Crib sheets. Burp cloths. Receiving blankets. Diapers. These are useful items, for sure, but not exactly inspiring on the subject of motherhood. If you’re shopping for a baby shower, consider giving a gift that will provide the expectant mother a bit of comfort and insight as she approaches this major life change: a book. The recommendations we’ve included below are perfect for any mother looking for some helpful perspective on her little bundle of joy.

operating_instructions-175Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott (Pantheon)

Novelist and memoirist Anne Lamott captures her experiences as a single mother and recovering alcoholic during her son’s first year of life in a memoir that is both poignant and hilarious. Not quite 20 years later, Lamott published Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son (Riverhead, 2012), which she wrote along with her son, Sam. The book details Lamott’s hilarious views on being a grandparent and her attempts to fix her son’s rocky relationship.

a_lifes_work-175A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk (Picador)

This book is perfect for expectant mothers interested in what the guide books don’t tell you, or new mothers hoping for a book that reflects their feelings of confusion and inadequacy. Cusk, a British novelist, began writing the book when her daughter was 6 months old, eager to capture the experiences of this unique time in life before they were lost to her. Cusk offers some brutal honesty in her take on motherhood and while this might not be the most cheerful of motherhood books, it will appeal to a wide variety of mothers of young children.

great_with_child-175Great With Child by Beth Ann Fennelly (W.W. Norton)

This book is a collection of letters written by Fennelly—a poet—to a pregnant friend. The book is a compilation of reflections on a wide range of topics, from pregnancy cravings to potty training to “the erotics of motherhood” that captures the frustrations, joys, and doubts of being a mother. The short letters make the format perfect for mothers who are sleep-deprived or short on quiet time and who are looking for just a bit of inspiration to carry them through the day.

bad-mother-175Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman (Doubleday)

Dedicated readers of BookTrib will recognize this recommendation from an article I wrote back in March highlighting Waldman among a handful of other writers. Modern mothers are consistently anxious about being labeled a “bad mother,” and at the same time are quick to utter the pronouncement—about themselves and other mothers. This book, then, is for any mother who has ever felt harassed by the “Bad Mother Police,” whether at the playground or within her own mind.