For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.
Today is my sister’s birthday, and I feel very lucky to have had her love and companionship for 50 years. We grew up loving books together — one of my earliest memories is the two of us playing library, which involved me (the librarian) scolding her for making noise in the library and making her give me money from her piggybank for overdue fines. She eventually broke free of my tyranny and became a professor of Spanish literature — and the mother of four daughters, who are fortunate to have each other as lifelong friends “in calm or stormy weather.”
Some of my favorite childhood books were about sisters. I have to admit that Little Women, the most famous children’s book about sisters, left me cold when I first read it. But I adored the Little House on the Prairie books, as well as Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series. Children’s books about sisters always feature one spunky sister — Jo, of course, in Little Women; Laura in the Little House books; and Henny in All-of-a-Kind Family. And who could forget Ramona, mischievous little sister to the comparatively well-behaved Beezus?
In honor of sisters everywhere, here are 10 books I loved that explore sisterly bonds:
Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron
Ephron’s collection of autobiographical essays is filled with wisdom, insight, and humor. Fun fact: the youngest Ephron sister, Amy, was named after Amy March in Little Women.
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
When Sankovitch lost her beloved sister to cancer, part of her healing process involved reading one book a day for a year: “My hiatus is over, my soul and body are healed, but I will never leave the purple chair for long. So many books waiting to be read, so much happiness to be found, so much wonder to be revealed.”
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
This debut novel focuses on June, a young girl mourning the loss of her beloved uncle, a painter whose last work was a portrait of her and her older sister, Greta. Although June doesn’t always understand Greta, “she was wired into my heart. Twisted and kinked and threaded right through.”
Howards End by E.M. Forster
“One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister”: That’s the opening line of Forster’s masterpiece, which returns again and again to the relationship between the Schlegel sisters.
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Rose and Ruby are not only sisters — they’re conjoined twins, living in a small Canadian town and working in the local library. Rose, the literary one, convinces her sister to tell their story.
The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
Two middle-aged sisters join forces and move in together after one is widowed and one loses all her money in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Lipman’s books are all warm-hearted, funny, and very clever.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The events in this beautiful, complex novel are set in motion when the younger sister makes a grievous error in judgment in an attempt to protect her older sister.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
As World War II breaks out, two Chinese sisters are sold as brides to a pair of brothers living in America.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
It’s a retelling of the King Lear story, set on an Iowa farm, so the relationship among these sisters is, to use a word Shakespeare wouldn’t have known, “dysfunctional.” Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia become Ginny, Rose, and Caroline.
Brooklyn by Colm Toíbín
One sister sacrifices her future and stays in Ireland in order to help her sister start a new life in America.
Two recent books that I’m looking forward to reading are Vanessa and Her Sister, biographical fiction about Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and the Bloomsbury Group, by Priya Parma, and The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, nonfiction by Helen Rappaport. Both have received excellent reviews.
22 thoughts on “10 Favorite Books About Sisters”
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is not too bad either
The Weird Sisters has been on my radar for a long time — I’m really interested in the Shakespeare tie-in. Maybe I’ll do a post on contemporary novels inspired by Shakespeare plays or characters? Thanks for stopping by! >
I actually just read a brand new histfic with Shakeapeare: http://wordsandpeace.com/2015/01/25/book-review-the-tutor/
What a great list! I’m going to check out the memoirs. Your reading stack is impressive too – so many books, so little time! I share a few of the same books in my stack (including Life From Scratch, can’t wait for that one) though I don’t think mine is as huge as yours! 🙂 Love your website!
Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words! I can’t wait to read Life From Scratch — I love memoirs, and if they involve food and cooking, I love them even more.
I’m going to share it with a couple of reading sisters that I know.
And thanks also for more books to add to my neverending-ever growing TBR pile!
Thanks so much for stopping by! That TBR never does get any smaller, does it?
I think the only one on your list that I’ve read was A Thousand Acres and I remember liking it when I read it. As a youth, I did read the Little House on the Prairie books, but have tried returning to them since and wasn’t as impressed, to be honest.
Thanks for stopping by and for all you do on the Sunday Salon — I am enjoying discovering new blogs there. I reread the entire Little House series when my children were young — I read all the books aloud to them. I have two boys and a girl, and the interesting part was how they responded to the books. The boys were more interested in how the Wilders lived — how they built their homes, prepared their food, etc. — while my daughter was more interested in the relationships. >
As the oldest of four girls, I am DEFINITELY interested in checking some of these books out!
You are so lucky to have three sisters! I’m actually surprised by how few (good) books there are that focus on sisters. There are lots more about brothers. Well, I guess that reflects our society, doesn’t it? >
I loved Sister Salty, Sister Sweet: A Memoir of Sibling Rivalry by Shannon Kring Biro. Reminded me so much of the relationship between my sister and myself… it inspired us to start or own memoir (that has had all of 2 chapters completed since 2005. LOL!)
Thanks for the recommendation — it sounds wonderful.I’m heading to work later today (I work in a bookstore) and am going to order myself a copy. Coincidentally, the sisters both live in Wisconsin, not far from me. >
This is a great list! The collection of Ephron essays sounds very good. My sister and I also grew up reading books together — we used to fight over who got to read our only copy of the Harry Potter books.
Wow, I feel old! My kids fought over the Harry Potter books. I was cheap and only bought one copy of each! I highly recommend Delia Ephron’s book — in fact, anything by any Ephron sister. I just reread Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and loved it just as much as I did many years ago. Thanks for stopping by! >
My first thought when I saw that you had linked-up to the blog hop – WOO-HOO! and YES! A curated list from Ann. This time – sisters. I love books about sisters. (Happy Birthday to yours, by the way.)
Excellent picks. I got goose bumps when I saw Atonement on the list. Great book. Not one I would immediately think of when thinking about sisters. I think my mind would go first to Little Women and Little House on the Prairie. Therein lies the beauty of your curated book lists. That “ah-ha” moment when you see a book on the list and are surprised at first, but then realize that yes, that’s the perfect book for this list. Bravo!
Love, love, love your book features. And thanks so much for linking-up on the Hump Day Blog Hop – always the last Wednesday of the month. Hate to tell you, but January is almost behind us. Say hello to February. Yikes!
I don’t believe I’ve read any of these, although I have of course seen a couple of the movie versions. And I keep coming across mentions of “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” – I’ll have to take a closer look at that one.
I just finished Tolstoy and the Purple Chair a few days ago. Definitely a great story about the love between sisters… but a heartbreaking one. I’m very close to my sister and had a hard time reading those parts of the book without tearing up.
My sister and I reconnected not that long ago after a bit of an estrangement and I have to say for the last year or so (since my daughter got sick), she has been my one constant rock and I wouldn’t have got through things without her. She’s also my beta reader and I gave a book about sisters for Christmas. “The Secrets Sisters Keep” by Sinead Moriarty. I haven’t read it myself, but will borrow it off her when she’s done.
Oh, I’m so glad you and your sister have reconnected. There’s no substitute for a sister. Best wishes for a happy relationship in the future! >
i loved “the little house on the prairie” series growing up. i remember reading somewhere that laura ingalls wilder said her experiences describing everything to mary after mary became blind helped her later on when she started writing the little house books.
Thanks for visiting! That is interesting that Laura’s experiences describing everything to Mary helped her when she became a writer. I just picked up a novel called Pioneer Girl that’s about a English Ph.D. researching Rose Wilder’s life (and possible role as her mother’s ghostwriter). I’ve heard good things and it sounds interesting.
Comments are now closed.