A Book for (Nearly) Every Kind of Sibling

Curtis Sittenfeld's SisterlandVery few relationships exist from day one, and part of the fun of being an adult is the fact that your siblings have become adults, too. Somehow you all magically turned into real, live human people with opinions and dreams and jobs that are all separate from each other. How people can at the same time have so many things in common—even if it’s just genetic material, that still matters a lot—and so many glaring differences is completely mind-boggling. But regardless of how often you come together to share in these similarities or differences, one thing is certain: They’re among the chosen few in this universe who knew you when. And they probably have the photos to prove it (yikes). So basically, buy them nice gifts to blackmail them into keeping said photos to themselves for the rest of eternity!

The golden child
Athlete. Scholar. Charming. Funny. Good-looking. Maybe due for a nervous breakdown because being perfect is hard? Then again, maybe everything stays perfect forever!

Suggestions:
A Short Guide to a Happy Life, by Anna Quindlen
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

Lovable screwup
That rascal always needs $20. Or got a great job offer out in Vegas that he knows this time is gonna be the right fit. Or is bringing home yet another “The ONE” for your fam to accidentally call by the name of the last “The ONE.” Lovable screwup, you drive everyone crazy. But you keep our lives exciting, and for that, we will always adore you and want to kill you.

Suggestions:
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper
Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon

Older and wiser—always has been, always will be
Giving advice, handing out her sweaters to be borrowed, teaching you how to throw a punch, volunteering as tribute so you don’t die in a pit—you know, older siblings who are great at being older siblings.

Suggestions:
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

SUCH a middle child
The pouty, attention-grabbing, fussy middle sibling grew up to become an adult who tries really hard to be the opposite of pouty, attention-grabbing, and fussy. They also ended up the problemsolver of the family. Someone has to be the tiebreaker.

Suggestions:
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl

Everyone’s pet (aka, Beth from Little Women)
The baby of the family doesn’t technically have to be the baby! Beths are even-tempered, gentle, and maybe in possession of a weak constitution that doesn’t necessarily bother their health (because this is 2014, and scarlet fever isn’t much of a threat). But it does make them seem fragile so EVERYONE wants to take care of them and give them pianos.

Suggestions:
Eleanor and Parkby Rainbow Rowell
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
My Sister’s Keeperby Jodi Picoult

The actual youngest
Just trying really hard to make everyone see them as a real, live adult and not the small child who cut his own hair off or who spent the first five years of his life convinced he was adopted because of the lies you told him when your parents weren’t listening.

Suggestions:
The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell

Whoa. He turned into your dad
He recently started sighing just like your dad, and now you know what the next 20 years of his life is gonna look like. Feel free to keep this knowledge to yourself (or don’t—your call).

Suggestions:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger

She’s making jewelry now
Your artsy, free-spirited sibling who used to be a slam poet/dog groomer/cupcake baker, but is now really into pottery, essential oils, and vintage skateboards.

Suggestions:
No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July
White Oleander, by Janet Fitch
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Moved to the city and fell off the face of the Earth
You haven’t seen this sibling in a year or more. They say they’re just really busy. Work has been crazy. Everything’s nuts! Have they mentioned how busy they are? And though they come through when it counts, most of the time it’ll take months to get a text or email back. If you ever hear back.
Suggestions:

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney
Half Empty, by David Rakoff

Very into motherhood
Your sister is a mom now, and speaks often about how you can’t really understand what unconditional love, fear, worry, pride, being in tune with your body, being out of tune with your body, and pure exhaustion truly feel like until you have kids of your own. No offense.

Suggestions:
Marley and Me, by John Grogan
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

Lives with your parents because he’s “taking care of them”
And by “taking care of them,” he means occasionally mowing the lawn while eating their groceries, driving their car, and watching their HBO. This situation works best if your parents love being parents and miss having people around the house.
Suggestions:

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon

Glue that’s holding everything together
Insists on family holidays. Insists on taking a million pictures at every event. Insists on talking to you once a week. Insists on passing along news even when it’s news you asked her not to mention but she did anyway because all aggrieved parties should really just work it out already.

Suggestions:
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
Hiding in Plain Sight, by Nuruddin Farah

World traveler
Whether he’s doing Doctors Without Borders in the Middle East or is just in Australia for no discernible reason, he will always come home for the holidays (if your life is anything like this Folgers commercial).

Suggestions:
Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
NW, by Zadie Smith
The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

A mystery hiding inside an enigma, decorated with tiny riddles written in Sanskrit
You share blood. You share parents. You shared a pretty similar growing-up experience. But this sibling is a locked vault and nothing can get through. You know nothing of their personal life. Do they have a personal life? You are not convinced.

Suggestions:
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

MADE. IT. BIG.
You kind of can’t believe your sibling got this far in the world considering the fact they used to speak only in Ace Ventura quotes, but now they have a beach house and a Porsche. At some point, all the “stuff” might annoy you, but don’t even think about that right now. Just enjoy the jet ski.

Suggestions:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Wolf of Wall Street, by Jordan Belfort
Anything by John Grisham

Your best friend
If anyone wants to find the two of you at a family event, odds are you’ve retreated to your secret location to sneak cigarettes, drink from a flask, or just laugh about how hilariously clueless the rest of your family is.

Suggestions:
Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern
Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

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