100 Must-Read Generational and Family Novels

Sponsored by Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman.

The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers’ lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend—Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions.

Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, National Book Award finalist Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the extraordinary love of the Van Gogh brothers.


What do I love about books about families? Everything. Whether famous or fictional, reading about quirky/weird/mysterious kith and kin gives readers the ultimate voyeuristic peek into the secret anatomy of a family. When an author has the opportunity in a novel or a book to paint a cast of characters over a long period of time, they’re able to plant family mysteries; unveil flaws that are passed down from ancestors to descendants; and slowly unravel secrets held tight for generations. These things, either combined or on their own, create great plot twists and reveal to us truths about our own dysfunctional families that we are too ashamed to admit.

Now that season 13 of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has wrapped, I know you’re itching for some family drama crack. Why not turn your gaze to something more literary and dive into these alluring relationships between mother, father, sister, and brother?

Commonwealth by Anne Patchett

“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved.”

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

“The Lamberts – Enid and Alfred and their three grown-up children – are a troubled family living in a troubled age. Alfred is ill and as his condition worsens the whole family must face the failures, secrets and long-buried hurts that haunt them if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.”

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

“The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

“Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.” I’ll have to re-read this one again soon.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.”

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together.”

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family.”

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

“The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mt. Ephraim, New York, are a large and fortunate clan, blessed with good looks, abundant charisma, and boundless promise. But over the twenty-five year span of this ambitious novel, the Mulvaneys will slide, almost imperceptibly at first, from the pinnacle of happiness, transformed by the vagaries of fate into a scattered collection of lost and lonely souls.”

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom follows Patty and Walter Berglund’s seemingly normal lives, chronicling their journey of meeting, getting married, having children, then having it all fall apart.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.”

We Had It So Good by Linda Grant

“A generational novel which opens memorably in a fur storage house in Los Angeles with its American protagonist as a boy trying on Marilyn Monroe’s coat. When he grows up, Stephen goes to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and stays on to avoid the draft and Vietnam.  He marries an Englishwoman, and they experience many of the things the baby boomer generation went through.  Later the torch is passed to their children.”

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 

“Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal.”

The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

“Moraes “Moor” Zogoiby, the last surviving scion of a dynasty of Cochinese spice merchants and crime lords, is also a compulsive storyteller and an exile. As he travels a route that takes him from India to Spain, he leaves behind a tale of mad passions and volcanic family hatreds, of titanic matriarchs and their mesmerized offspring, of premature deaths and curses that strike beyond the grave.”

Bone by Fae Myenne Ng

“Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a novel of family ties chronicles the Leongs–a Chinese-American family caught between the traditions of their ancestry and the realities of life in America.”

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

“The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.”

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

“When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.’”

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

“In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters.”

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Follows Macon “Milkman” Dead III, an African American man living in Michigan, from birth to adulthood. The story takes place mostly from the 1930s to the 1960s but makes references to Milkman’s ancestors from the 19th century.

In Babylon by Marcel Moring

“When Nathan Hollander and his niece Sophie find themselves trapped by snow in a house in the mountains, Nathan passes the time by recounting their family history. In this story within the story, Nathan’s tale spans generations of a Jewish family as it wanders the globe.”

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

This non-fiction book chronicles the lives of the mysterious Romanov family. From the inbreeding of the royals that made for sickly male heirs to the untimely deaths of the Romanov family, this book paints a picture of the last days of the Tsarist Russia.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

“An intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart … In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.”

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

A grand narrative hat chronicles the lives of two sisters from a wealthy Ontario family. The Blind Assassin is part historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Tells the story of a delightfully eccentric family through the lens of a quirky 17-year-old aspiring writer named Cassandra. A must read!

Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald

An epic generational family saga set in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (Canada) that follows generations of family members and unearths secrets that will make any reader uncomfortable.

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

Set in Mumbai, the book opens with and accident that leaves Nariman Vakeel at the mercy of his children and stepchildren who must care for him.

