Posts tagged holiday
Literary Dinner | A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol was a wonderful seasonal buddy read for us. Short and sweet, and the perfect way to get back into our literary dinners since Rikki's baby arrived. Our reading lives have been up and down the past few months, full of too many good books to choose from, and often choosing family over everything else, as the season demands. This dinner party brought both of our families together and made for a great night of conversation, simple yet delicious fare, and warm, flavorful mulled wine.

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, present, and the future. - Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

As with many of our dinner parties, we went with a simple meal and set-up; the goal is to enjoy ourselves, not work all night long. Using lots of candles we had on hand, a garland of greenery (Trader Joes's for the win!) and berries cut from the backyard, we laid down a base over a lace piece Rikki had. We then sprinkled in fresh citrus, apples, cinnamon sticks, and chestnuts, which were all mentioned in the novella, and stuck a candelabra in the center.

It ended up feeling SO warm and inviting! Everyone was kind of lingering near it, because it was so pretty and cozy. The place settings were just Rikki's dishes and silverware mixed with some napkins in rings that Michaela had on hand that felt Christmassy enough. Honestly, it took us ten minutes to lay down and tweak to our satisfaction, and cost about $10. 

But being thoroughly good-natured, and not much caring what they laughed at, so that they laughed at any rate, he encouraged them in their merriment, and passed the bottle joyously. - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Keeping in mind the Christmas party scene at Scrooge's nephew's house, we brought to life a scene with lots of candles, rustic, seasonal touches, and simple hearty foods. It felt really good to return to vintage Christmas staples and create a classic setting in the midst of our modern holiday. 

With two roast chickens, glazed carrots, and a beloved family dressing recipe, dinner was ready to go! It fed five adults and three kids perfectly, so we were able to sit and enjoy the meal and good conversation while we sipped warm mulled wine and relaxed together.


We went with a homemade wonderfully spiced rum raisin cake for our dessert. The novella mentions a Victorian twelfth cake, which is a really similar concept; heavy on eggs, light on sugar, spiked with alcohol, and studded with fruits and nuts in a dense cake. 


We toasted to the night, finished off the food and wine, and enjoyed the warm fire while visions of A Christmas Carol danced in our heads. This holiday season is often so busy, but we are so glad to have carved out time for this. It's moments like these, coming together and slowing down to appreciate a story as heartwarming as this, that made us feel like this is what the Christmas season is all about.

We hope you were able to slow down and really soak in the holiday spirit with those you love. Happy holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Just popping in to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

We're staying cozy and enjoying the holiday spirit with our families, and hope that wherever you are, your Christmas is filled with love and good cheer!


Our very best wishes,

Rikki & Michaela

Gifting Books For The Reader Who...

We don't know about you guys, but around here books are our favorite gifts to buy our friends and loved ones for all occasions, but most especially for the holidays. We know it can be tough to figure out what book would make the best gift for someone (adults are hard to shop for!) and so we're here to help with a handy guide of titles to suit any personality in your life! 


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For your dad who has too many way books and can't get enough of American history...

He's probably read a dozen presidential biographies and has gruesome war books displayed prominently on his shelves. There have been some great new books in this wheelhouse lately, and we like:

The Three Lives of James Madison | Noah Feldman- A deep dive into an American history giant, this biography of James Madison is clearly very well researched. It's loaded with documentation and photographs and just an incredible amount of information about this founding father, who he was as a man, as a politician, as a diplomat, as a patriot, and his importance to the United States and to the world.

Grant | Ron Chernow- Let's fast forward in history a few decades! This one has gotten a lot of buzz in the past year for taking a really in depth look at the life of Ulysses S Grant and the political times he navigated through, and all the battles he fought during the Civil War. We've heard it reads beautifully, and it has a ton of accolades to prove it. My dad has this one wrapped up and waiting under the Christmas tree for him!

Moonglow | Michael Chabon- For a fictional approach to some of these same themes of complicated men, changing worlds, and major wars (but in more modern times) pick up Moonglow. This was one of my favorite books this year; it's a beautifully written look at how extraordinary an ordinary life can be. It's memoir-esque and moves through one man's experiences in war, space programs, and family life, all wound up in just wondrously beautiful prose. 


