The most recommended adoptee books

Who picked these books? Meet our 18 experts.

18 authors created a book list connected to adoptees, and here are their favorite adoptee books.
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Book cover of A Living Remedy: A Memoir

SunAh M Laybourn Author Of Out of Place: The Lives of Korean Adoptee Immigrants

From my list on family belonging.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a Korean transracial adoptee, it seems like I’ve always been thinking about family, or even if I didn’t want to, other people’s intrusive questions about my family makeup forced me to. More than solely thinking about my own family–whether my Korean biological family or my white adoptive family–it led me to be curious about the broader systems, policies, and practices behind something that seems so personal and private. It’s no surprise that I formalized my inquiry into the social world by becoming a sociologist and professor. As a sociologist, my primary research interests are race, identity, and belonging, and yes, Korean transnational transracial adoption is part of that focus. 

SunAh's book list on family belonging

SunAh M Laybourn Why did SunAh love this book?

Grief is such a universal experience, yet I don’t think we get enough opportunities to truly grieve.

Nicole’s book provided me with space to grieve alongside her but also to grieve my own losses. I also appreciated how she connected her father’s death to broader systemic failures and how his view of himself shaped the help he was willing to accept or not.

I was especially taken in by how the theme of community shows up throughout the book–how important community is, how we find community, and how we build communities of care.

By Nicole Chung,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Living Remedy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of the Year by: Time * Harper’s Bazaar * Esquire * Booklist * USA Today * Elle

From the bestselling author of ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW comes a searing memoir of family, class and grief—a daughter’s search to understand the lives her adoptive parents led, the life she forged as an adult, and the lives she’s lost.

In this country, unless you attain extraordinary wealth, you will likely be unable to help your loved ones in all the ways you’d hoped. You will learn to live with the specific, hollow guilt of those who leave…


Book cover of Probably Ruby: A Novel

Alice Kuipers Author Of Always Smile: Carley Allison's Secrets for Laughing, Loving and Living

From my list on explore brilliant writing from Canada.

Why am I passionate about this?

I moved to Canada because I fell wildly in love eighteen years ago. It wasn’t Canada I loved, but a man, and it’s taken me years to get over my homesickness for the country of my birth. I've found as I’ve grown older that the stories of this place have given me a sense of home and belonging—perhaps that’s why so many of the books I’ve recommended are about identity and what it means to the authors. I’m lucky enough to share my favourite books every month on CTV here in Saskatoon, and I focus almost exclusively on Canadian and local books. I hope you love these books as much as I do!

Alice's book list on explore brilliant writing from Canada

Alice Kuipers Why did Alice love this book?

I’d be remiss if I shared books from Canada with you and didn’t point you towards some of the amazing writing coming out of Saskatoon, Treaty 6 Territory, and the Homeland of the Métis. Lisa-Bird Wilson's newest book is a beautiful novel about an Indigenous woman’s search for identity after her adoption. Living in Saskatchewan as Canada wrestles with truth and reconciliation, books like Probably Ruby give me a path to understanding and learning. The voice of this novel is searing and gorgeous, filled with heart and light, and I believe anyone who reads it will feel changed by the experience.

By Lisa Bird-Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Indigenous woman adopted by white parents goes in search of her identity in this unforgettable debut novel about family, race, and history.

Finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award • “Engaging . . . Ruby never disappoints with her big heart and outrageous sense of humor—and her resilient search for her own history.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A passionate exploration of identity and belonging and a celebration of our universal desire to love and be loved.”—Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers

This is the story of a woman in search of herself, in every sense. When we…


Book cover of American Bastard

Karen Elizabeth Lee Author Of The Full Catastrophe: A Memoir

From my list on showing human life in its reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a great interest in personal stories, well written. My memoir, The Full Catastrophe, was published in 2016. I wanted an answer to my own question “How could a well-educated, intelligent woman marry an abusive man?” Writing allowed me to find my answers. From that time on, I have taught people to write their own memoirs, have lectured on memoir, facilitated group discussions on memoir, and written articles on memoir. I am now in the process of writing another memoir. 

Karen's book list on showing human life in its reality

Karen Elizabeth Lee Why did Karen love this book?

