Siblings share a special connection—as illustrated by these stirring reads. From must-read novels to heartfelt memoirs and sweeping historical biographies, the following books about siblings prove that few relationships are as challenging or as uplifting as the bond shared by brothers and sisters.
19 Remarkable Novels and Nonfiction Books About Siblings
These moving fiction and nonfiction narratives explore a unique family bond.
We Are the Brennans
By Tracey Lange
Five years ago, Sunday Brennan left New York and decamped to California, leaving her family in the dust. But after causing a drunk driving accident, Sunday knows she needs to return to the East Coast and put her life back together. Sunday’s brother Denny flies across the country to help bring her home. And that gesture perfectly sums up the familial bond they share: Yes, the Brennan siblings drive each other crazy with their jealousies and resentments, but love holds this family together in spite of itself. Later, when a dangerous man from Sunday’s past threatens to destroy the family business, the whole Brennan clan unites to face down the threat, confront painful family secrets, and move forward as one. Tracey Lange’s acclaimed debut We Are the Brennans is a big-hearted testament to sibling strength and the unbreakable bond that families share.
By Jean Hanff Korelitz
Jean Hanff Korelitz, the New York Times bestselling author of The Plot, brilliantly explores sibling relationships and complex family dynamics in this “ingenious family epic” (Oprah Daily) packed with plot twists and rich characters. The Latecomer introduces us to Salo and Johanna Oppenheimer, a wealthy couple based in New York City who decide to start a family during the early days of IVF. And, surprise: Johanna gives birth to triplets! Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally are born under truly remarkable circumstances. Yet, the Oppenheimer children are not particularly close with one another. Indeed, the siblings are more than happy to strike out on their own when they come of age and leave for college. That’s when Johanna decides to have a fourth child, whose arrival turns everything in the Oppenheimer household on its head. Will this “latecomer” pull the distant Oppenhiemer siblings together or push the fractured family even farther apart?
The Most Fun We Ever Had
By Claire Lombardo
Claire Lombardo captures the emotional highs, lows—and very messy middles—experienced by the four Sorenson sisters in this “engrossing family saga spiked with sisterly malice” (New York Times Book Review). Perhaps you recognize the family dramas that play out between Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace: their sibling jealousies and rivalries, the way their relationships swing from heartache to joy across the years. Lombardo tells the Sorenson story from multiple perspectives, offering insight into the heart and soul of each family member, revealing their long-buried secrets, suppressed emotions, and the foundational love that holds them all together. A sweeping epic that spans nearly 50 years, The Most Fun We Ever Had is a rousing celebration of sisterhood and family, flaws and all.
The Vanishing Half
By Brit Bennett
In what ways do siblings resemble one another? In what ways are they altogether different? Brit Bennett explores such questions of identity and belonging in The Vanishing Half, a multi-generational family saga that was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. The novel centers on Stella and Desiree Vignes, identical twin sisters born into a southern Black community who run away at the age of 16 to lead markedly different lives. Stella is determined to leave her old identity behind; upon discovering that she can pass as white, she adopts a new persona and marries a white husband who knows nothing about her family history. Desiree, meanwhile, settles back in her hometown to raise her daughter, Jude—a child who is herself on a mission to better understand where she fits in with the world. “Beautifully written, thought-provoking, and immersive” (Associated Press), Bennett’s bestselling drama delivers a moving meditation on sisters and daughters, as well as the state of race and identity in America today.
The Dutch House
By Ann Patchett
Maeve and Danny Conroy’s mother takes off when they’re just children. Naturally, this shared childhood trauma forges a strong bond between the siblings—which they’ll need when their father, Cyril, falls under the spell of a young widow named Andrea. Andrea soon moves into the sprawling Conroy estate along with her two young daughters. Sadly, she has little time for Maeve and Danny, and sets into motion a fracturing family dynamic that splinters across the decades and forces Maeve and Danny to fend for themselves. Patchett unfurls a rich family tapestry in The Dutch House, delivering an enchanting narrative about togetherness and forgiveness that leaps across the years and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
By Lisa See
The titular “Shanghai Girls” in Lisa See’s bestselling novel are Pearl and May Chin, two sisters who enjoy a life of glamor and prosperity in 1930s Shanghai. That is, until Imperial Japan begins bombing the Chinese city and the sisters’ father reveals that he’s gambled away the family fortune. In order to repay his debts, he sells off Pearl and May as brides to suitors from California. So begins the whirlwind journey of the Chin sisters, one that stretches from China’s wartorn countryside to the bustling streets of Los Angeles. Pearl narrates their formidable saga, chronicling the peril and personal tragedy they endure as they traverse the Pacific and finally land in the U.S.— where they encounter new challenges and hostilities. Shanghai Girls is a rich, heartbreaking story of survival and growth, centered on the strong love Pearl and May share, even though they’re very different people.