For your best friend who spoils your kids and loves light contemporary fiction...

Did she swoon while reading Me Before You? Does she consult the bestseller list before choosing a new book? Can she never get enough light hearted romance or contemporary family drama? Check out:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo | Taylor Jenkins Reid- This has just about everything you could want in a contemporary fiction novel: glamour, politically relevant themes, mystery, love, drama....just everything. The book world fell head over heels for Evelyn Hugo this year, because it's such an uncommonly engaging novel doing some interesting things. 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper | Phaedra Patrick- A lighthearted little adventure that ultimately is about how well we truly know the ones closest to us, and about the enduring power of love and family. Arthur Pepper is a seriously quirky little book that is a perfect read for someone who enjoys family drama in the warmest way possible. 

Little Fires Everywhere | Celeste Ng- One of the most popular books all year in the contemporary fiction world, this one got rave reviews from most everyone we know. Picture perfect family meets major secrets and complications is the theme here, and watching it all fall apart is the fun of reading this gem. This one is highly character driven and emotionally powerful. 


For your cousin who is always good for a late night chat and loves a touch of magic...

If she can quote "Practical Magic" to you verbatim, but still has a bit of a dark streak in her reading life, try:

Big Fish | Daniel Wallace- This one is hard to describe, but it hits all the right notes of magical and wistful and also somehow deep. The major theme here is a man struggling to know and connect with his dying father, a man who has been intent on recounting his life in a series of tall tales. The line between truth and fiction is blurred and toyed with, to wonderful effect. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Neil Gaiman- For a book in a slighter darker vein, pick this one up. It's set in the real world....until it's not. A little unsettling, a little bit fable-esque, and a whole lot of gorgeous is packed into this slim volume. Gaiman's works are all just so odd and lovely, and this is no exception.

Reincarnation Blues | Michael PooreMuch more lighthearted in tone than Gaiman, but still dealing in macabre subject matter, Reincarnation Blues hits all the right notes of dark humor and irreverence in the best way. It's completely absorbing and almost reads like short stories, with all of Milo's various lives. The entire novel had me laughing out loud while simultaneously being wise and gory and fascinating and beautiful all in one glorious rush. 


For your sister-in-law who has a knack for decorating and keeps up with all the new releases...

If pre-ordering a book that hasn't come out yet is the only way to ensure she hasn't read it, and her killer sense of style carries over into her taste in books, try:

The Immortalists | Chloe Benjamin - This one is poised to be a smash hit early next year. It releases January 9th and is getting great advance reviews, us included. The idea of knowing the date of your death is always an interesting one, and The Immortalists follows the lives of 4 children who find out exactly that. This book is on nearly every list about the best books coming out in 2018, so wrap up a pre-order slip for her, and she can spend the middle of January lost in what-ifs with this novel. 

The Great Alone | Kristin Hannah - The author of the beloved Nightingale has another novel coming out, already with immense anticipation from fans. Set in Alaska in the '70s with a family in crisis that will test the strength of human spirit.

The Room on Rue Amelie | Kristin Harmel - If you liked Lilac Girls, here comes a novel where three people's lives come together in Paris during WW2. A powerful, richly interwoven story of fate, courage, and survival.


For the young reader who is utterly and completely obsessed with fantasy...

Renegades | Marissa Meyer- Following her incredibly successful Lunar Chronicles, Meyer crafts a futuristic story basically of superheroes...with some major deviations from the cliches. Crazy powers, secret identities, heroes, villains, and the gray areas between fuel this fantasy adventure story. 

The Book of Dust | Phillip Pullman- A newly released prequel to one of the most beloved fantasy series in recent years, if your young reader loved His Dark Materials, this book will feel like returning home. These books strike the perfect balance of magical and relatable, with big themes and small delights populated with fascinating, powerful characters throughout. 

Strange the Dreamer | Laini Taylor- This book was huge this year, and hinges on the concepts of dreams in a strange, fantastical land. It has all the elements of an epic fantasy: legendary warriors, romance, a mysterious city, myths, and a hero's journey, gorgeously crafted.


