The best books about family

49 authors have picked their favorite books about family and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Mountains Sing

By Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai,

Book cover of The Mountains Sing

This story is set in Việt Nam and paints a clear picture of the people who lived there in the 1930-1980 timeframe of the story. The family faced hardships and tragedies, including being separated for several months when they were forced to flee for their lives. One thing I really appreciated was seeing the impact and impressions of the Việt Nam war on the people of that country. My brother fought over there—he was a Ranger in the Army—during that conflict and came home very different. In fact, he’s estranged himself from the family for the past 30+ years. Reading about the conflict from the other side gives me a clearer idea of what he might have seen or done that he never would tell me about.

The Mountains Sing

By Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Mountains Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Years later in Ha Noi, her young granddaughter, Huong, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai's first novel in English.


Who am I?

I “discovered” historical fiction when a teen and have devoured it ever since. When my parents took me to the Cowpens National Battlefield in South Carolina in 9th grade, I realized just how much I enjoyed learning about history in real life. I found that reading historical fiction breathed life into what can be a very dull read, so I wanted to bring history to life with my own words. Visiting historical properties has become a big passion of mine! Every trip I take includes a visit to some historical site or another. I’ve been writing historical fiction/romance/fantasy since the late 1990s.


I wrote...

Becoming Lady Washington

By Betty Bolte, Jaycee DeLorenzo (illustrator),

Book cover of Becoming Lady Washington

What is my book about?

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

Experience

By Martin Amis,

Book cover of Experience: A Memoir

This is a magnificent autobiography, a work of intricate self-portraiture that takes in everything from the author’s dental troubles, through his relationship with his father, to his reaction to his cousin’s murder. Amis’s comic energy and stylistic brio are on sizzling display throughout, but so are qualities that aren’t often associated with his fiction: gentleness, generosity, emotional vulnerability…

Experience

By Martin Amis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this remarkable work of autobiography, the son of the great comic novelist Kingsley Amis explores his relationship with his father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life, including the final one of his death. Amis also reflects on the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who disappeared without trace in 1973 and was exhumed twenty years later from the basement of Frederick West, one of Britain's most prolific serial murderers.

**ONE OF THE GUARDIAN'S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE 21st CENTURY**


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning biographer and critic. My essays and reviews appear regularly in the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement, and I teach literature and creative writing at King’s College London. I’ve always loved stories about the lives of great writers – stories that seek to illuminate genius, without ever explaining it away.


I wrote...

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography

By Edmund Gordon,

Book cover of The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography

What is my book about?

Angela Carter’s life was as unconventional as anything in her fiction. Through her fearlessly original and inventive books, including The Bloody Chamber and Nights at the Circus, she became an icon to a generation and one of the most acclaimed English writers of the last hundred years. This is her first full and authorised biography.

From Away

By Phoef Sutton,

Book cover of From Away

The way the author describes Sammy’s state of mind as he tells the story—accompanied often by wry, even side-splitting observations—drew me into this strange family, wanting more than anything to learn how they would extricate themselves from their collective morass. If you like ghost stories that are fresh and modern and feature plenty of humor, then I highly recommend From Away.

From Away

By Phoef Sutton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sammy Kehoe, his sister, Charlotte, and her four-year-old daughter, Maggie, are all each other have left since the car accident that killed the rest of their family. When they visit their beloved old family home on remote Fox Island, Maine, Sammy and Charlotte each have relationship sparks with island locals. But the budding idyll is shattered when Sammy and Maggie’s unexplained abilities to “see things” are put to the test when dangerous ghosts from the past resurface. At first, this novel about an unusual and loving family draws readers in with warmth and intrigue―and then it builds with suspense that…


Who am I?

Steven Ramirez is a lifelong fan of the movies—especially gripping thrillers and nail-biting horror. An award-winning author, he wrote the supernatural suspense series, Sarah Greene Mysteries, and the horror-thriller series, Tell Me When I’m Dead. His latest novel is Faithless, a thriller. A former screenwriter, Steven lives in Los Angeles with his family. He enjoys Mike and Ikes with his Iced Caffè Americano, doesn’t sleep on planes, and wishes Europe were closer.


