Mother's Day Gifts for Book Loving Moms

Mother’s day is quickly approaching, and I’m here to help. Don’t let this be another year of last minute gift-shopping and flower ordering. Take a look at the list of creative, book-related gifts that I’ve put together. 

Individual Books: 

A great book is always a good gift. It’s a nice way for your mom to sit back and relax and immerse herself in a story. Here are a couple of current, interesting suggestions: 

1.       The Honey Farm by Harriet Alida Lye. You can check out my review of this psychological thriller and drama here. It’s the kind of story that you really lose yourself in, and it’s a perfect spring read. It’s beautiful, strange, and unique.

2.       Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman. If your mom enjoyed Big Little Lies as much as mine did, than this is the perfect gift for her. It’s upbeat, it’s genuinely funny, and it’s just dramatic enough to be very entertaining. Check out my review here.

3.       It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario. This book is all about love, dedication, motherhood, and the hard choices working women have to make. It is inspiring and powerful and will make you feel strong. I’ve already recommending it to my mom. Read my review here.

4.       One Day Closer by Lorinda Stewart. Full disclosure, I haven’t read this book yet. It’s on my list for this month, and it’s sitting patiently on my desk waiting for me to finish everything else in the queue. BUT this book is about a mother who goes through something no mother should ever have to experience: her child is kidnapped. It’s about belief, love, and an incredible woman who would stop at nothing to have her child returned safely. 

5.        Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This book is absolutely beautiful. It is a sweeping, epic family drama set over the course of decades in Korea and Japan. It is about family, motherhood, and the choices parents have to make to protect their children. See my review here.

Book Subscription Boxes: 

We've all seen pictures of Instagram models opening their fitness and beauty subscription boxes, showing off the face masks and dietary supplements that come inside. They even have subscription boxes for dog-owners that come stocked with toys and treats. It only makes sense that several smart entrepreneurs have created book subscription boxes. 

How it works: You choose how long you want to subscribe for, pay the monthly fee, and each month you get a newly released book and other goodies in the mail. You can sign up for gift subscriptions and have them sent to family and friends as well, making it a great Mother’s Day gift! 

Accoridng to my research, some of the most popular Canadian book subscription boxes are: 

-          The Bookish Box - You can choose from several different varieties of boxes. Some boxes come stocked with book-inspired gifts like mugs, tote bags, and t-shirts, as well as a book. Most prices are between $30-40 for one month. 

-          Fresh Fiction - This book subscription box gives you a lot of bang for your buck. They currently have a one time box deal that's $27.95 for a beautiful box filled with 5 to 7 print books and e-books. It's a great gift! 

And, because my parents are in the U.S., I’ll add that my recommendation for American subscription boxes would be Book of the Month. BoTM currently only ships within the United States (although I've been checking the site regularly to see if they're going to start shipping internationally any time soon). For a three-month gift subscription you pay $44.99 and your mom will get a list of books available for the month and gets to choose which she wants. The books are brand new to market, and the packaging of the boxes is beautiful. 

Audiobooks: 

My final gift suggestion is an Audible gift subscription. Audiobooks are great for busy moms. They’re portable, accessible, and entertaining. If your mom spend a lot of time traveling or commuting, or just wants something new to listen to when she exercises, this could be the perfect thing for her.

How to read more

Reading has always been my favourite hobby. It’s entertaining, it’s portable, and, when you’re reading a really good book, you can escape your life for a little while and become absorbed in something completely different. As technology has changed and e-books have become popular, it has become even easier to read constantly.

When I was eighteen and went away to university for the first time, I almost completely stopped reading for pleasure. Most of the reading I did was for school, and I was distracted by Netflix and my social life. For the next three years I struggled to get back into my old hobby. Every time I started a book I found myself not really focusing on the story or forgetting about it altogether. Holiday breaks were the only time I really felt like I had a chance to read.

It wasn’t until a semester spent abroad in my third year of university that I realized time wasn’t actually the problem. Even at my busiest I had short amounts of time that I just wasn’t using wisely. I was lucky enough to travel around Europe during that semester, and I realized that if I took all of my spare moments – the ones sitting in bus stations or waiting for a plane – reading, I could actually accomplish a lot. That was the year that I finally got back into reading.

