100 books like Belonging

By Catherine Corless,

Here are 100 books that Belonging fans have personally recommended if you like Belonging. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Light in the Window

Esther Freud Author Of I Couldn't Love You More: A Novel

From my list on Mother and Baby Homes and the unplanned babies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Aged eighteen and living in London, my mother fell in love with an older man and was soon pregnant. Fearful of repercussions, she kept the pregnancy secret from her Catholic parents and continued to keep this secret for many years. This was something I’d always known, but it was only recently that I decided to investigate what happened to so many girls who went to the wrong people for help. What I found was devastating, and it gave me a greater understanding of the choices my mother made. I'm a writer who often draws on autobiographic material for my novels, plays, and stories. I like to feel a subject is truly mine.

Esther's book list on Mother and Baby Homes and the unplanned babies

Esther Freud Why did Esther love this book?

I came across this memoir while researching Irish mother and baby homes for my own novel. June Goulding was a young midwife in the 1950s when she was hired by the Sacred Heart Convent in Cork.  Here she found girls,  some as young as 13, punished for the sin of being pregnant, forced to work, tarring roads, scrubbing floors, and rearing their children until they were handed over for adoption – in exchange for a donation to the church often without their consent. Thirty years later, haunted by what she was party to, Goulding tells the story of how she tried to relieve the suffering of these unfortunate women. 

By June Goulding,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Light in the Window as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I promised that I would one day write a book and tell the world about the home for unmarried mothers. I have at last kept my promise.'

In Ireland, 1951, the young June Goulding took up a position as midwife in a home for unmarried mothers run by the Sacred Heart nuns. What she witnessed there was to haunt her for the next fifty years. It was a place of secrets, lies and cruelty. A place where women picked grass by hand and tarred roads whilst heavily pregnant. Where they were denied any contact with the outside world; denied basic…


Book cover of Fear of the Collar: The True Story of the Boy They Couldn't Break

Heidi Daniele Author Of The House Children

From my list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am first generation American - my mother is from Ireland and my father is from Germany. I’ve always had an interest in my heritage and developed a passion for genealogy. My curiosity led me to researching Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes in Ireland. I’ve read many books about these institutions and also wrote a book of my own based on stories of former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway.

Heidi's book list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes

Heidi Daniele Why did Heidi love this book?

Fear of the Collar is Patrick Touher’s personal account of his experience in the Artane Industrial School. Artane was the largest Industrial School in Ireland and operated from 1870 – 1969.

At times Artane housed nearly 1,000 boys and was known to be self-sufficient – with the “inmates” making their own clothes, shoes, and the boys produced and grew their own food.

Touher takes the reader through the daily military-like regiment and discipline imposed upon young boys being cared for by the Christian Brothers. His story will evoke an array of feelings. It is important to read the epilogue as you will be in awe of the man Patrick Touher has become despite the harshness of his childhood.

By Patrick Touher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fear of the Collar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sent to an Industrial School in Dublin at the age of seven, Patrick Touher was forced into a tough regime of education and training, prayer and punishment, strict discipline and fearful nights. No allowances were made for emotion, sentiment or boyhood worries, and anyone who disturbed the routine was severely punished. Artane demanded absolute obedience, absolute submission; Patrick's was an education in cruelty and fear.

Patrick Touher spent eight long years in Artane Industrial School. Run by the Christian Brothers, the school has become synonymous with the widespread abuse of children in Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s which is…


Book cover of For the Love of My Mother

Heidi Daniele Author Of The House Children

From my list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am first generation American - my mother is from Ireland and my father is from Germany. I’ve always had an interest in my heritage and developed a passion for genealogy. My curiosity led me to researching Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes in Ireland. I’ve read many books about these institutions and also wrote a book of my own based on stories of former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway.

Heidi's book list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes

Heidi Daniele Why did Heidi love this book?

