Notes on a Mother’s Books

Notes on a Mother’s Books by Anisa Threlkeld, Literary Intern

In Notes on My Mother’s Decline, Andy Bragen chronicles the many things his mother loved: the theatre, her many dear, long-term friends, her cigarettes, Scrabble, good southern cooking and, of course, her son. She also loved books. As he describes in the play, Andy’s family was a family of words. To his mother, language was everything. Andy’s childhood home was full of bookshelves, from his mother’s bedroom to the foyer.

In a TDF article entitled “Notes on My Mother’s Theater Going,” Andy wrote that books were his mother’s refuge, the place where she could dream of other lives.

Books are a special kind of gift, because their pages are timeless; they live on longer than any of us and co-mingle with the reader’s imagination. And so it is no wonder that Andy remembers his mother’s love for them.

What did this woman, so well-read and curious, read? We asked Andy for a list of his mother’s favorite books, and this is what he told us:

“She read so much; really did have a house full of books.

She loved ‘trashy mysteries,’ so that could include a whole bunch of stuff, ranging from Martha Grimes to Dorothy Sayers, to Sue Grafton and much, much more.

She read a lot of everything.

Orhan Pamuk she loved.

Recently, that book Olive Kitteridge spoke to her, much more than it did to me, or to [my wife].

A.S. Byatt.

Southern lit (she loved it all of her life, though I don’t know if she was rereading it later).

Faulkner, for sure. McCullers. Welty. O’Connor.

Larry McMurtry. (She had his books – I discovered them on her shelves as a kid.)

Naguib Mahfouz.

Greek myths. Mary Renault, perhaps?

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, that grammar book.

I’m forgetting a lot, for sure, and not doing her justice. She was an omnivore.”

Parents give many things to their children–sometimes a love for what the parent themself loved. For Andy, it was words. What did you inherit from your family?