Since then I have been making note of things I can do to improve my reading goals. Even this semester while I am busy with school and my job I'll be able to read often, and here are the tricks that make it possible: 

1.     Always have a book (or an e-book) with you. You never know when a few moments could arise that you could spend reading. I always take books to appointments and on transportation, and I always pack one in my backpack for school. Even five minutes of free time can be useful.

2.     Read things that you care about. I used to try to force myself to finish reading every book I started, even if I didn’t feel absorbed in it by the time I was a few chapters in. This slowed me down because I would struggle to finish a book that I couldn’t really care about and wouldn’t start something new, and I would go for a few weeks without reading. Now I make more of an effort to seek out books on subjects that I am interested in to lower the chances that I wouldn’t enjoy the book. I have also stopped forcing myself to try to finish things that I really, really don’t enjoy. I would rather focus on what I do enjoy.

3.     Try to take advantage of books you are reading for school or work. This one REALLY helped me. I always resented having to read for school. It annoyed me that I couldn’t choose what I was reading. Once I finally accepted it as a chance to read and learn about something new, I found that I actually enjoyed a lot of the books I was assigned for classes.

4.     Find a reading space. I currently have a chair in the corner of my bedroom surrounded by candles, my favourite photos, and a pretty wall hanging. This is a place that I 100% dedicate to reading. When I sit in my chair I don’t let myself watch television or scroll through my phone, I just read.

5.     Make it fun. Read a book at the same time as a friend so you can talk about it together. Read a book that you’ve heard is being turned into a movie or a series so that when it comes out you can be even more excited for it. Reading doesn’t have to be academic or scholarly, it can be genuinely entertaining.

6.     Set a goal. This one really helped me. When I started using Goodreads and tracking what I was reading and working towards a goal every year, I found that I was much more committed to it.

7.     Make it a habit. I had always seen people suggesting this as a way to become more physically active. The idea is that if you dedicate part of your day every single day to something, it will become normal for you. I read every night before I go to sleep (unless I am pulling an all-nighter writing a paper or having a night out with friends). It’s a good way to wind down the day and now it’s a routine. 

2017: My Year in Books

There may only be one thing that everyone agrees on about 2017: it was a crazy year. Nothing was untouched by the whirlwind of the past twelve months. Politics, conflict, and natural disasters stole many of the headlines in the past twelve months, and it doesn’t seem like any of it is going to let up as 2018 begins.

This year was also pretty intense for me personally. I finished my undergraduate degree in history and political science and moved to Jasper, Alberta for the summer. I found out I had been accepted to a Master’s program in journalism part way through the summer, and in August I packed up my things and headed out to Canada’s east coast to start school in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Working full time or attending school full time can mean giving up hobbies and activities that you enjoy. The past year I have struggled to keep up with my reading goals. I initially planned to try to read 50 books in 2017, but decided I would settle for 30 when I realized how busy work and school were going to keep me. I will also admit that television shows like Shameless, Game of Thrones, and Big Little Lies really cut into my reading time this past year.

I finished 2017 having read 33 books (a list of which can be found here https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/7902089), a number I am pretty happy with considering everything that was going on. I read some incredible books in the past 12 months, and I am happy that I focused on reading non-fiction – something that I have gotten more into in the past couple of years. I read about religion, war, crime, and a wide range of other topics, and I found that each book actually contributed to what I was learning about in school.

So, as 2018 begins and I start my new reading challenge here are some of the highlights of 2017 in terms of books! Keep in mind that these are not books that were published in 2017, but rather books that I read in 2017.

 

My 2017 Favourites:

 

Non-Fiction: Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden.

I am pretty late to the party on this one, and I’m sure plenty of people have already heard all about this book, or seen the movie that was made from it. Black Hawk Down is the story of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu when the U.S. military intervened in Somalia. The book has all of the potential to be overwhelming – there are so many characters and so much history and politics involved that at first it seems like the story may lose you. But Bowden is a master at his craft. He gives each person involved such vivid description that they are easy to keep clear and distinct in your mind. Bowden also beautifully and eloquently pierces through the fog of war and gives a clear, linear description of the battle. My personal favourite thing about Black Hawk Down was the true journalistic commitment to impartiality. Bowden explains why the U.S. was in Somalia and the motivations of the soldiers fighting there, but he also dives into the complex history that created the conditions present in 1993. Black Hawk Down doesn’t read like American propaganda, it reads like a combination of military history and horror. I was devastated when I finished this book because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find anything to follow it with.

