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I started watching This Is Us on a sleepless Saturday night, mostly without knowing the premise, and really didn’t know what to expect other than a temporary distraction. I had seen the two seasons available at the time end by Monday morning, and while my eyes were never so tired from insomnia, fatigue from staring at the screen, and intermittent crying, my heart was full and I felt a little less lonely. If someone had told me beforehand that my passionate love affair about epic intergenerational family sagas would be extended to a TV show, I would not have believed them. But this show, despite being quite a wealthy American family, has a poetic universality that says that, in fact, we all are.

It moves seamlessly between past and present and across characters’ point of view, exploring the very human feelings of love and sadness. The show doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations, and last season even brings the pandemic and recent political unrest in the US into the act. The story has so much heart and soul that even if I disapproved of some of the finer plot points in an episode, I’d still end up sniffing – the stellar performances by the actors and soulful music often turn this into a full-blown feast of sobs. The show is currently in its fifth season and the weekly wait between episodes seems too much at times. Here are a few books like This Is Us that will keep those delicate feelings alive between episodes or seasons.

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Cover picture of Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girls, Women, Others by Bernardine Evaristo

Funnily enough, the first book I thought about in this context isn’t exactly a family saga. But the many points of view in the book, the beautiful connection between the characters’ lives, the warmth and love, the friends that become family, share between mothers and daughters, and between romantic partners, evoke similar fuzzy feelings. Randall’s struggles with his identity and story are also reflected in the stories of several characters in the book.

All the Lives We Have Never Lived by Anuradha Roy

A central theme in This Is Us is the interplay of past and present and the characters striving to understand the choices their parents made that ultimately shaped their lives and themselves. All the lives we never lived by Anuradha Roy are told by Myshkin, a gardener in his sixties who remembers his mother. Myshkin’s mother, Gayatri, left him and his father at the age of 9 for a different life in another country. As the elder Myshkin brings stories from his mother’s youth to light, he tries to understand the choices that have turned his world upside down. The subtlety and empathy with which Gayatri’s life was explored resonates with the tone of This Is Us, as does the heartbreaking role that fate plays in the story.

When the breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi

This is a treatise by Indian-American neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Kalanithi after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The book, published posthumously, explores life and death and the role of the family as an indispensable support system. The poignant prose will remind you of the tenderness and maturity with which This Is Us deals with death, loss and grief. And like in the best episodes of the series, you’ll be screaming your heart out.

Pachinko book cover

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is a family saga set in Korea and Japan and spanning a long period from the early 20th century. It’s a story of displacement, resilience, hope, and identity – and the strength of family love that carries us through it all.

The lowlands of Jhumpa Lahiri

The lowlands are about two brothers who drift apart when they make very different decisions for themselves. The tragedy fuses their lives in ways they never expected, and what follows is a beautifully written exploration of imperfect families.

The Literal Life of Nina Hill By Abbi Waxman

The tone of this book is definitely feeling good, a lot brighter than the others on the list. Bibliophile Nina Hill suddenly encounters a family she never knew had, and they slowly meander into each other’s lives in this delightful read. The book also contains an accurate, if incomplete, account of Nina’s fear – a subject Randall struggled with throughout his life.

my family and other animals gerald durrell

My family and other animals from Gerald Durrell

If the troubles that plague the Pearsons seem constantly overwhelming in these confusing times, but you still crave healthy family comfort, read this book about the family of naturalist Gerald Durrell’s stay on the Greek island of Corfu. It’s a downright comical account of his eccentric family, the many animals he brings home, their interesting neighbors, and the occasional houseguest. You can watch it with its sequels which, along with My Family and Other Animals, include the Corfu trilogy and will definitely cheer you up after a session of This Is Us induced crying.