For your book snob co-worker who has a great sense of humor and only reads literary fiction...

If she tends to avoid any genre fiction and her signature humor means she tells the best stories, try:

The Ressurection of Joan Ashby | Cherise Wolas- This one really surprised me at how literary in tone it is, and how powerfully it explores a really deeply rooted issue. Wolas is an exceptionally beautiful writer who refuses to sugar coat her subject, and the whole thing reads like a Ferrante/Tartt love child, which of course, is perfection for the book snob in your life. 

A Gentleman in Moscow | Amor Towles- This is easily Towles' best book to date, and he is a seriously impressive writer. Clever, beautiful, satisfying, and featuring an extremely likable main character (rare in literary fiction!), the story runs it's course smoothly and elegantly. It manages to run the gamut of emotion from hilarious to tense to hopeful all while crafting a beautiful structure and compelling plot. Deftly woven though it are bits of history, wine pairings, traditional manners, literature, architecture, and philosophy. 

My Brilliant Friend | Elena Ferrante- This quartet is unlike anything I've ever read, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. They read almost like a memoir, and follow the friendship of two women from childhood through old age. Nuanced, sleek, and powerful, Ferrante's prose is deceptively simple, but there is so much to unpack in these novels. This first book quietly builds in intensity until the final scene....these books will straight up haunt the reader.


For your mother-in-law who bakes a mean meatloaf and loves some romance with her mystery...

Career of Evil | Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)- From the Cormoran Strike series comes the third, and best installment. JK Rowling's voice comes through loud and clear, and will really hit the spot for adults who miss her writing style. It's realistic and interesting, a well paced mystery, and has just a touch of budding romance. This was un-put-downable for me. 

The Woman in White | Wilkie CollinsOne of the first detective mysteries of its time, The Woman in White is long, but beautiful. Once you get into the plot, you can't stop reading and find yourself flying through. The story is told with different narrators giving their account of "what happened" and their encounter with "the woman in white." Incredibly descriptive and well told, a must read.

Rebecca | Daphne du MaurierA harrowing love story that seemed perfect, until a lingering evil swoops in, set to destroy everything. A classic romance novel, well loved and stands the test of time. 


For your philosophy major brother who can't get enough chills and thrills...

If he loves contemplating novel (pun intended) concepts, but still loves a good thrill in his books, try:

Dark Matter | Blake Crouch - A mind-bending, relentlessly surprising thriller from the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy. This is one that's hard to put down, and plays with alternate realities, lost opportunities, existential dread, and much more as it races through it's gripping plot. 

House of Leaves | Mark Z. Danielewski- There's no other way to describe this book: it's a mind fuck, and a scary one at that. It's got a bit of a cult following behind it, and everyone I know who has read it has had a visceral reaction to it. The formatting inside it is just bonkers in a lot of places, as it's full of text at odd angles and codes and puzzles and ciphers and things like that. Ultimately, the story revolves around a family and their ever-changing, very sinister house, but this book is not about the plot.

Found Audio | N. J. Campbell- A crazy but interesting premise of an uncovered secret audio file of an adventure journalist, the book explores the idea that everything in the world, every experience you have is interesting. Well written, cleverly layered, a little dreamy, and with a lot of substance buried in it, it's a great little book. 


Are you buying books as gifts this year? Who did you buy for? We'd love to hear what books made the cut for all of you!


The Very Best Holiday Books to Read with Kids

As you might have noticed, we have a few kiddos between our two families, and our children's reading lives are very important to us. With all the holiday reading happening with the adults, we have been really intentional to carry the seasonal magic into our kids' books as well. Over the years we've cultivated a few favorites for all ages, both classic and contemporary. 


Little ones

The Polar Express | Chris Van Allsburg- Such a treasured classic book for the holiday season, perfect to follow up with hot cocoa and the movie! Our children adore this one.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas | Clement Clarke Moore- A classic poem, with modern illustrations that still feel true to it's timeless nature. We read this one every year and I love it more and more each year.

Walk This World at Christmastime | Debbie Powell- This is an ultra modern, colorful explosion of a book, filled with little opening doors (my son is OBSESSED with these) and takes a look at how the holidays are celebrated around the world and in different cultures. 