This recommendation returns to one of my most passionate intereststhat of adopted children and the families they are placed in. Beatty is a poet and this is reflected in her memoirit is not the usual chronological narrative as most memoirs are. She breaks the myth of the “special” or “chosen baby” to tell her truth of the lives of adopted children. Beatty exposes, through vignettes and her poetry, her meetings with her birth mother, her adopted family, her attempts to know who she is and where she came from. She breaks open the belief that you can “create” a perfect family using children from other birth mothers, when all her life, she feels, is a lie and she has no grounding in the world. This memoir is her quest to find out who she is.

By Jan Beatty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

American Bastard is a lyrical inquiry into the experience of being a bastard in America. This memoir travels across literal continents-and continents of desire as Beatty finds her birthfather, a Canadian hockey player who's won three Stanley Cups-and her birthmother, a working-class woman from Pittsburgh. This is not the whitewashed story, but the real story, where Beatty writes through complete erasure: loss of name and history, and a culture based on the currency of gratitude as expected payment from the adoptee. American Bastard sandblasts the exaltation of adoption in Western culture and the myth of the "chosen baby." This journey…


Book cover of The Great Offshore Grounds

C.B. Bernard Author Of Small Animals Caught in Traps

From my list on how dark things can get for people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote a novel whose characters fight to survive depression, grief, loss, and abuse. Though it’s got a sense of humor, it gets dark. People ask, why read a book like that when real life is dark enough? Because we don’t just read to escape from the world—we read to understand it. Fiction can help explain the awful things we might witness or experience or hear about. It can also help us feel less alone in our own sadness and grief. Without darkness, light is meaningless. Without pain, we have no use for hope. Who wants to live in a world without hope? 

C.B.'s book list on how dark things can get for people

C.B. Bernard Why did C.B. love this book?

I could recommend this book for the writing, which is remarkable—layered and incisive and beautiful—or for the plotting, which is dense and chaotic in all the best ways, even as Veselka displays the patience of a confident master. Or for the multitude of richly drawn, intriguing characters and how they move around the country and one another. As they wander from Alaska to Seattle to New England in search of a family secret—and in search of themselves—Veselka brings readers along on their quest as she slowly reveals the mystery of a dysfunctional family dynamic and the systems that create so many others like it.  

By Vanessa Veselka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Offshore Grounds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD NOMINEE • A wildly original, cross-country novel that subverts a long tradition of family narratives and casts new light on the mythologies—national, individual, and collective—that drive and define us.

On the day of their estranged father’s wedding, half sisters Cheyenne and Livy set off to claim their inheritance. It’s been years since the two have seen each other. Cheyenne is newly back in Seattle, crashing with Livy after a failed marriage and a series of personal and professional dead ends. Livy works refinishing boats, her resentment against her freeloading sister growing as she tamps down dreams of…


Book cover of Then She Found Me

Stephanie Kepke Author Of Feel No Evil

From my list on flawed, yet sympathetic characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

In second grade my teacher told me I should be a writer—I haven’t wavered in my path since. I was a voracious reader as a child and regularly snatched books off my mom’s night table. My love for flawed characters grew with each book I devoured. I felt a connection with these characters, which fueled my dream to become a writer. When I was twenty-one years old and studying writing, I wrote in my journal, “I want to write books that make people cry.” I love to explore the gray areas in life, and I’m honored that readers have told me my books do make them cry (and laugh). 

Stephanie's book list on flawed, yet sympathetic characters

Stephanie Kepke Why did Stephanie love this book?

I love this book because, beyond the fabulous, richly layered story, it takes what should be unlikeable characters and makes you root for them. April Epner is flawed—brittle, sarcastic and closed off at times—but I love her.

As a reader, I can understand why she is the way she is, and that’s the key to making her sympathetic and likable. The payoff is so satisfying when April makes a deep emotional connection and opens up. Bernice Graverman, April’s newfound biological mom, is tacky, loud and over the top, and yet, I was rooting for her. She has a tough shell, but there’s a touching hidden vulnerability.

One more thing I loved about this book…I lived in Quincy, MA (outside of Boston), where this story is set, for five years—it perfectly captures what life was like there in the nineties.