 

Fiction: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.

Emma Donoghue is one of my favourite authors. Her previous books Room and Frog Music are some of my favourites. Room, which was adapted into a film starring Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson, managed to turn some very disturbing subject matter into a beautiful story about love and family and recovery. What I really admire about Emma Donoghue is that she doesn’t shy away from tough subjects. The Wonder follows the same tradition as Donoghue’s other books. It is the story of an English nurse who travels to a small village in Ireland to meet a young girl who claims to be performing a miracle: surviving for months without eating. The novel incorporates the incredible history of Florence Nightingale and her pioneering efforts to train nurses, and also studies the impact of religion and faith on a small community. There is a real sense of mystery to the book – you want to keep reading to find out what is going to happen – but the real draw for me was the relationship between the nurse and her patient and how determined the nurse, Lib Wright, was to be great to her job.

 

Hardest read: Shake Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaire.

In many of my political science courses in university we talked about the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. It was a subject that I admittedly didn’t know much about. I started to do a bit of research and realized how tragic and horrify the whole ordeal was. Canadian military General Romeo Dallaire was in Kigali throughout the genocide, and his experience has stayed with him ever since. Shake Hands With The Devil is Dallaire’s personal account of the genocide and the regrets he lives with now. This book wasn’t easy to read. I had to renew my loan from the library a few times to finish it. It was heartbreaking and detailed and complicated in a way that not many other books I’ve read are. As a lover of military history and international relations, this book is very important to me, and it has made me open my eyes to the realities of military intervention and human rights.  

 

Most enjoyable read: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth Killing is a suspenseful, exciting novel. It is about two people who meet, seemingly by chance, and decide to help each other get away with murder. This is the perfect book for anyone who, like me, is waiting for Gillian Flynn to release a new novel. Peter Swanson created the kinds of characters that hopeful writers like myself hope to be able to create one day. They are complex and multi-dimension, at one moment terrifying and at another relatable. This book was fun to read. I couldn’t put it down.

 

Here are 10 other books that I read in 2017 that I would recommend:  

1.     Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer.

If you like: true crime, law, women’s rights, politics.

The hook: Jon Krakauer explores the issue of campus rape culture and how hard it is for women to seek justice after an assault.

2.     Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

If you like: American history, war/military studies, adventure, sports.

The hook: An NFL player turns down a multi-million-dollar deal to enlist in the American military and fight in the War on Terror. After he dies the American government goes to great lengths to hide the circumstances of his death.

3.     The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

If you like: science, medicine, nature.

The hook: An exciting and horrifying true story about a devastating virus that wreaks havoc on the human body and how it almost caused a tragedy in Reston, Virginia.

4.     The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

If you like: science, medicine, nature.

The hook: The true story of the incredible scientists and doctors who eradicated one of the deadliest diseases in human history: smallpox.

5.     13 Hours in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff

If you like: war/military studies, American history, adventure, action.

The hook: A recounting of the 2012 attack on an American CIA compound and diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. The story is told from the perspective of the security contractors who defended the compound and outpost over a thirteen-hour period against hundreds of attackers.

6.     Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

If you like: sports, politics, religion, family stories.

The hook: A high school football team in Odessa, Texas spends a season training and working to become state champions. Bissinger explores the racial, political, and economic circumstances in Odessa and how they relate to football.

7.     The Lion, The Fox, and the Eagle by Carol Off

If you like: politics, war/military studies, journalism.

The hook: The stories of three powerful Canadians and the roles they played in the Rwandan genocide, as well as the conflicts in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

8.     Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

If you like: thrillers, family stories, crime, mystery.

The hook: Two people have died in a river that runs through town. One is a teenager girl, another a single mother. The sister of the latest victim arrives in town to deal with the aftermath and becomes involved in solving the mystery of her sisters’ death.

9.     Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

If you like: family stories, adventure, strong female characters.

The hook: The author of The Glass Castle wrote this true-life novel about her grandmother’s wild, exciting life.

10.  Generation Kill by Evan Wright

If you like: journalism, action, adventure, war/military studies, American history.

The hook: A Rolling Stone journalist is sent to join up with a unit of American Marines who are some of the first soldiers to invade Iraq in 2003. Evan Wright witnesses modern war from the front lines of battle, and learns about the soldiers who are representing America in one of the most controversial wars in history.