The release of Ruth Reichl's new book coincides with Mother's Day—but the wisdom of giving Mom a book entitled Not Becoming My Mother is questionable. "My mother was a great example of everything I didn't want to be, and to this day I wake up grateful that I'm not her," Reichl writes. But it's not as bad as it sounds: "Grateful, in fact, not to be any of the women of her generation, who were unlucky enough to have been born at what seems to me to have been the worst possible time to have been a middle-class American woman."

Reichl is the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and a former food writer for both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She's an exuberant writer with a vast knowledge of her subject, but Mother has little to do with food—it's a highly personal biography, an examination of the life of Reichl's mom, who was born in 1908. An unhappy housewife who always longed for a meaningful career, Reichl's mother "led by negative example," encouraging her daughter to define herself by her career, rather than family. Mother describes a frustrated life, one so constrained by societal demands that it's hard not to feel claustrophobic while reading it. It's a slight book, and a fast read, and—if you can explain away the title—would probably make a good gift for mom after all.

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