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The Best Books About Dysfunctional Families

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Always books. Never boring.

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” When it comes to books about dysfunctional families, that couldn’t be more accurate. From comically absurd to families affected by trauma and haunted by dark secrets, these novels about family problems, drama, and secrets make for fascinating reading and are great book club picks. They may make you happy for your own family…or provide some much-needed escape. Here we go!

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Rachel Chu is dating the charming Nicholas Young, but gets the shock of a lifetime when she visits his family in Singapore and discovers that they are insanely wealthy and not at all thrilled by her existence. From emotional manipulation to using their immense wealth the exert their control, Rachel has to decide if she has what it takes to become a part of the Young family.

cover of all this could be yours by Jami Attenberg

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg

Alex Tuchman is a lawyer grappling with her father’s complicated legacy. When she learns her father is on his deathbed, she sees it as a chance to better understand him and question her mother. But her entire family is struggling to deal with his impending death, and answers are scarce as they must figure out a way forward without repeating past mistakes.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithewaite

What would you do if you knew your sister was a serial killer? This is the premise of this short and powerful psychological thriller about Korede, who has helped her sister Ayoola clean up one too many “accidental” murders of her boyfriends. Now Ayoola has her eye on dating a doctor at the hospital where Korede works, and Korede must decide where her loyalties lie.

Dig by A.S. King

The Hemmings achieved the American Dream—they went from being farmers to real estate developing millionaires. But they refuse to share their wealth with their descendants, leaving five of their estranged grandchildren to struggle daily—until they find their way back to each other and confront the toxic legacy their grandparents have passed down. 


Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sylvie Lee is the oldest daughter, very smart and successful. Amy looks up to her big sister, but she’s alarmed when Sylvie doesn’t return home from a trip to visit family in Amsterdam. While her parents are unconcerned, Amy heads abroad to question her family there and figure out what happened to her sister, uncovering family secrets along the way.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

In this memoir, Walls recounts her unconventional upbringing with two parents who were highly educated but unwilling to hold down steady jobs. Their lax parenting failed to provide a stable home for their four children, so Jeannette and her siblings made a plan to run away to New York City when they were teens—only to have their parents follow them there and become squatters in an abandoned building.

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

Charles Wang built a cosmetic empire, only to lose it all. With everything he owns  repossessed or seized, he embarks upon a cross-country road trip from California to upstate New York with his wife and two college-aged children in order to reconnect with his eldest daughter.

Shelter by Jung Yun

Kyung Cho and his wife have spent years living beyond their means, desiring physical possessions and the trappings of wealth that Kyung Cho’s parents enjoy just a few miles away. But when a terrible incident leaves his parents vulnerable and in need of shelter, Kyung takes them in…and must confront years of resentment and tension.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Set over the course of five decades, this book is about a wealthy family, their estate, and how two siblings were exiled from their comfortable upbringing and learned to rely on each other. But when they’re finally invited back into the fold, the pressure of family expectations threatens their bond.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

The Turner house has been home to the large family for decades, but when matriarch Viola is unable to reside there anymore, her children are shocked to find that the house is valued at a mere fraction of the mortgage. They return home to decide how to proceed—and confront their resentments and hang ups along the way.

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

The Beijing Duck House is a family owned restaurant that is run by family and staff who might as well be family. When tragedy strikes, each member of the Beijing Duck House family is tested as they grapple with love and desire, yearning for the way things used to be and hopeful for a better future.

fun home by alison bechdel cover image

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Bechdel reveals how her father’s coming out and an ambiguous accident that caused his death had a profound effect on her as she herself came out in college. She revisits her childhood through a new lens, examining her parents’ dysfunctional marriage.

The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

In a small town in Michigan, three women return home to the town they thought they’d left behind for good. At the center is Beth, one of the few Black women from the town, who finds love and dark secrets colliding under her father’s roof.

Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Family Trust by Kathy Wang

When Stanley Huang is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his family is keen on learning just how much he’s actually worth, and what they can expect when he dies. His wife is tired, his children are dissatisfied in life, and his ex is determined to see her kids get what they deserve, but first they have to fulfill his final and unexpected request.

Are you looking for more great books? Check out our list of the 20 best book club books! If you want something a bit more personalized, consider signing up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a quarterly subscription service that offers you personalized book recommendations based only your favorite genres and books you’ve already read and loved. Simply fill out our reader survey, and a real power reader will write you a letter recommending three books, picked out just for you. You can receive your recommendation letter in your email inbox within two weeks, or choose to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcover books from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine! Learn more and get started!