Scandal, Secrets, and Sisterhood: 16 Books Like BIG LITTLE LIES

As the credits rolled on the second season finale of Big Little Lies, I mourned the story that started with Liane Moriarty’s beloved novel. Sure, I would miss the stunning scenery of coastal Monterey and its wind-swept bohemian vibe. But more crushing, I had grown fond of the characters, even the ones I didn’t necessarily like. I knew I needed more books like Big Little Lies.

via GIPHY

Yes, like Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline Mackenzie, I wanted more! Specifically, more books like Big Little Lies to feed my fix of epic secrets, moral ambiguity, and twisty suspense…hence this list. In these 16 books for Big Little Lies fans, you’ll find a mix of thrillers, domestic drama, family sagas, and more.

American Housewife- Stories by Helen EllisAmerican Housewife by Helen Ellis

Helen Ellis’s amusing short fiction collection American Housewife draws on the very American mythos of the Stepford Wife that the Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty also conjures. In these darkly comic stories, Ellis imagines absurd, authentic, and amusing situations punctuated with sympathetic heroines facing domestic crises. Ultimately, this read-in-a-single-sitting book is a sympathetic look at the world of women who stay home.

crazy-rich-asians-coverCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

If you get a voyeuristic thrill out of the over-the-top wealth that the Big Little Lies communities is dripping in, you’ve got to pick up Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. This delightfully hilarious novel centers Rachel Chu, a Chinese American woman who accompanies her boyfriend to a wedding back home in Singapore. The intimidating life of luxury they call home threatens to throw Rachel off completely, unless she can hold fast to her values and self-esteem.

Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng coverEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This slow-burn of a novel captures the fallout after a biracial teen girl dies by drowning, a tragic shock to the high achiever’s seemingly perfect exterior. In the wake of her death, long-held secrets and resentments threaten to rip apart the already fragile family she left behind. Ng’s haunting debut twins Big Little Lies‘s theme of unthinkable tragedy confronting a family and close-knit society.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

Given recent headlines about famous parents caught up in a college admissions scandal, it seems Bruce Holsinger’s The Gifted School is both hyper-relevant and prophetic. In The Gifted School, a new, exclusive school for gifted children implodes a friend group who will do anything to get their kids admitted. This gripping drama is perfect for BLL fans who enjoyed the deliciously addicting story of competitive parents trying to jostle for power.

Little Children by Tom Perrotta

If you loved how Big Little Lies explored forbidden desires and domestic frustrations, you’ll definitely want to check out Tom Perrota’s Little Children. Our heroine Sarah would like you to know she loves being a mother—no, really. At least, that’s the image she portrays to the world, burying her disappointments with her languished academic and writing career and accepting her new life in the well-to-do suburbs. But meeting Todd, a handsome stay-at-home father, ignites a desire in Sarah she can’t easily extinguish as her perfect grip on her life begins to loosen.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

A catastrophic fire at an experimental treatment center leaves one adult and one child dead. Now the boy’s mother stands accused of deliberately setting the fire and killing her son in the trial that encompasses this nail-biter of a legal thriller. As in Big Little Lies, Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek excavates the truth that the adults are each guarding after a monumental crime, including the immigrant family who owned the facility.

The Need by Helen Phillips

One theme in Big Little Lies is how becoming a mother means adjusting your expectations; while some are overjoyed to be moms, others seem to suffer from regrets and even resentment, a yearning for their life before kids. In The Need, Helen Phillips has crafted a twisty psychological thriller about Molly, a mother who suffers from postpartum depression. When Molly believes an intruder has entered her home, she goes to great lengths to protect her children. But is the break-in real, or just her imagination?

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

In Karen M. McManus’s addicting young adult novel, five students are assigned detention. But at the end, one of them is dead. Who could have killed Simon, the misfit who designed a gossip app? Since Simon was planning on posting scandalous stories about each of the other four detentions, authorities believe they all have a motive. Readers who adore the unreliable characters of Big Little Lies will tear through this similar roller coaster of a thriller.

