It’s October! Time for spooky stories full of skeletons and secrets. When these tales are about metaphorical skeletons in a family’s closet, we think it makes for a great prelude to a horror-ific Halloween. We hope you agree!
Thanks to Julie and Mary-Esther for helping me with research for this post!
If you enjoy nonfiction:
Ron Miscavige’s Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me (2016)
Not sure you can have a more tell-all book than your own parents dishing on your family secrets and how dreadful you are. In Ruthless, former Scientologist and father of Scientology leader David Miscavige Ron Miscavige gives an insider view of what life inside the group is like and details his son’s rise to power. Though the elder Miscavige does not always come off well, the book provides a rare glimpse inside the infamously secretive church.
Recommended for those who enjoyed Going Clear and Leah Remini’s Troublemaker.
Frank Calabrese Jr.’s Operation Family Secrets (2011)
Being a part of Chicago’s infamous mob, better known as The Outfit, was a family affair for the Calabreses. Inevitably, it was also a family affair when Frank Jr. volunteered his knowledge of dozens of murders and “family” business to the FBI and agreed to wear a wire to tape conversations to keep his father in prison. The revelations led to one of the biggest organized crime trials in America and shed light on numerous unsolved cases, including the murder of infamous enforcer Anthony Spilotro.
Recommended for those who enjoy Nicholas Pileggi’s work.
Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle (2006)
Jeannette Walls’s memoir is widely considered a modern classic, and a film adaptation starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts was recently released. She chronicles the dysfunctional, nomadic childhood her eccentric parents provided her and her three siblings. Walls is evenhanded, neither demonizing her parents nor flinching away from describing the darker side of her childhood.
Recommended for those who enjoy Alice Sebold’s work.
Alexandra Zapruder’s Twenty-Six Seconds (2016)
The Zapruder film is indelibly tied to the tragic JFK assassination, but it has also taken on a life of its own. The granddaughter of the man who intended to film the president driving through Dallas and instead captured one of the most famous assassinations in history chronicles the history of the tape as ownership bounced around between magazines, the government, and the family. Alexandra Zapruder, though, writes about more than just her family history. She also interweaves thought-provoking discussion of issues like privacy, journalism, and ownership in relation to the Zapruder film.
Recommended for those who like reading about mid-20th century history.
Juliet Macur’s Cycle of Lies (2014)
For many years, the narrative on Lance Armstrong was of his tremendous success as a professional cyclist and his triumph over cancer. It was seemingly overnight that that narrative changed, as news of his use of performance-enhancing drugs was revealed. But, as Juliet Macur documents, Armstrong’s fall from grace largely was at the hands of former friends, who felt betrayed by the cyclist’s poor treatment of them. A journalist who followed Armstrong’s career for many years and still retained access to him, Macur thoroughly documents the events that led to Armstrong’s exit from the cycling world.
Recommended for those who like reading about sports.
If you prefer fictional scandals:
Diney Costeloe’s The Lost Soldier (2017)
After World War I ends, a small English village commemorates its fallen soldiers with a tree grove memorial. Eight ash trees to honor them–until mysteriously a ninth one appears overnight. Nobody knows who planted it or even who it is for. Decades later, a young journalist decides to uncover the secret of the ninth tree and discovers a family secret of her own.
Recommended for those who like a touch of romance with their family secrets.
Diane Chamberlain’s The Silent Sister (2014)
Riley has spent twenty years believing that her sister committed suicide as a teenager. She is shocked to discover, upon her father’s death, that her sister is alive and living under an alias. What led to her sister’s disappearance? And why was this kept from her and her brother? Riley is determined to learn the truth. Complications ensue.
Recommended for those who enjoy Chris Bohjalian’s work.
As always, you can always follow the link to our online library catalog to learn more about any of the books listed here.
What’s your favorite book about family secrets? Which sort of tell-all tales is more horrific to you – fictional or nonfictional? How are you getting in the Halloween mindset this October? What’s your favorite book about hidden secrets? Tell us in the comments!