83 books like The Tender Land

By Kathleen Finneran,

Here are 83 books that The Tender Land fans have personally recommended if you like The Tender Land. 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 Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Sarah L. Sanderson Author Of The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

From my list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose to study creative nonfiction during my MFA program so I could learn what makes great memoirs work, but I first fell in love with the genre as a teenager, when I picked up Angela’s Ashes off my mom’s bedside table. I’m grateful for the way memoir gives me a window into the lives of people of other races, religions, abilities, experiences, and even other centuries. While my book The Place We Make isn’t only a memoir—it’s a blend of memoir and historical biography—it was my desire to both understand the view through my research subject’s eyes, and analyze how I was seeing the world myself, that drove me to write it.

Sarah's book list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes

Sarah L. Sanderson Why did Sarah love this book?

Men We Reaped blew me away.

Not only does Ward provide an incredibly personal and achingly beautiful glimpse of a culture I was unfamiliar with—a rural, impoverished Black community in the Deep South—but she does so with an innovative structure that simply dazzled me.

One strand of the book opens at the beginning of Ward’s life, while the other strand picks up at the end of her tale, with the most recent of five harrowing deaths due to gun violence that she and her community have endured. Each part of the story then alternately proceeds toward the same point, forwards along her childhood and backwards through each death, until both strands wind up in the middle of the story. It’s brilliantly executed. 

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Men We Reaped as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'A brutal, moving memoir ... Anyone who emerges from America's black working-class youth with words as fine as Ward's deserves a hearing' - Guardian 'Raw, beautiful and dangerous' - New York Times Book Review 'Lavishly endowed with literary craft and hard-earned wisdom' - Time _______________ The beautiful, haunting memoir from Jesmyn Ward, the first woman to win the National Book Award twice 'And then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped' - Harriet Tubman Jesmyn Ward's acclaimed memoir shines…


Book cover of Wave

Melanie Bishop Author Of My So-Called Ruined Life

From my list on inhabiting unthinkable loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my father died in 1998, bladder cancer, I was 41 years old and privileged to be his primary caregiver for five weeks. My first major loss and it was as though a mack truck had been driven through my chest. Ten years later, my mother died, after nine years of dementia, which is like losing someone twice. That was a more ravaging grief. Twelve years later, my nephew died, a month away from his 36th birthday. And in 2022, one close friend of mine took his own life and another died of cancer at age 57. Grief is the subject I gravitate toward in the books I read and the essays I write. 

Melanie's book list on inhabiting unthinkable loss

Melanie Bishop Why did Melanie love this book?

This book is about the most horrifying loss imaginable: the author loses her parents, her husband, and her two young sons all at once, in the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the day after Christmas, 2004. She and her family were spending the holiday in Sri Lanka when the wave hit and overtook the jeep in which they were attempting to flee. I can’t come up with a better justification for suicide than this—she’s lost everyone; she wonders why she was spared, just to suffer these losses every minute of every hour of every day. The book is both a horror story and a testament to human strength. I assure you, you won’t be able to put it down. 

By Sonali Deraniyagala,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the PEN/Ackerley Prize 2014

The book opens and we are inside the wave: thirty feet high, moving at twenty-five mph, racing two miles inland. And from there into the depths of the author's despair: how to live now that her life has been undone?

Sonali Deraniyagala tells her story - the loss of her two boys, her husband, and her parents - without artifice or sentimentality. In the stark language of unfathomable sorrow, anger, and guilt: she struggles through the first months following the tragedy -- someone always at her side to prevent her from harming herself, her…


Book cover of Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief

Colin Campbell Author Of Finding the Words: Working Through Profound Loss with Hope and Purpose

From my list on helping cope with grief and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve sat in many grief circles and listened to fellow grievers share their pain at being abandoned or misunderstood by their friends and families as they grieve. Often we suffer the secondary loss of community because our culture has not taught us how to grieve or how to be a friend to those in grief. My wife and I found some invaluable tools that helped us communicate our needs to our community, and keep them close on our grief journey. One of those tools is grief books. I’ve read dozens of them, and while everyone responds to grief books differently, I think these five books are the very best.

