The best books about why sisters inspire love & aggravation

Who am I?

I’m a writer with two sisters very different from me in lifestyle. For example, one went into nursing (I hate blood!), and one was a bookkeeper (I also hate numbers!) I first wrote about loving but dissimilar sisters in a cozy series called The Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, under the pen name Maggie Pill. The books are fun, and readers often tell me which of the sisters they most identify with. “I’m Barb,” or “I’m the nice one.” Seven books later, I found I wanted to examine the darker side of sisterhood. What if things your sister does (or sisters do) make you uncomfortable? What wins: family loyalty or personal integrity?


I wrote...

Sister Saint, Sister Sinner

By Peg Herring,

Book cover of Sister Saint, Sister Sinner

What is my book about?

Same home, same parents. How do sisters become such different adults?

Nettie is a mess who commits a murder she refuses to explain. Ruth is a success at everything she does, which might include becoming the First Lady of the United States. Kim is "Baby Sister," unsure of what she wants from life. Separated by their lifestyles, the sisters are caring but not close until events push them back toward each other. Their collision leads to a stunning escape, a crushing decision, and societal questions that concern not only the Kovalesky girls, but all of us.

The books I picked & why

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The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah,

Book cover of The Nightingale

Why this book?

Maybe it’s the sister thing, but this book pleased me way more than other recent WWII novels that are touted as “great literature.” Sisters Isabelle Rossignol and Vianne Mauriac struggle to survive during the occupation of France, opposing the Nazis in different ways, with different results. Their courage in the face of danger and their dedication to each other result in a wonderful read.

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…


We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ott (illustrator),

Book cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Why this book?

Because it’s been copied a lot since its release, the book might not shock readers today, but in its time, the idea was ground-breaking. I read it as a teen and was fascinated with “Merricat" Blackwood, her sister Constance, and the mystery of how their family was poisoned. The rhyme chanted by local children whenever Merricat leaves home has stuck in my head for decades.

“Merricat,” said Constance, “would you like a cup of tea?”
“Oh no,” said Merricat, “you'll poison me.”
“Merricat,” said Constance, “Would you like to go to sleep down in the boneyard ten feet deep!”

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ott (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked We Have Always Lived in the Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Her greatest book ... at once whimsical and harrowing, a miniaturist's charmingly detailed fantasy sketched inside a mausoleum ... the deeper we sink, the deeper we want to go' Donna Tartt

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do…


The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Why this book?

This is a book that people either love or hate, and it comes down to your beliefs about…well, belief.

Nathan Price, the self-righteous pastor who packs his wife and four girls up to go “save” people in Africa, is a telling representation of American ethnocentrism. The family’s mistakes in a new culture sometimes result in danger, sometimes in awakening, and sometimes in humor. I loved how each girl (and the mother too) struggled to deal with what the man of the family chose for them.

The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Poisonwood Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.

'Breathtaking.' Sunday Times
'Exquisite.' The Times
'Beautiful.' Independent
'Powerful.' New York Times

This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will…

Sense and Sensibility

By Jane Austen,

Book cover of Sense and Sensibility

Why this book?

One has to have read Jane Austen in order to be a literature teacher, which I was for many years. The trials and tribulations of the Dashwood daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, provide an entertaining look into their society and the opportunities (or not) available for women of the age. It’s fun to see them operating by “sense” or by “sensibility.” Many people of today could use more consideration of those two opposites and the repercussions of each.

Sense and Sensibility

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Sense and Sensibility as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste' Virginia Woolf

Jane Austen's subtle and witty novel of secrets and suppression, lies and seduction, brilliantly portrays a world where rigid social convention clashes with the impulses of the heart. It tells the story of two very different sisters who find themselves thrown into an unkind world when their father dies. Marianne, wild and impulsive, falls dangerously in love, while Elinor suffers her own private heartbreak but conceals her true feelings, even from those closest to her.

Edited with an Introduction by ROS BALLASTER


When We Believed in Mermaids

By Barbara O'Neal,

Book cover of When We Believed in Mermaids

Why this book?

I liked the premise of this one: Kit’s sister Josie was supposedly killed in a terrorist attack, but one night she sees her on a TV news report in faraway New Zealand.

We might all wonder what we would do if the chance to find and reunite with a lost loved one arose. Questions must be asked and answered: Why did she leave? How could she let us grieve all this time? What happens if I find her?

When We Believed in Mermaids

By Barbara O'Neal,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked When We Believed in Mermaids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in sisters, family secrets, and France?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sisters, family secrets, and France.

Sisters Explore 128 books about sisters
Family Secrets Explore 96 books about family secrets
France Explore 646 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Woman of No Importance, Lilac Girls, and The Little Paris Bookshop if you like this list.