January 21, 2013

Mom's Reading Cards

Recently I wrote about finding my mom's old travel journals. The insight into her life and thoughts was priceless. At the same time I found a large stack of index cards. These contained the names of every book she had read over an eight year period from the mid 1990's until her eyesight became too poor to continue, around 2004. At that point she shifted to audio books, but for any book lover, you know that isn't the same.

Several blog regulars asked if I would provide a list of some of the books mom gave high marks to.  Most of her choices were fiction, many leaning toward female-oriented plot lines (seems logical) or pure escapist fare with strong female characters. There were some historical fiction choice, too.

I did locate a few cards of non-fiction that contained some high marks. Each card averaged about 20 books and usually three or four of those received one, two, or even three stars.

There is no particular order to this list. I have only selected the ones I could find that had at least one star (up to three for real favorites). In many cases she only listed the author's last name so you will have better luck searching by title. Frankly, I have no idea what many of these books are about. Also, I don't know if all are still in print, so I leave that to your research.

These titles are from no more than 30% of the cards I found. If you think this type of listing is valuable I'll produce a part two.

Birmingham   Carriage Trade
                      The Rothman Scandal
                      The Lebaron Secret

L. Blair           With this Ring

Booth             The Sisters

J. Katz            Sign Off

P. McCabe      Wasteland

C. Leavitt       Into Thin Air
M. Palmer      Critical Judgement

C. Allen           Illusions
                       Mixed Emotions
                       Somebody’s baby

E. Adler          The Secret of the Villa Mimosa
                       All or Nothing

Alcorn            Vestments

Wolitzer         Tunnel of Love

Tyler               Ladder of Years
                       Accidental Tourist
                       Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
                       Saint Maybe
                       Back When We were Grown-ups
                       Morgan’s Passing

Thayer            Everlasting
                      An Act of Love

Van Slyke      A Necessary Woman

Van Wormer  Jury Duty
                      Only You  
                      West End

M. Atwood     Alias Grace

L. Battle         Storyville
                      The Past is Another Country

Barber            A Farewell to France

Banis              This Splendid Earth

Berg              Until The Real Thing Comes Along
                      Say When
                      Ordinary Life
                      True to Form

Wolf               The Harbinger Effect

Archer            Sons of Fortune

Howard          Dirt Rich

Inman            Old Dogs and Children

Hunter           Far From the Sea

Feldman         Looking For Love

Fielding          See Jane Run

Cookson         The Parson’s Daughter

Freeman         Illusions of Love

Coscarelli       Living Color

B. Bradford    Voice of The Heart
                      Act of Will
                      To be The Best

Bright            Parting Shots

Binchy           The Copper Beech

C. Alexander  The Endurance


Holland           One's Company (Reflections on Living Alone)

LeShan            It's Better To Be Over The Hill

Ellerbee          And So It Goes 

Buscaglia        Bus 9 to Paradise

In looking up some of these titles I discovered a new side to my mother: one who didn't mind a bit of violence and intrigue in her reading choices. For a proper Bostonian school teacher I thought I'd find more "high brow"titles. But, actually, it was nice to discover the very human side of a woman who liked escapist fare that had some kick to it for her leisure reading.


  1. I mainly read nonfiction, but I enjoy margaret atwood, elizabeth berg and maeve binchy. I read leo buscaglia years ago. I would be interested in seeing the rest of the list. She had many different interests.

    1. Yes, her cards showed a wide range. She used her reading to escape to another place and time. Frankly, I thought she would have more non fiction books in her cards, but the ones listed above are the only ones she enjoyed enough to give a star to.

  2. I recognize some, not all by any means. I'm impressed. She was a good reader with pretty varied tastes. But ... Tunnel of Love? What's that one?

    1. Hilma Wolitzer wrote Tunnel of Love in 1995. From it's review it sounds like a convoluted soap opera-type plot involving TV personalities, pregnancy, step kids, and everything else she could fit in 350 pages.

      Suffice it to say I haven't read it nor do I plan to!

  3. I have read all of Anne Tyler's books and highly recommend them to people who like stories about family relationships that are based in reality. She is an excellent writer and one may recognize themself in her characters.

    How nice that you are still finding out new things about your mother after her passing!

  4. Love Anne Tyler! Some of her main characters are men.

  5. Thanks for putting this together. What an interesting list! I wonder what my kids will think after I'm gone and they are looking at all the books on my bookshelves. There are many books on this list I don't recognize, but I'm going to check them out.