The best books about family

Families are complex. They can be all the things: giving, loving, spiteful, bitter, compassionate, competitive, emotional, disastrous, wonderful… you get the idea! And when you have a really great family dynamic in a book, it can be a pretty intense reading experience. Here are some of our favorite books about family that showcase just how unique they can be.

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Five-year-old Claude, the youngest of five boys, loves dressing up and wants to be a princess. When people ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he answers: A girl. While his parents accept Claude for who he is, they’re not ready to tell the world, so they keep his secret. But families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

When Judd’s wife’s affair becomes public and his father dies, he joins his family to sit shiva for seven days. While grieving over his father’s death and the end of his marriage, the week will put Judd and all his family members to the test. Grudges are brought up and secrets are shared; will anyone come away from the week unscathed?

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

A two-week stay in Mallorca will have one family drowning in secrets, jealousy and humiliation. Parents Franny and Jim are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, older brother Bobby is in debt and high school graduate Sylvia just wants to lose her virginity on vacation. Jobs are at stake, relationships are tested, trust is broken. What could possibly go wrong during an idyllic family vacation?

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is the epic novel about the Price family – father evangelical Baptist, wife and four daughters – and the story of their mission to Africa. Suspenseful storytelling, this book spans three decades of one family’s tragedies and their reconstruction.

Don’t Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon

After World War II, the Sutton family is struggling to overcome the loss of family member Eddie. Told over the course of the 25 years after Eddie’s death, everyone is dealing with their own life problems including addiction and divorce. Slowly, the Suttons all come to peace with the tragedy in their own ways. A novel that takes you through the decades, Don’t Put the Boats Away is a heartbreaking yet touching story of a family and their ways in overcoming grief.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is a powerful memoir about family, love and loyalty. Even though she grows up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic but brilliant father, and a careless free-spirit mother, Jeannette Walls and her siblings are able to escape their tumultuous childhood. While her parents choose to remain homeless, Jeannette finds her way to New York to create a better life for herself and later confronts the parents that raised her.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Now a major motion picture, Crazy Rich Asians delights in between the pages and on the big screen. When Rachel goes to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas, she doesn’t expect to discover that he is “crazy rich” and the country’s most eligible bachelor, but that’s exactly what she finds, along with pesky relatives and more money than she could imagine. She had simply hoped for a quiet getaway and some quality time with the man she loves but instead, she got an experience of a lifetime.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

When Mia Warren and her teen daughter arrive in Shaker Heights, things surely get shaken up. Mia and Pearl rent a house from the Richardson’s, a family that has always played by the rules, which begins intense friction between the women. But along with Mia comes her sordid past, and her secrets could disrupt the whole community.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

When Bee’s beloved mother Bernadette disappears, the family goes into crisis mode. Bernadette, a severe agoraphobic, has promised her family a trip to Antarctica but she can’t handle the idea of a trip so far from home so she leaves. Bee sets out to find her mother. Through official documents, emails and other correspondence, she will stop at nothing to get her mother home.

Stephanie Elliot

Stephanie Elliot writes for a variety of websites and magazines on topics such as parenting, mental health issues, relationships, and of course, books. She is an editor and book reviewer. Stephanie is also the author of the young adult novel, Sad Perfect, which was inspired by her own daughter’s journey with ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and their three children. For more info, visit

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