Y’all know what a big book club enthusiast I am. Seriously, one of the best things about my social life since I started creating and joining book clubs in my mid 20’s. At one time I was juggling three in-person book clubs because I was extremely into being part of them — you know, I had a child and can only juggle one now.
One of my favorite –yet most intimidating things –in life is picking book club selections for the many books clubs I’ve run or been apart of. A book club book can really make or break the meeting and sometimes it’s hard to juggle what everyone’s already read, making sure the book is easy to find, it will generate enough to talk about, etc.
I’ve been part of many book clubs, in different stages of my life, that have read very different types of books and I have enjoyed reading a variety of different books — some I might not have ever picked up but am glad I did. Every book club has also been different in HOW we select our books. But there’s always so much pressure (and thrill!) whenever it was my turn or it was time to pull together selections as a group.
I want to help you make that selection process easier for you with some suggestions of great book club books — newer and backlist faves — that will get your book club talking this year. These are ones I’ve either had great success with in my book clubs or books I thought “I wish I read this with my book club!”
So whether you are looking for book club suggestions in 2021 that will lead into a riveting discussion or just need a book to talk about for 10 minutes to keep the masquerade that your gathering is a book club (hey some of my favorite book clubs have been that!), I’ve got you!
For more book club related posts:
Good Book Club Books To Read With Your Book Club In 2021
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I think there’s a lot that goes into what makes a good book club pick but, in my experience, I try to go for books that I think will have A LOT to discuss versus something I just might think will be enjoyable.
I always say I would rather everyone hated the book but we couldn’t stop discussing it all meeting over a book we all loved but nobody really had anything to say about it.
Sometimes it can just be themes I think that can be relatable — motherhood, friendship, self-discovery, grief, courage, etc. Things I think will lead to a fantastic discussion — one of my most successful book clubs really kept picking books that had us meandering from the book-centric coversation to personal talk about the themes in the book.
Sometimes that means a book I know has been a bit polarizing to really get people talking about what they felt about it! Other times I like to grab books that feature a hot button topic or social issue (proceed with caution if you don’t have a book club that can handle that well). I really love when we have a lot to say about books haha
Or even sometimes just the “it” books that we hear everyone talk about and want to join in on the conversation!
One book club I was a part of kept picking books that were fun and everyone wanted to read but left for little discussion which is FINE depending on how much you are hoping to chat about the book.
You just kind of have to know your book club. If you just want a casual conversation, then you don’t need books with a lot of meatier topics. Just good books that you can talk about while you enjoy your meal or whatever.
Not every book has to have super heavy or “issue-y” things to discuss, but I do tend to pick things that — even if the book is on the lighter side — that will give SOMETHING to talk about. Even if it’s just a good plot twist or something thought-provoking, life-affirming or will simply have us sharing our own stories about dating, growing up, or whatever!
My favorite book clubs I’ve been a part of are ones where we discuss the book (not in any scholarly dissection way) and then conversation flows from the themes and things we discussed. I had one book club meeting where we talked more about friend breakups, a major theme in the book, more than we actually talked about the contents of the books — I loved it! I’m definitely a sucker for books that have a lot to talk about within their pages but also about things in our lives whether that’s current events or own lives. Also anything thought-provoking!
It really depends on what vibe you want for your book club!
Popular Book Club Picks Worth Reading
These are the book club reads that are tried and true book club favorites that I think are definitely worth the read if your book club hasn’t gotten to them yet. Perfect for book clubs who are more casual readers or new-to-reading and maybe haven’t read all the popular book club reads.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
I actually picked this one for an online buddy read that I hosted but I ended up failing spectacularly and reading it AFTER the discussion that went on without me — and that REALLY was the worst because there is a reason this book is a popular book club read. So much to discuss in this book about a young girl and her family, led by her father who hasn’t been right since Vietnam, who move to the middle of nowhere Alaska. It’s a harsh life, especially being ill-equipped and with her explosive father, and this one will break your heart.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Mostly everyone in our book club loved this one — I especially did. Honestly, I haven’t read a Backman book that wouldn’t be a good book club pick. But this one is a darling of book groups everywhere and for good reason — a curmudgeonly old man who doesn’t want to live much anymore and the new neighbors who barge their way into his life.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is a newer book that is taking book clubs by storm! Tons to discuss with this inspiring and magical story of “what ifs”, choices and living the life we have as the main character gets a chance to explore what life would have been like if she’d made different choices in her life. Just a content note: it doesn’t mention it in the summary but the MC is depressed and suicidal in the beginning. This would be a great book club book for groups who really love talking about their own life experiences by way of a book.