Colin's book list on helping cope with grief and loss

Colin Campbell Why did Colin love this book?

This book expertly explains the need to actively grieve, as opposed to avoiding the pain of grieving.

Dr. Cacciatore shares stories from grievers she has helped and she beautifully explains the complicated emotions we all go through as we grieve. I mailed copies of this book to my entire family right after my children were killed. It opened up the conversation of grief and made it clear that we were going to talk about Ruby and Hart and our grief openly.

By Joanne Cacciatore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bearing the Unbearable as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you love, you will grieve—and nothing is more mysteriously central to becoming fully human. 

A 2017 Indies Finalist from Foreword Reviews.

When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the nonbereaved, tell us it should.

Organized into fifty-two short chapters, Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection,…


Book cover of In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Mark Steven Porro Author Of A Cup of Tea on the Commode: My Multi-Tasking Adventures of Caring for Mom. And How I Survived to Tell the Tale

From my list on books that do not flinch when dealing with difficult circumstances.

Why am I passionate about this?

Family history has always fascinated me. I didn’t want mine to be buried with my loved ones. So, out of curiosity, I asked relatives lots of questions. If unsatisfied, I sought answers elsewhere. I traveled as far as Celle San Vito, Italy, where my grandfather was born, to solve a one-hundred-year-old mystery, and I filmed it for others to enjoy. I’ve memorialized momentous family events in poems, handmade greeting cards, memory books, screenplays, a documentary, and now, in my memoir A Cup of Tea on the Commode. The books on my list are about “family.” I’ve been moved by each, and I hope they move you as well.

Mark's book list on books that do not flinch when dealing with difficult circumstances

Mark Steven Porro Why did Mark love this book?

Amy’s story is filled with many welcome laughs to break up the many dramatic moments. And I thank her for that.

It’s a beautiful yet tragic love story. After a terminal diagnosis, her husband chose to leave this world with dignity. Amy supports his decision, knowing she’ll spend the rest of her days alone. It raises many questions. “What would I do in this situation?” Could I make the same sacrifice? Could I support my spouse if she chose the same?

I love that we are with them every step of the way. In our country, why can’t we decide how and when to leave this world when faced with a terminal diagnosis? We do this with our pets. I don’t know why we can’t do this for our loved ones instead of draining them of their dignity and the family of their finances. 

By Amy Bloom,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

A poignant love letter to Bloom's husband and a passionate outpouring of grief, In Love reaffirms the power and value of human relationships.

In January 2020, Amy Bloom travelled with her husband Brian to Switzerland, where he was helped by Dignitas to end his life while Amy sat with him and held his hand. Brian was terminally ill and for the last year of his life Amy had struggled to find a way to support his wish to take control of his death, to not submerge 'into the darkness of an expiring existence'.

Written with piercing…


Book cover of My Heart and Other Black Holes

Sandra L. Rostirolla Author Of Making Friends With Monsters

From my list on what life is like living with mental illness.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father died by suicide when I was thirteen. Because my family never spoke about the issues leading up to and resulting from this devastating event, we suffered a great deal. I have a deep love for books that expose just how dark, and troubled the teen existence can be. Authors who are brave enough to tackle such topics feed my bravery. The more stories we have on the topics of suicide, mental health, and trauma the broader the conversation and the more those who feel as though no one could possibly understand what they are going through feel seen.

Sandra's book list on what life is like living with mental illness

Sandra L. Rostirolla Why did Sandra love this book?

I was drawn to this book by the title and the super-intriguing cover.

Something about the linen’s organic nature mixed with the haphazard cross-stitching spoke to me.

Warga captures the depths of depression with her writing to the point where I could feel the sadness and internal struggle of Aysel, the book’s sixteen-year-old main character.

How vividly wonderful is this line: … feels like my skin is too thin, like everyone can see right inside me, can see my empty and dark insides.

The concept of Aysel creating a suicide pact with Roman really hit home. I’ve experienced multiple deaths by suicide, including two school friends who went through with their pact.

This story helped shed light on what clinical depression looks like from the inside, which can be vastly different and seemingly in conflict with the seemingly “I’m okay” exterior.

