Mrs. Dalloway’s | Reading recs for right now

Thinking about a gift for your favorite mother? Or just looking for some good reading to help pass the time while hunkered down at home? This week, we turn to the owners and staff at Mrs. Dalloway’s for best book selections as shelter-in-place continues.

Owners Ann Leyhe and Marion Abbott at the Elmwood neighborhood shop say they are eager for in-person sales to resume, but until then orders sent directly to customers are keeping them hopping 24/7.

“We’re so heartened by our loyal customers who have been buying everything under the sun online, and our fantastic staff that’s been working seven days a week to process their orders,” they say in a joint email.

Staff member Carolyn Hutton is working from home and gathered responses from Leyhe, Abbot and fellow staff to a request for recommended books. Leyhe highlighted the importance of 75 women photographed and profiled in Jennifer Jewell’s The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants (Timber Press). “Jewell’s portraits reveal a devotion that transcends age, locale and background, reminding us of the profound role of plants in our world–and in our lives.  Many of the contributors come from the Bay Area and have businesses here. Truly inspirational.”

In a nod to all the now-homebound cooks and gardeners, Abbott recommended Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking by Bill Buford (Knopf). Explore the secrets of baguettes and why they taste better in France (hint: it’s about the French dirt). She calls it a “must” for admirers of author Bill Buford or lovers of French haute cuisine.

A staff suggestion for fiction, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael (Putnam), by Beth Morrey, offers hope and a reminder to persist. Protagonist Missy Carmichael is turning 79 and doubting life has anything left for her after the loss of her husband. Her two adult children cause mostly stress, but two strangers and a dog in need of love provide an alternative family in the uplifting novel.

From the non-fiction category comes an intriguing, cross-generational story of connection, healing and community: The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland (William Morrow), by Walter Thompson-Hernandez. In 1988 on a small ranch in semi-rural Compton, CA, Mayisha Akbar founded The Compton Jr. Posse, connecting the history of black cowboys in American culture with black youths in the area whose at-risk lives have been disrupted by gang violence and trauma.

Friendship through horses and pride in African American history provides respite, recovery and inspiration to the young participants. It’s a riveting and heartfelt read, according to Hutton.

More recs for grandparents, golfers and lovers of fiction that imitates life

Additional reading recommendations with healthy dosages of zip and relevancy for right now include: Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting (Random House) by Anna Quindlen, perfect for Mother’s Day; Golf’s Holy War: The Battle for the Soul of a Game in an Age of Science (Avid Reader), about the collision of technological innovations and the sport’s timeworn traditions; and Lawrence Wright’s The End of October (Knopf), a novel that eerily parallels the current pandemic with a plot about a virus that escapes a refugee camp and threatens the lives of millions.

To order them all and learn more, visit

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