There is nothing I love more than a family drama. “Family drama” isn’t exactly a genre, but if it were, it would likely be in my top three. And what’s not to love? Family dramas provide so much rich territory for exploring every facet of the human experience. Biological family isn’t something any of us choose. We’re thrown together with people by chance, and that makes for some complicated relationships. That’s not to say that familial relationships are simple when we do choose them, either. Being part of a family of any kind is rarely 100% straightforward. No wonder books about families make such riveting reading.
Family dramas come in all shapes and sizes. They can be heartbreaking or hilarious, lighthearted or intense. Some focus on sibling relationships, others parent-child relationships, and still others on the messy links between several generations. They explore just about every experience humans have. Whether you’re looking for a romance-heavy book, a sprawling epic, or an intimate character study, there’s a family epic for it.
Ready to be transported to the other side of the world? Travel through history?Celebrate, mourn, make mistakes, and forgive? Take this quiz to find out what family epic you should read next. And if, like me, you’re trying to devour every family epic that exists, check out all the results below for ten brilliant ones to add to your TBR.
The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan
This sprawling multigenerational epic follows a Syrian Lebanese American family as they navigate love, parenthood, career, immigration, trauma, and the legacies of war and displacement. It features complicated sibling relationships, multiple timelines, gorgeous writing, and a hopeful ending.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
When Patrick’s sister-in-law dies, and his brother checks himself into rehab, it falls on Patrick to take care of his niece and nephew for the summer. He’s been keeping to himself since his boyfriend died years before, but suddenly being a full-time caregiver draws him out of his shell, and reminds him it’s never too late to start over. Though it does deal with grief, it’s mostly funny, breezy, and lighthearted.
We are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker
In a not-too-distant future, brain implants called Pilots, designed to increase focus and productivity, have become commonplace. Val and Julie and their two kids all have different opinions about Pilots, and soon all four of them are caught up in the complicated politics surrounding the new technology. It’s a beautiful blend of thought-provoking sci-fi and quiet family drama.
The Removed by Brandon Hobson
This eerie, haunting novel is about a Cherokee family in Oklahoma mourning the murder of their son and brother Ray-Ray years before. Told through a chorus of POVs in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s death, it’s a beautiful, devastating book about ghosts, ancestors, grief, and the history of the Cherokee people.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
This YA retelling of Snow White centers two women. Mina, whose heart is made of glass, escaped her evil magician father to become a queen. Her stepdaughter Lynet is a girl created out of snow in the image of her dead mother. It’s a lush fantasy about mother-daughter relationships and the families we create.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
This gorgeous epic is about a Hawaiian family whose lives are changed forever when their son Nainoa develops strange healing powers. Told in four distinct POVs, the story unfolds over a decade as Nianoa, his siblings, and their parents struggle to make lives for themselves amidst economic collapse. Washburn weaves elements of Hawaiian mythology into this deeply human story about familial expectations, first love, addiction, siblinghood, history, and so much more.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
At 816 pages, this book is a commitment! It’s worth it, though. Jeffers tells the story of one Black American family across several centuries, from slavery through the present day. Weaving together multiple timeliness and many POVs, it’s a sprawling book with an epic feel, made up of detailed, intimate stories about the everyday lives of several generations of Black women .
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
At just under 200 pages, it’s staggering how much emotion Engel packs into this often harrowing but ultimately uplifting novel. It’s about a Colombian family whose lives are continually upended by deportation and the unending injustices of the U.S. immigration system. Engel writes about the horrors her characters endure without sensationalizing them; it’s just as much about messy family dynamics as it is about the experiences of undocumented immigrants.
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
You should read A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. This kaleidoscopic novel is about an Indian American Muslim family, gathered together for the first time in years for the wedding of their eldest daughter. The narrative moves back and forth in time, exploring the complex web of decisions, mistakes, and moments that have defined the messy relationships between three siblings and their parents. It’s a hefty book about religion, culture, generational difference, and identity.
Sing, Unbuired, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Infused with magic and haunted by ghosts, this book is a reinvention of the intergenerational epic, a brilliant novel about a Southern Black family and everything they carry from one generation to the next: stories, wisdom, pain, memory.