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Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  3,049 Ratings  ·  639 Reviews
Bestselling author Ruth Reichl examines her mother's life, giving voice to the universal unarticulated truth that we are grateful not to be our mothers

In Not Becoming My Mother, bestselling author Ruth Reichl embarks on a clear-eyed, openhearted investigation of her mother's life, piecing together the journey of a woman she comes to realize she never really knew. Looking
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published April 21st 2009 by Penguin Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jason Koivu
Expecting a comedic Shit My Dad Says diversion? Keep moving. Not Becoming My Mother is not the book you're looking for.

Having read another of food critic Ruth Reichl's books, I rashly assumed this too would be light-hearted and humorous. It's not. In fact, it's a rather depressing look at the repression that became the keystone of her mother's life. Instead of quirky-funny stories about a mad-capped mom as might be expected by the first few pages, the reader is treated to sad tales of psychother
Book Concierge
5***** and a

Reichl’s mother Miriam was an indifferent housekeeper and a terrible cook – guests at her dinner parties were known to wind up in the hospital having their stomachs pumped due to poisoning. She was an educated, intelligent woman in a society that expected women to marry and stay at home. So when she was nearing thirty Miriam submitted to expectations and settled for conformity. She hated it, and lived much of her life in a desperately unhappy state. Miriam poured her frustrations, d
Aug 31, 2009 Randy rated it it was amazing
I never met a book by Ruth Reichl I haven’t loved, and my adoration continued with this book. Where others were hearty meals, Not Becoming My Mother was a deceptively simple snack. (I’m certain that Ms. Reichl, editor of Gourmet Magazine, would find a more elegant food analogy, but I, alas, am but a quick and dirty cook, though one who loves reading the work of educated ones—like Ruth Reichl)

In her previous books, the author consistently folded her cooking and restaurant reviewing skills into pe
Aug 12, 2009 Nancy rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Not my mother or anyone else
What a bust!

Ruth Reichl, who is editor of Gourmet magazine, has written three other memoirs on life/love/food, two of which I've read and really enjoyed. However, her newest pseudo-memoir about her mother's issues, I found terrible.

Rather than being anecdotal and witty, like the other two I've read, this mini-book is a slapped-together attempt to be sentimental about her mother's "gift." This gift being teaching daughter Ruth NOT to be like her mother, who was emotionally battered by HER mothe
Apr 25, 2009 Cindy rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 30, 2009 Crystal rated it it was amazing
I couldn't resist this title - or the author, for that matter. I have always been intrigued by Ruth Reichl and wanted to read her books.

In spite of the title, this is actually a tender (and very short) love note to her mother. Theirs was definitely a strained mother-daughter relationship that I think most women can identify with. Ms. Reichl's mother was not your conventional June Cleaver wannabe of the 1950s. After her mother's death, Reichl discovers her mother's journals and realizes, for the
Dec 02, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, memoir
I absolutely LOVED Ruth Reichl's book "Garlic and Sapphires" so I thought a memoir would be interesting. I especially liked the idea of a book that discusses Ruth's mother, since she "became" her mother during her restaurant critic days as a means of disguising herself. This audiobook, narrated by the author, is a lovely but slightly disturbing look into the often difficult mother/daughter relationship. So often there is a dichotomy of feelings between mothers and daughters - intense love and ad ...more
Jun 21, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
A wonderful fast read. Whenever I pick up anything written by Ruth Reichl, I realize how much I love her tone and style. She is a wonderful storyteller who knows how to draw the reader into her life. This book in particular was a wonderful tribute to her mother, who spent her entire life kind of lost and not knowing who she was really supposed to be. Every woman has stories about her grandmother or great grandmother similar to Reichl's--this was a generation that was out of place in their time. ...more
Jun 13, 2009 Paula rated it really liked it
This book was Ruth Reichl's homage to her mother and the generation of mid-20th century women who could not reach their full potential and were uncomfortable in and resentful of their limited role as wife, mother and homemaker. Based on letters and notes written by Ruth's mother Miriam, Reichl seeks to understand, sympathize and honor the mother about whom she was irreverent and disparaging in her previous memoirs. This book doesn't have all the humor and the charming vignettes -- many of them r ...more
Lyn Elliott
Jul 08, 2015 Lyn Elliott rated it really liked it
Reichl's view of her difficult mother Miriam shifted profoundly as she read through a box of her letters and notes well after her death. She found a woman frustrated by social conventions that denied her and her friends the opportunity to work, determined to bring up a daughter who would have a career, not be trapped in the type of marriage where she would be confined to the domestic work Miriam herself hated and was no good at.
Miriam (Mim) had wanted to be a doctor, was told by her father that
Jun 27, 2016 Meredith rated it it was ok
With this brief memoir, Ruth Reichl bestows the degree of forgiveness upon her mother that is only possible after death. Rifling through her mother's letters and scribbled notes, she softens her recollections of her mother. She reinterprets her mother's many failures and disregard for the needs of her children and family as attempts to teach her daughter not to be like her. See, my mother wasn't being self-absorbed after all. She was being noble and teaching me a valuable life lesson. Rather tha ...more
Oct 14, 2011 L.D. rated it it was amazing
Checking in some books, I found the title very interesting. This also was my commitment to my daughter. That I would not repeat what my mother had done/and not done for and to me. I too have come to peace about my past, but there was a time, which as hard as I tried I was my Mother until I sought help and understanding. That is when the change took place. I could be what my daughter needed, emotionally strong, independent, loving, fair, confident and not to be afraid to say I'm sorry. I read thi ...more
When I read Reichl's book, Tender at the Bone, I was enchanted. Reichl is great storyteller and I found her life to be fascinating. Reichl did not seem to have lived a normal life and what she had experienced seemed like such fun.