John Rodgers tells the story of his mother’s experience in three Irish institutions, including an industrial school, a Mother Baby Home, and a Magdalene Laundry. Bridie Rodgers’ story reveals the psychological and emotional burdens of an inmate and how they are also felt by their future generations. It is a devastating reality to learn of the many innocent children and women who had been isolated from society and powerless over their own lives. 

By J.P. Rodgers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For the Love of My Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the Love of My Mother is the tragic and uplifting story of one Irish mother and her son. Born into a life of poverty and detained at the tender age of two for begging in the streets, Bridget Rodgers proceeded to spend the next 30 years of her life locked away in one institution or another. The orphanage came first but after being raped and falling pregnant, she was sent to a home for unmarried mothers where she gave birth, had her son taken away from her and then was sent to one of the infamous Magdalen Laundries. And…


Book cover of Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland

Heidi Daniele Author Of The House Children

From my list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am first generation American - my mother is from Ireland and my father is from Germany. I’ve always had an interest in my heritage and developed a passion for genealogy. My curiosity led me to researching Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes in Ireland. I’ve read many books about these institutions and also wrote a book of my own based on stories of former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway.

Heidi's book list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes

Heidi Daniele Why did Heidi love this book?

Moira J. Maguire has written a book that could be used by academics yet still fascinates a curious reader. Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland gives a full view of the system implemented to care for needy children. The study examines the roles of religion and state involved in providing services. Maguire references documents and quotes from reports to give the reader an authentic view of how destitute, abused, and illegitimate children were cared for. 

By Moira J. Maguire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This fascinating study reveals the desperate plight of the poor, illegitimate, and abused children in an Irish society that claimed to cherish and hold them sacred, but in fact marginalized and ignored them. It examines closely the history of childhood in post-independence Ireland, and breaks new ground in examining the role of the state in caring for its most vulnerable citizens.

Maguire gives voice to those children who formed a significant proportion of the Irish population, but have been ignored in the historical record. More importantly, she uses their experiences as lenses through which to re-evaluate Catholic influence in post-independence…


Book cover of No Matter What: An Adoptive Family's Story of Hope, Love and Healing

Shanta Everington Author Of Another Mother: Curating and Creating Voices of Adoption, Surrogacy and Egg Donation

From my list on the adoption triangle in poetry and prose.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was going through the process of adopting my second child, after having my first by a more conventional route, I looked for diverse representations of mothering to help me make sense of my journey. These recommended books helped me to understand the lived experience from all sides of the adoption triangle: adoptee, birth mother, and adopter. I was curious about the experience of other mothers whose children have an additional mother and found a lack of life writing on surrogacy and egg donation. As a published novelist and poet, I decided to move into experimental life writing and undertook a PhD in Creative Writing to discover and write their stories.

Shanta's book list on the adoption triangle in poetry and prose

Shanta Everington Why did Shanta love this book?

Sally Donovan’s book is a memoir by an adoptive mother of two children who were removed from their birth family due to abuse and neglect. It’s an eye-opening, and at times eye-watering, read, educating the reader about the complexities of mothering children who have experienced trauma. It is also a deeply moving book about ‘hope, love and healing.’

Anyone considering adopting would benefit from reading this book.

By Sally Donovan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Matter What as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I love you, no matter what.'

An uplifting true story of an ordinary couple who build an extraordinary family, No Matter What describes how Sally and Rob Donovan embark upon a journey to adopt following a diagnosis of infertility.

Sally Donovan brings to life with characteristic wit and honesty the difficulties of living with infertility, their decision to adopt and the bewildering process involved. Finally matched with young siblings Jaymey and Harlee, Sally and Rob's joy turns to shock as they discover disturbing details of their children's past and realise that they must do everything it takes to heal their…


Book cover of That Mean Old Yesterday

Matthew Pratt Guterl Author Of Skinfolk: A Memoir

From my list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised as one of two white kids in a large, multiracial adoptive family by loving parents who wanted to change the world. Our parents were thoughtful about adoption, ambitious about the symbolism of our family, and raised us all to be conscious about race, to see it, and to guard against it. But the world is a lot bigger than our house and racism is insidious and so, in a way, we all eventually got swallowed up. So I started thinking hard about the dynamic relationship between race and adoption and family when I was just a kid, and I’ve never really stopped. 