Bear Stays Up For Christmas | Karma Wilson- Really, the whole series of Bear books are adorable, but this one has a particularly sweet message about friendship and giving during the holidays. Plus, you get a little peek at St. Nick! 

The Nutcracker | New York City Ballet- If going to see the Nutcracker is a beloved tradition for your family (it was in mine!) you'll love this book put out by the New York City Ballet. Fluid, modern illustrations mimic the choreography of the ballet accompany the classic text. 

Olive, the Other Reindeer | Vivian Walsh- A really humorous twist on the Rudolph story, Olive is a dog who thinks she should be one of Santa's reindeer, with zany and endearing results. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas | Alison Jay- The classic song, in book form, with the best illustrations I've found. Need I say more? It's a truly beautiful version, and a favorite in our house.


Bigger kids

A Christmas Carol | Charles Dickens - For the middle grade readers, or to read aloud, classic seasonal, holiday novels are never a disappointment. We love this edition for extra little ones and this coloring book too!

Miracle on 34th Street | Valentine Davies - This is hands down, one of my very favorite holiday books and films to read and watch. A charming, warm story to enjoy with your children.

The Children's Christmas Carol | Johanna Spyri - We all know Spyri as the author of Heidi. She also has this classical story that will sweep you off to the Swiss mountains, in it's equally rich and charming prose about a mother and her two kids.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus | L. Frank Baum - My son and I were able to buddy read this one, it's an imaginative, well told story that is so perfect for this holiday season!

The Night Before Christmas | Nikolai Gogol - This is a unique, yet classic Russian tale with a bit of a dark twist and a love story. It's common tradition in Ukraine and Russia, to read this aloud on Christmas Eve.

What books do you love to read to your kids during the holidays? We'd love to expand our libraries!

Quality vs. Quantity in Books

We moved over the summer, and if you follow us at all, you'll know that I had BIG beautiful built-in shelves floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall. They held ALL THE BOOKS and I had them packed full. Moving meant doing some serious downsizing. It was a struggle at first, but now that I have a smaller set of shelves (until we build new ones), and we're finally settled into our new home, I've thought a lot about what's on them. 

My bookshelves are one of the first things people see when walking into our house, and I love to see people walk up to them and scan through the titles. This scrutiny has made me hyper-aware of what they're seeing and how my books represent me. The more I scour my shelves, the more mindful I become about what I keep there.

This fresh awareness has made me very, very careful about what I buy. The best part, is that when I do find a book that's exactly what I want, I feel NO guilt about purchasing it AND paying a bit more to support our local stores, which is so important to me. Buying books less frequently (and using the library more!) means my book budget has a lot more wiggle room for those few extra dollars it takes to choose indie bookstores over big box stores.

I absolutely love seeing my favorite books on my shelves; rows and rows of books I truly love, classics I can't wait to read, and vintage books that make me so happy. There's simply something to be said about having things that bring joy, and 95% of the books on my shelves do just that. Michaela was actually a huge factor in this concept, even before we moved. She owns rather specific editions of classic novels she loves, has read, and hopes to read some day. She never just grabs any book, she hunts down EXACTLY what she wants, and she has a carefully curated and beloved collection because of it.

So, as we approach the holiday season, I'm thinking even more about my children's bookshelves and what I plan to buy for them this Christmas, because they are the ones I buy books for the most. I'm also thinking of dear friends and the family members I have that would enjoy a good book (always my number one gift choice for anyone). I want my kids to learn to think carefully about the books they purchase, and I want to keep prioritizing being able to afford to support our local bookstores.

Not only do I find the best book recommendations (even some written by local authors, which is so fun), but also bookish gifts that sometimes you just don't find anywhere else. All of this is to say, if you can support other families this season, why not?! I love getting to meet the people at bookstores, pet the store cats, and browse actual books instead of browsing online. So friends, #shoplocal this season every chance you get. Support their dream of owning that shop. Support their families. Feel good about what you buy and what you gift with the best of intentions. 

