Video: 3 Good Books with Dysfunctional Families

Watch this video on books with dysfunctional families, plus other bookish videos, on my Booktube / Youtube channel.

Random note: is anyone as distracted as I am by the piece of fuzz on my sleeve in the video? Gah, get a lint roller, lady!

Let’s hear it for dysfunctional families everywhere!

Not every family is picture perfect. And the ones that look perfect are probably the worst behind closed doors.

Here are three good books that showcase some of the worst families I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.


Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.

The feelings in this book are intense. The family is so resentful of each other, but so tightly woven at the same time (at least certain members). It’s oe of those touchstone books with dysfunctional families.

Of course, this book was also a famous movie famously acted by the famous dream team of Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. They did a great job of it.

But the book brings even more vibrancy and terribleness to not only the dysfunctional family, but the whole damn dysfunctional town. The splinter and float away, both built on shaky foundations.


Dead Letters by Caite Dolan Leach.

This family comes right out of a Tennessee Williams play. Wow, do they hate and love each other.

You have the playboy father, alcoholic mother, wild child daughters, pining ex-boyfriend, and picture-perfect winery. The family loves and loathes the ties that bind them together.

The love between the sisters, though, is POWERFUL. Ahhhh, the book is so good.


Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.

Augusten’s upbringing showcases the quintessential dysfunctional family. In his case, it extended beyond his birth family and to his unofficial surrogate family.

When he was a kid, Augusten lived for a time with his psychologist and the psychologist’s strange disciples…I mean family. Strange stuff went down, including poop analysis and (here’s the real kicker) a masterbatorium.

This book made an Augusten Burroughs fan out of me. If you want more, you can also read Dry, his nonfiction account of being a dysfunctional alcoholic adult.


Another bonus solid choice: Look Me in the Eye by Burroughs’ brother, John Elder Robison.

Robison talks about living his childhood and young adulthood with undiagnosed Asperger’s. Don’t worry – it’s not a weepy book. For anyone close to the life of Asperger’s, you’ll see the magic, quirkiness, and originality that comes with that beautiful brain (but don’t worry about that either – it’s not preachy or self-congratulatory or self-flagellating for that matter either…baaaah just read it). Robison’s life isn’t necessarily dysfunctional – I’m just leading you on a stream of consciousness book recommendation with that one since he’s associated with the wonderful Burroughs.


You know, sometimes I wish I wasn’t so obsessed with the nice round list of three. Dysfunctional families make for such good story subjects that my list of recommendations could easily grow to 20 or 50 or more.

But I must depart. I have a husband who needs screaming at and some childhoods to ruin.

(Sarcasm! It’s sarcasm! Get it? Dysfunctional families? You know, the joke’s not really funny if you have to explain it, is it?)