What Book to Get for Your Mother In Law who Works in Academia, Loves Jean Le Carre, Lives A Million Miles Away, and Loves her Son (Your Husband) Always

Over the weekend I received a perfect little email:

“Drew my mother in law’s name out of the hat for Christmas and she wants: ‘A really great novel (I love spy thrillers, or historical fiction, or just any really great writing)’ Any ideas?”

YES! Of course of course of course we have ideas! But first I wrote back asking for more info so we could tailor the recommendation more specifically to her- what are her likes, interests, passions?

“Alright…..so she’s a college President so works a ton. Very smart and sweet. She works so much I don’t even know what her other interests are – they like going to the symphony sometimes or other culture/plays etc.” Her most recent books read/favorite books of all time? “Favorite books: Not favorite of all time, but interesting:  Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Liz Moore’s Heft.  Favorite writers are Jean Le Carre and Jonathan Irving. Also likes the classics and books written by great contemporary writers from other countries.  Also really good stories and good writing.”

Here’s what we came up with- any additions you’d suggest?


Bloomsbury Publishing just came out with a collection of his first three stories. A lovely item that will bring her always back to her most beloved author.

2. Beryl Markham: WEST WITH THE NIGHT

My go to non-fiction recommendation, one of the most fascinating wonderful works of non-fiction about an amazing woman who was the first to fly straight from Europe to America

3. Donna Tart: THE GOLDFINCH

If she finds The Secret History worth mentioning in her list, she may find Donna Tart’s new Pulitzer Prize winner interesting.

4. Anne Michaels:  FUGITIVE PIECES

This is on my night stand right now- the writing is fluid prose that rips your heart out.

5. And then just incredible powerful works of fiction that are on my “best of” list always:

Leslie Marmon Silko: CEREMONY 
Michael Thomas: MAN GONE DOWN


What are your literary holiday gift giving quandaries? We’d love to hear your questions! You can tweet us @LadyTexasLemon or @TheLiteraryMan or comment in the section below.

Header photo from the NY Times 100 Notable Books of the Year

Bottom Photo from WBUR Boston NPR