Lets talk book clubs! It’s been awhile since I’ve hosted or been to an in person book club, but I’m always making notes about books that would make for good picks, should we get the urge to host again. For the first book club party we had we read The Devil in the White City. I personally enjoyed that book (and wrote one of my first reviews here), but don't think it was the best pick for a book club. It’s about early Chicago and the role one of the most prolific serial killers ever- H.H. Holmes- who attacked upwards of 200 women during the 1983 World’s Fair. But, in typical Larson fashion, it’s got a LOT of detail and isn’t exactly a page turner. We had a good discussion, but I think it was a little too dense for it to be universally fun.
In this post I’m sharing books that I’m calling “book club friendly”. These should appeal to a wide variety of readers, they aren’t too long, and aren’t too triggering. I picked books with something in them that would make for a good discussion- an unreliable narrator, characters that are faced with impossible choices, or a plot with a controversial issue. These things might mean that some readers won’t like the book, but I think that makes the discussion fun!
This is How it Always Is | Laurie Frankel
For: Book club with people who have children
About: This story about a tight knit family with a very special youngest child would be great for readers who want [or need] to have their mind opened to the experiences of members of the GLBT community and their families.
Book Club Question: What would you do if you were Claude’s parents? Why do you think they chose to keep the secret?
Bad Blood | John Carreyrou
For: A mixed gender book club- this story has wide appeal
About: John Carreyrou, an investigative journalist, takes readers step by step through the history of Theranos- a Silicon Valley “unicorn” that claimed to have a product that could perform a host of medical tests from just one drop of blood. This story is wild!
BCQ: What do you think is ultimately going to happen to Elizabeth Holmes? What role did her her race/ gender play in getting so many people on board?
All Grown Up | Jami Attenberg
For: Perfect for a 30-something book club with your girls | My Review
About: Andrea Bern is living life in New York completely on her own terms. She knows she’s not taking the path that people expect her to, but she can’t find it in herself to care. This book is easy to read but has staying power.
BCQ: What does being an adult mean to you? How did you picture your life as an adult when you were young?
Golden Child | Claire Adam
For: Pick for a group of readers who like to read diverse, “issues” books that will spark debate.
About: Set rural Trinidad, a father has to make a heartbreaking decision when one of his boys goes missing.
BCQ: What do you think of the choice dad had to make? Could he have handled it differently?
Beartown | Fredrik Backman
For: A book club who likes stories that pack an emotional punch.
About: This is the story of a hockey town that gets shaken to its core after one of its star residents makes a terrible choice. The obsession with hockey will resonate with the sports fans in the group and the characters will keep the non sports fans engaged.
BCQ: How does the pressure to achieve greatness affect the boys? What is the message to the girls in the town? Who was your favorite character?
Tell Me Lies | Carola Lovering
For: A great pick for a book club with your college friends
About: A girl moves across the country to attend college and falls in love with the boy who is all wrong for her. It’s about choices, friendship growing up, and letting go.
BCQ: Why do you think Steven acted the way he did? Did you have a Steven?
An American Marriage | Tayari Jones
For: A pick for a book club that likes to debate | My Review
About: Celestial and Roy are newlyweds on the come up when Roy gets put in jail for a crime Celestial is certain he didn’t commit. Both parties do their best to get through these impossible circumstances, getting hurt in the process. BCQ: Which character did you identify with the most? What options did the two have?
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing | Hank Green
For: A group that likes their books with light fantasy/science fiction
About: The Carls appear around the world and no one knows what they are. April May and her videographer friend are the first to find one and make a video that immediately goes viral- to the point where it becomes the most viewed video of all time. A book about social media and life in the public eye with a character that you will both ephathize and disagree with.
BCQ: What did you think about the ending? How might April have handled things differently?
The Light Between Oceans | M. L. Stedman
For: A book club who likes historical fiction | My Review
About: A married couple who has been struggling with infertility think their prayers have been answered when a baby washes up on the shore of their lighthouse. The decide to keep her as their own, ignoring how she got there. Their choices will really spark discussion.
BCQ: Which characters do you agree/disagree with? How would you feel if you were the girl?
The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress | Ariel Lawhon
For: Readers who like true crime but want a little lighter story.
About: That this is based on a true story makes it extra interesting. In 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never seen again. The story of his disappearance is told from the viewpoints of the three women in his life- his wife, their maid, and his mistress.
BCQ: What’s your theory about what really happened to him?
Stay With Me | Ayobami Adebayo
For: Readers who want their books to make them feel for the characters.
About: Yejide and Akin met in university and have agreed not to follow into their culture’s tradition of polygamy. But when Yejide is still not pregnant after they’ve been married for four years, her in-laws arrive at their house with a woman who is introduced as Akin’s second wife.
BCQ: Which plot point did you find to be the most surprising? Could their struggles with infertility worked out in a different way for the couple?
The Stranger in the Woods | Michael FInkel
For: A book club that likes books where the truth is stranger than fiction.
About: In 1986, 26 year old Christopher Knight drives to Maine and disappears in the woods. He doesn’t speak to another person for the next 27 years, until he finally gets caught for shoplifting. Journalist Michael Finkel gets the hermit to come out of his shell just enough to tell his story.
BCQ: what do we think about the journalist telling this hermit’s story? How much does the hermit know about the book? Did he want his story told?
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed | Jon Ronson
For: Great fuel for discussion about society’s #cancelled mentality.
About: The true stories of people who have been involved in high profile public shaming- think the woman whose insensitive joke on Twitter went viral and got her fired.
BCQ: Who got what they deserved and who didnt? What are some more recent examples?
The Dinner List | Rebecca Serle
For: Clubs looking for a lighthearted read with the right amount of depth.
About: A woman arrives to her birthday dinner to find her best friend, three people from her past, and Audrey Hepburn.
BCQ: Go with the obvious- what guests, living or dead, would you want to see at your birthday dinner? Why?
Lying in Wait | Liz Nugent
For: A group that doesn’t mind their books a little dark.
About: A husband and wife are keeping a terrible secret and their perfect facade begins to unravel when their son finds out. The ending will make you want to run and find people to discuss it with!
BCQ: How did you find the ending? What would you do if you were Laurence?
What do you think of my picks? What was your favorite book you read because of a book club?
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