The best dysfunctional family books 📚

Browse the best books on dysfunctional families as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Last House on Needless Street

The Last House on Needless Street

By Catriona Ward

Why this book?

This is a “hard to describe without giving it away” book! I think it’s one of the most uniquely told stories I’ve read. It opens on the eleventh anniversary of a missing girl, and we learn that Ted, who lives with his daughter and his cat in the last house on Needless Street, had been questioned when it first happened. Slowly, in a clever and intriguing way, we come to realise things aren’t how they seem. There are secrets buried in the forest at the end of the street, waiting to be unearthed. I really enjoyed trying to figure out…

From the list:

The best psychological thriller books with a jaw-dropping twist

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Book cover of Friend: A Novel from North Korea

Friend: A Novel from North Korea

By Nam-Nyong Paek, Immanuel Kim

Why this book?

This one is set in North Korea and is by a sanctioned North Korean writer. As a result, there is no criticism directed at the North’s restrictive society and on the surface it isn’t at all political. Instead, it shows the mundane existence of a judge and his wife, ordinary people who work hard to contribute to the development of the nation. It seems to be about traditional values, and the rising prevalence of divorce is seen as a problem. Those of us who follow Korea rarely get this kind of insight into what life in the North is really…

From the list:

The best books about contemporary Korean society

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Book cover of One Plus One

One Plus One

By Jojo Moyes

Why this book?

This book has been around longer, but I just discovered it this year. It is JoJo Moyes at her best, being an absolutely brilliant writer and creating incredible characters you can’t help but root for. More importantly: road trip! Who doesn’t love a good road trip? Okay, maybe some people don’t love being strapped into a seat for hours (I’m looking at you, man who claims to be my soulmate). That’s what books like this are for, though. While I’m gas-guzzling my way aimlessly through Maine “in search of fall foliage,” you can burn rubber from the comfort of…

From the list:

The best books that will take you on a romantic getaway without making you leave the couch (or bring anyone else)

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Book cover of North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both

North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both

By Cea Sunrise Person

Why this book?

The full title of this memoir by Cea Sunrise Person is North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Counter Culture Family, and How I Survived Both, which basically sums up this fascinating and wild ride through Cea’s unconventional upbringing in a pot-smoking, free-loving, clothing-optional, canvas tipi-sleeping, non-conforming family in the Canadian wilderness. Gaining this unique view into the psychology and emotional fallout of the eccentric family lifestyle was shocking, heart-breaking, and inspirational all at once. You will never read another book quite like it.

From the list:

The best hidden gems by Canadian writers

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Book cover of The Death of Sweet Mister

The Death of Sweet Mister

By Daniel Woodrell

Why this book?

The people in Sweet Mister are broken and derelict, strong and resilient, funny and terrifying. The book opens with overweight thirteen-year-old Shuggie (Sweet Mister) being forced to climb up a drain pipe to break into a building to steal drugs for Red, his mother’s treacherous, drug-addicted boyfriend. We follow through the eyes of Sweet Mister, who doesn’t know who his father is. It’s rumored to be the town’s wealthiest citizen. That rumor, more like fabrication, is told to him in the aftermath of Red’s rage, after he’s torn through the house like a tornado destroying everything in his wake, almost…

From the list:

The best books about people trying to keep their shit together

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Book cover of Trompe L’oeil

Trompe L’oeil

By Nancy Reisman

Why this book?

Nancy Reisman brings her characters to life in this portrait of a family that begins after the tragic death of one of their children. Four-year-old Molly is killed by a truck while dashing across a street in Rome during a family vacation. In an instant, their lives change. 

We follow the family in the aftermath of the accident and over two decades. Reisman chronicles the birth of two more children and the slow dissolution of the Murphy’s marriage. The loss of Molly reverberates throughout the novel. Through varying points of view, we observe the guilt, regret, longing, and despair…

From the list:

The best novels that reveal the interior thoughts of its characters as they navigate the fragility of life and relationships

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