Roots Run Deep (Fiction & Nonfiction)

Reading list created by EvaAnne Johnson, Genealogy and Local History Librarian

Stories about family history, generational connections, the search for family, inheritance, and the mysteries hidden in our genes. 



  1. The Ancestor: a novel, by Danielle Trussoni (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. Inheriting a noble title, money and a castle in Italy, Alberta “Bert” Monte believes this sudden windfall is a dream come true until she arrives in Italy and unravels a dark legacy of ancestral treasures that is in her very genes.
  2. Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. Presents a novel based on the life of the author's grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, who learned to break horses in childhood, journeyed five hundred miles as a teen to become a teacher, and ran a vast ranch in Arizona with her husband while raising two children.
  3. Cane River, by Lalita Tademy (WPL, Libby ebook)
    1. Cane River is an isolated community that lies on a small river in central Louisiana. There in the early 19th century, slaves, free people of color, and Creole French planters lived and worked, loved and bore children. The author discovered her amazing heritage there and chronicles four generations of strong, determined black women.
  4. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. A tale inspired by firsthand accounts about the notoriously corrupt Tennessee Children's Home Society follows the efforts of a Baltimore assistant D.A. to uncover her parents' fateful secrets in the wake of a political attack and a chance encounter with a stranger.
  5. The Revisioners, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook, Hoopla eaudiobook)
    1. Explores the impact of racism and interracial relationships between women through the story of an early 20th-century farmer and her unemployed single mother descendant.
  6. The Daughters of Foxcote Manor, by Eve Chase (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. Moving to 1970 Foxcote Manor when their London home burns down, a woman and her children take in an abandoned baby girl who is forced to investigate a murder and her own origin story 40 years later.
  7. The Storyteller’s Secret, by Sejal Badani (WPL)
    1. After suffering a third heart-breaking miscarriage and the unraveling of her marriage, Jaya goes to India and uncovers answers about her family's past, specifically about her pioneering grandmother and her life under British occupation.
  8. Family Skeletons, by Rett MacPherson (WPL, Libby ebook)
    1. First book in the Torie O’Shea mystery series. A spunky genealogist traces a family’s roots… and digs up a deadly secret. 
  9. Shimura Trouble: a Rei Shimura mystery, by Sujata Massey (WPL)
    1. During a family reunion on the island of Oahu, Japanese-American undercover spy Rei Shimura helps the Hawaiian branch of her family regain land stolen from them during World War II; but when her cousin is accused of arson, Rei must discover the truth, which turns out to be linked to the Shimura family history.
  10. True to you, by Becky Wade (CCS, Hoopla ebook and eaudiobook, Libby ebook)
    1. Genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford throws herself into her work following a heartbreak, until she meets former Navy SEAL John Lawson, who seeks her out when he suddenly needs to find his birth parents.


  1. Roots: the Saga of an American Family, by Alex Haley (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Alex Haley's own family tree.
  2. Inheritance: a Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, by Dani Shapiro (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. "The acclaimed and beloved author of Hourglass now gives us a new memoir about identity, paternity, and family secrets--a real-time exploration of the staggering discovery she made last year about her father, and her struggle to piece together the hidden story of her own life"-- Provided by publisher.
  3. It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree, by A.J. Jacobs (WPL, Libby eaudiobook, Hoopla eaudiobook)
    1. Traces the author's three-year investigation into what constitutes family, describing how, after receiving an e-mail from a stranger who claimed to be a distant cousin, he embarked on an effort to build the biggest family tree in history.
  4. The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are, by Libby Copeland (WPL, Libby ebook, Hoopla ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. Journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. Copeland explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.
  5. Roots Quest: inside America’s Genealogy Boom, by Jackie Hogan (WPL, Libby ebook)
    1. Explores our current genealogy boom to ask why we are so interested in our family history and shows how the surging popularity of genealogy is a response to large-scale social changes. Argues that our increasingly rootless society fuels the quest for an elemental sense of belonging--for roots.
  6. Wandering in Strange Lands: a Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims her Roots, by Morgan Jerkins (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. A powerful story of the author’s journey to understand her Northern and Southern roots, the Great Migration, and the displacement of Black people across America.
  7. Common People: In Pursuit of my Ancestors, by Alison Light (WPL, Libby ebook)
    1.  In the last weeks of her father's life, the author embarked on an attempt to trace the history of her family as far back as she could reasonably go. The result is a clear-eyed, fascinating, frequently moving account of the lives of everyday people, of the tough decisions and hard work, the good luck and bad breaks, that chart the course of a life. 
  8. The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, by David Laskin (WPL, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. Traces the history of the 20th century through the story of an extraordinary Jewish family, recounting how the author's 19th-century ancestors were separated by period upheavals in western Russia and went on to become the founders of the Maidenform Bra Company, pioneers in the contentious birth of Israel, and victims of the Holocaust.
  9. Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, by Helene Stapinski (CCS, Libby ebook)
    1. Chronicles the seedy adventures of a Jersey City family of criminals, bookies, con artists, embezzlers, and mobster-wannabes and the author's experiences growing up in such an environment.
  10. Eva and Eve: A Search for My Mother's Lost Childhood and What a War Left Behind,  by Julie Metz (CCS, Libby ebook & eaudiobook)
    1. Interweaving personal memoir and family history, Eva and Eve vividly traces one woman’s search for her mother’s lost childhood while revealing the resilience of our forebears and the sacrifices that ordinary people are called to make during history’s darkest hours.


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