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

Holiday Book Pairings

You all know we generally do book lists and book flights to fit each season, but since the holiday season is so packed and busy, we thought we'd just do book pairings with some classic holiday stories! Bonus: a lot of these are short stories and the perfect size to sneak into your December TBR!


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A Christmas Classic

Start with the most classic of all classic Christmas stories: A Christmas Carol. After you've spent 100 pages in Dickens' holiday wonderland, learning the true meaning of Christmas with Mr. Scrooge, pick up Mr. Dickens and His Carol for a great imagined look at how this masterpiece of a story came to be.


Nutcracker Magic

We've probably all seen the ballet at some time or another; maybe it's even a beloved family tradition for you (my best friend always danced in our home town's production!), but have you read the text it's based on? Pick it up and get acquainted with the original short story before you move to Maguire's retelling. Maguire is, of course, famous for his fairytale retellings, and reframes the story of the nutcracker by focusing on Drosselmayer, the godfather who gives Clara the nutcracker. This is on our own TBR this month, but we've heard great things from readers we trust! 


A touch of holiday weirdness

I paired these two because they're both a little odd, in the best way. Gogol is a really popular Russian author, and his story of the Devil and the blacksmith in love with the same girl is a pretty famous one. The two lovers compete for her affections on Christmas Eve, and the story is a little dark and a little humorous and a lot different. Capote's short story A Christmas Memory is much warmer and realistic, but still has that very offbeat, quirky tone  to it that all his writing does, especially compared to most Christmas tales. I think if you're looking for something other than the standard fare this year, these two will do it for you. 


The real santa claus

Both of these focus on Santa Claus himself, rather than Christmas as a tradition or a feeling. Baum tells the story of Santa Claus, starting with his childhood, and details how he became the Jolly Old Elf sneaking down your chimney each December 25th, while Tolkien compiled his own letters to his children "from Santa" wherein Santa regales them with tales of the year he had, including wars between magical creatures, disaster-prone polar bears, and reindeer on the loose. Both of them are just utterly inventive, charming little books. 


Christmas Mysteries

If you just need a trusty cozy mystery, give Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a chance with their most famous detectives solving mysteries at Christmastime. A simple and satisfying way to get some holiday cheer into your reading life!


What holiday books would you pair? We'd love to hear!


Bookish Stocking Stuffers That Aren't Junk

I don't know about you guys, but stockings were my absolute favorite part of Christmas growing up. As an adult, it's less fun since I'm the one doing the stocking filling, but there have been such amazing little gifts cropping up lately! We rounded up a bunch of options that would be perfect to tuck into the stocking of any kid or adult who is a bit bookish. Also, if you missed it, check out our main gift guide for the readers in your life! 


*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

If you have someone who listens to audiobooks out loud, these speakers might come in handy. A great pair of earbuds (these are the ones I have) would do the trick as well!

My son would absolutely love this illuminated bookmark, and if that's not quite your thing, these lovely wooden bookmarks are certainly gift worthy! 

A tin of book darts would definitely be appreciated by any serious reader.

Enamel pins are really trendy right now, and while there are some monstrosities out there, these are really pretty.

How fun are these Harry Potter inspired bath bombs? Bonus points if you know which book it references!

Let them carry their favorite book around with them in spirit at all times.


What about a perfect pack of pencils? Ideal for journaling, underlining in books, and looking gorgeous on desks!

It's a cliché, but you can't go wrong with a great, fun pair of socks.

These are some of my favorite things to stick in adult stockings; they're hilarious (and useful!).

Modern bookplates for kids or adults are great additions to anyone's book collection. These are my favorite!

A little $$ on a gift card to your favorite local bookstore! This is ours!

Or grab a bag of your favorite local coffee. Trust us, readers seem to love their caffeine, and a bag of beans fits nicely into a stocking!


What's your favorite thing to fill stockings with? We are prepping our holiday shopping lists and would love to hear!

The Ardent Biblio's Holiday Book Exchange
holiday gift exchange.png

Welcome to our first annual holiday book exchange! We've shared plenty of gift guides with goodies for loved ones, but now it's time for YOU to receive a gift!

