Tomorrow I’m going to my family’s reunion. Each year I look forward to seeing everyone– this is the one time of year when I’m sure to see everyone in my huge family all at once. We all get together annually to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday, and even weddings and funerals don’t get such a big draw. As much as I love seeing my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all their assorted spouses/partners, children, and pets, I have to admit that it can also be a little overwhelming. I know I’m not the only one who can get overwhelmed by big family occasions– otherwise there wouldn’t be so many books on the subject. Below are a few of my picks to help you survive even the biggest family gathering.
- I Only Say This Because I Love You: How the Way We Talk Can Make or Break Family Relationships Throughout Our Lives, by Deborah Tannen: I love Deborah Tannen’s books– she’s a linguist who studies conversation, and analyzes common conflicts that arise. In other books she’s addressed communication differences between men and women, and in this book she turns to family communication. If you’re looking for a self-help book you might be disappointed, but if you’re interested in reading a layman’s book about linguistics and family communication, you’ll find this one interesting.
- Sweet Gratitude: Bake a Thank You for the Really Important People In Your Life, by Judith Sutton: In my family, food is a central part of any family gathering. I first sampled the coconut lemon shortbread bar recipe when a coworker brought it in to share, and since then it’s become a part of my regular party-baking repetoire. A few of the recipes in here are slightly more involved than some, but worth the effort when baking for people you care about.
- Schott’s Original Miscellany: You might be thinking that this is an odd choice for this list. However, I’ve found that this book can really save the day when dinner conversation has suddenly turned into a free-for-all argument about politics or some other touchy subject. When the conversation stops merely being a heated discussion and the real barbs start flying, you’ll be happy that you’ve flipped through this treasure trove of completely random information. “Hey, do you guys want to hear some Cockney Rhyming Slang?” is a great way to take the converstion in another direction. If there are kids around, you might also want to check out something like Cows Sweat Through Their Noses: And Other Freaky Facts About Animal Habits, Characteristics, and Homes. Not only will you change the subject, but you’ll be a hit at the kids’ table as well.
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding: My family isn’t Greek, but we are a pretty big bunch and this movie hits pretty close to home every time I watch it. Whether you’re from a big family or a small one, watching Toula, the heroine, navigate her family’s relationships will make you laugh, and maybe also appreciate your own family’s quirks a little bit more.