The best books on the quirks and joys of family life

Who am I?

I am the mother of six and a voracious journaler. I am also a novelist. Though I’ve found that the facts of family adventures are often more fascinating than fiction. I bring in-the-moment observations as well as decade-seasoned insights to the world of family life. I also love reading about other families with all their quirks and joys. 


I wrote...

When I Was a Pie: And Other Slices of Family Life

By M.L. Farb,

Book cover of When I Was a Pie: And Other Slices of Family Life

What is my book about?

Most stories end with Happily Ever After. This one starts with it.

These are slices of life in the form of short stories, musings, comics, and poetry—showing bright moments, soul pondering, frustrations, and side-aching laughter. Join our family as we play compliment tag, create piano calls, and cut a crawl hole in the bathroom door to rescue a toddler. It is life, lived in the moment and observed. Welcome to the eclectic joy we call our family.

The books I picked & why

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Cheaper by the Dozen

By Frank B. Gilbreth, Ernestine Gilbreth Carey,

Book cover of Cheaper by the Dozen

Why this book?

I laughed out loud as I joined this family of twelve children on cramped car trips, through childhood pranks, adolescent rebellion, and through the daily joys and growing pains of a loud and loving family. My dad is one of eleven children and reading this book reminds me of many of his stories about growing up. I especially related to the clatter of dinner time conversation centered around morse code or math games. We never did morse code but we’ve played plenty of math games and word riddles.


Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers

By Ralph Moody,

Book cover of Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers

Why this book?

I highly recommend this book to every parent. It is filled with gentle, practical wisdom in the setting of a frontier family. The father takes the time to teach through everyday experience and vivid analogies. We use his analogy of the “character house” all the time in our family. The mother has her own quiet strength, which the author shows more in the following books of the series. The book is also filled with the high energy and pranks of children, and the adventures of growing up on a ranch. A lovely true story, though be warned, you will cry at the end.


Owls in the Family

By Farley Mowat,

Book cover of Owls in the Family

Why this book?

Though we will never have inside pets because of allergies, my family thoroughly enjoys this true story centered around a family raising two owls (and a variety of other wild animals). This story showed a supportive family as the parents not only endured a continuous round of new pets (including a meal interrupted by one owl dropping a dead skunk on the table) but also assisted Billy in his early zoo-keeping habits. The hilarious slices of life had us in stitches. I especially love the relationship between the owl—Wol—and Billy’s dog.


Caddie Woodlawn

By Carol Ryrie Brink,

Book cover of Caddie Woodlawn

Why this book?

Caddie Woodlawn is a kindred spirit with her love of adventure, boisterous friendship with her brothers, and her dislike of the constraints of “lady-like” expectations. Her parents give her freedom and responsibilities, both of which help her grow into a young woman—not of fashion, but of character. I love the interactions between the siblings and between the parents and children. They are real, with frustrations and forgiveness, love and laughter.


Red, White, and Whole

By Rajani LaRocca,

Book cover of Red, White, and Whole

Why this book?

What would you do if your mother was dying of cancer and you thought if you could just be the perfect daughter, she’d live? Red, White, and Whole addresses this through a tender-sweet tale of a daughter caught in the crossroads of her Indian family culture, American neighborhood culture, and the fight to save her mother’s life. It is written completely in verse and filled with vivid imagery, poignant contemplations, and bits of Indian myths. All of which combine to create a tapestry of love, loss, and finding peace. It is a family finding a way to be whole, even after tragedy.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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