By Jasmine Warga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Heart and Other Black Holes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A brilliant and heartbreaking novel perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why.

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they've been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month's time, they plan to commit suicide - together.

Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn't equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can't figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all....and why he's even more determined than she is.

With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman - a feeling she never thought she would experience. It…


Book cover of All the Bright Places

Madi Lalor Author Of The Way We Were Before

From my list on warming your romantic heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been in love with the idea of love. I didn’t know what that feeling was like for a long time–not being in love myself–so I grew attached to fictionalised worlds that brought those ideas to life. I’ve always been the person who smiles at a meet-cute or feels that warm, fuzzy feeling inside when the couple you’ve been rooting for the last two hundred pages finally kisses. I want them to know how exciting it can be to feel loved and experience that through the creation of stories. This is why romance is, and likely always will be, a huge thematic influence on all forms of my work. 

Madi's book list on warming your romantic heart

Madi Lalor Why did Madi love this book?

I’ve always loved stories that explore the themes of love and loss and how they entwine as one. All The Bright Places is no exception to this. Be warned; you may shed some tears!

The emotional connection you create with this book is something I tried to tap into with my own writing, and I hope that the authenticity of All The Bright Places is something that can be found in my own work. I love this book with my whole heart. I often write characters with past trauma, which becomes apparent as they begin working on themselves through the plot's unravelling.

I see so many similarities between my own characters to that of Violet Markey, a main character in All The Bright Places. She is what I consider to be an inspiration to my own writing from the very beginning. It’s truly an emotional tale filled with important topics…

By Jennifer Niven,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked All the Bright Places as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Now a major film starring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith on Netflix.

A compelling and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

Theodore Finch constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself, but each time something good stops him.

Violet Markey exists for the future, counting the days until she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief for her late sister.

When they meet on the ledge of a tower, what might have been their end turns into their beginning.

It's only with Violet that Finch can truly be…


Book cover of The Mothers

Roy L. Pickering Jr. Author Of Patches of Grey

From my list on Black family dynamics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Reading and writing about family dynamics, particularly Black families, has always appealed to me. Particularly when it comes to the generation gap between parents and their children that causes them to see the same world through different lenses. Who we choose to see as our true family, the ones who define the place we call home, may or may not be defined by blood. I am fortunate not to have personally experienced most of the drama and trauma found in novels that I am drawn to, and in stories I have felt compelled to write. Otherwise, I would have turned to memoir writing rather than fiction.

Roy's book list on Black family dynamics

Roy L. Pickering Jr. Why did Roy love this book?

Brit Bennett writes with a steady hand as she immerses us into the minds and lives of three people. Nadia and Aubrey are haunted to womanhood by maternal abandonment. They are friends as well as rivals for the affection of the same man. Luke would have made a mother out of Nadia had they chosen to parent, and he eventually makes a wife and mother of Aubrey. His mother is the first lady of the church that plays a prominent role in their lives. The mothers in Bennett's exceptional novel are hurt and betrayed by callous men and by each other. I rooted for each of them to persevere, but like many of my favorite novels, this is not a happily ever after for everyone type of story.

By Brit Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half.

The Mothers is a dazzling debut about young love, a big secret in a small community and the moments that haunt us most.

All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.

It's the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes…


Book cover of A Breath Too Late

Ashley Wilda Author Of The Night Fox

From my list on magical realism about mental health.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I devoured books with any magical element, especially those somehow linked to nature. As I grew older and discovered that my emotional struggles were a signal of mental health issues, I turned to books again to make sense of my shattered world. I've found that magical realism is an incredible vehicle to explore the deep truths and questions behind mental health, healing, and grief, providing a way to make sense of the unexplainable. I slowly found my way to my own healing and wrote the book I needed as a young adult. I'm forever grateful to the authors of these books for providing a haven for souls like mine.

Ashley's book list on magical realism about mental health

Ashley Wilda Why did Ashley love this book?

This book is a heavy read but a vital one. After the main character dies by suicide before the book begins, a fragment of her is left in the world, attempting to piece her shattered memory back together and remember why she left.