The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare
Another newer book club favorite — the story of Adunni, a courageous young girl in Nigeria determined to get the education she desires despite a society intent on her not doing that, will be one you won’t be able to stop talking about. Great if your book club loves books about courage, resilience, and strong women doing great things in the face of adversity. Heartbreaking and heartwarming all in the same breath — so much to discuss!
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
If your book club loves historical fiction and hasn’t read this top book club pick inspired by the horrendous real-life events of child kidnapping/abuse surrounding the Tennessee’s Children Home activities in the 20’s and 30’s, grab this one! It’s a devastating one at times and will make an emotional impact for sure — I wish I read this one with a book club because there is just so much to dive into.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty is basically a book club goddess with other book club faves like Big Little Lies and others — she always gets you talking whether or not you loved the book!
What Alice Forgot is about a woman who wakes up to find a whole decade has passed and with it her marriage, her relationship with her sister and there’s been a whole lot of other life changes that weren’t the case when she last remembered as a 29 year old. Her memory is gone and she must piece together what happened in the past decade.
I think things explored in this book will resonate with many women’s book clubs — especially those in their 30’s and 40’s. Perfect book if you want something light-hearted with tons of depth and discussion-worthy stuff.
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Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Almost put this one under the polarizing category because, in my experience reading it with a group, it’s been pretty polarizing on how people feel about how well it tackled important topics — some people thought it didn’t dive deep enough (I think the onus is on the reader to dig deeper with what she laid out) and some hated most the characters.
I personally thought it was such a sharp and nuanced look at every day racism, in a book that isn’t overly dark, but is still impactful in how it shows the nuances in conversations about race, white saviorism and all the ways even “woke” people fail no matter how well-intended, etc. A lot to unpack but I think if your book club is the thoughtful type this would be a great discussion book for your group.
2021 Releases I Think Will Be Book Club Material
If your group loves discussing the latest and greatest books here are the 2021 releases I think will be good book club selections. Check out my 2021 most anticipated books for more ideas.
I think this is going to be a big book club hit! And boy do I mean big — at 600 pages. Don’t let the size of this epic saga deter you. I’m reading now and OBSESSED.
If your book club loved books like A Man Called Ove, don’t sleep on this one. An emotional, life-affirming book about friendship!
If your club enjoys complex family dramas with secrets and heart-breaking choices, this has to be on your list!
This hard-hitting, character-driven mystery surrounding a tragedy will be a group favorite for sure!
Books That Generate Discussion About Social Issues
There are just those books that will REALLY get you talking either because they are hot button issues, controversial topics or social issues in the forefront of society. These are the ones, in my experience, have really elicited a TON to talk about.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
This book elicited one of the best book club discussions my current book club has ever had (we are all moms so this really gave us SO much to talk about in general).
This book is about a loving and wonderful family and how they navigate their youngest wanting to not be Claude anymore but Poppy. Even good, supportive parents can fumble in knowing what to do, what’s the best thing and how to navigate uncharted territory for them and this book really, really is so nuanced and heartfelt in how it navigates everything.
The author’s personal experience really shines through, having a transgender child, and I think especially book clubs made up of parents will have so much to discuss about and because of this one.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
A short but scathing exploration at every day sexism, misogyny, and gender inequality (in South Korea but also in the world at large) through the story of a South Korean woman who, after having a child and leaving the workforce, mental state deteriorates as she starts impersonating the voices of women both from the past and present. We get glimpses of her upbringing as a child as her life gets recounted to the psychiatrist. So, so much to discuss with this book that will resonate with women everywhere! It’s also less than 200 pages so makes a great pick if you are looking for a short book club book.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
If you are looking for something that will really give you something to talk about but isn’t on the heavier or sad side, check this one warm-hearted and smart book. The story of five women, connected by a scandal that is loosely inspired by Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton, and all the ripples that disrupted life in the aftermath. It’s about reinvention, mistakes, the double standards & misogyny women experience in situations like this & more.