Growing Up Biden
By Valerie Biden Owens
Valerie Biden Owens is the first woman in U.S. history to oversee a successful presidential campaign, leading her older brother Joe Biden to victory in the 2020 presidential election. Indeed, Biden Owens has stood beside her brother as his campaign manager and close friend for decades, reaching all the way back to their early years growing up in their family’s loving Irish Catholic household. In Growing Up Biden, Biden Owens warmly recounts the enduring relationship she shares with her older brother, highlighting their many triumphs and discussing the setbacks and heartbreak they’ve endured. “Family above all” is a foundational life lesson Biden Owens and her brother learned growing up, and this sense of loyalty has helped shape them into the strong and compassionate people they are today.
The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough
Orville and Wilbur Wright symbolize America’s pioneering spirit—but how much do we really know about them? Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough brings the famed pair to life in this #1 New York Times bestselling biography, presenting the brothers as creative, intelligent, and talented entrepreneurs who stayed true to their dream. McCullough chronicles the courage and tenacity of Orville and Wilber Wright as they rose from modest beginnings to launch their revolutionary technology, knowing full well the dangers their project entailed. Orville and Wilbur were the perfect pair, distinctive geniuses who worked together in complementary ways. Now, thanks to McCullough’s extensive research and masterful storytelling in The Wright Brothers, we can see the historic siblings as real people.
By Juliet Barker
The legendary literary sisters meet a determined biographer in Juliet Barker’s definitive account, The Brontës. And while much of what we thought we knew about the fabled Brontës isn’t true, Barker unearths plenty of revelatory facts to right those wrongs. The author studied letters written by the Brontë family, the sisters’ original manuscripts, and historical documents and newspapers of the time to craft a comprehensive biography that is both scholarly and readable. By focusing on the entire family and dispelling with half-truths and hearsay, Barker has painted a fuller portrait of the Brontës than ever before produced, one that traces the inner workings of the family and vividly evokes the bond that Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë shared.
By Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein
Just how do you become sisters with someone you’ve never met? That was the bizarre conundrum facing Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein, identical twins who were separated as infants and adopted by different families. Elyse was in her mid-thirties and living in Paris when she began searching for her birth mother. She knew of her adoption, but had no idea about her identical twin sister—or about the startling truth surrounding their separation. Paula, meanwhile, was married and living in New York; she too knew she was adopted but had little interest in probing her past—which made the life-changing call from the adoption agency all the more shocking. Identical Strangers chronicles Schein and Bernstein’s emotional journey back into each other’s lives. Told in alternating voices, the shared narrative tracks the sisters as they make up for lost time, piece together the puzzle of their early years, and ultimately move forward together.
Three Girls from Bronzeville
By Dawn Turner
Dawn Turner, her sister Kim, and her best friend Debra came of age in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. It was the 1970s; the progress of the civil rights movement promised new opportunities for the trio and the future looked bright. So what fractured their relationship and ultimately tore them apart? In the acclaimed Three Girls from Bronzeville, Turner takes a hard look at the events that challenged their bond and sent them down starkly different life paths. It’s a gripping and intense read, one that tackles intersecting issues of family, race, and class while championing the importance of camaraderie and sisterhood.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
By Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers holds nothing back in his work, and so it’s easy to see why some readers find his Pulitzer Prize-nominated family memoir polarizing. As the Guardian puts it: “Brilliant and infuriating, this dizzying memoir combines flamboyant verbal fireworks with an all too sober account of grief and growing up.” The marvelous part is how Eggers movingly documents his relationship with his eight-year-old little brother Toph, whom he raises after the death of their parents. The writing found within A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is visceral, colorful, moving, absurd, and beautiful. It’s also demanding, and, at times, exhausting, as Eggers regularly employs a stream-of-consciousness style to capture his story. Wherever you fall on the “brilliant”/“infuriating” spectrum, though, you can’t deny Eggers’ big-hearted commitment to his brother and the unshakeable love that kept the siblings together.