In the spirit of giving, we'd love to have people who are genuinely interested in SENDING and RECEIVING a book just in time for Christmas. It doesn't take much time, but sending a little something special to a fellow reader is a great way to celebrate this season of giving.

  • If you'd like to participate in this Secret-Santa style exchange you can either message us your name and address over on Instagram, or shoot us an email with your info at before 11:59 on Thursday, Dec 7th. US residents only this time, please!
  • We'll add your details to a list with everyone else (all information remains completely private), put it through a random generator on Dec 8th and send you the name and address of a fellow reader!
  • Feel free to secretly browse their Instagram and/or Goodreads accounts to get a feel for what they might like (or simply send YOUR favorite their way), wrap it up, and get it in the mail before the Post Office gets packed! Trust us, it's better to NOT put this one off. The lines at the post office Christmas eve of 2012 still haunt me.....
  • Your book choice can be new or used, sourced from wherever you like to get books, and just spend whatever you're comfortable with (though keep it reasonable, there shouldn't be any reason you need to exceed $20-ish). Feel free to tuck in any extras, or not; it's totally up to you! 
  • You can also share what you receive with the hashtag #ArdentBiblioExchange2017 over on Instagram!
  • Our hope is that you get a great new read AND a great new friend!

Interested? Let's do this!

A Gift Guide For The Young Readers In Your Life

Between our two families we currently have four children, from newborn to thirteen (plus nieces and nephews galore). We really prioritize our kids having their own reading lives, and have been encouraging that in any way we can from their earliest days, so we use the holidays as yet another opportunity for us to incorporate the magic of reading into their lives. We firmly believe the bookish gift giving isn't just for adults, and that the kids in your life will be delighted to find any of these under the tree! 


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Babies and Toddlers

Want to introduce classic literature to your 10 month old? No problem

Give your toddler their own reading chair to explore books in, and encourage that reading time.

How amazing would these be in a nursery?

This is my very favorite version of a timeless holiday classic. We've read this every December since my son was born, and the illustrations still delight me. 

How about some bright, bookish toy storage?

Our kids have these books, and they absolutely love them. The personalization of them is really unique, and would make a perfect gift.



My 4 year old, after devouring all the Elephant and Piggie books, was bereft that there were no more until we found this series at the library last week. He's definitely getting more for Christmas!

So many pop-up books are too simplistic for kids who are past toddlerhood, but these are amazing. We have every single one in the series and they are all super informative, while having tons of bells and whistles for kids to manipulate. 

Nothing delights our kids more than getting mail, and magazine subscriptions have been a big hit! We like Ranger Rick four our younger kiddos and Muse for the older ones.

How about some super adorable bookmarks?

Book lights are such a big hit with our kids!

I love to send my favorite classics to my nieces. The options are endless!

Kids love getting mail, so order them up a subscription box and help build up their library! Plus use the code ARDENT15 for 15% off 

Have you considered a kid's tote bag so they can have their very own library book bag?

A reading journal just for kids is perfect for the dedicated little bookworm. Our younger kids aren't allowed phones or devices quite yet, so paper is the way to go!



Keepsake classic novels in beautiful editions are always the perfect gift. The best part is that there are so many to choose from! Teenagers are the best to buy classics for because they are old enough for most of the really good ones :)

A clean, modern bookmark they'll love, or pick a fandom, any fandom.

Or stick to the original and get any piece of Harry Potter decor they could ever want! 

A custom book plate stamp, so they can lend their books out and actually get them back, for once.

Book flags are so great, my kids love to mark pages to later share with me.

Give them the gift of a fun bookish subscription box-- these are sincerely so fun.

Got a tech obsessed teen? Try our favorite e-reader!


We hope this helped! What are you getting the young readers in your life this year? 

Dysfunctional Fictional Families That Will Make Your Family Thanksgiving Dinner Look Like A Piece of Pumpkin Pie

Most of us have a family that is at least touched by dysfunction; a crazy relative, or someone whose politics we disagree with, or a wayward aunt and an uncle who gets ruder the more he drinks. We have grandparents who bicker or a selfish cousin, estranged siblings, or overly needy family members. Many of us have blended families that result in complicated relationships...dysfunction is pretty par for the course when big families gather around holiday tables. If you're lucky enough to have an entirely warm, loving, cohesive family....lucky you! If not, take comfort in these fictional families who are way WAY more screwed up than yours is. After reading any of these books, your family will look down right pleasant and normal this Thanksgiving, we promise!

