The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

20 authors picked The Glass Castle as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The fact that this book is a memoir makes it more amazing than a work of fiction.

The writer, Jeannette Walls, has so much more at stake in this story because it’s about her family, her childhood, and her parents. Her life. I raced through the book, from the first page, with my mouth open in almost disbelief because the level of neglect that Jeannette’s parents floated around in was astounding.

The story of childhood should not be so suspenseful, but Jeannette tells her realities so casually; her experience was truly like a frog in a pot of warming water,…

Reading this book left me shocked and heartbroken at how people can be oblivious to how their unconventional parenting and unstable lifestyle affect their children.

I saw firsthand how poverty and turmoil created fearful, insecure children, who like me, were afraid to create new relationships or bonds with outsiders, knowing like they did, that if I got too close, my family or circumstances would embarrass me. Like the protagonist, I had to settle for loneliness.

I saw that her parents weren’t bad, just flawed. A major revelation for me. I saw that I was not alone and that there were…

Ok, this was a re-read. That just shows how amazing the story is. I only re-read books that are truly compelling and have great writing, and I’ve re-read this book three times. I first encountered Jeannette Walls at a writing conference.

I thought: “If she can write as well as she speaks, I’m in.” She does. I love books with excellent writing and not-to-be-forgotten stories.

Since I read so many books a year, only the best ones rise to the top of my memory. I can remember exact scenes from Jeannette’s book year after year.

I love this book because, although it tells a difficult story of growing up in extreme poverty in rural America, it is written in prose that is sparing and unsentimental.

It is clear that – like me – Jeannette was desperate to love her parents, Rex and Rose Mary, despite their failings, but found this increasingly difficult as she became older and more conscious of the differences between her life and the lives of other children.

In the end, again like me, Jeanette had to run away from her parents to create a more stable and caring future.

Walls tells the truth. Just her mom’s advice to, “What do I tell people?”—an ache of a question that’s twisted my own writer’s stomach.

I felt my own family shame as Walls found her mom dumpster diving in the East Village, triggering her escape back to her Park Avenue apartment. And the love that landed them together for Chinese food soon after. Her father, brilliant and inhumane, became a mirror for the contradictions inherent in my family, in us all.

She sets us down smack in the middle of the desert and the Appalachians by engaging all our senses. Writing…

The Glass Castle was a revelation to me; the first book to boldly chronicle the layers of madness in one family and the pivots from illusions of grandeur to poverty and food insecurity.

I instantly connected with the honesty and bravery of Walls’ story as she introduces readers to her chaos-ridden childhood, including public displays of bizarre behavior and parental failures. Holding out hope for normalcy, Walls tells the story of a broken, nomadic family “skedaddling” from one trauma/drama to another. 

The Glass Castle is a raw, compelling treasure, demonstrating the potential for resiliency despite a childhood of poverty, shame,…

The opening scene is one of the best you will ever read in the memoir genre. It serves as the catalyst for a hair-raising account of a chaotic, nomadic lifestyle where food and money are in short supply, midnight flits are frequent, but dreams are free.

Despite the inevitable disappointments and dangers associated with feckless, inadequate parenting, a strange kind of love and eventual acceptance propels the narrator and her siblings to break free and seek a more secure adulthood for themselves.  

This book has a special place in my heart because it taught me so much about writing craft,…

Sometimes the timing of a book’s addition to our personal reading list can make the difference in how willing we are to permit a particular message to infiltrate our lives.

For me, The Glass Castle was such a book. I was in the midst of reading the emotionally charged text that was fraught with familial dysfunction when I interacted with one of my fourth-grade students. Sitting beside him, I immediately noticed the stench of cat piss on his clothing. Rather than hold my breath at the gag-worthy smell, I inhaled, as I wanted to see past the invisible fog of…

When I first read The Glass Castle, I was relieved to know that I was not the only one to have a dysfunctional childhood.

The main character and her siblings learn to take care of themselves. It reminded me of how I raised myself and was not really allowed to be a child. Every morning, I brought my mother coffee in bed before I walked the dog. After school I did the shopping and cooked dinner.

The Walls children learn resilience at an early age, despite their destructive and alcoholic father. They also end up in New York, like…

Jeannette Walls tells a story of her early childhood growing up in a highly dysfunctional family with parents who are free spirits doing what makes each of them happy at the moment. Her father promises her that someday, he will build her a glass castle on the beach. She dreams of this beautiful home, but throughout the years, she and her siblings are homeless and learn to care for themselves while their parents take off for places unknown. She teaches life lessons of resilience, redemption, and forgiveness that have stayed with me for a very long time.

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