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?

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

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.

Wow! What a punch it packs. It grabs you from the first line and doesn’t let go. I’m drawn to true stories of perseverance and overcoming great odds. This one does not disappoint. Jeannette’s childhood was fraught with madness and poverty. She shines a light on difficult subjects and never, never once comes across as whiney or complaining.

What she endures would level most people, but like all badass women with grit, she comes through with grace and a seemingly unstoppable spirit. That’s what makes it sing. 

From Vanessa's list on memoirs by badass women with grit.

What inspired me to read this memoir is how a child with her 3 siblings was able to live through a nomadic life of poverty, sometimes living in cardboard boxes, and still maintain a positive outlook on her family and ending up in a successful career in her adult life. Despite the extremely dysfunctional parents who prioritized their own ways of coping, the father with alcohol binges and the mother with her art, at the cost of their children’s welfare, their strong connection and commitment to one another prevailed. I think the answer is that despite their struggles the sense…

The Glass Castle tells the story of a family of children and their survival in modern U.S.A. Though the family had some means, the dysfunction of the parents led to terrible deprivation. They were almost unbelievably selfish, with addiction and mental illness issues, leaving the children to fend for themselves. The story is told in a very straight-forward matter of fact manner, that allows the readers their own reactions to the shocking circumstances in which the children lived, and their eventual survival.

From Karen's list on showing human life in its reality.

This book got lodged into my soul the day I read it. Here’s a girl with well-meaning yet destructive parents, and the belief she has in them, her father especially, is so heartbreaking. Have you ever loved someone who can’t stop letting you down? Then this book is a must-read.

Walls captivated me with her story of freedom from a neglectful childhood and her mercurial alcoholic father. His wildly selfish opinions on raising impoverished children are rationalized by a spell he weaves for many years. The promise of a brilliantly constructed new home made of glass —The Glass Castle. He reminded me of my own father who died of alcoholism at 38, whose death inspired me to write. As in my life, The Glass Castle was the unfulfilled promise of his sobriety, and consistency of love. Walls never invites self-pity. The shocking anecdotes she lived through were not strung together…

From Henriette's list on getting inside the addict’s mind.

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.


A truly captivating memoir about poverty, family, hope, addiction, and dysfunctionality. Walls deftly illustrates the power of a child’s mind to magnify the exceptional qualities of condemnable parents. Only as she matures and the scales slowly fall from her eyes do the abject neglect, abuse, and magical thinking of her upbringing come into focus. With direct, unapologetic prose, she continues to honor her childhood naivete while at the same time revealing her parents’ undeniable (read: pathological) faults and failings.

From Christine's list on by women unapologetic about their hot mess.

This is my all-time favourite book because it’s such an incredible story of a girl’s resilience and ultimate success after an insane childhood. And it’s SO well-written—despite Jeannette’s horrific circumstances, I laughed as often as I shook my head in wonder. This is the book that made me finally start writing my own memoir after decades of thinking about it!

From Cea's list on resiliency.

I read this book while driving cross-country. To say I couldn't wait to find my hotel for the night and dig back into the book doesn't cover it as I'm pretty sure I read this book at stoplights as I passed through small towns. In fact, it was after reading The Glass Castle that I wrote my first memoir in just three short weeks. I was on fire and inspired by Jeanette Walls to get my story out there, too.

While I've picked up many books about disadvantaged childhoods, I've put many right back down if I found them to…

From Marlayna's list on surviving traumatic childhoods.

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