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
A timely novel about immigration, family, motherhood & a mother’s love in this book about lives colliding when an undocumented mother from Mexico is detained and her son is placed with an Indian-American family who has decided to foster children after struggling for years with infertility on their own parenthood journey. Heart-breaking, thought-provoking and truly a great book club pick!
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
I’m going to be upfront with you, this book is a hard read. If your book club can handle the subject manner, I think this is a fantastic book to discuss with a book club — about the book itself but also the bigger scope of topics it unearths in this book about a young girl being groomed by her teacher and the reckoning she has as an adult when things come to light about his behavior.
Raw, unflinching and unapologetically tough read but an incredible nuanced and important one, if you can stomach it, as it so deftly exposes the ways (and ease) in which society allows these things to happen, the complexity of trauma and things like the #metoo movement for victims.
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
A truly incredible book that I wanted everyone I knew to read so I could talk about it. This story of 3 generations of conservative Arab American women, in the same family but living decades apart, was a hard read at times reading about Daya and her mom and learning about what really happened. It’s about family, life-defining choices, trauma, strength in the face of hardship, oppression and the grasp of the patriarchy on women.
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
A really complex story to discuss loosely based on a real event. It follows two families, a Black family and a Korean family, still dealing with an act of racially-charged violence that happened decades before in the 1990’s during a time of riots and a lot of racial tension. Page-turning, suspenseful and heart-wrenching!
The Book of Essie
Reminiscent of reality tv shows following families like the Duggards, this one is about about the daughter of an evangelical preacher and star of a hit reality show (Six for Hicks) who ends up getting pregnant which has the potential to be a huge scandal. The family will do whatever it costs to keep this a secret and keep their reputation and fame. But Essie refuses to be told what to do and makes a decision that could expose everything. So much to discuss — reality TV, religion, power, abuse and so much more!
Polarizing Book Club Reads
I have to be honest — I love a book club pick that polarizes a little bit because even the quieter members have opinions to be shared!
The Push by Ashley Audrain
This is one of the most polarizing & unsettling books I’ve read in a while with the many conversations I’ve had about it. Interestingly enough, most of the people who also thought it was SO good were other moms, most people I knew who hated it didn’t have kids. Obviously that’s not across the board but holy crap — this one will divide your book club.
It’s a disturbing little psychological thriller that surprisingly brought a lot of depth when it comes to motherhood, ones expectations of it, postpartum depression, generational trauma, shifting identities, societal expectations of mothers, etc.
I think this one would have been too dark for my current book club (they don’t tend to like dark like I do) but oh god I would have loved to read it with them. Some major triggers in here — definitely seek out reviews or ask me and I will tell you.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
This one seems like a love it or hate it from everyone I’ve talked to — especially when it comes to the ending. I personally really liked it and it totally sucker punched me emotionally!
I don’t want to give things away so basically it’s about a woman whose meticulously planned life is on track and, on the night of her boyfriend proposing to her, she wakes up to a completely different life and man — 5 years in the future — in which she spends an hour before she’s back to her normal life. She dismisses it as a dream, even though it felt very vivid, and pushes it out of her mind until years later when she meets the man from her dreams. A very quick book club read!
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
This one polarizes a lot of people from the premise alone knowing that it’s a cheating storyline but I think also it surprised some people who normally hate that. My book club honestly all loved it (though they are all mostly all Elin superfans — I am not). It’s about a secret love affair that spans decades and only happens once a weekend each summer and is contained to that — until one of them is on their deathbed and reaches out.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Honestly this book couldn’t be more polarizing! It tackles sexism and a lot of women’s issues in the workplace, particularly in a male dominated one, and the execution of that has left readers divided.
In the vein of Big Little Lies, it follows a group of women whose boss — a man with a history and the focus of even more whispered secrets — is about to be promoted after the CEO dies and they decide to take matters into their own hands which has major repercussions for all.
Lots to discuss about women in the workplace but also friendship and motherhood as we get to see a lot of the women’s lives.
All The Ugly And Wonderful Things
This extremely uncomfortable, controversial read is about a forbidden relationship between a young girl and an older man and has become quite the polarizing book club read that will really get you into a heated discussion likely.