A heartbreaking but hope-giving look at the heaviest and most beautiful moments in life, this book ultimately reminds readers that there’s always a reason to hold on.

By Rocky Callen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Breath Too Late as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

For fans of Girl in Pieces, All the Bright Places, and Girl, Interrupted comes a haunting and breathtaking YA contemporary debut novel that packs a powerful message: hope can be found in the darkness.

“Achingly poignant . . . a love letter and a life raft to the brokenhearted.” –New York Times bestselling author Alison McGhee

Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there…


Book cover of Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Kathleen Founds Author Of Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups

From my list on your bipolar bookshelf.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and illustrator based in coastal California. I have bipolar disorder, and my writing reflects my preoccupation with the mysteries of mental health. I wrote a novel-in-stories about an idealistic young teacher struggling with bipolar disorder, and my latest book is a graphic novel about a bipolar bear who gets trapped in the labyrinth of health insurance claims. I’m also the creator of a website designed to encourage people who are fighting off depression’s Voice of Doom. 

Kathleen's book list on your bipolar bookshelf

Kathleen Founds Why did Kathleen love this book?

This book is also full of sad facts. But understanding suicide is important. Many people with bipolar disorder struggle with suicidal thoughts, and researchers estimate that 20-60% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide. Kay Redfield Jamison’s book is full of compelling patient profiles, thought-provoking statistics, and beautiful poetry. This is book is gripping, compassionate, and ultimately life-affirming.

By Kay Redfield Jamison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night Falls Fast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Critical reading for parents, educators, and anyone wanting to understand the tragic epidemic of suicide—”a powerful book [that] will change people's lives—and, doubtless, save a few" (Newsday).

The first major book in a quarter century on suicide—and its terrible pull on the young in particular—Night Falls Fast is tragically timely: suicide has become one of the most common killers of Americans between the ages of fifteen and forty-five.

From the author of the best-selling memoir, An Unquiet Mind—and an internationally acknowledged authority on depression—Dr. Jamison has also known suicide firsthand: after years of struggling with manic-depression, she tried at age…


Book cover of For Every Solution, A Problem

Carmen Reid Author Of New Family Required

From my list on funny, feelgood fiction about families.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a daughter, sister, Mum, wife, and writer. I’ve been writing light-hearted books about the intricacies of family life for 20 years now. When I first began my publishing journey, I was parcelled up with ‘chick lit’, but really, I’ve always written ‘Mum lit’. I love to write about the hilarious side of life, alongside the emotional. As it’s hard enough out there in the world, I want things to turn out happily in my stories. I love to add a sprinkling of travel and a touch of fashion. Sorry, but I just can’t help noticing a well-cut jacket, an embroidered silky skirt, or a carefully chosen accessory! 

Carmen's book list on funny, feelgood fiction about families

Carmen Reid Why did Carmen love this book?

Why are more of Kerstin’s rom-com novels not available in English? That’s what I want to know.

This really is hilarious from start to finish, as we follow the hapless adventures of romance writer Gerri. While she tries to cope with losing her job, feeling forever single and even suicidal, her mother, father, and siblings only want to know when is she going to meet someone, preferably a professor, and settle down.

It’s the bizarre family dinners that capture the perfect madness that get-togethers with your parents and grown-up siblings can produce. And it takes an extremely talented writer to create an attempted (maybe that should be interrupted) suicide scene that is at once truly touching and hilarious.

A joyful read, particularly if, like me, you have some German relatives!

By Kerstin Gier, Erik J. Macki (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For Every Solution, A Problem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Trashy-romance writer Gerri has it all - an overbearing family, a dead-end job, and no man but a ton of pressure to get married and have kids. Frustrated and hopeless that things will ever change, she decides it's time to transition from "tragic loser" to "tragic loss." Armed with a shoebox full of sleeping pills and a big bottle of vodka, she's ready to end it all. First, she writes "honest" farewell notes to everyone she knows...

However, her big exit becomes her latest failure, and now she must face all those she's offended with her "final" words. Is it…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in suicide, teenagers, and family?

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