Based on Surveys Fielded September 2020 – April 2021

Opinion please…

What’s the best part of a memorable book club meeting? The wine served or the book discussion generated? Be honest. A glass, or two, of a good wine may get a discussion flowing, but for me, a successful meeting comes down to how many different comments and viewpoints surfaced. Yet, how do you find the perfect book that will make a lasting impression on your group? The stress is real. You want a plot and characters who stay with you. A story you’re not hesitant to blurt out whenever you’re asked for a recommendation. An opportunity to learn and expand your perspective on people who drive issues and shaped history.

SURVEY SAYS…

I’m here to help. Through a series of surveys fielded to avid readers and book club members, I’ve assembled the following list. I’ve also read most of these on my own or with a book club, you can search for my Reviews by typing the title into the space that opens next to the magnifying glass (top right corner, next to the Contact button). Don’t see a favorite title on this list you recall as a great discussion for your group? I’m keeping the survey open to gather more titles and will update this list again when there’s another one hundred more new ones mentioned.

Feel free to bookmark this page, sign up to follow the blog for future updates, share this list out to your entire group, or copy and paste the listing into your own handy Word document.

If you’re planning ahead, perhaps you’ll consider my debut historical fiction releasing August 2022. You can read a few excerpts or check out the synopsis to learn more. If you choose it, I’d love to join you for an author chat in person or via Zoom. I promise a lively discussion and to share more background on how and why I wrote this piece of historical fiction. Sign up HERE to get on my planning calendar.

Book Club themed meetings (in-person, virtual, themed, and more) are FUN! Especially October meetings with the chance to dress in costumes to fit with a read of Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts (a top pick from the survey), Monster: The Story of a Young Mary Shelley by M.R. Arnold, and Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. Check out more tips and ideas on the other Book Club page.

Favorite Authors

The following authors appeared multiple times in the survey with several different titles. One idea is to read a couple by the same author and then compare and contrast. Was each story unique, or did they become formulaic? Has the author’s writing style evolved from earlier works? Which one deserves a sequel? (Tell the author! They love to hear from readers.)

  • Fredrik Backman – I’m glad my personal bias didn’t affect the list. Happy to report a lot of other people love Backman’s characters, their developments and quirky approaches to life. A Man Called Ove is one of those books that will stay with you, especially among those caring for aging parents, or advancing into that age category themselves. Beartown (on my list due to its youth hockey tilt – proud hockey mom of 20 years!) and his most recent, Anxious People, also surfaced from multiple respondents. I agree 100% with Anxious People.
  • Kristin Hannah – Could The Nightingale, published in 2015, be one of the pivotal novels which spurred the WWII craze? Given its continued popularity, I contend it may be. And, while many others have tried, few have succeeded to the level Hannah found when she introduced us to sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and their paths taken during the war. The Great Alone also slid into one of the top spots from the survey. Another entry, The Winter Garden, is my favorite by Hannah. Her ability to draw a reader into a character’s emotional depths is masterful. While not on the list, yet, I expect her newest novel, The Four Winds, will be bubbling up soon. Two of my book clubs selected it for our September read. Speaking of compare and contrast, you may be interested in the parallel lines I identified between The Great Alone and Where the Crawdads Sing.
  • Jojo MoyesThe Giver of Stars generates much discussion as it released around the same time period as The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (which also is a top recommendation). With both set in Appalachia Kentucky during the Depression with characters who work as pack-horse librarians. I’ve read Bookwoman on my own. My work book club is reading Stars for May. Check out my Q2 2021 Book Review Roundup in June to see if I’ve scribbled out a Venn Diagram. Me Before You is Moyes other popular choice, a more contemporary woman’s fiction about life and living.
  • Kate QuinnThe Huntress and The Alice Network. Although both are WWII based, which many readers and groups report a wear-out effect, I was pleasantly pleased with my Historical Fiction and local book club’s choice of The Huntress this January. The backstory of one of the character’s involvement in the Russian Army’s “Night Witches” as daring aviators and bombers was fascinating, coupled with the post-War plotline of Nazi hunting made for a speedy, enthralling read and worthy of a top pick. Quinn’s newest release, The Rose Code, is also buzzing, especially with the recent passing of Prince Philip who appears as character in the story of the women code breakers of Bletchley Park, England.
  • Lisa See – Three entries from one of my favorite authors. And, she’s a treasure to join your club’s discussion. My group saw her speak about The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and subsequently scheduled her to join us via Skype for more information about The Island of Sea Women. We also read my personal favorite and a Top 10 all time read of mine, Snowflower and the Secret Fan. Steeped in Asian histories, her research is meticulous to add a richness to each book as she travels through the lives of strong female protagonists as they struggle within their societies and global events. Tea Girl would also make a great choice for May tied to Mother’s Day, or a Mother’s Day gift for someone special.
Authors Love to Meet Their Readers as Much as Readers Enjoy Meeting Them.
  • Amor TowlesA Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility. “No two people read the same book.” A Gentleman in Moscow falls into my limited DNF (did not finish) pile for its slow pace. But, with a large majority of survey respondents proclaiming they loved both of Towles’ novels, what do I know? I haven’t read his latest, The Lincoln Highway, but it’s definitely getting some buzz. If you’re read it, please drop a comment below.