I wrote...

The Girl in the Mirror: A Sarah Greene Supernatural Mystery

By Steven Ramirez,

Book cover of The Girl in the Mirror: A Sarah Greene Supernatural Mystery

What is my book about?

Sarah Greene is a successful realtor who sees ghosts–and sometimes wishes she didn’t. While renovating an old house with her ex-husband, she finds a mirror haunted by a teenager’s tortured spirit. As she sets out to discover the victim’s identity, Sarah stumbles onto something chilling. The people who built the house had a demon-worshipping son, Peter. And Sarah comes to believe he murdered the girl. But there’s more. An insidious evil is infesting the town of Dos Santos. Could this dark force be tied to Peter Moody?

Wild Game

By Adrienne Brodeur,

Book cover of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me

I read Wild Game in a weekend—and that’s unusual for me, but I just couldn’t put the book down. Brodeur brought me into a world of treachery, lies, and mother-daughter entanglement that I found absolutely compelling. The mother in this book, Malabar, is a larger-than-life character whose willingness to sacrifice her daughter’s well-being for her own ends was horrifying and believable. I rooted for the daughter all the way through this beautifully crafted book, but it was the mother I found unforgettable.

Wild Game

By Adrienne Brodeur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NATIONAL BESTSELLER. A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.

NAMED A BEST FALL BOOK BY People * Refinery29 * Entertainment Weekly * BuzzFeed * NPR’s On Point * Town & Country * Real Simple * New York Post * Palm Beach Post * Toronto Star * Orange Country Register * Bustle * Bookish * BookPage * Kirkus* BBC Culture* Debutiful

On a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set…


Who am I?

We all have obsessions in life and one of mine has been my mother and the great love and enmity that ricocheted between us for fifty-seven years. Throughout the decades, my mother went from protector to controller to betrayer to ogre to human to an elderly woman in my care. The love and hate, distance and intimacy, estrangement, and reconciliation that we experienced made me a lifelong student of the mother-daughter bond. I‘ve written about my mother for more than 30 years, and love reading mother-daughter stories, not saccharine sweet ones, but complex multi-layered dramas where there’s no villain and no hero—just two humans struggling to love and understand each other.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story

What is my book about?

When she published The Courage to Heal in 1988, Laura Davis helped more than a million women work through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. But her decision to go public with her grandfather’s incest deepened an already painful estrangement with her mother, Temme.

Over the next twenty years, from a safe distance of 3,000 miles, Laura and Temme reconciled their volatile relationship and believed that their difficult past was behind them. But when Temme moves across the country to entrust her daughter with the rest of her life, she brings a faltering mind, a fierce need for independence, and the seeds of a second war between them. As the stresses of caregiving rekindle Laura’s rage over past betrayals, they threaten her intention to finally love her mother “without reservation.” Will she learn what it means to be truly open-hearted before it’s too late?

Paula

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of Paula: A Memoir

In this heart-wrenching memoir, international best-selling author Isabel Allende interweaves her own extraordinary life journey and heritage, with her daughter Paula’s slow and torturous death. 

Driven out of Chile into exile herself, plus endangering her own life helping other refugees escape, Allende writes with deep psychological incite into the fate of the displaced. To being forced to leave one's home and country, to lose your tribe and nation, to survive the damage to your soul, and forever fearing not being safe.

Paula

By Isabel Allende,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Beautiful and heartrending. . . . Memoir, autobiography, epicedium, perhaps even some fiction: they are all here, and they are all quite wonderful."-Los Angeles Times

In this literary classic, New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende recalls the story of her beloved daughter and her remarkable family's past.

When her daughter, Paula, became gravely ill and fell into a coma, Isabel Allende began to write the story of her family for her unconscious child. Bizarre ancestors are introduced; delightful and bitter childhood memories are shared; amazing anecdotes of youthful years are relived, and the most intimate secrets are quietly passed…


Who am I?