I honestly was shocked to read so many 5 star raving reviews after I heard what this book was about. Full disclosure, I haven’t been able to bring myself to read this yet but when I was asking for really hot topic, discussion heavy book club books years back this one came up SO OFTEN and people said it really got their book club talking with many varying opinions.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
A provocative book club read (non-fiction) that explores the sex lives and desires of three women. A friend read it with her book club ,which put it on my radar, and said her book club still can’t stop talking about it months later. But not everybody that I’ve encountered feels this book hit the mark of what it said it set out to do. I think it could lead to a lot of good and interesting discussion despite if people enjoy or not.
Book Club Picks That Your Group Might Not Have Read Already
If you have a hard time finding a book your book club hasn’t all read because they are extremely well-read, maybe these picks will give you some inspiration for book club suggestions.
Walking On Trampolines by Frances Whiting
I read this with a book club I created via a meetup group I was in, where we all didn’t really know each other that well, and it was SUCH an amazing discussion that happened because of the book about our own experience with friendships and relationships. It also touches on things like mental illness, betrayal and first love.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor
I’m actually kind of shocked this hasn’t become a more popular book club selection! If your book club likes inspiring historical fiction featuring strong women, I recommend this one a lot!
This one is inspired by the true story of Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter in 1838 who performs a heroic rescue when a shipwreck happens off the coast, and becomes overwhelming when unwanted fame comes to her. 100 years later, woven into Grace’s story, is the story of a young pregnant and unmarried girl who is being sent away to a reclusive distant relative’s home to keep her family from being disgraced.
Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
This empathetic and heartbreaking book about sisterhood, familial devotion and mental illness — among many other things — will give much to talk about. It’s definitely a more slower-paced, character driven book about two sisters, Chinese immigrants, and the way in which the one’s mental health struggles with schizophrenia affect them both and their relationship through the years.
The Care And Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
If your book club enjoys books about dysfunctional families, y’all might really enjoy this book about a family, once the pillars of the community, fractured even more when the couple gets thrown in jail for fraud leaving their two daughters as pariahs in their community and their two aunts come together to care for their daughters in the house they grew up in that holds their own dysfunction and trauma from childhood.
Last Letter To Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
Love epic love stories? Love dual storylines from the past and present that are entertwined so beautifully? This is a love story, spanning 40 years, about a woman who has a head trauma after an accident and doesn’t remember her life but finds an impassioned letter from a mysterious lover in her things and the woman, in the present, who finds this romantic mystery and sets out to find out who the star-crossed lovers may be. A good pick, too, since it’s an upcoming book to movie adaptation!
Mother Land by Leah Franqui
My book club read this one last year and it was a surprising success! It’s about a woman who decides to pack up and move to Mumbai with her Indian-born husband. As she deals with the culture shock, she also gets the shock that her mother-in-law, who we also get alternating chapters from, has left her husband and has decided to move in with them — which means the two women will be spending a lot of time together as her husband travels a lot of work. What results is a lot of clashing and a battle of wills as the two get to know one another.
This is a good pick if you are looking for a lot to discuss but isn’t inherently heavy! This author’s first book America for Beginners would also be a great under-the-radar book club selection!
Light-hearted Book Club Picks
Especially this past year I feel like a lot of book clubs are looking for some light and easy reads! As someone who tends to reach for darker/sad/depressing/heavy books, this has always been a challenge for me to balance out with some light reads that still have stuff to talk about or will generate interesting conversations from them.
Luckily, as I’ve expanded my own book club repertoire thanks to my current book club’s preference for book club material, I’ve got some great choices that will still give you more to say than “well that was fun or nice” and some vague conversation about liking the characters or not.
The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley
If your book club really needs something light, hopeful and still thought-provoking after a string of darker, heavy reads — this one 1000% needs to be your choice!
This charming book is about an older man who feels the world could use some more authenticity and truth so he writes down his truths in a green notebook and leaves it in a cafe for others to leave their truth in and then leave it somewhere for someone else to find.
What happens next is connection among strangers which will change each other’s lives in a small scope and some much larger.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary
A delightful book about a young woman and her grandmother, both in their own life ruts, who decide to switch lives for two months — grandma goes off to a busy London and her grand-daughter heads to her sleepy little village full of nosy but lovable neighbors. There is a touching storyline of grief (from a death in the past) but it’s balanced really well to keep this a charming and light read. I was grinning ear to ear listening to this on audiobook. HIGHLY recommend the audiobook.
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The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
If your book club is looking for a family story that isn’t dark & depressing, this is a great book club read for you! It’s about two estranged sisters, split because of an inheritance their father only left to one of them, and how their lives diverge over the years and the grandaughter many years later who might be able to bring the two back together by way of the beer empire built by one of the sister’s (a key part of their estrangement). Family, adversity, resilience –so much to love! This author’s book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, is also a great book club book!
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
If your book group is looking for more of a (semi cheesey but in a good way) rom-com feel, this office romance is one to check it out. Set in 1999 and party told through emails, this one is about an IT guy who, in his job to monitor employee’s messages and internet usage, falls in love with a woman through her correspondence with a co-worker. Life-affirming, full of found family and high concept that somehow WORKS.
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Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
This is an odd book but in such a good way. I know if I proposed it to my book club they’d probably be like “this sounds weird”, and maybe yours will too, but give this weird and endearing little book a chance. A quirky little book about a woman who becomes the caretaker of a long lost friend’s stepchildren — who just happen to burst into flames when they get upset.
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The Love Story of Missy Carmichael
If your book club loved A Man Called Ove, definitely check out this one for book club potential. Missy is an older woman who is lonely — her husband died, she’s estranged from her daughter and her son lives far away — and spends much of her time alone in her home and thinking of her regrets and mistakes. When she decides to get out to the park one day, a chance encounter brings new people into her life (and a dog!) who help her embrace life again.
Mystery/Thriller Book Club Books
My current book club is big on thrillers! I think it’s so fun to talk about the big twists and turns of mysteries and thrillers during book club. We’ve had some duds where we haven’t had much to talk about after we talk about the plot-twists so I want to help you avoid that, too, with books that will give you plenty to talk about while still either being a can’t-put-down-thriller or a perfectly plotted mystery.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
This book is more on the literary side than the rest of the thrillers/mysteries I will recommend on this list. Part family drama and part police procedural, this was one of the best books I read in 2020 — especially because it was SO MUCH MORE than I thought it would be.
Beautiful and heartbreaking story of two estranged sisters — one a police officer and the other an addict living on the street — and the mysterious string of murders that has one sister in a race to find the other when she appears to go missing. Perfectly plotted, great reveal!
These Women by Ivy Pochoda
Another mystery/thriller on the more literary side full of thought-provoking book club fodder within — less heart-racing, more focused on the characters.
It follows a handful of women who appear very different on the outside, seemingly unconnected, who are being pursued by a serial killer. Lots to talk about with this one — how we view certain women in society, violence against women, who the police prioritizes and doesn’t, sex work stigma and more!
If your book club wants a thriller/mystery that still has really timely social issues and thought-provoking content, this is it!
The Holdout by Graham Moore
If your book club loves true crime type stuff or courtroom thrillers, check out this twisty little book! It’s about the 10 year anniversary of a case in which a teacher, accused of murder, was acquitted in the disappearance of a teenage girl he was allegedly involved with and the jurors are reunited for a planned docuseries when one of the jurors, who thinks they made a mistake, ends up dead.
It’s told from the perspective of the juror who was the holdout in thinking he wasn’t guilty and who spearheaded the eventual acquittal and has now, in the present, become a suspect of this murdered juror.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
If your book club is into psychological thrillers, this is a good book club pick!
This one is about two strangers, a man and a woman who meet on a flight, and begin to reveal things about themselves — one being that the man has found out his wife is cheating on him — and a joke about killing his wife becomes a reality when this stranger says she will help and they start hatching a plan.
A super twisty cat and mouse game emerges, that someone won’t survive, in this page-turning book perfect for book clubs who love things like Gone Girl or Patricia Highsmith.
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
This one tells the story of a successful true crime podcaster who is working on her next season about a case of a golden boy swimmer and the rape of a teenage girl that is rocking the town they are from.
As she’s working on this case, she’s also finding mysterious notes for her asking for help in a case of a drowned girl in which the note-leaver thinks was actually a murder. As she continues to investigate both, she comes to some startling connections.
Feels ripped from the headlines which will also be great to discuss similar cases and societal discourse surrounding cases like these.
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The Last Flight by Julie Clark
This suspenseful thriller is about two women who are attempting to escape from their lives for different reasons. They decide to switch flights and assume the other’s identity to get a head start on escaping their lives but, when one plane crashes and the woman who held that ticket is presumed dead, the other woman decides to fully assume her identity — without knowing all the secrets she left behind. Being purposefully vague but definitely has some good discussion points.
The Passengers by John Marr
Even if sci-fi thrillers aren’t typically your book clubs thing, I have a feeling this Black Mirror-esque premise will intrigue them into trying.
In this world self-driving cars are the norm and the safest option. Until one day when a hacker gains control of 8 people and puts them on a collision course in which they will die in a little over 2 hours.
This stunt is broadcasted on live tv and the hacker gets the public involved by having to choose who will be saved and who will be killed first. Just as page-turning as it is thought-provoking!
Playing Nice by JP Delaney
A domestic suspense novel about a family who receives a house call one day and another a couple is on their doorstep saying that their 2 year old isn’t really theirs and that their babies were switched at the hospitals at birth. Quite the conundrum the family is in and as they try to make an agreement things start to fall apart!
Historical Fiction Book Club Picks
I know some people hear historical fiction and go running for the hills expecting all sad and depressing WW2 novels (and boy do I truly love those) but I promise that’s not what is going on here. A variety of selections set in different time periods and varying levels of sad haha. Some really good stories here not to be missed and will give great discussion!
The Island Of Sea Women by Lisa See
This is seriously a perfect book club pick, no surprise because Lisa See is a book club fave, for any women’s book club – it’s about friendship lost and found and a very unique matriarchal community of fierce women that do deep sea diving on a Korean island in the 1930’s-1940’s while their husbands stay home & run the households.
It perfectly weaves in history of the time into the story of this all female diving collective and their personal lives — namely the friendship between two of the divers. (I HAD to look up the haenyeo because I was so fascinated by this society that bucked the cultural norms).
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
This was one of my favorite books I read in 2019 — a beautiful and heart-breaking story about love, friendship and the trauma of a generation set amidst the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the 1980’s. Well written, compassionate, and full of characters you won’t forget! Seriously, I think about this book often.
Hum If You Don’t Know The Words by Bianca Marais
Set during Apartheid-era South Africa, a ten year old white girl named Robin and a Xhosa woman (Beauty) collide when tragedy strikes both of them during the Soweto uprisings — the girl’s parents are killed and the woman’s young daughter is missing.
Robin is sent to live with her unprepared aunt who hires Beauty to be her caregiver, as Beauty still searches for her daughter, and the two form a really strong bond. I don’t know how this isn’t yet a popular book club book as it really has all the makings for one. (Also really recommend If You Want To Make God Laugh by this author for a great book to read with your book club)
Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
This coming of age story is one that will stick with you! It’s about a 14 year old girl in the 1980’s whose uncle is her best friend (she’s a bit of a loner) and she learns he has AIDS and is about to die. As she grieves this loss, she is surprised to find out about his partner that she never knew about and begins to form an unlikely and secret friendship, because her family views him as a murderer, with him and learns more about her uncle as they both grieve together. The family dynamics in this book really come into play (especially with June and her sister and mother) and it’s just one your book club certainly will discuss the whole time!
This Tender Land by William Kent Kruegger
Set in the 1930’s, four orphan kids escape from the awful Indian reform school they are at and make their way through the mid-west via a canoe trying to escape the headmistress and her henchmen and meeting many along the way of their travels. A very Huckleberry Finn-esque adventure with a dash of Stand By Me.
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
One of my all time favorite historical fictions that is an oldie, but a goodie, that I WISH I would have had a book club to discuss it with. An absolutely haunting mother/daughter story set in WW2 about a woman who, because her mother refuses to speak about it, investigates what happened in their life before they were liberated by an American soldier and moved to the U.S. after she unearths a photo of them with a Nazi officer. Her mother’s story is beyond heart-breaking but a testament to what a mother will endure for their child. content warning: rape
Literary Fiction Book Club Picks
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
I am still mad I didn’t read this one with a book club — it was one of my absolute favorite books of 2019 and there was so much within these pages to discuss.
If your book club enjoys family dramas that span over decades, pick up this one about two neighboring families bound by tragedy and a blossoming love between two of the children. Definitely more character driven but so compelling and great exploration of mental health, parenthood, growing up to see our childhood through an adult lens, forgiveness and SO SO SO much more.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Love character driven, slice of life novels with a lean towards forging forward to those ‘next chapters’ in messy adulthood? Love Sally Rooney? This would be a great book club book then!
It’s about a early 30-something grieving the loss of her mother and the fact that she’s not where she’d thought she’d be (in debt, recent breakup, job as a waitress) as she keeps holding on to the dream of writing a novel.
I feel like the description (and mine) doesn’t do it justice but I think if you’ve got a book club full of late 20/30-somethings, this one will be a treasure trove of conversation if y’all like quieter, character driven novels.
Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
If you’ve got a book club that loves talking marriage, parenthood and middle life strife/crises (and doesn’t mind some sex and crudeness) — this is one that will possibly be divisive but contains lots to talk about.
It’s about a man, going through a divorce, who is suddenly left with his children full time when his ex-wife silently disappears – interrupting his recently active sex life and newfound identity/freedom in his shared custody agreement.
As he tries to find out what happened to his wife and why she’d do something like this, he’s forced to reexamine the 13 year long marriage as he juggles balancing the children and his job.
Honestly, did not at all seem like a book I would like but so surprised!
A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
A gorgeous and emotional book, bouncing around in time from the perspective of different family members, about 3 generations of an Indian-American Muslim family centering around family, faith and belonging — as well as all the little moments and choices that can define us. Bound to have a good discussion!
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi writes remarkable books that truly demand to be talked about! Her latest explores things like addiction, depression, grief and faith through the story of a family who immigrated from Ghana to the U.S. and how things fell apart for the family. My little blurb cannot even do this book justice — you just have to experience for yourself. (and if your book club hasn’t read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — I highly recommend! Personally think it’s even better).
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
This short novel (almost 200 pages) is a moving portrait of a Colombian family pulled apart because of a deportation. It gives the backstory of the parents and how they became undocumented in America which lead to their family being split between the U.S. and Colombia. I think if your book club likes talking about the more literary merits of books, as well as the themes, there’s some interesting storytelling choices with this one that people either love or hate.
General Contemporary Fiction /Women’s Fiction Book Club Selections
Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
I absolutely cannot say much about this one because it’s best read without knowing much except a woman meets a man, they fall for each other in a whirlwind and then he leaves for a trip & completely ghosts her. Except she thinks something else must have happened. And the search for the truth is on!
Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
Don’t let the cover fool you — while this one is fun and does have romance elements it’s all bound together by something heart-wrenching that changes everything for this long-time group of friends and unravels some secrets in the aftermath. A wonderful read about friendship, grief, forgiveness and more.
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeycutt
If your book club likes books like A Man Called Ove or Elinor Oliphant, check out this life-affirming book about an 85 year old woman ready to embrace death on her own terms and the little girl who comes into her life and reminds her what it means to live. The flashbacks of Eudora’s life are wonderfully done.
Non-Fiction Book Club Picks
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
If your book club hasn’t yet read this powerful and moving memoir, I highly recommend it. Chanel Miller, the woman who was raped by Brock Turner, shares her story boldly and beautifully. I couldn’t stop thinking about it — the audiobook was read by her and particularly compelling. It’s not an easy read but it will be one that is impactful. There is SO much to discuss with this one — rape culture, victim blaming/how victims are treated, the justice system, treatment of women and girls, trauma etc.
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The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
I couldn’t stop talking about this one after I read it and I so wish I would have read with a group. It’s part memoir (the author is a Dreamer) and part stories of others undocumented Americans that she gets to know and interviews. These stories have stuck with me — heart-breaking, unflinching and eye-opening. If your group was into American Dirt, definitely read this for an #ownvoices perspective.
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
If your book club enjoyed discussing the book Educated (mine had SO much to say about that book!), check out this memoir about a woman who grew up in a polygamist cult and lived in destitution and abuse because of her step-father. Heart-wrenching, compelling storytelling and a LOT to talk about. Content warning for sexual abuse.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Sometimes real life is more bananas than fiction — like in this account of one of the biggest corporate frauds in Silicon Valley featuring a young woman who was deemed the next Steve Jobs and was going to revolutionize the medical industry with this new technology she developed.
After The Last Border by Jessica Goudeau
This one is the story of two female refugees, one a Christian from Myanmar and the other one a Muslim from Syria, and their journey to being refugees and finding home and belonging in America as part of the refugee resettlement program. With their stories, there’s also discussion about the history and current shape of immigration in America. I think this one will bring a lot of discussion if your book club is interested in social issues.