Many of Reichl's stories were about her mother. These stories were funny, but sad because Miriam was not an easy woman to live with. Ruth and her brother Bob seemed lucky to survive childhood.

In this book, Reichl reexamines her mothers life. Reichl realizes that her mot
Jun 29, 2009 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
Why are relationships between mothers and daughters so complex? We love them, hate them, want to be just like them, and hope we end up completely different all at the same time. But do we ever really know their story? Do we ever understand why they push us the way they do?

Ruth's mother reminds me so much of my own. I grew up hearing the phrase "don't make the same mistakes I did" on an almost daily basis. All we want is for them to accept us as we are, and nothing more. And all they want
Lana Joy
Feb 19, 2015 Lana Joy rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
It was a good fast easy read. It makes you think about the legacy you're leaving and lessons your teaching.
Jul 11, 2014 Carol rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Well that was kinda depressing - it was as if she hadn't forgiven her mother at all, but wanted to in a way and threw the book together.
Nov 20, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it
Ruth Reichel's mother was nothing like my mom; she was about 10 or more years older than my mom, from a wealthy family, and suffered, unknowingly until late in life, from bi-polar disorder. But the sentiments expressed and the questions, answered and unanswered, about her mother's life (and by that I mean her internal life, not the family tree), are, I suspect, universal to my generation of daughters. The author's blessing is that her mother left her a legacy of notes, letters, and a diary writt ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Morgan rated it liked it
(Later republished with a new Afterword as "For you mom--finally!"

A so-so book,Ruth Reichlfinally writing directly about her mother, with understanding and compassion for her mother's bipolar life.

It's a thin book, though--small. I wish it were fatter--because I'm at the end of her memoirs (I think), because I wanted more foundation stories about life with this mother (and her father), the effect on Ruth. More, more stories. I loved her revising her old Mother Tales (what does she call them?), n
Sep 19, 2009 Julie rated it it was amazing
I am reading this because my sister, Marie, enjoyed it so much. After reading the first five pages, I'm pretty sure I will too.

When I finished this book, I had simultaneous urges to call my sister, my mother and my daughter.

I'm a big fan of memoirs and especially when the writer reveals the relationship she had with her parents. I love that there was a box of letters, receipts, scraps of paper even with notes from her mother that Reichl finally sat down to read, and that she had to work up to i
Jul 30, 2011 Laysee rated it it was ok
Ruth Reichl’s memoirs of her journey into the culinary world as chef, restaurant owner, cookbook writer, and restaurant critic are hilarious and delicious treats I have enjoyed. “Not Becoming My Mother” is a different kind of memoir but it is familiarly sincere and honest. Originating from an acceptance speech she gave at an award ceremony, which coincided with the day her mother would have been a hundred years old, this book is dedicated to her mother, Miriam. It is an intimate and personal acc ...more
Jan 16, 2011 Katie rated it liked it
Another book that I'm pretty sure I went in with the wrong attitude on. Ruth Reichl, the author, is a pretty infamous food writer in today's world, and since none of her books on food were on sale, I settled on this one, because I figured it couldn't be half bad. Well, I was sort of wrong. It's not a bad book, I was just very taken aback by what I read. Another short story that I finished in a few hours, it takes you through different lessons that Ruth's mother taught her, most of which were by ...more
Jun 14, 2010 Michaela rated it did not like it
This book was an angry outburst that did not justify itself. Reichl's conclusion in a nutshell: "look at how terrible this era was for women; to honor them we should not be wives or mothers or anything remotely similar to them."

