The best family dysfunction books to read while drinking

Who am I?

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.

The books I picked & why

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The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Why 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.


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

By Wade Rouse,

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

Why 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.


Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

By David Sedaris,

Book cover of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Why 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.


Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng,

Book cover of Little Fires Everywhere

Why 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.


Things Unsaid

By Diana Y. Paul,

Book cover of Things Unsaid

Why 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).


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