Hillbilly Elegy Readalikes

If you’ve read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and you’re looking for a similar book, we have three great suggestions for you.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. While Jeanette didn’t grow up in Appalachia, she and Vance did share being raised by very dysfunctional parents. Her parents were both very bright but were stubbornly non-conformist. Her father was brilliant and fueled a strong desire for learning in his children. However, he was also an alcoholic who spiraled downward over the years. Her mother was a free spirit who couldn’t e bothered to nurture or even feed her children. An example of how disengaged her parents were is when either Jeanette or her sister realized that her teeth really needed to be straightened. Because she was a child and couldn’t seek treatment for herself, she made her own braces. Eventually, the family did end up going back to the West Virginia mining town where Walls’ father grew up. Circumstances didn’t improve. Things actually became worse for the children.

Another thing that Walls and Vance have in common is the love and affection they managed to retain for their dysfunctional families.

Today Jeanette Walls is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.


White Trash by Nancy Isenberg. These books offer well-documented and thoughtful discussions of class in the U.S. Hillbilly Elegy is both a personal account and a scholarly analysis, while White Trash presents a wide-ranging historical study covering 400 years.

Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan. Although Crapalachia is darker and more experimental than the straightforward Hillbilly Elegy, readers interested in authentic memoirs from men born to a mountain-bred legacy of poverty, violence, and dogged self-sufficiency will appreciate both.


Written by Amy Vogel.