I began writing Ali’s incredible international odyssey as a film, but once I discovered the epic breadth of his journey, I decided on a book first. For 3 years I worked intensely with Ali. Not only was it a passionate and personal epic tale about love and loss, overcoming insurmountable odds, endurance and survival, but it hit a chord with readers from all walks of life, bringing understand to why people fled their countries, and help to change attitudes on refugees from fear to compassion. After three years on the road with the book I have now completed the screenplay.


I wrote...

The People Smuggler: The true story of Ali Al Jenabi the Oskar Schindler of Asia

By Robin de Crespigny,

Book cover of The People Smuggler: The true story of Ali Al Jenabi the Oskar Schindler of Asia

What is my book about?

This multi-award-winning best-seller tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. Told with enormous power and insight, it is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protection of civilisation, attempting to retain his humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible situation.

The People Smuggler was Sebastian Faulks’s Favourite Book of the Year in the New York Times Book Review and the Best Book of 2013 in the UK Guardian & Observer. Missy Higgins called it "A most extraordinary book. It has opened my eyes in a life-changing way.” 

A Family Is a Family Is a Family

By Sara O’Leary, Qin Leng (illustrator),

Book cover of A Family Is a Family Is a Family

Many kids secretly fear the questions that come up at the beginning of the school year about their family. If you are living in foster care or have been going through something difficult in your home life, talking about family can be challenging. This playfully illustrated story helps create a safe space for all different kinds of families. Great for reading at home with your child or with the whole class to nurture a welcoming environment.

A Family Is a Family Is a Family

By Sara O’Leary, Qin Leng (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Family Is a Family Is a Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways but the same in the one way that matters most of all.

One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of stepsiblings, and another has a new baby.

As one by one, her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them family…


Who am I?

My super-power is making brain science accessible and entertaining for children and adults alike. I am living this out as an author, mental health counselor, and the founder of BraveBrains. In addition to training parents and professionals, I have the joy of sharing my passion and expertise through podcast appearances, blogs, and articles. The lightbulb moments are my favorite, and I'm committed to helping people bring what they learn back home in practical ways. I write picture books because the magic of reading and re-reading stories light up the brain in a powerful way. But don’t worry…I always include some goodies for the adults in the back of the book.


I wrote...

Riley the Brave Makes It to School: A Story with Tips and Tricks for Tough Transitions

By Jessica Sinarski, Zachary Kline (illustrator),

Book cover of Riley the Brave Makes It to School: A Story with Tips and Tricks for Tough Transitions

What is my book about?

Making it to school is tough at the best of times! Riley Bear and his elephant parents share a peek into a grumpy morning. When big feelings threaten to ruin the day, this brightly illustrated story will help families find their way through. 

The educational afterword features tips and tricks for tough transitions, a treasure trove for parents, teachers, and other caring adults.

All Things Consoled

By Elizabeth Hay,

Book cover of All Things Consoled: A Daughter's Memoir

Most of us have complicated feelings about our parents, and Elizabeth Hay is no exception. The time Hay spends filling in the family back story pays off by making the elder-care journey more poignant and nuanced than a sparser portrait would have produced. I read this memoir at the height of my own care-taking marathon, and while I appreciated every gorgeous word, the whole book would have been worth it for this sentence alone: "Yes, I volunteered to take [the care of my aging parents] on, but there was never a moment when I didn't wish to be let off the hook." I breathed a huge sigh of relief: I am not a monster, and I am not the only one to feel that way. I still feel grateful for that sentence.

All Things Consoled

By Elizabeth Hay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Things Consoled as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Elizabeth Hay, one of Canada's beloved novelists, comes a startling and beautiful memoir about the drama of her parents' end, and the longer drama of being their daughter. Winner of the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonficiton.

Jean and Gordon Hay were a colourful, formidable pair. Jean, a late-blooming artist with a marvellous sense of humour, was superlatively frugal; nothing got wasted, not even maggoty soup. Gordon was a proud and ambitious schoolteacher with a terrifying temper, a deep streak of melancholy, and a devotion to flowers, cars, words, and his wife. As old age collides with…


Who am I?

