7 Books to Get You Through Your Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving

If the thought of being surrounded by your family for the upcoming holiday season makes you want to pull your hair out – no matter how much you may love them – you’re not alone. Pick up one (or two! or three!) of these books about dysfunctional families that will maybe make you feel a little better about your own.


The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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Admittedly I first picked this one based on its gorgeous cover, but the Plumb family’s particularly extreme dysfunctions made me glad I did. The Plumb siblings are set to inherit a rather large sum of money from their deceased father’s upon reaching middle age. But just as they are approaching the finish line, their youngest brother puts all in jeopardy with a drunken car accident. Under threat of losing their promised inheritance, the siblings must face their failing careers, debt, and family relationships. This is a perfect feel-good read about a supremely flawed family that will keep your entertained while having to endure the dysfunctions of your own.

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

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Celeste Ng’s writing perfectly captures the struggle that many families encounter to understand one another. Everything I Never Told You blends complicated family dynamics with a page-turning mystery of how the Lee family’s daughter Lydia ended up dead. If you’ve ever felt the pressure of high expectations or feeling like your family doesn’t know you at all, this book will resonate with you.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

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This book is hilarious. I am constantly searching for another kooky family relationship like the one Bernadette shares with her 15 year old daughter Bee. When Bernadette suddenly vanishes, Bee compiles her mother’s emails, articles, and personal documents in an attempt to figure out where her mother has gone. This satirical look at upper class Seattle parenting will have you laughing for days.


We Have Always Lived In The Castle, Shirley Jackson

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Shirley Jackson can do no wrong in my book, but We Have Always Lived In the Castle is hands down my favorite of her works. The Blackwoods have been ostracized by their local community after an incident that left only three members of family alive: Mary Katherine (or “Merricat,” the book’s narrator), her sister Constance, and her Uncle Julian. This odd, suspenseful tale will keep you on the edge of your seat—and thankful that you don’t have to share a Thanksgiving meal with the Blackwoods.

Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan

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This book has been insanely popular this year due to the movie adaptation (which was amazing!), but Kwan’s engrossing trilogy about some seriously rich Chinese Singaporeans lives up to the hype. Chinese-American Rachel Chu has no idea her boyfriend’s family is insanely wealthy, so when he takes her to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding she has no idea what she’s in for. The storyline of this book is the definition of “rich people problems,” and yet I still found myself feeling for the characters. While definitely a beach read, these books also taught me so much about aspects of Asian history and culture. I definitely appreciated the footnotes!

Educated, Tara Westover

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Tara Westover’s memoir about her upbringing as the seventh child born to Mormon survivalists will absolutely blow you away. Think The Glass Castle with religious fundamentalism. Despite growing up in a family that distrusted modern medicine and formal education, Westover’s ambitions lead her to Cambridge University and Harvard. I finished this book months ago but I still can’t stop recommending it to everybody I know.   

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel

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If you find it hard to focus on a longer book during the crazy holiday season, Bechdel’s darkly funny graphic memoir is a great solution. Bechdel illustrates her complex relationship with her funeral director father, who struggled with his sexual identity, alongside her own coming out. Although this isn’t exactly a “fun” read—trigger warnings for suicide and child abuse—Bechdel’s emotional and charmingly-illustrated story will stick with you.


lifestyleKayla Carrouth