Book Corner: Families Put the “Fun” in Dysfunctional!

The kids are chasing the cat with a broom. Aunt Toots is tipsy. Your sister is sobbing over her latest dating disaster. Oh, yes, it’s that time of the year where families large and small gather for the requisite holiday brouhaha. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, stressful and joyful. It’s enough to make you wonder “How on Earth am I related to these people?!?”

Ah, but your library can help with that! If you really want to open up that can of worms, we can point you in the right direction. 

Visit the Virginiana Room at Fredericksburg Branch and access untold troves of historical documents for your pleasure. You can even book a Training-on-Demand session at any of our branches to get you started on the pursuit of your zany family history. If you’re a DIYer, visit for a librarian-curated list of free resources.

Okay, so you’re interested in your family tree, and you also need a dose of pure escapism...or at least some tales of family gatherings that make yours look like a regular night at the Cleavers’. Aside from the obvious benefit that reading is like a mini-vacation for the mind, it also confers some real benefits. Reading fiction makes you more socially aware and better able to understand and react to people and social situations. (Note to self: make entire family read some fiction before Thanksgiving dinner.) Mentally traveling into a story and its characters improves your ability to relate to people IRL (in real life) and builds a healthier, sharper mind.

Recommended fiction about flawed (and fabulous) families:

Family & Other Catastrophes
Laughs (on our end) abound as the neurotic Emily Glass tries to keep herself - and her wildly dysfunctional family - together during the seven days before her wedding.

Winter Stroll
While preparing for Christmas at the Winter Street Inn, Kelley Quinn and his family find the holiday season thrown into chaos when three of his exes show up.

The Vacationers
Celebrating their 35th anniversary and their daughter's high school graduation during a two-week vacation in Mallorca, Franny and Jim Post confront old secrets, hurts, and rivalries that reveal sides of themselves they try to conceal.

The Nest
A warm, funny, and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

A Spool of Blue Thread
The Whitshanks radiate togetherness, but the stories they tell reveal only part of the picture. Jealousies, disappointments, and secrets combine with moments of laughter and celebration for the lives of Abby, Red, and their four grown children.

The Family Fang
Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists who instigate and record public chaos and trained their two children, Annie and Buster, to participate. As adults, the siblings are struggling to adjust to the real world, and then a final performance calls them back home.

I have to throw in a few movies, too. You can watch Tortilla Soup and Reuniting the Rubins on Kanopy (our amazing streaming movie service) or borrow the DVDs of The Family Stone, Meet the Fockers, or The Royal Tenenbaums. Check these books and movies out with your library card, and visit us online at

This column first appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper and is reprinted here with permission.