Survey Says…

Book clubs love fiction, especially historical fiction over other sub-genres like romance or mysteries and thrillers. Non-fiction in the terms of biographies and autobiographies are also often chosen to mix up the choices and are popular with co-ed clubs. The first group were top picks in each genre (five or more mentions). The second group are titles mentioned more than twice. All books are listed alphabetical; not in order of poll votes. If you’ve read any of them, let me know – drop a comment.

Whether you’re meeting in-person or Zooming into the rest of 2021, I hope you find a few selections from these lists.

A Silver Lining of COVID-19. Book Clubs Who Zoom Together, Stay Together. Cats welcome, too.

FICTION

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins I sat in on a Zoom author chat with Jeanine and am glad I did. She provided a personal perspective on the controversary which never came through in the press. My online book club had a great discussion made even more valuable for me as this club is located in CA where the immigrant population from Mexico and South America is much more prevalent than in New England.)

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano Slated for one of my online clubs later this year.

Defending Jacob by Wiliam Landay Now an Apple TV mini-series. My club had an extensive discussion around “What would you do?”

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett Highly recommend the Audible version with Tom Hanks narrating.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman Or is she?

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh Fun tip from a book club on this one: We had everyone bring their favorite flower and we placed them around the food.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens While I enjoyed Crawdads, I’m a bit surprised it captured one of the top spots. Apparently it’s being made into a movie, too. Always a good idea to read a book first and then see how well the adaption turns out. My book club has enjoyed several movie nights for favorite books. I also found many similarities between Crawdads and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (see above). Check out my notes on the parallels. Note: some spoilers.

FICTION (Historical) Added setting information in case you’re looking for something outside of the over-populated WWII genre.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate There’s a companion non-fiction book out, too, Before and After. (Tennessee, Dual Timeline: 1930s and present)

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan (Italy, WWII) Also a good choice for a co-ed club. My husband and brother-in-law both loved it.

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera A good choice for May tied to Mother’s Day, or a Mother’s Day gift for someone special. (South Carolina, 1920s)

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly First in the series of the Woolsey-Ferriday women; each one stands on its own as well: Lost Roses and Sunflower Sisters. (Germany, WWII)

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert I read this one years ago about the leper colony in Hawaii with my local book club. Looking forward to reading it again with my Historical Fiction club. (Hawaii, 1890s)

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross Qualifies for my Book Pairings ideas. (Italy/Vatican, 800s)

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant One of my Top Ten favorites of all time. I wish we still had red tents. (Middle East, Biblical times)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay The movie adaptation is well done. (France, WWII)

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger Mark Twain would approve of a more modern-day re-telling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (Minnesota, 1930s)

BIOGRAPHIES / MEMOIRS

Becoming by Michelle Obama (Audible version comes highly recommended)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Audible version comes highly recommended)

Educated by Tara Westover

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls Similarities between Educated and Hillbilly. My choice of the three is The Glass Castle.

