each and these the ones that seem to me to fit at the moment.

    For your Dad:
    The Fall by Albert Camus
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    For your Mom:

    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
    Love and Summer by William Trevor

    Thanks for the opportunity to recommend! We bibliophiles always enjoy making reading suggestions.

    • Lija October 10, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

      Thanks for the solid advice, Raquel and Kerry. My parents’ winter reading is about to get good!

      I bet some day I’ll drink re-heated coffee. It already sounds appealingly thrifty, rather than just gross.

  4. Bill (aka Dad) October 12, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    Thanks Lija and commenters. We will be sure to check out your suggestions. Hi Kinga. Looking forward to a lot of great reading ahead.

  5. letssetsail October 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    If you’re dad liked Everything is Illuminated, he might like to try “A Long Long Time Ago, and Essentially True”- Brigid Pasulka.

    And my favourite Marina Lewycka is “A short history of tractors…”, if your mum has enjoyed her others.

    Love recommending books but should really be concentrating on work…

    • Lija November 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

      I think my parents have read A Short History of Tractors, but I’ll try to get them on to her new one as well. Haven’t heard of Pasulka, so thanks for the heads up!

  6. anothercookiecrumbles October 26, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    Oh, reading list for the parents… I asked my mum to read Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and she hasn’t trusted my taste since!! I don’t think I’m qualified to make reading suggestions for parents :(

    • Lija November 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

      Hah! I have that sitting on my shelf right now. I was all set to read it, but the movie creeped me out so much that I need a break from the idea.


  1. My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: October 15, 2010 « Hungry Like the Woolf - October 15, 2010

    […] My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: October 15, 2010 The Writer’s Pet is looking for book ideas for her parents. […]

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