I am a care aide (aka personal support worker) who has happily worked at an extended care facility for more than twenty years, and as such, I have been a compassionate listener to many a family member suffering from the tsunami of feelings involved when coping with aging parents or spouses, so I thought I would be well-positioned and emotionally prepared to cope when it was my turn to face my own mother's deterioration. How wrong I was! Thank goodness for the generous souls who write memoirs. Each of the books that I have chosen was an education and an affirmation to me as I tried to maintain my equilibrium while supporting my mother and my mother-in-law through their final years.


I wrote...

A Funny Kind of Paradise

By Jo Owens,

Book cover of A Funny Kind of Paradise

What is my book about?

A Funny Kind of Paradise is a novel about a strong, independent woman who, because of a debilitating stroke, ends up in an extended care facility, partially paralyzed, mute, and tube-fed. But Francesca still has a strong will to live, and a great sense of humour, and she is surprised to find herself deeply engaged in the lives the residents she lives with and the workers who look after them all. The daily routines and dramas Fran witnesses lead her to reconsider her past, in particular her role as a single parent to her children.

A Funny Kind of Paradise is a warm and insightful novel about one woman's opportunity for reinvention--for unconditional love, acceptance, and closure--in the unlikeliest of places.

The Baby's Catalogue

By Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg,

Book cover of The Baby's Catalogue

In a sense, our new title Babies, Babies Everywhere! Is a homage to this lovely book, which the Ahlbergs made when they realised that their baby, Jessica, was much more interested in the Mothercare catalogue than in the picture books aimed at her age group. We wanted to update it with a more typical 21st-century bunch of babies and their diverse families.

The Baby's Catalogue

By Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Baby's Catalogue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Janet and Allan Ahlberg's classic picture book, The Baby's Catalogue

The bestselling picture book The Baby's Catalogue by the iconic British husband and wife picture book team Janet and Allan Ahlberg, creators of Peepo!, is filled with easily recognizable objects - perfect for your baby or toddler!

Mums and Dads, breakfasts and bedtimes, pets and toys and prams and swings - and lots and lots of other fascinating things!

Allan Ahlberg has published over 100 children's books and with his late wife Janet, created many award-winning children's picture books. The Baby's Catalogue was inspired by their daughter, Jessica. The Ahlbergs'…


Who am I?

Mary Hoffman is not exactly an expert on babies but she has had three of her own and five grandbabies. The youngest is two and Mary has made colourful blankets for each one. The four-year-old still takes hers everywhere. Mary is very good at sending babies to sleep, which Mog might have appreciated, but she has never fed any of them avocado. Mary has been making up stories for babies and children for as long as she can remember, long before she had any of her own. She does this because what she liked best herself as a small child was stories and she would have loved to have any of these books read to her when she was little.


I wrote...

Babies, Babies Everywhere!

By Mary Hoffman, Ros Asquith (illustrator),

Book cover of Babies, Babies Everywhere!

What is my book about?

Babies, Babies Everywhere! Sleeping, crying, laughing, looking, gurgling, eating, crawling...and at last toddling! Follow five families and their babies from birth to around 12 months, with all the excitements, challenges and joys of that first year with a new baby in the world. With lots to look at and point to, this diverse and inclusive celebration of babies, from the team who created The Great Big Book of Families, will be loved by babies, older siblings - and grown-ups too!

The Old Drift

By Namwali Serpell,

Book cover of The Old Drift

Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift is a cross-genre book that addresses matters of colonialism and a future Africa with brashness and philosophy. Its subversive text is far-reaching in poignant fiction imbued with intimacy and cultural convergence. The story pays special attention to mothers and children, the importance of identity, and the intense need we have as humans to belong.  

The Old Drift

By Namwali Serpell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.”—Salman Rushdie, The New York Times Book Review
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Dwight Garner, The New York Times • The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Atlantic • BuzzFeed • Tordotcom • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage

WINNER OF: The Arthur C. Clarke Award • The Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award • The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction • The Windham-Campbell Prizes for Fiction

1904. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the…


Who am I?

I am an African Australian writer and have a deep passion for black people's stories. I write across genres and forms, and my award-winning works are mostly Afrocentric. I have a master's degree in distributed computer systems, with distinction, a master's degree in creative writing, and a PhD in creative writing. I am especially curious about unique voices in black speculative fiction in transformative stories of culture, diversity, climate change, writing the other, and betwixt. I am an author of several novels and fiction collections, and a finalist in the 2022 World Fantasy Award. I was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for ‘doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction’.


I wrote...

Mage of Fools

By Eugen Bacon,

Book cover of Mage of Fools

What is my book about?

Mage of Fools is an Afrofuturistic novel set in a socialist country plagued by climate change. In the dystopian world of Mafinga, Jasmin must contend with a dictator’s sorcerer to cleanse the socialist state of its deadly pollution. 

Mafinga’s malevolent King Magu dislikes books. He and his sorcerer Atari have collapsed the environment to almost uninhabitable. The sun has killed all the able men, including Jasmin’s husband Godi. But Jasmin has Godi’s secret story machine that tells of a better world, and it’s far different from the wastelands of Mafinga. Jasmin’s crime for forbidden literature filled with subversive text is punishable by death. Fate grants a cruel reprieve in the service of a childless queen—Jasmin must discover secrets behind the king and his sorcerer.

Book cover of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

Okay. Fine. Maybe I only think this book is about loss because I know that, in later books, the same Glass family suffers losses and this sets the stage. But this is a story about a promise that is never realized and a relationship that is becoming progressively distant—and, in it, there is a sense of being lost if not having experienced a loss, specifically. In it, Buddy Glass takes Army leave to attend his brother’s wedding, but his brother never shows up. Somehow, Buddy winds up stuck in a limo with a group of disgruntled guests from whom he tries to hide his identity. In his sense of isolation, but also his awareness of the situation’s absurdity, we find humor and also sadness.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour

By J.D. Salinger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Note from the Author: The two long pieces in this book originally came out in The New Yorker - RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS in 1955, SEYMOUR - An Introduction in 1959. Whatever their differences in mood or effect, they are both very much concerned with Seymour Glass, who is the main character in my series about the Glass family. Oddly, the joys and satisfactions of working on the Glass family peculiarly increase and deepen for me with the years. I can't say why, though. Not, at least, outside the casino proper of my fiction.

'The Glasses are…


Who am I?

In 2017, I lost one of my best friends. He was one of those magical people—charismatic, impossibly talented, hilariously funny. So, in the aftermath of his death, I noticed many people in his life competing for recognition of their bond with him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there to recognize anyone. Though the stories are completely different, that experience inspired me to write Competitive Grieving, spotlighting the common—but rarely discussed—process of navigating someone’s life and relationships in their absence. For me, humor is the ultimate coping mechanism, as is the promise of brighter days, so the book attacks this serious topic with levity, honesty, and a bit of hope.


I wrote...

Competitive Grieving

By Nora Zelevansky,

Book cover of Competitive Grieving

What is my book about?

Wren’s closest childhood friend is dead. Stewart Beasley. Gone. But instead of weeping, she’s dreaming up funeral plans for everyone from strangers to family members (none of whom show signs of imminent demise). Stewart surrounded himself with questionable characters. And when his icy mother asks Wren to sort his possessions alongside Stewart’s maddening, but oddly charming lawyer, Wren is forced into a tug-of-war over her friend’s memory. She wonders, did she even know this person who she once considered an extension of herself? Can you ever truly know anyone?

Competitive Grieving is a dark comedy—and unlikely love story—about the chaotic aftermath of loss. The story spotlights the universal struggle to grieve amidst the noise and to love with a broken heart.

Or, view all 457 books about family

New book lists related to family

All book lists related to family

Bookshelves related to family