21 of 25
By James McBride
295 pages; Riverhead

Because this is one great mom.

McBride's mother, Ruth, was born Rachel, the daughter of a Polish Orthodox Jewish rabbi. She left her family, married a black Baptist minister and converted—all things that simply were not done. Remarkably, she battled racism, poverty, isolation and criticism to raise 12 successful children, including one who became an extraordinary author. — Dawn Raffel