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1. Wuthering Heights | Emily Bronte- One incredibly twisted attraction leads to two families and their subsequent generations being just completely ruined. Forbidden love, foundlings, beatings, hostage situations, crazy men, mean girls, naive girls, a rundown old house, neglected children, cruelty, untimely deaths, and more inhabit this Gothic/Romantic (not romance!) novel. Plus, you can check out the dinner party we did!

2. Game of Thrones | George R. R. Martin- Incestuous twins, unloved bastards, fratricide, poisoned cups, fathers who father daughters with their daughters, banishments, witches' curses, disownments, a brother who burns your face off, killing off of brothers-in-law, stealing of wives, sister assassins, beheadings, and much much more screwed up family drama exist in the pages of this series. We promise, your family can't hold a candle to the level of disfunction with every single family in these books. 

3. The Descendants | Kaui Hart Hemmings- This actually hits kind of close to home for me (minus the drugs), and is a movie my dad, brother and I watch as a morbid kind of tradition to remind ourselves we aren't alone (and yes, we've all read the book, too). Basically an affair is revealed while the perpetrator is in a coma, and then subsequently dies. Add in a drug addicted teenager, nosy friends, and a workaholic parent who suddenly is a single parent, and put them on a quest for answers and you have yourself one giant helping of complicated feelings and family craziness. 


4. Anna Karenina | Leo Tolstoy- The opening line should be a pretty good indicator of the family dysfunction enfolded in this novel's epic pages: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Brutal heartbreak, aunt's stealing niece's love interests, affairs, abandoned children, rejection, marriage proposals, custody issues, and death follow all the families in this story. Pretty much nobody escapes unscathed by the dysfunction, but it's just so beautifully done. 

5. The Godfather | Mario Puzo- Do we even need to explain this one? Mob murders, drugs, family hierarchy, ruthless assassinations, mistresses, and spousal abuse abound.  The Corleone family and the other mob families they fight with are legendary because of the movie, but as is often the case, the book was better (and a lot more detailed). 


6. The Golden Compass | Phillip Pullman-The heroine of this series, Lyra, has parents who are essentially evil, cold, and power hungry. Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are both pretty vile humans, and while they have a huge role in the plot, pretty much abandon their daughter to be raised at Jordan College where the scholars and professors vaguely look after her. She is even told that Lord Asriel is her uncle, and that her parents died in an airship crash, before she learns the truth later on. Talk about messed up! Eventually her corrupt parents engage in cosmic war with angels...not exactly conducive to a serene family life. 

7. Rebecca | Daphne Du Maurier- Our narrator jumps into a whirlwind romance while abroad, and promptly moves into her new husband's creepy mansion. There she meets a sinister housekeeper who basically tells her she will never be as good as the previous wife, Rebecca. But what exactly happened to her? Enter dark obsessions, madness, someone who encourages suicide, manipulation, affairs, murder, illness, and fire. Lots of fire. 


8. Tender is the Night | F. Scott Fitzgerald- This one is kind of a doozy. Fitzgerald paints the portrait of a marriage in which mental institutions, doctor/patient relations, and self harm are part and parcel along with the parties and the kids and the house. You've also got yourself multiple affairs, some with considerable age gaps, casual hotel murders, and deep, throbbing unhappiness and desperation. Really an amazing feat of dysfunction under a perfect facade.

9. Rabbit Cake | Annie Hartnett- When we asked our instagram followers what their favorite dysfunctional family in literature was, we got a bunch of votes for this one, and it's easy to see why. A cross dressing father, a recently deceased mother, a sister with a serious (and dangerous) quirk, and whole lot of grief make up Elvis' family. It's quirky and sad and funny all at once, and we even recommended it in our Indie Press Guide!



What are your favorite dysfunctional fictional families? They certainly make for fun, albeit heartbreaking literature!