BEST PICKS FOR BOOK CLUB DISCUSSIONS
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 surface. 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, characters and issues who stay with you. A story you’re not hesitant to blurt out whenever you’re asked for a recommendation.
Through a series of surveys fielded to avid readers and book club members and posts in social media reading groups, I’ve assembled titles which were mentioned multiple times and suggested as promoting great discussions. That doesn’t mean the book was universally liked, but rather there were enough topics to stimulate ideas and opinions. No list is ever complete, but I hope this one helps your club find undiscovered titles to fill in a few months. Sign-up for my newsletter if you'd like to receive updated recommendations based on what my three book clubs are reading each month.
I hope your club will consider The Unlocked Path and/or the sequel coming September 2024 for one of your selections. They are great choices for September (Women in Medicine month) or March (Women in History month) or any month when you're looking to read about strong, independent, pioneering women. I'm available to join your club for an author chat in person or via Zoom. Download my flyer with more information to share with your group. Or sign up HERE to get on my planning calendar. You can also place a request for me to join your group through NovelNetwork, a free service to connect readers with authors.
CURRENT FAVORITES: 2023
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus Perhaps your group wants to plan a read and watch party. The limited series on Apple+ TV is a decent adaptation.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult With her focus on social issues, Picoult books have become go-to picks for book clubs.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks Pull out your fanciest hats and put Horse on your list for May - Kentucky Derby month. Brooks has several other titles book clubs have enjoyed, including March, The Year of Wonders and People of the Book.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt Whoever would have thought an octopus would steal the hearts of millions?
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez Another excellent choice for discussions around social justice and the eugenics movement which continued into the 1970s in the back corners of America.
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese From the author of Cutting for Stone, hats off to the groups who plowed through this 775-page tome. Appearing on Oprah's Book Club list always helps to boost a title's consideration.
The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts. Who would have thought two books centered around horses would make the best of list? Maybe so many book club members, like me, went through a horse phase when they were younger. Another great choice from Letts - Finding Dorothy.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Garbrielle Zevin An unlikely winner centered around the life and love and the video game industry.
Also Mentioned for 2023 Picks
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See has also been on lists for a few years. I expect the Netflix series will help boost it again.
The Book Woman's Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson Richardson' best-seller and popular book club choice, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, created a groundswell of demand as readers embraced and enjoyed this well-done sequel.
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! (Non-fiction). Combine with a movie night with the screen adaptation just released.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (memoir)
The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki A good choice for March and Women's History Month.
Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner. Also The Nature of Fragile Things. Personally, I love all of Meissner's work in historical fiction. Her Fall of Marigolds is a poignant dual timeline of 1911 and 2011 centered in New York City, featuring Ellis Island and 9-11. A good choice for September. Add some fun and have a door prize using a beautiful scarf with a marigold print. Susan can be requested to join your group for an author chat through NovelNetwork.
The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger. Also, prior mentions of This Tender Land
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett Pair with The Personal Librarian for February, Black History Month
In addition to the authors listed above, several other authors (alphabetic sort) appear multiple times in current and past surveys. 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 – A Man Called Ove and Beartown You may want to consider a movie night and pair A Man Called Ove with the release of the movie with Tom Hanks in A Man Called Otto.
- Kristin Hannah – The Four Winds, The Great Alone, The Nightingale, and The Winter Garden, my favorite by Hannah. Her ability to draw a reader into a character’s emotional depths is powerful. I won't be surprised to see her next release (2/6/24), The Women, make it onto 2024 lists.
- Jodi Picoult – Others mentioned in the past include Mercy, Small Great Things and Wish You Were Here. One of the first books my club read was Picoult's The Pact. I'm still haunted by that one. Her books always prompt great discussions centered around the social issues she explores.
- Kate Quinn – The Diamond Eye is also buzzing, especially with the turmoil in Ukraine. The Rose Code and The Alice Network, have staying power as great choices. Kate can be requested to join your group for an author chat through NovelNetwork.
- Amor Towles - The Lincoln Highway. Towles thrills readers with a quest adventure of a coming-of-age travelogue. An older Towles title, A Gentleman in Moscow, also remains a book club favorite.
- Lisa See – The Island of Sea Women, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and Snowflower and the Secret Fan. I had the good fortune to meet Lisa with my book club at an all-town read and then had her join us over Skype to discuss Sea Women. She loves to connect with book clubs. Visit her website for more info. Her newest in Asian historical fiction, Lady Tan's Circle of Women also provides great discussion points. Read the blurb - does it remind you of another book?
Lady Tan's Circle of Women, June 2023 with the NCL BookEnds at An Unlikely Story, Plainville MA
Need more recommendations?
