8 Classic, Enduring Books about Strong Mothers for Mother’s Day

Motherhood can be complicated.

Sometimes funny, often heartwarming, but always honest, these classic books from various genres reveal the powerful struggles — and triumphs — of motherhood as told by authors in memoir, fiction, and even children’s novels.

Here’s a list of 8 classic titles about strong mothers, pulled from the HarperCollins “200 list” — a list of the 200 most iconic titles that have endured and entertained during the past two centuries, curated by librarians and booksellers from around the world.

Which one is your favorite?


Emma Donoghue



A celebration of resilience — and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. It won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional prize, was long-listed for the Orange Prize, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2010), and was made into a major motion picture.

Little House on the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams

US, Canada


Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder growing up as an American pioneer, Little House on the Prairie is the third book in the award-winning Little House series. The original nine novels in the series have sold more than 34 million copies, and inspired a long-lived hit television show.

The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

UK, Australia, New Zealand, India


Memoir exploring the intensely personal, yet universal, experience of the year following the death of Didion’s husband and the illness of her beloved daughter, Quintana Roo.

Hailed as a classic book about the mourning process, it won the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Betty Smith

US, Canada


A true American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century. This novel has sold millions of copies, been translated into more than fifteen languages, and been called “one of the books of the century” by the New York Public Library.

Wild Swans

Jung Chang

UK, Australia, New Zealand, India


A popular bestseller that has sold more than 13 million copies. Through the story of three generations of women — grandmother, mother, and daughter — Wild Swans tells nothing less than the whole tumultuous history of China’s tragic twentieth century.

Freaky Friday

Mary Rodgers

US, Canada


A classic comedic children’s novel in which a teenager realizes she’s turned into her mother. Freaky Friday has been adapted into film three times.

Journey to Jo’burg

Beverley Naidoo; illustrated by Eric Velasquez

US, Australia, New Zealand, India, UK


Banned by the apartheid government in South Africa, this is the story of two children’s courage and determination to find their mother and bring her home.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Beverly Cleary



While “Beezus and Ramona” (1955) was the first of Newbery Medal winner Beverly Cleary’s books to focus on Ramona Quimby and her sister, Beatrice (Beezus) — featuring the humorous and beloved tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood — it is “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” that reveals how Ramona’s mother went back to work so her father could go to school, exemplifying how many mothers “do it all” for their families.

Curated with the help of booksellers and librarians from around the world, The HarperCollins 200 is a global collection of 200 iconic HarperCollins titles — beloved books that have inspired, informed, entertained, and endured. Click here for the full list. Join the conversation on Twitter with #WhyIRead and #hc200.

Images: Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers