The first day of summer is coming up soon! If you’re planning on relaxing on the beach with a good book, we are here to share a long list of books to consider.
The theme of our list? All of these are books about homelessness.
The books on this list will allow you to explore what it means to be homeless from a variety of angles. But keep in mind that these are all fiction books. While these books offer different viewpoints and stories of homelessness, they should not be used to categorize ALL homeless people, and they may not fully or accurately depict homelessness. While you enjoy the books on this list, make sure you do not use what you read to promote stigmas of homlessness.
With that said, we hope you thoroughly enjoy this list of fiction books about homelessness!
12 Fiction Books About Homelessness
The descriptions below (along with the ratings) are taken from the book’s Amazon page. For more information about the book, including reviews and to purchase a copy, see the link at the end of each description.
A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik (2013)
4.1 out of 5 stars (107 ratings)
“On a remote island in the Aegean, Jacqueline is living alone in a cave accessible only at low tide. With nothing to protect her from the elements, and with the fabric between herself and the world around her increasingly frayed, she is permeated by sensory experiences of remarkable intensity: the need for shade in the relentless heat of the sun-baked island; hunger and the occasional bliss of release from it; the exquisite pleasure of diving into the sea. The pressing physical realities of the moment provide a deeper relief: the euphoric obliteration of memory and, with it, the unspeakable violence she has seen and from which she has miraculously escaped.
Slowly, irrepressibly, images from a life before this violence begin to resurface: the view across lush gardens to a different sea; a gold Rolex glinting on her father’s wrist; a glass of gin in her mother’s best crystal; an adoring younger sister; a family, in the moment before their fortunes were irrevocably changed. Jacqueline must find the strength to contend with what she has survived or tip forward into full-blown madness.
Visceral and gripping, extraordinary in its depiction of physical and spiritual hungers, Alexander Maksik’s A Marker to Measure Drift is a novel about ruin and faith, barbarism and love, and the devastating memories that contain the power both to destroy us and to redeem us.“
How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball (2017)
3.8 out of 5 stars (67 ratings)
“Lucia Stanton’s father is dead, her mother is in a mental hospital, and she’s recently been kicked out of school—again. Living with her aunt in a garage-turned-bedroom, and armed with only a book, a Zippo lighter, and a pocketful of stolen licorice, she spends her days riding the bus to visit her mom and following the only rule that makes any sense: Don’t do things you aren’t proud of.
When Lucia discovers that her school has a secret Arson Club, her life is suddenly lit up; she’ll do anything to join. Edgy, raw, and hilarious, How to Set a Fire and Why is a thrilling story about growing up the hard way.”
Listen to the Lambs by Daniel Black (2016)
4.4 out of 5 stars (118 ratings)
“In Listen to the Lambs by Daniel Black, nothing can convince Lazarus Love III to return to the lifestyle of affluence and social status he once knew. Longing for a freedom of the soul that the world of capitalism cannot provide, Lazarus leaves all that he knows–including his wife and children–to achieve the ultimate level of peace and silence living as a homeless man. When his quest causes him to cross paths with four other wanderers, all of whom later call themselves “the family,” a shocking, brutal act leaves Lazarus in a dire position and his newfound family must struggle to save him. By doing so, both families–past and present–are redeemed and consequently learn the beauty of sacrificial love.”
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun (2009)
4.5 out of 5 stars (117 ratings)
“Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she would be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing and often tragic journey that exposes the painful difficulties of a life lived on the margins. Joon’s adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally toward something resembling hope.”
My Abandonment by Peter Rock (2018)
4.4 out of 5 stars (451 ratings)
“Thirteen-year-old Caroline and her father live in Forest Park, an enormous nature preserve in Portland, Oregon. They inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, wash in a nearby creek, store perishables at the water’s edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts.
Once a week they go to the city to buy groceries and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.
Told through the startlingly sincere voice of its young narrator, My Abandonment is a riveting journey into life at the margins and a mesmerizing tale of survival and hope.
The basis for the film Leave No Trace directed by Debra Granik.”
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica (2017)
4.2 out of 5 stars (1863 ratings)
“She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…
Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.
Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.”
Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks (1996)
4.2 out of 5 stars (342 ratings)
“In the tradition Huckleberry Finn and The Catcherin the Rye, Russell Banks’s quintessential novel of a disaffected homeless youth living on the edge of society “redefines the young modern anti-hero…Rule of the Bone has its own culture and language, and Bone is sure to become a beloved character for generations” (San Francisco Chronicle). Witha compelling, off-beat protagonist evocative of Holden Caulfield and Quentin Coldwater, and a narrative voice that masterfully and naturally captures the nuances of a modern vernacular, Banks’s haunting and powerful novel is an indisputable—and unforgettable—modern classic.”
The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore (2016)
4.3 out of 5 stars (65 ratings)
“A murder mystery set in NE Georgia, USA, and featuring a reporter, Branigan Powers, who is commissioned to investigate a cold case, an unsolved murder of a wealthy widow ten years previously. She enlists the help of Malachi Ezekiel Martin, a homeless man who is both a possible suspect and a possible sleuth: the idea being that homeless people get overlooked, and hence see things that are concealed from the rest of the population. This is the first in an intended series of novels featuring Branigan, Malachi, and Branigan’s friend Liam, who runs a shelter for the homeless.”
The Caveman’s Valentine by George Dawes Green (1995)
4 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)
“Romulus Ledbetter wasn’t always homeless. He once was a devoted husband, father, and musician with a bright future. He now forages for food in the trash cans of the city’s better neighborhoods and wages a strenuous one-man war against Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant, an evil — and imaginary — power broker who is responsible for society’s ills, as well as the sinister Y- and Z-rays that are corrupting humankind. Then one wintry night, Rom finds a corpse at the mouth of his cave that rouses his well-defined sense of ethics and launches him on an obsessive quest for answers. Forced to reconnect with society, Rom leaves his world and journeys through a spiraling web of clues and hunches, straight into a sinister den of money, temptation, and murder–otherwise known as the “civilized” world.”
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (2008)
4.1 out of 5 stars (602 ratings)
“When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.
In a tale that travels between the Roaring Twenties and the twenty-first century, between Jay Gatsby’s Long Island and rural New England, bestselling author Chris Bohjalian has written an extraordinary novel.”
The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin (2007)
4.4 out of 5 stars (204 ratings)
“With “echoes of Of Mice and Men”(The Bookseller, UK), The Motel Life explores the frustrations and failed dreams of two Nevada brothers—on the run after a hit-and-run accident—who, forgotten by society, and short on luck and hope, desperately cling to the edge of modern life.”
Two Rivers by T. Greenwood (2020)
4.4 out of 5 stars (255 ratings)
“In Two Rivers, Vermont, Harper Montgomery is living a life overshadowed by grief and guilt. Since the death of his wife Betsy, Harper has narrowed his world to working at the local railroad and raising his daughter Shelly the best way he knows how. Still wracked with sorrow over the loss of his life-long love and plagued by his role in a brutal, long-ago crime, he wants only to make amends for his past mistakes.
Then one fall day, a train derails in Two Rivers, and amid the wreckage Harper finds an unexpected chance for atonement. One of the survivors, a pregnant fifteen-year-old girl with mismatched eyes and skin the color of blackberries, needs a place to stay. Though filled with misgivings, Harper offers to take Maggie in. But it isn’t long before he begins to suspect that Maggie’s appearance in Two Rivers is not the simple case of happenstance it first appeared to be.”
A Final Word
We hope you enjoy this list of fiction books about homelessness! Just keep in mind that these stories are fiction. Homelessness is not just a story. It’s a real issue that many people in our community currently face or have faced. If you have extra time this summer, consider helping our cause by volunteering. The only way to solve the problem of homelessness is to do something about it, and we would love your help!