Fantasy/Science Fiction Book Club Picks
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
This is now one of my all time favorite books that I’m glad I had friends to talk about it with. The main character, in the 1700’s, makes a bargain to live forever — the catch is that nobody will remember her. Like literally if they leave the room and come back they won’t remember her at all. 300 years later, accustomed to her life, a man in a bookshop remembers her. A gorgeous character driven book about making your mark on the world. So much to talk about — especially the ending!
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
This sci-fi thriller tells the story of Evelyn, a scientist, whose husband is cheating on her — with a clone he made from her research. The clone, Martine, is the perfect version of Evelyn and everything her husband wants her to be. When the husband ends up dead, the two wives have figure out a way to clean up the mess.
All sorts of morally grey goodness and interesting things to talk about — identity, what makes a human a human, ethics and responsibility. If your book club loved Never Let Me Go and all that came from that discussion, check this one out.
Children of Blood and Bone
This unputdownable Nigerian-inspired YA fantasy, that explores inequity and racism so deftly within it, is a bit of a long one for book club but you’ll fly it so fast you won’t even notice that page count in this fight to bring magic back from the power hungry ruler who is purging it from the kingdom.
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Young Adult Book Club Picks
Does your group love young adult books? I am personally a huge fan whether you are a teen or not so YA anymore!
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I absolutely loved this thrilling story — part dystopian horror and survival story about a secretive tradition that girls must embark on for a year when they turn 16 to become women but also to “let all their magic out” so they don’t tempt and lure men and are ready to become wives when they come home.
It’s a fast, brutal read that will give your book club so much to talk about — about how society pits women against one another, how society uses and disposes of women, how we are supposed stay silent about things which keeps us down in one way or another.
The Female of The Species by Mindy McGinnis
Think Dexter but a teenage girl avenging the murder of her sister whose killer still walks free. It tackles things like rape culture and slut-shaming really well and is super compelling. The wonderful thing about this one is it wasn’t JUST about her vigilante justice but about typical coming of age things, too, that she’d hidden from in all her grief and rage.
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This Is My America by Kim Johnson
A must read if your book club has loved books from Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas or Nic Stone. Powerful, important and will start a conversation as it explores systemic racism in its many forms, mass incarceration and more through the story of a young woman who has been tirelessly looking for help to get justice for her father who is innocent and on Death Row while getting involved in investigating a murder in which her brother has become a main suspect of.
They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera
Tik Tok has made this one blow up and for good reason — I wrote an entire post about things this book made me reflect on because it was just SO thought-provoking and incredible.
What if you got a call, on the day you were going to die, informing you of your imminent death (but not when). That’s the premise here!. Two teen boys both get the call that today is their End Day, and in their quest to make a friend for their last day, they join an app for that and are brought together to have the Last Day of a lifetime.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
Any of Tiffany D. Jackson’s novels would make for great book club picks but this one especially I wished I had read with a book club. (But seriously Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming are great picks too!)
An unflinching look into rape culture & how society perpetuates & doesn’t protect young women (especially Black girls). It deftly tackles SO MUCH throughout the story of a young girl being preyed upon and abused in her search for stardom by a famous singer who has promised her a career.
I could NOT put this down — just racing through because I NEEDED to know what happened.
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The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Oh this book made me cry but still managed to be delightful! It’s about a girl who gets diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease that will steal her memories and eventually her body will shut down so she sets out to make a book of memories and things she doesn’t want to forget while also falling in love. A really moving book — a great under the radar gem!
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A Million Junes by Emily Henry
A surreal and beautiful book about feuding families, a magical bloodline curse that has plagued generations and star-crossed lovers who will work together to break the curse. Definitely a unique choice for book club as it perfectly blends real life with magical aspects.
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Jeff Zentner’s books are always so incredible and this one would be such a great discussion book for a book club. It’s about a boy who loses his 3 friends in a car accident and blames himself, for sending the text message while they were driving, as well as carrying the burden of other people’s blame — so much so that a criminal investigation is being opened up. When the grandmother of one of the boys comes up with an idea to honor and celebrate their lives, he hesitantly participates in these Goodbye Days with his friend and family. Heart-achingly beautiful! Also highly recommend The Serpent King.
What books have you read that would make a great pick for a book group? What books have been a hit with YOUR book club or have brought some lively discussions? Would love to know!
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The post The Ultimate List of Best Book Club Books To Get Your Group Talking appeared first on The Perpetual Page-Turner.