The best family dysfunction books to read while drinking

Why am I passionate about this?

I like to say I had a colorful childhood. With a mentally unstable mother who bred children as a hobby, I was part of a band of siblings that lived life pretty free-range. It made for dark, but arguably, entertaining times. If you came from an abnormally normal childhood and can’t relate, I’m not sure we can be friends. Escaping with a book and glass of wine is balanced living, and I’ve given tips on the best wine selections to go with the following books featuring dysfunctional families. But just between you and me, any wine will do.

I wrote...

Chasing North Star

By Heidi McCrary,

Book cover of Chasing North Star

What is my book about?

Four free-range siblings, cigarettes in hand, roam the streets ’til sunrise. It’s 1970 and running from monsters in the cemetery and hiding from a gun-toting mother who suffers from a cocktail of illnesses is just another day in Alamo. That is, until the youngest sibling finds an old leather journal and stumbles upon the story of another young girl also trying to outrun an abusive mother. Chasing North Star – a bittersweet coming-of-age novel celebrating family dysfunction with heart and dark humor.

Best read with a robust Chianti.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Heidi McCrary Why did I love this book?

If you belong to a book club that has not yet read The Glass Castle, you’re not in a real book club. This memoir by Jeannette Walls covers all the bases for a must-read… Family dysfunction, parents that had children for no apparent reason other than curiosity, and a narrator that you want to adopt and bring into your own home. How Ms. Walls, a journalist, managed to grow up as a functioning human being is beyond me. Let her story be your go-to weapon any time your own children tell you that you lack basic parenting skills.

Best read with a dry Merlot.

By Jeannette Walls,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Glass Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.

This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents.

At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane,…

Book cover of At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life

Heidi McCrary Why did I love this book?

While I have never dreamed of living in the middle of nowhere (that’s why they call it nowhere), I do know that many people dream of trading the chaos of city living for a more tranquil life in the country. Wade Rouse was one of those poor blokes who, with his partner, decided to move from the big city to the deep woods located just south of the artsy town of Saugatuck Michigan. Rouse’s snarky depiction of life in redneck country is laugh-out-loud funny and not the least bit insulting to those living the simpler lifestyle. OK, it actually is, but hey, it’s funny!

Best read with a medium body Pinot Noir.

By Wade Rouse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We all dream about it, but Wade Rouse actually did it. Discover his journey to live the simple life in this hilarious memoir. 

Finally fed up with the frenzy of city life and a job he hates, Wade Rouse decided to make either the bravest decision of his life or the worst mistake since his botched Ogilvie home perm: to uproot his life and try, as Thoreau did some 160 years earlier, to "live a plain, simple life in radically reduced conditions."

In this rollicking and hilarious memoir, Wade and his partner, Gary, leave culture, cable, and consumerism behind and…

Book cover of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Heidi McCrary Why did I love this book?

If you can appreciate a drink coaster with the witty saying, “I just child-proofed my home, but they’re still getting in,” you’ll enjoy the sarcastic writing of satirist David Sedaris. While based on his childhood and young adulthood, I can only hope he’s embellished the characters who encompassed his early years. I’m not sure I’d recommend all his books but this one from earlier in his collection smacks of family dysfunction that just might have you saying, “Well, at least my family wasn’t that f*cked up."

Best read with a hearty Cabernet.

By David Sedaris,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David Sedaris plays in the snow with his sisters. He goes on vacation with his family. He gets a job selling drinks. He attends his brother's wedding. He mops his sister's floor. He gives directions to a lost traveler. He eats a hamburger. He has his blood sugar tested. It all sounds so normal, doesn't it? In his newest collection of essays, David Sedaris lifts the corner of ordinary life, revealing the absurdity teeming below its surface. His world is alive with obscure desires and hidden motives -- a world where forgiveness is automatic and an argument can be the…

Book cover of Little Fires Everywhere

Heidi McCrary Why did I love this book?

Because nothing is more entertaining than reading about messed up families. I mean, really messed up. But there’s a story here that goes beyond typical family dysfunction. It would be so easy to paint a wide swath across the pages of a story, labeling someone as the evil one. But isn’t everyone flawed? And don’t we all have some good in us? Ng shows us a family that is raw and pained. An engaging read from start to finish. When you are done with reading this, be sure to check out the limited TV adaptation with Reese Witherspoon.

Best read with a light Chardonnay.

By Celeste Ng,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Little Fires Everywhere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller!

"Witty, wise, and tender. It's a marvel." -Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train and A Slow Fire Burning

"To say I love this book is an understatement. It's a deep psychological mystery about the power of motherhood, the intensity of teenage love, and the danger of perfection. It moved me to tears." -Reese Witherspoon

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Our Missing Hearts comes a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their…

Book cover of Things Unsaid

Heidi McCrary Why did I love this book?

Things Unsaid provides the best reason why not everyone who marries should have children. Seriously, if you don’t like children, don’t have children! And yet, we can still be entertained by reading about those mothers who don’t deserve the title. Diana Y. Paul’s novel paints an in-depth character study while also examining the hardship that follows neglected children after they enter adulthood, trying to fit into their new roles as parents and caregivers of aging parents.

Best read with a red Zinfandel (Just to be clear…red, not white).

By Diana Y. Paul,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bookclub Favorite
Winner of New Adult Fiction-Beverly Hills Book Awards
Winner of the SILVER Medal for Best Fiction in Drama from Readers' Favorite
Finalist USA Best Books Awards in Literary Fiction and in New Fiction

Inspired by a true story about mothers, daughters, and impossible choices-Jules Foster, a child psychologist, upon hearing news of her estranged, narcissistic mother's terminal diagnosis, chooses to care for her mother over her own daughter, only to find out she has been betrayed all along. Things Unsaid asks us to consider what children owe their aging parents and siblings.

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The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

Book cover of The Last Bird of Paradise

Clifford Garstang Author Of Oliver's Travels

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Fiction writer Globalist Lawyer Philosopher Seeker

Clifford's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Two women, a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives after leaving their homelands. Arriving in tropical Singapore, they find romance, but also find they haven’t left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.

Haunted by the specter of terrorism after 9/11, Aislinn Givens leaves her New York career and joins her husband in Southeast Asia when he takes a job there. She acquires several paintings by a colonial-era British artist that she believes are a warning.

The artist, Elizabeth Pennington, tells her own tumultuous story through diary entries that end when World War I reaches the colony with catastrophic results. In the present, Aislinn and her husband learn that terrorism takes many shapes when they are ensnared by local political upheaval and corruption.

The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

What is this book about?

"Aislinn Givens leaves a settled life in Manhattan for an unsettled life in Singapore. That painting radiates mystery and longing. So does Clifford Garstang's vivid and simmering novel, The Last Bird of Paradise." –John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake and The Inverted Forest

Two women, nearly a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives when they reluctantly leave their homelands. Arriving in Singapore, they find romance in a tropical paradise, but also find they haven't left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and haunted by the specter of terrorism, Aislinn Givens leaves her…

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