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Books v Flowers: Your Guide to Mother’s Day
Text staff showing their Mother's Day picks

What will you get your mum this Mother’s Day? Books, flowers...beer?

This article on the Town Crier, on whether Canadians spend more money on books or beer, introduced me to George Orwell’s 1946 essay about the affordability of books versus cigarettes. He finds that books are a relatively cheap entertainment, but cigarettes are much more widely consumed: ‘at least,’ he declares, ‘let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive’.

I respectfully disagree, Mr Orwell: books are inexpensive, but they can be incredibly exciting. Our staff select some books below that will make your mum laugh, cry and feel good, for less than the price of a bunch of flowers.


One Life

One Life

Kate Grenville

David Winter, Senior Editor

For Mum, the gift has to be Kate Grenville’s One Life: My Mother’s Story. When I finished reading it for the first time, I wrote to Kate and signed off by saying that I was going to call my mum right away. Kate was thrilled: it was just the kind of reaction she hoped for. As I worked on the book, I couldn’t help thinking of how the shifts in my maternal grandmother’s life echoed those of Kate’s mum, Nance Russell. ‘Billie’ Nicholson went from the city to the bush, the opposite of Nance’s journey, but also by way of a job in health care and a marriage with its share of troubles. Her life, too, spanned the twentieth century. Kate’s great achievement in this book is to make Nance’s story individual and yet every woman’s. So, give your mother or grandmother One Life this Mother’s Day, and don’t forget to give them a call as well!

Alaina Gougoulis, Editorial Coordinator

When I was five I gave my mum a book I’d made myself—garbled handwritten lyrics to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ illustrated with love-hearts, rainbows and, inexplicably, killer whales—which she treasured until it was tragically lost in a house fire. Miraculously, nothing else in the house was affected by the fire.

Hello, Beautiful!

Hello, Beautiful!

Hannie Rayson

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to top that book gift, but I’m sure Mum’ll enjoy Hannie Rayson's Hello, Beautiful!: Scenes from a Life and Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble, along with the tackiest, noisiest e-card I can find. 

Jane Novak, Publicity Manager

This year it’s hard to go past Kate Grenville’s beautiful and moving tribute to her own mother, One Life. A story of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary social change, and battling the same problems women face today juggling career and motherhood. An instant classic.

I’ve just read the new novel from Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A fable-like story of an elderly couple setting out on a journey to find their lost son, this new novel has divided critics but for me it’s yet another example of the rich and complex work of one of the world’s greatest writers.

In Certain Circles

In Certain Circles

Elizabeth Harrower

Alice Lewinsky, Publishing Assistant

There’ll be no cookbooks or gardening guides for my mother this year—just some good old-fashioned fiction. This May I’ll be showering her in Elizabeth Harrower goodness; she adored the recently rediscovered In Certain Circles so it’s high time she caught up on Elizabeth’s earlier novels, The Watch Tower, Down in the City, The Catherine Wheel and The Long Prospect. I might try to squeeze in a few books from my own ‘to read’ pile, in the hope that I’ll be able to borrow from the Library of Mum in due course. I never got around to reading Emily St John’s Station Eleven and am keen to dive into Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread. Fingers crossed Mum likes them, too!

Shalini Kunahlan, Marketing Coordinator

I’m getting my beautiful mumma One Life by Kate Grenville. Every aspect of this book is worth savouring: its evocation of life in NSW and Sydney in the twentieth century, the feminist angle and its relevance today, and  most of all the way it gives Nance, Kate’s mother, a voice. 

We sometimes have to remind ourselves that our mums have their own history, full of challenges, compromises and loves.

The Watch Tower

The Watch Tower

Elizabeth Harrower

My mother juggled several things at once, including full-time work, but she was always there—she taught my sister and me how to read, baked us complicated Australian Women’s Weekly cakes every birthday, shuttled us to and from piano lessons (that I unequivocally hated) and had a fiery independent streak—plus, she was always a picture of elegance.

One Life is a hugely moving token of love and respect from daughter to mother. What a rewarding thing it must’ve been for Kate Grenville to write.

Léa Antigny, Publicist

Last Christmas I gave Mum a copy of In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower, and I noticed it finished on her bedside table a few days later. So for Mother’s Day I’m going to wrap up the stunning titles by Elizabeth in our Text Classics series: The Watch Tower, Down in the City, The Catherine Wheel and The Long Prospect. That’s quite a few pages to get through, but if the speed with which she devoured In Certain Circles is anything to go by, they will be a very welcome addition to the reading stack.

The Well

The Well

Catherine Chanter

Kirsty Wilson, Sales & Marketing Director

My mum’s already read and loved the new books by Kate Grenville, Ramona Koval and Hannie Rayson, so along with the Haigh’s Milk Peppermint Creams I might slip her some cli-fi (climate-change fiction) in the form of eerie environmental thriller The Well, by debut British novelist Catherine Chanter. She won’t be able to put it down. And there’s one $12.95 Text Classic I reckon you could recommend to a woman of any age: Madeleine St John’s utterly charming novel about the ladies’ cocktail frocks department of David Jones and the changing Australia of the late 1950s, The Women in Black. It’s one of those rare books that will just make you happy.

Stephanie Speight, Publicist

Mother’s Day is a big book-buying occasion: not quite as big as Father’s Day, but still a busy time for bookshops. I know this because I used to be a bookseller. The bad news is, I worked for my parents. Before they ran bookshops, presents were so. Much. Easier. Their bookshop was recently driven into (total accident, no one was hurt) and is still lacking a window. I already gave Mum an early copy of Sascha Arango’s The Truth and Other Lies when that happened, because books are the best medicine. Especially when it’s a particularly suspenseful, witty, clever and well-written book. But I’m really out of options, books-wise, for Mother’s Day. She has an entire SHOP FULL of her own. So I think my sister (who also works in the industry) and I will probably take her out for a manicure and lunch. Where we’ll talk about books pretty much the whole time because, let’s be honest, we could probably do that underwater.

The Women in Black

The Women in Black

Madeleine St John

Michelle Calligaro, Digital Manager

My mum devoured Kate Grenville’s new book at Easter, so I’m also digging a bit deeper this time. I think she will thoroughly enjoy Brenda Niall’s True North, a wonderfully rich and engaging account of the life of the Durack sisters. And also the new Jane Smiley family saga, Early Warning, which is the second book in the Langdon family trilogy. And maybe some peanut brittle, but definitely not flowers.

Click through to the full list of recommendations here.


Alpha Reader

ANZ LitLovers

Bite the Book

The Conversation

Culture Mulcher

Diva Booknerd

Inside a Dog

Kids’ Book Review


Literary Minded

Meanjin Blog

Reading Tree


Scribe News

Speculating on SpecFic

The Wheeler Centre

Whispering Gums