Matthew's book list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption

Matthew Pratt Guterl Why did Matthew love this book?

I should have read this book years ago. This singularly brilliant memoir is an undoing of the most pernicious adoption myth: that which traces the success of adopted children to their new families.

In this case, a bright and talented young woman makes it out of the foster system before eventually going to Penn and becoming an accomplished journalist and professor, but her adoption out of foster care turns into yet another traumatic experience.

Ambitiously, Patton spins that trauma outward, expanding the background until it spans centuries. When, by the close, she makes the start of a career for herself, that triumph is pretty much hers alone.

By Stacey Patton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked That Mean Old Yesterday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An astonishing coming-of-age memoir by a young woman who survived the foster care system to become an award-winning journalist On a rainy night in November 1999, a shoeless Stacey Patton, promising student at NYU, approached her adoptive parents' house with a gun in her hand. She wanted to kill them. Or so she thought. No one would ever imagine that the vibrant, smart, and attractive Stacey had a childhood from hell. After all, with God-fearing, house-proud, and hardworking adoptive parents, she appeared to beat the odds. But her mother was tyrannical, and her father turned a blind eye to the…


Book cover of Are You My New Mum?

Holly Marlow Author Of Delly Duck: Why A Little Chick Couldn't Stay With His Birth Mother

From my list on helping adoptive parents be better parents.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an adoptive parent and I often use stories to help my children to understand and process emotive topics. While we were going through the adoption process, I couldn’t find any stories that adequately explained why some children can’t stay with their birth families, so I decided to create my own! I found the waiting during the adoption process quite unbearable and put every spare minute to good use, reading books by adoptees and birth parents, so that I could understand the experiences of the people affected most by adoption. These autobiographies were a tough, emotional read at times, but they all changed me for the better. 

Holly's book list on helping adoptive parents be better parents

Holly Marlow Why did Holly love this book?

I found this short, emotional story impossible to put down. I read it in one sitting, spent the next few days thinking about it, then read it again. Astrid talks about her childhood, including the events that led to her being taken into foster care, and her fear and confusion when this happened. Astrid talks about her experiences of sibling contact in foster care and after adoption, which I found really interesting. Adoptive parents should read this, to help understand how their children may feel if they have siblings placed elsewhere.

By Astrid Peerson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Are You My New Mum? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are you my new mum? Tells of the harrowing true story of the Peerson siblings. You'll read the disturbing words written by Astrid, of the abuse herself, and her siblings endured on a daily basis.

Unloved, abused, and neglected by their biological parents.

Astrid's father, an evil, narcissistic, pedophile, who abused his position as the head of of the household.
Astrid's mother, who sat back and allowed the abuse to go on, for many years, even sometimes joining in.

Astrid tells her story from childhood abuse, being taken to a children's home, being in a few foster homes, finding a…


Book cover of Girl in the Tunnel: My Story of Love and Loss as a Survivor of the Magdalene Laundries

Dermot Bolger Author Of A Second Life

From my list on institutions run by Irish religious orders.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a novelist and poet from a working-class Dublin suburb. The small press I started at 18 published early works by Sebastian Barry, Colm Toibin, Fintan O’Toole, etc. Because I felt that working-class life was not being written about, I became interested in hidden aspects of Irish society. Adoption was often kept secret when I was small. When I first wrote A Second Life, I was amazed by how many people told me how they were adopted but had never told anyone. I want to do justice to their stories and their mothers’ stories. Hopefully readers will think that, in some small way, my updated novel does this.

Dermot's book list on institutions run by Irish religious orders

Dermot Bolger Why did Dermot love this book?

After my struggles to find a printer for The God Squad in 1988, it is refreshing to see how receptive readers are to this brave memoir by Maureen Sullivan, subtitled “My Story of Love and Loss as a Survivor of the Magdalene Laundries”.