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley

This might be one of the most epic of family sagas. The novel tells the story of Kunta Kinte, an 18th century African who is captured and sold into slavery. It later follows his life and his descendants all the way down to the the author, Alex Haley.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

“A remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant.”

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair.”

Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin

I can’t pick just one. This entire series chronicles generations of royal families as they battle it out for the Iron Throne. This is a fantasy series full of magic, dragons, and plot twists. Each new book provides new revelations about the characters and secret family ties that drive the plot forward.

Chesapeake by James A. Michener

“Through the extraordinary tale of one man’s dream, Michener tells intertwining stories of family and national heritage, introducing us along the way to Quakers, pirates, planters, slaves, abolitionists, and notorious politicians, all making their way through American history in the common pursuit of freedom.”

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

“One of the most beloved novels of all time, The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough’s sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback.”

Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson

“The heart-rending tale of a mother and daughter. A moving, often comic portrait of wise child Ann August and her mother, Adele, a larger-than-life American dreamer, the novel follows the two women as they travel through the landscape of their often conflicting ambitions. A brilliant exploration of the perennial urge to keep moving, even at the risk of profound disorientation, Anywhere But Here is a story about the things we do for love, and a powerful study of familial bonds.”

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

“A twisty, surreal novel that dives into the protagonist’s family troubles as well as his country’s tumultuous history.”

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

“The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.”

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

You might know this book from the beautiful and heartbreaking movie. Eillis Lacey travels to America in search of work, leaving her family and everything she knows behind. Slowly she begins to adjust to life in Brooklyn and realizes she’s made a new home and family for herself.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

“The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919 … Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city’s poor.”

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

“This tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city … When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls.”

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

“The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, an Igbo (“Ibo” in the novel) leader and local wrestling champion in the fictional Nigerian village of Umuofia. The work is split into three parts, with the first describing his family, personal history, and the customs and society of the Igbo, and the second and third sections introducing the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo community.”

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

“It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in Prince Edward Island.”

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann

“It is the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany facing the advent of modernity; in an uncertain new world, the family’s bonds and traditions begin to disintegrate.”

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

“In a sleepy little New England village stands a dark, weather-beaten, many-gabled house. This brooding mansion is haunted by a centuries-old curse that casts the shadow of ancestral sin upon the last four members of the distinctive Pyncheon family of Salem.”

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil.”

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

“The Sound and the Fury is the tragedy of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.”

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

“Ruby Lennox begins narrating her life at the moment of conception, and from there takes us on a whirlwind tour of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of an English girl determined to learn about her family and its secrets.”

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

“With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.”

Angel of Repose by Wallace Stegner

“Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents’ remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America’s western frontier. But his research reveals even more about his own life than he’s willing to admit. What emerges is an enthralling portrait of four generations in the life of an American family.”

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

“A series of novels about the vicissitudes of the members of one upper middle-class family, in England, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“A tale of patricide and family rivalry that embodies the moral and spiritual dissolution of an entire society (Russia in the 1870s). It created a national furor comparable only to the excitement stirred by the publication, in 1866, of Crime and Punishment. To Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov captured the quintessence of Russian character in all its exaltation, compassion, and profligacy.”

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

“When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.”

Howard’s End by E.M. Forster

“The self-interested disregard of a dying woman’s bequest, an impulsive girl’s attempt to help an impoverished clerk, and the marriage between an idealist and a materialist — all intersect at a Hertfordshire estate called Howards End.”

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

“Growing up in a mining community in rural South Wales, Huw Morgan is taught many harsh lessons – at the kitchen table, at Chapel and around the pit-head. Looking back on the hardships of his early life, where difficult days are faced with courage but the valleys swell with the sound of Welsh voices, it becomes clear that there is nowhere so green as the landscape of his own memory.”

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

“A national best-seller in both hardcover and paperback, it introduces the engrossing saga of a Muslim family in Cairo during Egypt’s occupation by British forces in the early 1900s.”

