A Book About Family: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2022

March 14, 2022 | M. Elwood

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TPL Reading Challenge 2022

Each year I assign myself an extra component for the Reading Challenge. One year I completed it using only graphic novels; another year I read only books written by women. This year, I decided to complete the 2022 challenge using only books about families.

Here are some of my choices for this category:

Empire of pain

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

Keefe tells the story of the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, and their responsibility for the opioid crisis. I was reluctant to read this one because I was afraid the business aspects would bore me. I was wrong; it is riveting. If you haven't read it yet, give it a try.

Other categories:

  • A book about art — the Sackler family amassed a large art collection and it's a key part of the book
  • A book written by a journalist


House of gucci

The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed by Sara Gay Forden

Seeing the photos of Lady Gaga and Adam Driver working on the House of Gucci movie intrigued me enough to read the book. The Gucci family is fascinating. Former bellhop Guccio Gucci founded a small workshop where craftsmen produced leather luggage. Success followed and three generations of the family helped create a fashion empire. The family had strong personalities leading to business conflicts, romantic entanglements and, of course,  murder. I found some of the financial discussion in this book to be slow-moving but other readers may love it.

Other categories:

  • A book about art
  • A book written by a journalist


Clark and division

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

Clark and Division tell the story of Aki Ito and her family. Aki and her sister Rose were born in the United States to Japanese immigrant parents. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Ito family and 120,000 other Japanese Americans, were forcibly relocated to internment camps. Rose is released early and relocated to Chicago, where she prepares for her family's arrival. The rest of the family arrive later but instead of a happy reunion, they learn that Rose has died–killed by a subway train. The official verdict is suicide. Heartbroken, Aki decides to investigate the death herself.

Other categories:

  • A book about a city — Aki's investigation takes her all over Chicago.
  • A coming of age story by a BIPOC author
  • A book about a library worker — Aki works at the Chicago's famed Newberry Library.


Staff Recommendations

Here are some recommendations from TPL staff for this category.

Best kind of people

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

The Woodbury family is considered one of the pillars of their community. George Woodbury is a teacher at a prestigious prep school and is known in his community as a hero. He lives happily with his wife, daughter and son. Their whole world turns upside down when he is arrested for sexual impropriety. The impact on the family is the focus in this novel, as his guilt or innocence divides his family. The story is mesmerizing as the truth slowly comes out, while the characters are very authentic in their emotions

—Debra, Librarian


Blood like magic

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

Voya Thomas hails from a family of witches and to become one she must wait for her Calling - a trial she must pass to claim her powers. When Voya's Calling arrives, it brings her a horrifying task. Voya must kill her first love or her entire family will lose their magic. The murder part is hard enough, but making this task even more difficult is that she’s never been in love. Hoping to fall fast, Voya joins a genetic matchmaking pilot program where she is matched with Luc. Luc is a trans boy who at first, can't stand her but they grow ever closer. Voya battles the emotions of her morality and her desire to save her family.

The mix of science fiction and fantasy; cultural, ethnic, and economic diversity; and the 2SLGBTQ+ characters make this book one to love. Also, the setting is so Toronto the Caribbean Carnival/Caribana is pivotal to the plot. It’s a vibrant and memorable story that continues this August in Blood Like Fate. Plenty of time to catch up!

—Kim, Librarian



Em by Kim Thúy

A beautifully written historical fiction novel following the interconnected histories of a family as it forms and survives throughout the 20th century in Vietnam. Kim Thúy weaves together trauma and moments of joy in a non-linear narrative to show how love can resist attempted destruction over and over again. This book is the type of book you cannot set down once you begin! It is a very emotional story, as are all of the beautiful works of Kim Thúy.

—Taylor, Librarian 


Elvis  me and the lemonade stand summer

Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer by Leslie Gentile

In the summer of 1978, Truly Bateman is convinced that the man who has moved into Eagle Shores Trailer Park is THE Elvis Presley, in hiding and not dead. When she is not gathering clues to prove his identity, she is dealing with her volatile single mother, and setting up a lemonade stand each day to make money to buy a bus ticket to Victoria to find her dad. Throughout the course of the summer, Truly comes to realize that family is not necessarily those who are related to you by blood but those who stand by you, who support you and who love you unconditionally.

—Kara, Services Specialist


Four winds

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The book is set in the 1930s Dustbowl era when severe desert storms led to crop failures and the deaths of people and livestock on a massive scale. In these turbulent times, family ties are put to the test. While some abandon the family altogether, others stay committed to keeping the family together against all odds. The book holds your attention until the very end.

Other categories:

  • A Book about Time
  • A book about a refugee experience

—Radha, Senior Branch Head


Notes on grief

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Though quite short in length, reading Adichie's prose on losing her father was an experience that will stick with me for a long time. In it, you will also find sage advice for how to support others during times of grief. The audiobook is performed by Adichie herself so it felt like a punch to the heart. For folks looking for all the feels.

—Reagan, Librarian



Palimpsest: Documents From a Korean Adoption by Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom

This beautiful autobiographic graphic novel tells the story of Sjöblom. She untangles the truth from the complex story of her adoption and her move from Korea to Sweden. The book challenges Western society's perception of adoption as an act of kindness and selflessness. The book addresses the feelings that adoptees often carry into adulthood.

Other categories:

  • A book about solitude

—Kate, Librarian


A place for us

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

The novel follows the experiences of an Indian-Muslim family living in Northern California. The family struggles to find a balance between fitting in and staying true to traditions. The novel is a moving meditation on parental love, as every character struggles with faith, responsibility, racism and fear.

—Saima, Librarian


The shape of family

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

A book about family dynamics over the years told from different points of view within the family members. The story depicts the family's fractured relationships after a tragic event, and how this changes the course of all their lives. Very sad but well-written book!

—Lara, Librarian


Stay and fight

Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch

The book follows the story of an unconventional family - a lesbian couple and their son, as well as a woman who owns a piece of land sitting over an abandoned pipeline in Appalachia. The book explores the traditional understandings of what a family and home are. A really interesting read for anyone interested in explorations of environmental justice and poverty in fiction.

Other categories:

  • A book about an issue that is important to you

—Marta, Librarian

French Recommendations

If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for "la famille" - there's a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try!

Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. You can read all of the responses in the original post. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.

What would you recommend for "a book about family”? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.