You can choose your friends but… – a top ten list of books about families

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina opens with this –

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

And aren’t readers glad that Tolstoy is correct because such families make for great stories.

This week’s top ten, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is favourite books in a particular setting – I’ve chosen families as my theme (and also cleverly managed to put Tolstoy and Sister Sledge in the same post. I know, brilliant)..

So, play that funky beat and browse this list of the best books about families dealing with their share of unhappiness –

1. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg – siblings, parents, funny.

2. And God Created the Au Pair by Pascale Smets and Benedicte Newland – sisters, funny, sad.

3. Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving – fathers and sons, sad (there will be tears).

4. Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed – siblings, parents, funny.

5. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee (but also check out The Privileges) – marriage, funny.

6. The Forrests by Emily Perkins – siblings, beautiful writing.

7. Man and Boy by Tony Parsons – fathers and sons, funny, sad.

8. Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett – parents, grandparents, kids, heartbreakingly sad.

9. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – siblings, funny, sad (more tears).

10. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper – siblings, parents, funny, sad (cue those tears again).

And an honourable mention to Things We Need by Jennifer Close. It’s a new release – I started it yesterday and so far, I’m loving it.


17 responses

  1. It’s been too long since Irving has made an appearance on TTT. I felt the same way, he’s one my list twice (once with Last Night at Twisted River and once with The Hotel New Hampshire). So great minds and all that.

    My family is…there aren’t words for my family. I’ve wholeheartedly embraced the idea that I didn’t choose them, but I do have to live with them. Drama, fights, etc., straight out of a bad soap opera – though no one has died twice. Yet.

    • I haven’t had enough Irving on my lists for awhile either… although I haven’t participated in TTT for a month or so.

      So your family… topic of your first novel, perhaps? 😉 As I’ve mentioned, my family are overwhelmingly normal and stable – how can I write a bestseller if they don’t give me some issues to work with?!

      • I’ve no desire to write, but if I did I would pull from my life. Although it’s sort of (not entirely) already been done (White Oleander), so I’d have to find a unique voice.

        I think you said there’s some drama on your husband’s side, steal from his! I mean, what else are spouses for?

      • I actually have no desire to write a novel either. As soon as people know I work as a freelance writer they invariably assume I’m also working on a novel… No, it’s terribly unexciting web content and government policy documents for me.

      • I do quite a bit of technical writing (manuals, procedures, and such) for my job, so nothing exciting for me either. Though I do blame my abundant use of adjectives on the fact that I cannot use them 40 hours per week.

  2. Fantastic list! I haven’t read any of these titles but I love a good story about family (complete with its complications, drama, secrets, good times and bad times) so I will definitely be checking out some of these novels 🙂

    Btw, awesome that you mentioned Tolstoy and “We are family” within the same paragraph 😉

    My TTT

  3. I haven’t heard or read any of the books from your list, but they all sound so fantastic! I read A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving and loved it, so I should probably give his other books a chance too. It’s been so long since I read a book that has to do with families. Great list :). Thank you for stopping by my blog!

  4. Love your theme great idea have yet to come across the same. I love family in my novels. I have Shadowed (Dark Protectors) by Rebecca Zanetti as a pick for my Top Ten Tuesday and one of the things I love about this series I get to watch the daughter to one of the heroes from the first novel grow with the series. She is big part of the series and my fav parts are the interaction when she was younger with some yummy bada** warriors. Sweet moments and look forward to her story now that she is getting older.


  5. What a great list! I loved This is Where I Leave You, I can not wait for the film! If I may, I would add The World Without You by Joshua Henkins. It’s a book I dearly wish someone would adapt; like the World Without You it’s about a Jewish family ; they come together a year after their son/brother’s death for a memorial. Like sitting shiva in This is Where I Leave You there are wild family dynamics that take place when families with adult children are thrown back together in a super stressful time; The World Without You is less zany and a bit more female driven. But I loved them both.

    • I can’t wait for the movie version of This is Where I Leave You either – given that Tropper was involved in the screen play I’m confident that it will do the book justice.

      Hadn’t heard of The World Without You but have now added it to my TBR stack – thanks for the recommendation.

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