The best fiction to explore the humor and angst of family relationships

Who am I?

I've always been a person intrigued by relationships—why some last and others break up. From my perspective, distance in relationships arrives when two people have different expectations. I wanted to look at different kinds of distances in relationships—emotional, sexual, and geographical. As I was beginning to write my first stories, I read a line from my journal: explore the tension between the demands of relationships and the demand in myself to keep growing. I knew that tension was what I needed to write about. As an introvert, one of my deepest struggles has been to feel comfortable with my own boundaries in relationships, and I think that's true for most of us.

I wrote...

This Distance We Call Love

By Carol Dines,

Book cover of This Distance We Call Love

What is my book about?

This Distance We Call Love is a collection of powerful stories where irony and empathy collide. Carol Dines is a writer for our times, delivering masterful, unsettling, and utterly convincing fiction. Told from the perspectives of husbands, wives, siblings, children, lovers, and friends, the thirteen stories in this collection delve into the complexities of family and friendship: sisters battle issues of duty and obligation when one sister becomes homeless; a mother and daughter take a trip to Mexico, only to be followed by the daughter’s stalker; a family living in Rome must contend with their daughter’s rape; parents navigate raising their only child in the age of climate change. While some relationships fall apart, others remain entrenched in old patterns, grappling with notions of self and duty.

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The books I picked & why

Girl, Woman, Other

By Bernardine Evaristo,

Book cover of Girl, Woman, Other

Why did I love this book?

This book was surprising in both its humor and expansive narrative. Despite being somewhat experimental in its form, I loved this book as it told the stories of 12 British women of color who ranged in ages between 19 and 93 in London. Each life told separately, builds on the others. Spanning issues of class, gender identity, and family, the novel focuses on intersections of experience as generations of women are woven together. 

By Bernardine Evaristo,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Girl, Woman, Other as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


“A must-read about modern Britain and womanhood . . . An impressive, fierce novel about the lives of black British families, their struggles, pains, laughter, longings and loves . . . Her style is passionate, razor-sharp, brimming with energy and humor. There is never a single moment of dullness in this book and the pace does not allow you to turn away from its momentum.” —Booker Prize Judges

Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language.…

Book cover of Maggie Brown & Others: Stories

Why did I love this book?

Peter Orner creates a startling intimacy with his characters. In these short, pithy vignettes, we see estranged siblings, dying spouses, missing fathers, and a marriage that is ending.  Orner’s gift is to drop us right into the conflict and emotional action of his characters. Every protagonist feels like someone we know and maybe even loved. His writing is breathtaking. Spanning America of the 80s, his stories take place across the country from California to Chicago to the East Coast.

By Peter Orner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maggie Brown & Others as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this powerful and virtuosic collection of interlocking stories, each one "a marvel of concision and compassion" (Washington Post), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and "master of his form" (New York Times) takes the short story to new heights.


Through forty-four compressed gems, Peter Orner, a writer who "doesn't simply bring his characters to life, he gives them souls" (NYT Book Review), chronicles people whose lives are at inflection points, gripping us with a series of defining moments.


Whether it's a first date that turns into a late-night road trip to a séance in an abandoned airplane hangar,…

Dept. of Speculation

By Jenny Offill,

Book cover of Dept. of Speculation

Why did I love this book?

One of the most original voices in contemporary fiction, Offill’s novel is unusual and from my perspective, brilliant. Perspective is what makes this book shine, the story is so direct it feels as if it is originating in the narrator’s innermost thoughts. Weaving facts and articles with slices of daily routine with the narrator’s own thoughts, the reader is propelled forward, almost a participant in the gradual transformation of the narrator as she comes to terms with her husband’s betrayal.  This short, spare book is hard to put down, wise in ways that are hard to articulate and yet Offill succeeds beautifully.

By Jenny Offill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They used to send each other letters. The return address was always the same: Dept. of Speculation.

They used to be young, brave, and giddy with hopes for their future. They got married, had a child, and skated through all the small calamities of family life. But then, slowly, quietly something changes. As the years rush by, fears creep in and doubts accumulate until finally their life as they know it cracks apart and they find themselves forced to reassess what they have lost, what is left, and what they want now.

Written with the dazzling lucidity of poetry, Dept.…

Olive, Again

By Elizabeth Strout,

Book cover of Olive, Again

Why did I love this book?

In these hilarious and often tender interconnected stories, Strout takes off where Olive Kitteridge (her previous book) ended, following her husband’s death. Olive is once again charting new territory with her grown son and his children, a particularly moving and unsentimental story about their visit. After her son leaves, Olive grapples with loneliness and turns to Jack Kennison, a man who is also struggling with his own strained relationship with his daughter. Together they form an unlikely couple, discovering a new realm of intimacy neither expected.  Relationships are at the centerpiece of this collection, and each story gives a glimpse into Olive’s tenacity and courage to grow and find joy wherever it comes. 

By Elizabeth Strout,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Number One New York Times bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton

'A terrific writer' Zadie Smith

'A superbly gifted storyteller and a craftswoman in a league of her own' Hilary Mantel

'A novel to treasure' Sunday Times

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes - sometimes welcome, sometimes not - in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjusts to her new life with her second…

Apples Never Fall

By Liane Moriarty,

Book cover of Apples Never Fall

Why did I love this book?

This was a literary mystery that renewed my love of the genre. Beginning with an abandoned bike and the disappearance of Joy, the family matriarch, the novel unfolds through the lens of each grown child’s experience of growing up in the Delaney family. When a stranger arrives at the home one night, fleeing her boyfriend, the story is set in motion. The father, a tennis teacher and director of a tennis school, seems the likely culprit of his wife’s disappearance. But as detectives investigate the missing mother’s disappearance and her relationship to the young woman who arrived at the family home, they uncover old wounds in the marriage. Gradually, as the mystery unfolds, Moriarty reveals the family’s fault lines, eventually leading to the mother’s whereabouts while uncovering the truths about each family member.

By Liane Moriarty,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Apples Never Fall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From Liane Moriarty, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, comes Apples Never Fall, a novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest.

The Delaney family love one another dearly―it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in…

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