Best Books for Book Clubs

What makes the best books for book clubs?

I’ve thought about this question a lot of over the years. Every book club is different, but I’ve found that most people want to to join a book club to talk about books. It’s a great way to get to know people, but you have to get people talking. So the best book for book clubs are not necessarily the ones that everyone would like, but are ones that generate discussion and are a little divisive. You want people to have an opinion beyond “it was okay, I guess.”

Books that Get People Talking

Books that prompt conversation are often about a big issue or theme. Sometimes it’s good to choose books with interesting format or structure, as that can also be topic of discussion. Unlikeable characters are great, too—I love hearing people dissect their motivations.

Read Outside Your Comfort Zone

I also think book club is a great opportunity to get people reading outside of their comfort zone, whether that means picking up a new genre or trying books written by authors from diverse backgrounds.

The best book clubs mix nonfiction and fiction, and occasionally try a middle grade or young adult novel. Variety keeps things interesting. Even in a mystery book club, there’s room for mixing it up with supernatural thrillers, police procedurals, and cozy mysteries. Readers may surprise

In Lawrence, I was in three different book clubs: one with teen readers, a YA for grownups book club, and a feminist book group. Now that I’ve moved, I really miss it talking books! At the top of my list of new programs to add to my new library is all the book clubs (or at least one), so I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to read for book club. Here would be my picks for a year’s worth of monthly book club meetings.

Out of the Ordinary Book Club Picks

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This novel is one of those big, buzzy books from a few years ago that I never got around to reading (even though I checked it out at least twice). It’s the story of the world before and after a major pandemic, and a group of artists who try to keep culture alive. Not everyone is comfortable with genre fiction, but this one is close enough to real life and literary in style, so that makes it a good fit for any sci-fi newbies.

Death with Interruptions by José Saramago

Saramago is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of his most accessible novels. It’s a satire about what happens when death “takes a vacation” and no one is able to die in an unnamed country. It features Saramago’s trademark style and dark, witty humor.

As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway

This is a mystery about a missing teenage girl a.k.a not one of my go-to novels. But it’s also by the author of one of my favorite YA novels, The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand. Galloway made the Alex Awards list with it, so I know it has crossover appeal and is a pretty sure pick for a book I haven’t read (Alex Award winners have always been a hit with me).

Palimpsest by Cat Valente

A sexy, lush fantasy about chance encounters and maps to secret, unknown worlds is perfect for adding variety to book club selections. It’s one of my favorite stand-alone fantasy novels, even though it’s not particularly well known.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Okay, so the fact that this has library in the title is definitely what piqued my interest when it first came out. Still, I haven’t gotten around to reading it, even though my sister and Mister BS both loved this creepy fantasy with a touch of horror.

Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel by Jessica Knoll

trigger warning This is a novel about a survivor with a secret. It’s been described as intense and compelling, and it seems like the type of novel that would generate a lot of discussion.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Butler is a master of science fiction, and this novel that tells the story of a modern woman who time travels to a plantation during slavery is thought-provoking.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Like I said, every book club should throw some nonfiction into the mix. These essays are fun and smart. Basically, a must-read.

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Most book clubs focus on modern books, but sometimes I like to mix in a classic. The Custom of the Country is a lesser known Wharton novel, but one of my favorites. It’s all about a woman with ambition and how she defies social convention and the feelings of other to get what she wants. This novel is a great character study full of irony.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

I’ve read this novel three times, and I’d still read it again for a book club, because each time, the conversation is different and fascinating. In this novel, a boy with a secret narrates in alternating chapters of before and after a pivotal event. It’s so tense and surprising, and I love hearing new perspectives on it.

Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi

Every book club should also check out one new release!  Homegoing is my favorite book club type book of the year. This story of two half sisters and their descendants is not only beautifully written, it’s thought-provoking.

What are your picks for best books for book clubs? Check out the rest of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday lists for more ideas! 

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For more book club picks, check out these posts:

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  • debnance

    Great tweak on this post. Yes, what does make for good book discussions? I’m still thinking about that. Thank you.

  • YES – I tend to get stuck in terrible reading ruts, and joining a book club has really pushed me to expand my reading horizons, and I’m a much more well rounded reader because of it. Great suggestions!

    • I get paralyzed with indecision sometimes (which is why I’m usually in the middle of several books at one time!) and it helps having a deadline to read a book by.

  • Lauren

    Great choices! I still need to read The Library at Mt Char. 🙂

    Lauren @ Always Me

  • Great picks! “Homegoing” is on my list too. It’s a fantastic discussion book!

    • It’s like the intersection of book club books – tons to talk about, but short enough for everyone to get through in a month!

  • Have just found you via your guest post on my blog buddy Shea’s site, and I’m so excited about it – stylish and bookish?! Yes! I will be busy reading through your archives as I look for bright spots on this day…

    And this post is also perfect timing as I have had enough of missing my 3 bookclubs after moving a year ago, and I had just determined that it was time to venture out and start one of my own in my new town. Excited that I have read only a couple of these (fellow bookclubbers always hate me for saying I’ve read everything they suggest…).

  • I just added pretty much all of these to my to-read list. I sadly don’t belong to a book club (I tried to start one and failed… not enough people read the books!) but I’m still always on the hunt for a good read. Thanks for all of these suggestions, most are new to me!

    • Sometimes it’s hard to keep a book club going. Shorter books that are good for discussion help, but you still need a certain level of commitment. Hope you like some of these!