The best books about families and the secrets we keep from one another

Who am I?

I write about family, inspired by the exquisitely flawed one I dwell within. Loving my children is the easiest and hardest thing I have ever done in that it was easy to fall in love with them the moment they came into this world but the accountability to that love can be staggering. The same can be said for my siblings. I hope my novels and stories help readers examine the ways we are all tethered to one another. My writing is where I try to untangle all of that. It’s about the ties that bind and how we choose to wear those bindings, especially in times of crisis. 


I wrote...

The Precious Jules

By Shawn Nocher,

Book cover of The Precious Jules

What is my book about?

The Beechwood Institute is closing its doors on its dark history and the complicated task of reassigning residents has begun. Ella Jules, having arrived at the tender age of eight, must now rely on the state to decide her future. Her beloved caretaker would like nothing more than to remain with Ella, but her parents have other plans and have requested Ella be returned to their care. The five adult Jules children, haunted by childhood memories of their sister, and each dealing with the trauma of her banishment in their own flawed way, are converging on the family home—secrets in tow—to talk some sense into their aging parents and get to the root of this inexplicable change of heart.

The books I picked & why

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The Most Fun We Ever Had

By Claire Lombardo,

Book cover of The Most Fun We Ever Had

Why this book?

I come from a large brood and can certainly attest to the fact that seemingly small resentments eventually worm their way to the surface. I adored this book. So many voices telling the same story, but everyone remembers it differently, and like my own family—everyone felt it differently. I mean, really—my brothers and sister and I all grew up in the same house but sometimes when we tell childhood stories, even the sad ones, I wonder if we didn’t each grow up in our own little world. 

The Most Fun We Ever Had

By Claire Lombardo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Most Fun We Ever Had as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • “A gripping and poignant ode to a messy, loving family in all its glory.” —Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe

In this “rich, complex family saga” (USA Today) full of long-buried family secrets, Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, blithely ignorant of all that awaits them. By 2016, they have four radically different daughters, each in a state of unrest.
 
Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator turned stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant…


A Thousand Acres

By Jane Smiley,

Book cover of A Thousand Acres

Why this book?

I like to imagine families as a single human body and all the organs as the various family members. One organ breaks down and disease finds its way to other organs. If you buy into that analogy it’s easy to see how one family member can tear an entire family apart. But this novel, tragic as it is, reminded me that each person must do their own individual healing. Reconciling the past and finding our way to healing is not a group thing, not even a family thing. It’s choosing to find our own way, our own truth, however painful that might be.

A Thousand Acres

By Jane Smiley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Thousand Acres as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This powerful twentieth-century reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm among his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will, which sets in motion a chain of events that brings dark truths to light. Ambitiously conceived and stunningly written, A Thousand Acres spins the most fundamental themes of truth, justice, love, and pride into a universally acclaimed masterpiece.


Afterlife

By Julia Alvarez,

Book cover of Afterlife

Why this book?

Siblings tend to circle the wagon around one another. Sure, we squabble amongst ourselves, but when the outside world comes at one of us, it might as well have come for all of us. At least that’s been my experience. But honestly, this constant rescuing can be tiresome and perhaps it asks too much of us—especially if we’re dealing with our own unresolved heartache. This novel is so honest in its portrayal of three sisters, frantic to save a sister and finally forced to share in the grief and blame. I also loved that the main character, a former college professor, turns to literature to help her find her moral way. 

Afterlife

By Julia Alvarez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Afterlife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Time Magazine Must-Read Book of 2020
A Most-Anticipated Book of the Year: O, The Oprah Magazine * The New York Times * The Washington Post *Vogue * Bustle * BuzzFeed * Ms. magazine * The Millions * Huffington Post * PopSugar * The Lily * Goodreads * Library Journal * LitHub * Electric Literature

The first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

“A stunning work of art that reminds readers Alvarez is, and always has been, in a class…


The Latecomer

By Jean Hanff Korelitz,

Book cover of The Latecomer

Why this book?

It’s hard for me to imagine a family where the siblings are more uninterested in one another than the Oppenheimer triplets in this novel. But I do love a twin story (am, in fact, fascinated by the twin thing) so triplets really intrigued me. These siblings, however, are determined to disengage from one another and stalk off into their solo adulthood. And they manage to do so with just enough hubris to make a mess of it. But can we ever really cut the ties that bind? Thankfully—probably not. 

The Latecomer

By Jean Hanff Korelitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Latecomer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*A New York Times Notable Book of 2022*
*A Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction*
*An NPR Best Book of the Year*

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Latecomer is a layered and immersive literary novel about three siblings, desperate to escape one another, and the upending of their family by the late arrival of a fourth.

The Latecomer follows the story of the wealthy, New York City-based Oppenheimer family, from the first meeting of parents Salo and Johanna, under tragic circumstances, to their triplets born during the early days of IVF.…


Breathing Lessons

By Anne Tyler,

Book cover of Breathing Lessons

Why this book?

Anne Tyler has always written about family. Some critics have called her characters quirky, but I tend to think they are actually quite average. Both endearing and frustrating, I tend to love them the same way I love my own family—flaws and all. Her observations are incredibly nuanced and meaningful at the same time. Breathing Lessons is one of my favorites but pick up any Anne Tyler book and you’re likely to see shades of your own family dynamics on the pages. And you’ll love them anyway.

Breathing Lessons

By Anne Tyler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breathing Lessons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Evoking Jane Austen, Emma Straub, and other masters of the literary marriage, Breathing Lessons celebrates the small miracles and magic of truly knowing someone.

Unfolding over the course of a single emotionally fraught day, this stunning novel encompasses a lifetime of dreams, regrets and reckonings—and is oftern regarded as Tyler's seminal work. Maggie and Ira Moran are on a road trip from Baltimore, Maryland to Deer Lick, Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of a friend. Along the way, they reflect on the state of their marriage, its trials and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in family secrets, romantic love, and immigrants?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about family secrets, romantic love, and immigrants.

Family Secrets Explore 111 books about family secrets
Romantic Love Explore 510 books about romantic love
Immigrants Explore 104 books about immigrants

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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