I do think there is valid tragedy in what Reichl saw her mother suffer. But I also think her account of it was shallow and insufficient to make the broad claims that she did. Out of a box full of original letters, the reader only sees a few select sentences. I wish Reich
Jane Turner
Nov 03, 2010 Jane Turner rated it it was amazing
This is a delicious book about real, brave and true women who did not start out that way.

In a box of memorabilia, Ruth Reichl reluctantly uncovers the truth about her deceased mother, Miriam. As a young woman, Miriam’s father called her homely and predicted spinsterhood – but Miriam married twice and had children. Still, Miriam pined for a career that would reveal her true self.

Without something to engage her mind, Miriam’s manic-depression took hold and Ruth recounts her mother’s near-poisoning
Jan 16, 2012 janicec100 rated it liked it
I downloaded this book to my Kindle Fire...paid $16.95! This was a really short book though. I'm sort of ticked that Amazon is starting to charge so much just to download a book! But other than that, this was an interesting read, and a good one for mothers of children.

The book points out how bright women can become unhappy is they are directed into the wife/mother track at the expense of their aptitudes. Here's a few quotes from the book:
"Idle aptitudes cause restlessness and may detract from a
Feb 27, 2011 Richard rated it really liked it
A brilliant and quick read, one of those things you need from time to time when you need a boost to get moving through a longer work.

Reichl is best known as the editor of the now defunct Gourmet magazine, a position she held for some years. Interestingly, "Gourmet" is never mentoned so much as alluded to in this brief but passionate and frequently entertaining memoir. The allusion is that if her (Reichl's) mother hadn't forsaken her own dreams and elected to live vicariously through her daughte
Sep 25, 2011 Julie rated it liked it
I must have read something to recommend this book in the depths of blogland, and thought I would give it a go. When I got it out from the local library, the librarian said that she had read her earlier books and was a good author, always a good start.

So this little tome didn't take long to read, it is a short little 112 pages. She is primarily a food writer/critic/editor, but in this book she talks about her relationship with her mother. I always enjoy tales of growing up, and I think the memoir
Mar 22, 2012 Joy rated it liked it
In Not Becoming My Mother, bestselling author Ruth Reichl embarks on a clear-eyed, openhearted investigation of her mother's life, piecing together the journey of a woman she comes to realize she never really knew. Looking to her mother's letters and diaries, Reichl confronts the painful transition her mother made from a hopeful young woman to an increasingly unhappy older one and realizes the tremendous sacrifices she made to make sure her daughter's life would not be as disappointing as her ow ...more
Oct 07, 2009 Terry rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Reichl's first two books (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples) are definitely in my Top Twenty Favorite Books of All Time. Her third book was a huge disappointment to me, so I was wary of this one, unfortunately.

This book is far too slight to justify it as, erm, a book. It's really an extended essay. I think it's really such a rip-off to publish a tiny book with huge font and extra line spaces and then sell it as a hardcover, stand-alone book. Hmmph. I feel little books like Anna Quindlen
Jul 30, 2009 K rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Ruth Reichl fans; those interested in a light read about women's issues
Ruth Reichl's memoirs are always pleasant to read, although I do think their quality has steadily declined since Tender at the Bone Growing Up at the Table. This one was quick and easy and gave me a bit to think about, although I didn't entirely agree with Ruth's conclusions.

Basically, in this memoir which centers around Ruth's mother, Ruth describes her mother as part of a transitional generation of women -- women who were born too late to be totally occupied by the chores of running their hom
Dec 26, 2009 Heidi rated it liked it
This book took me about an hour and a half to read. While Reichl isn't a great writer, she has an important story to tell, about generations of mothers and daughters. The main focus is her own mother, who suffered from mental illness and about whom Reichl has written scathingly before (I gathered; I haven't read her other books yet). On the day her mother would have turned 100, Reichl digs into a box of her mother's letters and diaries to discover her life. In the process, she reaches a new unde ...more
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Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and culinary editor for the Modern Library.
Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), she was raised in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. She graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in art history
More about Ruth Reichl...

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“ the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, is never too late to find out how to do it.” 24 likes
“Throughout human history beauty has been seen as a gift from God, but Mom had another notion; she thought that beauty could be earned through self-knowledge. It may be a revolutionary idea, but it has offered me great comfort.” 9 likes
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