Hillbilly Ellegy by J. D. Vance

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Biographical medical research. Not the medical field’s finest moment. The Radium Girls (below) would be a great companion read.

In Pieces by Sally Field

NON-FICTION

Not to be sexist, but it seems most book clubs are comprised primarily of women. From Bible circles in the 1700s, to high-brow literary circles of the 1800s to consciousness-raising discussions of the 1960s, women love to come together to discuss their opinions. However, there are many co-ed clubs in local communities and among families. Non-fiction choices are often a safe choice for broad appeal.

Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown Who knew the sport of rowing could be so interesting? Layer in The Depression and the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and voila – you bet it is!

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede For anyone who lived through September 11, 2001, looking north to our friends in Newfoundland Canada and their caring actions softens the memories of that tragic day. Would be a great choice for September 2021 for the 20th anniversary as a remembrance.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson Any title by Larson, in my opinion, could be considered for any book club: The Splendid and the Vile, Isaac’s Storm, Dead Wake, etc. etc. Yet, when you combine the Chicago’s World Fair and a serial killer on the loose – look out Windy City and readers. Strap yourself in for a ride as dizzying as the Great Ferris Wheel which debuted at the Fair.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann I am fortunate to have read Flower Moon with my book club, chosen by our hostess who is a member of the Osage tribe. A disturbing read which accentuates and reinforces the incomprehensible treatment of Native Americans in our US history.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand My sons’ high school chose Unbroken as an all-school summer read and I read right along with them to learn the story and lessons of Louie Zamperini’s life. I wish the school had opened up an ensuing assembly at the start of the school year. They were able to Skype with Louie from his CA home. An incredible memory for my boys.

For consideration of Race issues

Many book clubs, including my own, made the conscious choice to raise the question of racial equality as a result of the Black Lives Matters movement’s advancement in 2020. Several titles lead to excellent discussions on the topic.

Americanah by Chimamandi Ngozi Adichie (fiction)

Caste and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (both non-fiction)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (considered YA, but excellent read for any age)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (biography)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (fiction)

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (fiction)

WHAT? YOU’VE READ ALL OF THESE? YOU’RE STILL SEARCHING?
HERE’S A FEW MORE…

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni – a personal favorite

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Guernesy Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

The Help by Kathryn Stockett – a personal favorite and a fun movie night, complete with fried chicken and chocolate pie (disclaimer: don’t use Minnie’s recipe)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – a personal favorite

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – a personal favorite

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – a personal favorite

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – a personal favorite

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – a personal favorite and check out a guest blog review on the prequel, The Evening and the Morning

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore – a personal favorite

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 

The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Space Between Us by Thrifty Umrigar

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – make a combo with a movie night.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – a personal favorite

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim 

Five Minute SURVEY – add your favorites to the list. 

I hope you find this list useful and your book club has many more great meetings filled with discussion, drink, and friendship. And tell me – which one(s) are you going to suggest to your group?  Share and comment below.

Happy Reading!

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I invite you to follow my blog for further updates on my journey toward my first historical fiction releasing August 2022. More information about my debut novel is available on my About page. You can sign up to follow from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I’ll email you an invitation.

I also post book recommendations and tips and ideas for book clubs. I’m on social media, too. On my Facebook page, I post deals I find on Kindle specials ($1.99, $2.99, etc.) for books I recommend. A great way to add to your e-library with minimal costs and share with your book club.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

6 thoughts on “Book Club Discussions

  1. I’ve been contemplating when The World Came to Town and something by Lisa See. Thank you for the recommendations. When I originally began my book club I chose all of the books. That lasted for about a year. Then when I knew and “trusted” the group…haha!…I asked if they wanted to recommend books. We have 8 members so now I don’t get to recommend very often. I do try to help them if they are recommending a book that I don’t think will be enjoyed by most. Which can be tricky. I wish I could control it better so that there could be books for certain months.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The World Came to Town would be a perfect choice for September with the 20th anniversary of 9-11. Anything by Lisa See is fantastic and you might be able to schedule a Zoom chat with her like we did. Good luck!

      Like

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