By Elinor Lipman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Then She Found Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

April Epner teaches high school Latin, wears flannel jumpers, and is used to having her evenings free. Bernice Graverman brandishes designer labels, favors toad-sized earrings, and hosts her own tacky TV talk show: Bernice G!

But behind the glitz and glam, Bernice has followed the life of the daughter she gave up for adoption thirty-six years ago. Now that she's got her act together, she's aiming to be a mom like she always knew she could. And she's hurtling straight for April's quiet little life....


Book cover of Strangers We Know

Danna Smith Author Of The Complete Book of Aspen

From my list on that prove DNA sucks at keeping secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Complete Book of Aspen is based on my DNA experience. I was crushed after taking a DNA test to learn that the man who raised me was not my biological father. It rocked the foundation my life was built upon. Suddenly I was struggling with my identity, wondering why I am who I am. This led to a deep dive into DNA-related books. I read everything I could, from DNA science to memoirs to novels whose characters were affected by DNA discoveries. I liked seeing how these brave souls handled their heartbreak. Not only is the subject fascinating, but it’s also comforting to know, fictional or not, that we're never alone.

Danna's book list on that prove DNA sucks at keeping secrets

Danna Smith Why did Danna love this book?

Imagine this. You were adopted as a child. You’re now an adult with a medical condition. So, you take a DNA test to find blood relatives who could shed some light and family history on your disease. But you get the shock of your life when an FBI agent shows up and tells you they received your test results too and you are related to a serial killer! Ivy’s life spins out of control as she travels to meet her relatives and find a killer. Ivy is told that her mother was murdered by The Full Moon Killer and now she is getting too close…could she be the next victim? A chilling novel with lots of twists that left me thinking if I were in Ivy’s shoes, just this once, I’d rather DNA kept secrets.

By Elle Marr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strangers We Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The search for a serial killer leads a woman into the twisted tangle of her own family tree in a chilling novel by the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Missing Sister and Lies We Bury.

Adopted when she was only days old, Ivy Hon knows little about her lineage. But when she's stricken with a mystery illness, the results of a genetic test to identify the cause attract the FBI. According to Ivy's DNA, she's related to the Full Moon Killer, who has terrorized the Pacific Northwest for decades. Ivy is the FBI's hope to stop the enigmatic…


Book cover of The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

Paula Stokes Author Of Girl Against the Universe

From my list on YA for people navigating grief or loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I knew when I was in elementary school that I wanted to be a therapist when I grew up, but I took a slight detour after finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology to work as a line cook, retail manager, veterinary assistant, freelance editor, and registered nurse before finding my way back to graduate school. I also released ten young adult novels, many of them populated by characters struggling with mental illness. I understand anxiety, survivor’s guilt, grief, and loss as both a counselor and a human being, and I selected these books because they resonated deeply with me. I hope readers find comfort and connection in their pages.

Paula's book list on YA for people navigating grief or loss

Paula Stokes Why did Paula love this book?

I used to work as an oncology RN so I generally avoid cancer stories, but this author is a friend so I gave the book a chance, and wow am I glad I did. This story manages to capture the crushing reality of cancer for both the patient and the people who love her, but it’s also funny and mysterious and romantic, with plenty of meaningful things to say about grief. It takes insight and compassion to balance all those elements without ever being disrespectful to or flippant about terminal illness. I powered through this gorgeous book (the cover is even more incredible in person!) in one sitting and finished the story feeling hopeful and inspired.

By Cheyanne Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Wish of Sasha Cade 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?

The day Raquel has been dreading for months has finally arrived. Sasha, her best friend in the whole world, has died of cancer. Overwhelmed and brokenhearted, Raquel can't even imagine life without her. And then a letter from Sasha arrives. Has she somehow found a way to communicate from beyond the grave? In fact, Sasha spent her final weeks planning an elaborate scavenger hunt for the friend she would have to leave behind. When Raquel follows the instructions to return to Sasha's grave, a mysterious stranger with striking eyes is waiting for her. There's a secret attached to this boy…


Book cover of By Blood

Ellen Kirschman Author Of Burying Ben

From my list on psychotherapists at the heart of the story.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a police psychologist and mystery writer—I call myself a shrink with ink—I love to read how other authors portray therapists in their novels. It’s challenging to bring tension, action, and conflict to a 50-minute session that primarily involves quiet conversation, perhaps salted with tears. I started out writing non-fiction. Then I got tired of reality and began writing mysteries inspired by real police officers and their families. Writing fiction was harder, but more fun. Sometimes it’s been therapeutic. I especially enjoy the opportunity to take potshots at cops who treated me poorly, incompetent psychologists, and two of my ex-husbands.