When twelve years old, Sullivan told a teacher she was being sexually abused by her stepfather. A day later she was incarcerated in a Magdalene Laundry. The nuns promised to educated her. Instead she became their indentured slave, washing and scrubbing, with little food or water and subjected to beatings.

The title comes from how the nuns kept her hidden in a tunnel when government inspectors came. Novelists can try to imagine these worlds, but only a survivor (and campaigner for other survivors) like Sullivan can really capture that purgatory.

By Maureen Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Girl in the Tunnel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A compelling new memoir by one of the youngest-known survivors of Ireland’ s infamous Magdalene laundries. Sullivan has been interviews extensively in the national media about her harrowing experiences. She discussed her ongoing fight for justice in RTÉ ’ s 2022 documentary Ireland’ s Dirty Laundry.


Book cover of Find Layla

Connie King Leonard Author Of Sleeping in My Jeans

From my list on teen homelessness and poverty.

Why am I passionate about this?

Teaching middle school made me painfully aware of the disparity in our students’ lives. Some kids have every advantage, while others struggle to survive without enough food, clean water, or a safe, dry place to sleep for the night. All these kids, with their diverse backgrounds, sit side-by-side in class and are expected to perform at the same academic and social levels. In my novels, I feature ordinary teens that are strong, smart, and resilient, like so many of the students who taught me as much as I taught them.

Connie's book list on teen homelessness and poverty

Connie King Leonard Why did Connie love this book?

I loved Find Layla and not just because there are a lot of similarities to my own book. Like Mattie, my main character, Layla is the daughter of a single mother and lives a day-to-day existence doing all she can to care for her younger sibling. She is strong, smart, and determined to rise out of poverty even in the face of impossible odds. Elison doesn’t waste words, setting out the reality of Layla’s life in vivid detail and a straightforward style.

By Meg Elison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A neglected girl's chaotic coming-of-age becomes a trending new hashtag in a novel about growing up and getting away by an award-winning author.

Underprivileged and keenly self-aware, SoCal fourteen-year-old Layla Bailey isn't used to being noticed. Except by mean girls who tweet about her ragged appearance. All she wants to do is indulge in her love of science, protect her vulnerable younger brother, and steer clear of her unstable mother.

Then a school competition calls for a biome. Layla chooses her own home, a hostile ecosystem of indoor fungi and secret shame. With a borrowed video camera, she captures it…


Book cover of Carrie

Megan Carle Author Of Walk Away to Win: A Playbook to Combat Workplace Bullying

From my list on bullies being put in their place.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable calling myself an expert on workplace bullying. I mean, just because you experience something doesn’t necessarily make you an expert, right? What I am, though, is passionate about the subject of workplace bullying within the larger context of organizational health and workplace culture. I’m passionate about it because I experienced a workplace whose culture devolved into hostility, toxicity, and workplace bullying. I'm one of the 80 million US workers who have been affected by workplace bullying. That’s the size of two Californias or one Germany. And, it means one in two workers are contending with something that is known as “the Undiscussable.” So, let’s discuss it. 

Megan's book list on bullies being put in their place

Megan Carle Why did Megan love this book?

Leave it to the master of horror, Stephen King, to dream up the ultimate comeuppance story.

High school student Carrie is bullied relentlessly by her peers, both at school and outside its walls. Her mother’s treatment of her at home doesn’t help. But one day Carrie realizes she has supernatural powers that dwarf the “powers” her classmates think they wield over her.

I don’t condone what happens on prom night, of course, but anyone who’s ever been bullied will agree that the fantasy of turning the tables on your tormentor(s) can be…very satisfying.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Carrie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's legendary debut, about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates, is a Classic. CARRIE is the novel which set him on the road to the Number One bestselling author King is today.

Carrie White is no ordinary girl.

Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis.

To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie - the first
step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues.

But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she
is forced to exercise her…


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