Sour Sweet by Timothy Mo

“Shortlisted for the 1982 Booker Prize, this novel explores the clans and conflicts of Soho’s Chinatown, where the Chen family arrive and want to succeed as restaurateurs in the 1960s. No family can survive for long without encountering the Triads.”

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

“Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.”

The Concubine’s Children: Portrait of a Family Divided by Denise Chong

“The Concubine’s Children is the story of a family cleaved in two for the sake of a father’s dream. There’s Chan Sam, who left an “at home” wife in China to earn a living in “Gold Mountain”–North America. There’s May-ying, the wilful, seventeen-year-old concubine he bought, sight unseen, who labored in tea houses of west coast Chinatowns to support the family he would have in Canada, and the one he had in China.”

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

“Brideshead Revisited tells the story of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them.”

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau

“Entrenched on the same land since the early 1800s, the Howlands have, for seven generations, been pillars of their Southern community. Extraordinary family lore has been passed down to Abigail Howland, but not all of it. When shocking facts come to light about her late grandfather William’s relationship with Margaret Carmichael, a black housekeeper, the community is outraged, and quickly gathers to vent its fury on Abigail.”

Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon

“Kate Blackwell is one of the richest and most powerful women in the world. She is an enigma, a woman surrounded by a thousand unanswered questions. Her father was a diamond prospector who struck it rich beyond his wildest dreams. Her mother was the daughter of a crooked Afrikaaner merchant. Her conception was itself an act of hate-filled vengeance. At the extravagant celebrations of her ninetieth birthday, there are toasts from a Supreme Court Judge and a telegram from the White House. And for Kate there are ghosts, ghosts of absent friends and of enemies. Ghosts from a life of blackmail and murder. Ghosts from an empire spawned by naked ambition!”

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

“Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy — exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling — does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.”

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

“Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact – and the creative power – of keeping secrets and telling lies.”

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

“A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many.”

The Blue Mountain by Meir Shalev

“Set in a small rural village prior to the creation of the State of Israel, this funny and hugely imaginative book paints an extraordinary picture of a small community of Ukrainian immigrants as they pioneer a new life in a new land over three generations.”

The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga by Doris Kearns Goodwin

“The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys” is the sweeping history of two immigrant families, their rise to become potent political dynasties, and the marriage that brought the two together to found the most powerful family in America.”

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

“Lala is a shrewd observer of family life. But when she starts telling the Awful Grandmother’s life story, seeking clues to how she got to be so awful, grandmother accuses Lala of exaggerating. Soon, a multigenerational family narrative turns into a whirlwind exploration of storytelling, lies, and life.”

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

“In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.”

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

“In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies.”

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

“Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears.”

Bone China by Roma Tearne

“An epic novel of love, loss and a family uprooted, set in the contrasting landscapes of war-torn Sri Lanka and immigrant London. Grace de Silva, wife of the shiftless but charming Aloysius, has five children and a crumbling marriage. Her eldest son, Jacob, wants desperately to go to England. Thornton, the most beautiful of all the children and his mother’s favourite, dreams of becoming a poet. Alicia wants to be a concert pianist. Only Frieda has no ambition, other than to remain close to her family. But civil unrest is stirring in Sri Lanka and Christopher, the youngest and the rebel of the family, is soon caught up in the tragedy that follows.”

The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

“The End of East sets family conflicts against the backdrop of Vancouver’s Chinatown – a city within a city where dreams are shattered as quickly as they’re built, and where history repeats itself through the generations.”

Soucouyant by David Chariandy

“A “soucouyant” is an evil spirit in Caribbean lore, a reminder of past transgressions that refuse to diminish with age. In this beautifully told novel that crosses borders, cultures, and generations, a young man returns home to care for his aging mother, who suffers from dementia. In his efforts to help her and by turn make amends for their past estrangement from one another, he is compelled to re-imagine his mother’s stories for her before they slip completely into darkness.”

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

“In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.”

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine

“In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father’s deathbed. The city is a shell of the Beirut Osama remembers, but he and his friends and family take solace in the things that have always sustained them: gossip, laughter, and, above all, stories.”