The Other’s Gold by Elizabeth Ames

No matter what happens, the women who become the Monterey Five will forever be bound together. The Other’s Gold also focuses on a group of female friends whose lives become intertwined through good and bad. Elizabeth Ames’s novel rotates the perspectives of four women who meet during their freshman year of college when they are assigned to the same suite. The Other’s Gold is structured around four events that connect them over the years, a clever construction reminiscent of Big Little Lies.

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

A major theme in Big Little Lies is the tension between the privileged world of the mothers of Monterey and the people who take care of their kids. Babysitters and nannies flutter around the edges of the characters’s lives, not to mention teachers and school administrators, taking care of children who have a higher net worth than they ever will. If you love how class is explored in Big Little Lies, you’ll also enjoy Leila Slimani’s dark domestic thriller, The Perfect Nanny, which centers the toxic codependency that festers between a low-class nanny and the wealthy Parisian family who employs her. As things spiral out of control into a devastating act of violence, Slimani asks hard, unanswerable questions about culpability and guilt.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Something that Big Little Lies gets so right is the close-knit community feeling of the novel, with a death that sends shockwaves through the town. If you love this sense of a closed-off, selective community, try this genius story set in a highly selective high school for the performing arts. When the romantic relationship between two students falls apart, the consequences send shockwaves through the close-knit community. Then, in a big twist worthy of Big Little Lies, readers see how emotionally charged memories can so easily muddle our understanding of right and wrong.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Do you love Big Little Lies’s privileged world? Family secrets? Unreliable protagonists? Well, I have the book hangover cure for you: E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. This unputdownable young adult thriller lures readers into the orbit of the wealthy Sinclair family, who vacation each summer on Martha’s Vineyard. But when the novel opens, we learn that something horrible has happened. In a family of self-proclaimed “Liars,” who can you trust to tell you the truth?

where'd you go bernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Big Little Lies‘s Celeste, who left her law career to start a family, has a lot in common with the heroine of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. This humorous epistolary novel is anchored in the quirky, neurotic, and brilliant architect Bernadette Fox, who put aside an acclaimed career to raise Bee, her daughter. Now, with Bee on the cusp of high school, Bernadette tries to find her second act. Like Big Little Lies, Simple’s novel takes place in an über rich coastal town, complete with annoying parents and fiercely competitive schools.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

In Big Little Lies, several women’s lives are tied to one abusive man, not unlike the characters in the engrossing thriller, Whisper Network. Grace, Sloane, Rosalita, and Ardie all work for Truviv, Inc. Talented and driven, each of these women have had to prove themselves in their industry, deftly navigating around the toxic masculinity embodied by their boss, Ames. When Ames is set to become the new CEO, the four coworkers take action to prevent Ames from yet another inappropriate advance. As in Big Little Lies, Whisper Network is a celebration of the sisterhood’s power to overthrow the patriarchy and protect each other.

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Like Big Little Lies, Megan Abbot’s You Will Know Me is a thriller about helicopter parents fiercely devoted to their children’s lives. Katie Knox is the mother of Devon, a talented 15-year-old gymnast with Olympic dreams. Devon’s squad is an insular community driven by wealth and ambition, with parents like Katie sacrificing everything to afford it. But a grisly death challenges the athletes, their parents, and coaches, leading Katie to ask: who wants glory so much they’d kill for it?

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Reading Gabrielle Zevin’s Young Jane Young reminded me how the sisterhood can accomplish anything when they work together, a feeling I also got from Big Little Lies. This novel is told in a chorus of female voices, each of whom has a connection to Aviva Grossman, who had an affair with an up-and-coming congressman that became a scandal. Facing hate and vitriol, Aviva left town to start over. Now, years later, as “Jane Young,” she plots a path back to politics, risking her daughter’s trust as she finally learns the truth of her mother’s past. With a little health from other women, including the congressman’s scorned wife, Jane gets a shot at toppling the patriarchy.


For more Big Little Lies coverage, check out Book Riot’s rundown of the HBO adaptation.

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