Great books about families

Blood, so the saying goes, is thicker than water. This theme is often at the heart of a satisfying family saga, regardless of class, race, country or century. But with that unifying factor comes plenty of strife – secrets, lies, jealously and deception. Inter-generational relationships creak and strain – sometimes to the point of collapse. This is what makes the family saga such a gripping genre – that sense of intrigue and conflict amongst people who should love each other unconditionally. We are fascinated by what has happened to cause parent to turn against child, siblings to vie for attention and squabble into adult years, heirs to be disinherited, dynasties to crumble. And then there are the outsiders – the in-laws, sneaking into the fold. Not blood relations but invited into family home and hearth nevertheless, for better and for worse.

Families are at the centre of this collection of novels and poetry with all their individual quirks and traditions. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina – ‘each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ – and that’s what we think makes a great story.

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David Cronenberg


Simon Lelic

The Mattress House

Paulus Hochgatterer

Don't Let Go

Michel Bussi

Across the Lakes

Amal Chatterjee

Ahab's Wife

Sena Jeter Naslund

Wrong as Two Left Feet

Teddy Hayes

Hospital: A Dream Vision

Toby Litt

Blue Light Yokohama

Nicholás Obregón


Ryu Murakami

Hammerhead Ranch Motel

Tim Dorsey

A Beggar at the Gate

Thalassa Ali

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

Aimee Bender

The Bobby Dazzlers

Andrew Martin

Under the Frangipani

Mia Couto

Day after Day

Carlo Lucarelli

The Black Madonna

Peter Millar

Wanderers and Islanders

Steve Cockayne

Little Egypt

Lesley Glaister

The Houdini Girl

Martyn Bedford

The Other Child

Charlotte Link

Stone and Sea

Graham Edwards

The Hellhound Sample

Charles Shaar Murray

Finbar's Hotel

Dermot Bolger

The Devil All the Time

Donald Ray Pollock


Wu Ming


Christine Mangan

Haunted Ground

Erin Hart

Third Heaven Conspiracy

Giulio Leoni


Jonathan Franzen

The Beach

Alex Garland

The Mobile Library: the Case of the Missing Books

Ian Sansom

Heavy Duty People

Iain Parke and Martin Robertson

A Florentine Death

Michele Giuttari

My Name is Will

Jess Winfield

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Louise Erdrich

The Desperate Remedy

Martin Stephen

The Acid Test

Elmer Mendoza

Hooky Gear

Nick Barlay

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson

The Constant Gardener

John Le Carre

The Impressionist

Hari Kunzru

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Marisha Pessl

The Dovekeepers

Alice Hoffman

The Good German

Joseph Kanon

The Secrets of the Chess Machine

Robert Lohr

Finding Myself

Toby Litt

Two-Way Split

Allan Guthrie

The Art of Murder

Jose Carlos Somoza