The Turk and My Mother by Mary Helen Stefaniak

“Every family has its secrets. But toward the end of his life, George decides to tell his daughter the story of his mother and the Turk. This initial revelation leads to a narrative tour de force that follows a family through four generations and around the world—through love, marriage, and betrayal, through illness, death, and war.”

Been Here a Thousand Years by Mariolina Venezia

“In a tiny, ancient Italian hill town, where the land gives little and money and food are scarce, Don Francesco Falcone is a man to be reckoned with: rich, powerful, restless, intransigent. When he meets another force of nature, Concetta, a penniless but indestructible farmworker, the stage is set for the creation of an exceptional family: generations of strong, complicated boys and, especially, girls. The battles among them are many as they live through historical upheaval and private passions.”

Dune by Frank Herbert

“Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the ‘spice’ melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos.”

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

“Love Medicine tells the story of two families — the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. Written in Erdrich’s uniquely poetic, powerful style, it is a multigenerational portrait of strong men and women caught in an unforgettable drama of anger, desire, and the healing power that is love medicine.”

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

“Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia’s story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption.”

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

“In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga lives an embittered old judge who wants to retire in peace when his orphaned granddaughter Sai arrives on his doorstep. The judge’s chatty cook watches over her, but his thoughts are mostly with his son, Biju, hopscotching from one New York restaurant job to another, trying to stay a step ahead of the INS, forced to consider his country’s place in the world.”

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

“When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice.”

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

“In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries Arturo Whitman, a local widower, and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow.”

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

“In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war.”

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

“A searing novel of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and the powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor that was passed on from father to son. With its themes of the seduction of power, the pitfalls of greed, and family allegiance, it resonated with millions of readers across the world—and became the definitive novel of the virile, violent subculture that remains steeped in intrigue, in controversy, and in our collective consciousness.”

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

“By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents.”

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

 “Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.”

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

“Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.”

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

“First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California.”

The Son by Philipp Meyer

“Part epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching portrait of the bloody price of power, The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCulloughs, an ambitious family as resilient and dangerous as the land they claim.”

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

“One of the most acclaimed novels of our time, Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True is a story of alienation and connection, devastation and renewal, at once joyous, heartbreaking, poignant, mystical, and powerfully, profoundly human.”

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

“Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore’s Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone. Now Pearl and her three grown children have gathered together again–with anger, hope, and a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell.”

The Past by Tessa Hadley

“Three adult sisters and their brother meet up at their grandparents’ country home for their annual family holiday—three long, hot summer weeks. The beloved but crumbling house is full of memories of their childhood—of when their mother took them to stay with her parents when she left their father—but this could be their last summer in the house, now they may have to sell it.”

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

“Follett has re-created the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries become a familiar landscape. Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters into their dreams, their labors, and their loves.”

Rich Man, Poor Man by Irwin Shaw

“Rich Man, Poor Man is the story of two brothers whose contrasting natures reflect the turmoil of post-war America. Rudy is the rich man – a romantic who would let no one stand between him and success. Tom is the poor man – the black sheep of the family on the run from his violent past.”

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

“The “New York Times” bestseller and Oprah’s Book Club Pick—the unique and deeply moving epic of four generations of African-American women based on one family’s ancestral past.”

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg

“It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age.”

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

“Annie John is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Kincaid’s novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood.”

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

“For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie’s enormous girth. She’s obsessed with food–thinking about it, eating it–and if she doesn’t stop, she won’t have much longer to live. When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control.”

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

“For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.”

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

“Mitford modeled her characters on her own famously unconventional family. We are introduced to the Radletts through the eyes of their cousin Fanny, who stays with them at Alconleigh, their Gloucestershire estate. Uncle Matthew is the blustering patriarch, known to hunt his children when foxes are scarce; Aunt Sadie is the vague but doting mother; and the seven Radlett children, despite the delights of their unusual childhood, are recklessly eager to grow up.”

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

“Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery one Saturday in March of 1935 of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a Pentecostal storefront church in Harlem. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.”

 

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