Book clubs love fiction, especially historical fiction with literary and thrillers rounding out top sub-genres. Non-fiction and memoirs can mix up your choices to broaden topics for discussion and are popular with co-ed clubs. Here are a few more, including a few older titles which may be more readily available from libraries. All books are listed alphabetical, not in any results of voting order, but they have been mentioned many times over the past couple of years I've been compiling these lists.
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. I was fortunate to join a CA book club discussion over Zoom which made for an even more valuable discussion as I heard from folks who live where the immigrant population from Mexico and South America is more prevalent than in New England.
The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell I just noticed my son ordered this one via my Amazon account. I'll have to ask him if I can borrow it. (Non-Fiction)
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd Need a choice for the spring around Passover/Easter season? An imagined story about the wife of Jesus will prompt many discussions.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah Audible version comes highly recommended with Trevor narrating. (Memoir)
Burning Questions by Margaret Atwood From the author of The Handmaid's Tale, a collection of essays. (Non-fiction)
By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley Loved this one! My group had a ton of fun dressing up in wedding attire. A wonderful choice for Black History Month (February) or Women's History Month (March). Piper can be requested to join your group for an author chat through NovelNetwork.
Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera Highly recommend the Audible version. Also a good choice for May and a Mother's Day celebration.
Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid Newest release from ever popular author. Book clubs have also enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six by Jenkins Reid after the Amazon Prime series released this past spring.
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson Also a good choice for February and Black History Month. (Non-fiction)
The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede- Looking north to our friends in Newfoundland, Canada and their caring actions softens the memories of that tragic day on September 11, 2001. Great choice for September as a remembrance. (Non-fiction)
Defending Jacob by William Landay Now an Apple TV mini-series. My club had an extensive discussion around “What would you do?”
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - Definitely get the audio version if you can. Tom Hanks' narration is perfect, right down to "Chapter Twelve".
Educated by Tara Westover – Lots of discussion stems from learning about her family’s reaction to the book. (Memoir)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman Or is she? I listened on Audible. There's a great scene shift that the narration makes you jump.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe If you've seen the series Dopesick with Michael Keaton, you may also enjoy this non-fiction book to learn about the Sackler family dynasty.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. His venture into character development shines in Sam Hell (a personal favorite of mine).
The Giver of Stars by JoJo Meyers- Consider a compare and contrast exercise and read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - Similarities between Educated and Hillbilly Elegy. (Memoir)
Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford A personal favorite. I heard Jamie speak at the Historical Novel Society conference in June 2023. He's a delight. If you're on Twitter, search for tweets by high school students after they were assigned the book. Hysterical.
The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan. I highly recommend this one, too. My husband and I listened to it on Audible and it captivated us every one of our 1,500-mile car trip. Sullivan's prior novel, Beneath a Scarlet Sky has also been a top choice by book clubs. Mark can be requested to join your group for an author chat through NovelNetwork.
The Mountains Sing by I personally loved this one as a wonderful option to explore and understand a different culture combined with the history of Vietnam. Her newest novel has also hit the list of mentions, Dust Child.
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (Memoir)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger I personally also enjoyed Krueger's, This Tender Land.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. Benedict continues to be a book club favorite author. Other titles by her often mentioned include: The Only Woman in the Room to The Mystery of Mrs. Christie and The Other Einstein. The Personal Librarian would be a great choice for a club’s February meeting during Black History Month to learn more about Belle daCosta Greene, a black woman who passes as white to secure and keep a position as J.P. Morgan’s librarian for his private collection.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Non-fiction) If you're ready to get angry at big business and at the same time be thankful for the women who advocated and fought for workers' rights to safety in the workplace, read Radium Girls.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – One of my Top Ten favorites of all time. I wish we still had red tents.
Solito by Javier Zamora (Memoir)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin A delightful story and the movie adaption is pretty good, too. Zevin's Young Jane Young has also made the list.
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner- How a blurb can draw you in…”The thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children.” A polygamist family in rural Mexico – sure to be an incredible discussion. (Memoir)
Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan - Plan a trip to Savannah with your group. My online club has discussed it as an idea. We’re spread across the States and Canada. Would be a great way to meet in person.
The Unlocked Path by Janis Robinson Daly I swear - I did not suggest my own book! A member of a book club I spoke with recommended it. I'd love to join your group for an author chat. You can place a request through NovelNetwork.
The Violence Project by Jillian Peterson (Non-fiction)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens Staying strong in popularity with the movie release. 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 complete with themed food (The Help with fried chicken and chocolate pie – just don’t use Minnie’s recipe).
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