Thanksgiving is one holiday that will leave you with a full stomach or a stressed out family — but probably both. Depending on your family situation, by now you're used to the crazy family drama or quiet family gathering around this time of year. With a table full of scrumptious food, extended family members you haven't seen in years, and having to answer a million questions about your personal life — it can be difficult to remember the real reason why this big festivity happens every year.
I love my family more than anything, and the time I get to spend with them is always worthwhile. But that doesn't mean the holidays aren't overwhelming. I need to prepare myself for a lot of different conversations, small children screaming, and all the food that needs to be made. But I also need to prepare for a way to escape it all, too. So naturally, I stock up on books when I head home for Thanksgiving.
Reading about other dysfunctional families makes me feel better about my own, and more so reminds me of how thankful I am to have them. If you need a reminder or two on just how lucky you are to have such a loving and crazy family, then read these 13 books, because they're filled with more family drama than you could ever begin to imagine! But sometimes, they all end up happier when they're together.
1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
If you're in the mood for a gripping memoir to sink into and discuss over stuffing and cranberry sauce this year, then Wild is the book for you. Dealing with her mother's death and the aftermath of her failed marriage, Cheryl Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. As she powers through her journey, she realizes nature isn't nearly her biggest struggle. This eye-opening journey will not only make you reflect on your own personal journey, but what family really means to you.
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2. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Judd Foxman's father had one last dying wish: for Judd, his mother, and his siblings to all spend a week together in the same house like a normal family. But they haven't been together in years. As the week quickly takes a turn for the worst, Judd realizes more than ever just how out of control his life has gotten, and how obvious it is that his wife is cheating on him. This dysfunctional and hilarious family will without a doubt make you grateful for yours.
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you thought you had it bad when it comes to your mom asking when you're going to settle down, get married, and have kids, then you need to pick up Jane Austen's ultimate classic. Elizabeth Bennet, a witty and independent young lady during the 18th century does not have her sisters' desire to marry. And especially not Mr. Darcy, a wealthy and reserved man. But this love story is nothing short of genius and will awe you the entire way through.
4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Jeanette Walls didn't have a traditional childhood. With a brilliant but destructive father, a free-spirited but absent mother, Jeanette and her siblings took care of themselves. Though her parents are deeply faulted, she embraces both of them in the brightest light, showing them for who they are and what they gave her. Through forgiveness and a unique path that led her to New York City, this memoir will change the way you look at your family and friends in a positive and impactful way.
5. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Having sibling problems? Not to worry, I'll Give You the Sun is the bright and beautiful novel that will help you with any sibling rivalry. This book paints the portrait of two twins, Noah and Jude, and their monumentally world-shattering story. Noah falls in love with the boy next door and is chased around by bullies at age 13; Jude has the other half of the story at age 16, while she's trying to make peace with her mother through an artistic outlet. This complex novel will have you cherishing every moment you spend with your brothers and sisters.
6. The Position by Meg Wolitzer
The Position is the story of Paul and Roz Mezzo, who wrote a bestselling The Joy of Sex-type book that mortified their young children (and you thought your parents were embarrassing). Jump ahead 30 years later and the story captures where their kids are now and how the family has dispersed. That is, until the topic of reissuing the scandalous book brings everyone back together. You'll be more than thankful you're not a part of this family.
7. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
When Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age, they're taken in by their eccentric aunts to live in a small Massachusetts town. The sisters were never any good at fitting in, but as they grow older, they begin to embrace their anything-but-normal powers. And when a backyard ghost arises, the sisters bring together three generations of Owen women to fight back. Not only will you fall for the magic in this exciting book, but you'll love the realistic family dynamic it has to offer.
8. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Georgie and Neal have never had the best marriage, but certainly not the worst. And just before flying off to visit Neal's family for the holidays with the kids, Georgie makes up a lie on why she must stay behind in L.A. That's when she discovers a landline to the past, a way to communicate with Neal before their marriage and relationship ever began. Now Georgie wonders if it's up to her to fix her marriage or make sure it never happened in the first place. If there's one thing Rainbow Rowell can do, it's tell a complicated but completely real and heartbreaking love story.
9. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Two days before Christmas, the notorious Bernadette Fox disappears. Her 15-year-old daughter, Bee, who just recently aced her report card and wants to claim her prize — a trip to Antarctica — goes out on her own to find out what has happened to her mom. Bee and Bernadette capture an unforgettable mother and daughter relationship in this novel, and it's one that will have you humbly appreciating everything your mother does for you.
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
You probably remember reading this back in high school and hating it, but I bet if you pick it up now you'll wonder why in the world you ever felt that way. The Grapes of Wrath is a true classic that takes place during the Great Depression in the Dust Bowl, showcasing a family struggling to cross the country to make it to California. This family endures endless struggles, but it continues on for the hope of something new. You'll be reminded just how important family is with Steinbeck's story.
11. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
A story about the obsession with food, heartbreak, and family issues — what could be better to read around this time of year? When Richard Middlestein leaves his obese wife, Edie, their kids join together to try and take care of her. Only, they all have different ideas on how to save her. Slowly they all begin to wonder if Edie's choices and consequences are something they should take on, let her solve on her own. This beautifully written novel about family and marriage will have you cherishing your family dinner time more than ever before.
12. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Imagine biting into your mother's homemade lemon cake and tasting nothing but despair. Well, that's what happens to Rosie Edelstein at age 9, and she quickly realizes her gift to taste emotions is also somewhat of a curse. All the secrets within her family are revealed to her on the tip of her tongue, and as she grows older, she realizes there are some emotions she can't discern. This is a tasty novel to say the least, and one that you should definitely read on your Thanksgiving vacation.
13. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
A novel that starts with "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," is one you must read this around the holidays. When Anna Karenina ditches her passionless marriage for the charming officer Count Vronsky, she must pay the consequences of doing so in 19th-century Russia. This story is the ultimate tale of the many variations of relationships and families that love one another.
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