Books That Will Make You Appreciate Your Family That Much More

BlogHer Original Post

For many of us the holidays mean spending time with our families - our wonderful, lovely dysfunctional families. Or sometimes it's with other people's wonderful, lovely dysfunctional families. In order to help you get through this I've gone hunting for books that will help you get through the holiday season.

First of all, no I'm not talking self-help relationship books. While I'm sure that some of them would help I prefer a more escapist, and sometimes irreverent, route. I also have to say that I'm spending Christmas with my in-laws and they are very much not dysfunctional and I like them very much. While I'm sure they'd be amused by John Boswell and Lenore Skenazy's The Dyfunctional Family Christmas Songbook it doesn't quite describe our situation. (And yes, that is the same Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids.)

Julie has since retired the Bookworm blog but her 2008 review of Meg Wolitzer's The Position is one of my favourites.

I’ve known quite a few people who felt that their parents’ professions placed an unfair burden on them, like the son of a Methodist minister I dated in college. In fact, with a professor of clinical psychology for a dad and a piano teacher for a mom, I may even have complained about it myself on one or two occasions. ;-)
Never again.
The Position is a novel about parents who are the co-authors of a bestselling sex manual. An illustrated bestselling sex manual. Illustrated with pictures of them.

That'll give you something to think about in between asking your Aunt Mary to pass the potatoes won't it?

Boston Bibliophile reviewed Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You. I keep hearing that it's about a lovable, dysfunctional family.

It's a great set up for a dysfunctional family comedy and Tropper delivers both laughs and pathos in roughly equal measure but the laughs are what I'll remember the most. Judd deals with his humiliation and bereavement through self-deprecating sarcasm and self-loathing.

She also says that it's a great beach read. Maybe I could pretend that I was at a beach instead of huddled under three layers of clothes and a blanket?

Of course there's that classic, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Franzen is perhaps most famously known for turning down Oprah's book club but as Leyla Sanai reminds us, it is an impeccably written novel.

The family relationships are evoked beautifully - as is the way with many daughters, Denise loves her father unfalteringly and feels less for her mother, and her brothers tend to the opposite.

Somewhere between the line of fact and fiction (depending on who you ask) is Augusten Burrough's Running With Scissors. Jessica at Life is a Minestrone says that the theme to the book seems to be "surrealism and insanity."

The amoral and crazy world in which Augusten finds himself draws the reader in until they feel disorientated because it becomes impossible to judge who is the most insane. In almost everything you read there is some character who embodies what we think of as ‘normal’ or moral standards.

Burroughs also just released a Christmas memoir, You Better Not Cry. Lola laughed so hard at one of the stories her husband shut off the television to ask her what was so funny.

If the books don't help you can always do what my former boss used to tell us about everything - make a game of it. Meredith O'Brien goes for Dysfunctional Family Bingo:

Dysfunctional Family Bingo is like a regular Bingo game, except that the squares are filled with crazy things that could happen during a holiday dinner (there’s an ugly argument over politics, your kid breaks a family heirloom that was put in the middle of the coffee table, someone gets food poisoning, etc.). The idea is that you and your snarky friends print out the cards and secretly play along during a holiday event [...]

I can't tell you how much I love that. It actually makes me wish my family was dysfunctional so that I could play along. I wouldn't get anywhere close to bingo.

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.