Brother & Sister
By Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton shared an idyllic childhood with her brother Randy, living and playing together in the lush suburbs of 1950s Los Angeles. They were constant companions and the best friends. So why did their paths diverge so dramatically, with Randy growing up into a troubled recluse who struggled with addiction and holding down a full-time job? In Brother & Sister, Keaton turns emotional detective, examining her memories and the experiences she shared with her sibling to better understand her family and the fragile links that connect them. It’s a thoughtful, open memoir, written straight from the heart, with family photos, letters, and Randy’s own artwork and poetry to accompany the powerful prose.
Brothers and Keepers
By John Edgar Wideman
Two brothers, two very different lives. John Edgar Wideman’s moving account tells of his successful career as a writer and contrasts it with his brother Robby’s involvement in a deadly robbery that leads to a life sentence behind bars. Just how strong are the familial ties that bind us? How does it feel to be free while you know your brother languishes in prison? Wideman’s “brave and brilliant” (Philadelphia Inquirer) family memoir delivers an unflinching look at the strengths and limitations of sibling relationships and offers a probing examination of America’s criminal justice system. Readers new to Brothers and Keepers should pick up a recent edition: in it, Robert Wideman provides the afterword, which he wrote after his release from more than 50 years of incarceration.
The Romanov Sisters
By Helen Rappaport
The paparazzi would have had a field day with Imperial Russia’s grand duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia Romanov. The sisters were admired and watched from afar even in their day at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a tumultuous time―the Russian Empire was in decline, along with the Romanovs’ 300-year reign, while political pressures intensified across Europe as the continent crept towards world war. Bestselling author Helen Rappaport combed through previously unpublished letters, diary entries, and archival materials from private collections to produce her dazzling biography The Romanov Sisters, shining new light on the doomed royal family and the iconic siblings, from their lavish early years to their exile to Siberia and their execution in Yekaterinburg in 1918.
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family
By Mary Lovell
When you take a loving family and mix in political extremes, you find yourself with a volatile situation. Such was the case with the famous Mitford sisters, aristocratic siblings in 1930s England whose lives were upended by the extreme ideologies roiling inter-war Europe. Jessica was a Communist; Debo became the Duchess of Devonshire; Nancy was a provocative, high-society novelist; Diana married Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley; and Unity, who called Hitler a close friend, shot herself when England and Germany declared war. Author Mary Lovell skillfully explores the eccentric Mitford family tree and its twisting branches in The Sisters, though sometimes she seems quick to explain away unpalatable associations. Regardless, it’s a colorful portrait of a larger-than-life family who stood at the crossroads of history.
Three Weeks with My Brother
By Nicholas Sparks
Author Nicholas Spark sits down with his brother Micah to craft the bestselling travelog/memoir, Three Weeks with My Brother. The siblings set off on a whirlwind tour around the globe that takes them to places like Peru, Easter Island, the Australian outback, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and treks across the vast Indian subcontinent. While they forge new memories, the brothers also work through shared family tragedies, such as the untimely death of their younger sister, discovering important truths about who they are and what they mean to each other.
By Ron and Clint Howard
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard moved to Los Angeles as children because their parents wanted a shot at stardom. In a surprising turn of events, it was the boys who found work as child actors, with Ron on The Andy Griffith Show and Clint on Gentle Ben. In The Boys, Ron and Clint recall growing up in Hollywood with humor and honesty. The brothers take turns writing the book, charting where their shared showbiz journey ran together and where it diverged—as Ron transformed into an award-winning filmmaker, Clint faced career challenges that spurred him into blazing his own path as a character actor. The personal touches add to the insider feel of this “candid, humorous, and entertaining” (Publishers Weekly) coming-of-age Tinseltown story.
There’s a Hole in My Bucket
By Royd Tolkien
Growing up, Royd Tolkien (yes, the great-grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien) and his younger brother Mike were inseparable. But while Mike possessed a daredevil streak, Royd was happiest with his feet firmly on the ground. Years later, when Mike was diagnosed with ALS, it was a particularly devastating blow—he had so many adventures he still wished to take. Mike’s answer was to craft a bucket list for his elder sibling to complete, one packed with madcap journeys across New Zealand and beyond that would push Royd far outside his comfort zone. In There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Tolkien tenderly chronicles caring for his younger brother and setting out to conquer the many challenges set before him. Simultaneously moving, funny, and sad, Tolkien’s memoir delivers an invaluable lesson on brotherly love and the importance of celebrating life.
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The holidays are just around the corner, and we’re here to help you find the ideal gift for every book lover on your list. From award-winning true crime narratives and acclaimed essay collections to uproariously funny memoirs, here are the best nonfiction book gifts to give this holiday season.
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