Ellen's book list on psychotherapists at the heart of the story

Ellen Kirschman Why did Ellen love this book?

I absolutely loved this novel, not just for the craft (the writing is beautiful), but for the suspense created when a troubled man eavesdrops on a psychologist’s sessions.

Fascinated with one particular client, he gets deeply and actively involved in her search for identity and her ties to Nazi Germany. As a practicing psychologist, I tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to imagine how I would handle a similar situation.

Set in my town, 1970’s San Francisco during a tumultuous era marked by psychedelics, feminism, and the Zodiac killer, I even recognized the building where Ullman’s fictional psychologist practices because some of my colleagues have offices there.

By Ellen Ullman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed American novelist and memoirist Ellen Ullman, By Blood is a gothic noir novel that explores questions about fate, identity and genetics in the guise of a gripping psychological thriller.

"Delicious and intriguing" Daily Telegraph

A professor is on leave from his post a leave that may have been forced upon him. He may or may not be of sound mind. To steady himself, he rents an office in San Francisco. It is 1974, a time when free love and psychedelic ecstasy have given way to drug violence and serial killings. Through the thin office walls, the professor…


Book cover of Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery

Bruce Grierson Author Of What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Happier Lives

From Bruce's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Dogged Loyal Curious Cheerful Holophrastic

Bruce's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Bruce Grierson Why did Bruce love this book?

I first encountered Mooney’s writing when he was a sports reporter covering my local squad, the Vancouver Canucks, and in that role he was milk-out-your-nose hilarious. It oughtn’t to be surprising that all that inconsequential mirth came from a darker place.

In this memoir, Mooney describes the life of a Black boy growing up in a white household in 1980s British Columbia. His birth mom, a teenager in the foster system, gave him up for adoption, and that’s all he was told until he one day decided to do some sleuthing.

The book explores the moral crime of transplanting people into a new culture without their consent. The graft may look like it’s taking, but that’s only because you aren’t looking at the level of the soul: the damage redounds down the generations. A hard and important read. (And, mercifully, funny too at times.)

By Harrison Mooney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER - 2023 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writers Prizes for Nonfiction

FINALIST - Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction

An unforgettable coming-of-age memoir about a Black boy adopted into a white, Christian fundamentalist family

Perfect for fans of Educated, Punch Me Up to the Gods, and Surviving the White Gaze

“An affecting portrait of life inside the twin prisons of racism and unbending orthodoxy.” --Kirkus Reviews

A powerful, experiential journey from white cult to Black consciousness: Harrison Mooney’s riveting story of self-discovery lifts the curtain on the trauma of transracial adoption and the internalized antiblackness at the heart of the white evangelical…


Book cover of The Heart's Invisible Furies

Alastair Scott Author Of Tracks Across Alaska

From Alastair's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Traveller Outdoorsman Curious Searching Arctic-lover

Alastair's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Alastair Scott Why did Alastair love this book?

Good fiction has always flowed prolifically from the mind of John Boyne, and this book is yet another in which he confronts more issues in recent history that Ireland (and everywhere else, for that matter) would rather forget.

I love books that use humour to maximum effect. Boyne does it superbly, carrying his characters (and readers) through misfortunes galore with compulsion,  suspense, and an elevating laugh, serious themes heaped with (slightly guilt-edged) delight. If you don’t read this one, anything by Boyne will make you an instant fan.

By John Boyne,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Heart's Invisible Furies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Compelling and satisfying... At times, incredibly funny, at others, heartrending' Sarah Winman, author of When God Was a Rabbit

Forced to flee the scandal brewing in her hometown, Catherine Goggin finds herself pregnant and alone, in search of a new life at just sixteen. She knows she has no choice but to believe that the nun she entrusts her child to will find him a better life.

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or so his parents are constantly reminding him. Adopted as a baby, he's never quite felt at home with the family that treats him more as…