Surviving Families


As much as we love our families, sometimes we don't see eye to eye. Sometimes our values differ so extremely that it is difficult to maintain a normal conventional relationship with them. We feel torn, misunderstood and hurt. Sometimes there is no turning back. Take solace in knowing that we are not alone and millions of families experience this every day. Below are some great books and memoirs that tell the real life stories of authors who have lived and survived complicated family lives, recounting their own experiences and the experiences of others.

Educated (Non-fiction, memoir) by Tara Westover
best books on surviving families
A fascinating true story about a young girl who grows up in an isolated community in the mountains of Southeastern Idaho. The youngest of seven siblings, at age 30 she has never left home, has been homeschooled and works for her mother and father, who don't believe in western medicine. Her father, who suffers from bipolar depression, sells scrap metal from his junkyard and builds barns and hay sheds for farmers in nearby towns. Her mother is a herbalist and works as an assistant to an unlicensed midwife. Tara helps both her father in the junk yard scrapping metal and her mother preparing herbs and helping with live births. Her father's rage from depression often manifests as violence with the siblings all suffering from inflicted wounds and burns from the junkyard. They are not allowed to see a normal doctor and any illness must be treated using herbs from their mother's 'herbal' pharmacy. Once Tara suffered from tonsillitis and her father made her stand with her mouth open in the sun for a whole month.
In her early 30s, she does something prolific. She follows her older brother's example and secretly learns how to read. Tara eventually passes her ACT and is accepted to Brigham Young University. Her relationship with her father worsens and she leaves home in pursuit of further education. She has no idea about the Holocaust or Napoleon or other remarkable historical events. However her hunger to learn and her capacity to self-educate is recognised by her professors and she manages to secure a fellowship at Cambridge University first and then at Harvard University where she completes a PHD in history. After what she has achieved and her enlightening journey, it is difficult to transition back to life in Idaho and the family she loves who are so different in their values and way of life. A beautiful tale of inner conflict balancing loyalty towards the family she deeply loves and the pain and loss that comes from the inevitable weakening of ties with the people so dear to your heart. A summer must-read.
Grab your copy here.

A Place for Us: A Novel (Fictionby Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us: A Novel by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A story about belonging, identity, culture and what it means to be American and Muslim, bridging the old with the new. 

An estranged son, the youngest of three strives to balance being true to himself whilst remaining loyal to the family and culture he comes from. The older two siblings marry for love and not tradition. All reunited at a family wedding, the parents come to terms with their children, reconciling strong family bonds that made them a close-knit family in the early years to weakened ties and betrayal as they find themselves caught between two different cultures after immigrating to the US from India. 

A colourful story from an upcoming literary genius, the book will touch your heart.

Grab your copy here: 

My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South   (Non-fiction, memoirby Issac J. Bailey 
best books on surviving families


My Struggle (Non-fiction, memoirby Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard 

A six-book autobiography about life and its rawness. Powerfully real. 


More book prescriptions can be found at our A-Z of Book Prescriptions.

A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I train mental health professionals, librarians, teachers as well as readers on using bibliotherapy in their own work through our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course. We also curate reading lists/personalised book prescriptions for clients based on their individual needs. This is our signature personalised reading service.

You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation.

In this role, I have had the opportunity to publish a book called The Happiness Mindset, and write various literary essays and pieces for newspapers and magazines. I have undertaken bibliotherapy workshops for The United Nations, various libraries in New York and corporate organisations in the UK and US. My book recommendations have featured in the Guardian, Marie Claire, NBC News, Asian Voice, New York Observer, Sydney Telegraph and various other publications. If you are a parent you might enjoy a podcast I’ve recorded with speech and language therapist Sunita Shah on Raising A Reader & Storyteller. And if you’d like to connect, email me at or

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