What makes a book just right for a book club is likely a question asked by many editors and agents. Typically, book club books offer appeal to a wide audience and have depth that lends itself to easy discussion. Many book clubs have been formed around specific topics, around lists from a specific resource, or on a specific theme, but sometimes book club members are just looking for a fascinating read and friendly discussion. If your book club is looking for suggestions for the next read or if you just want a to find great books for your own personal reading, use this list to start your book club book education.
New Book Club Favorites
- The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. The second in the trilogy by Larsson, this one carries on with the popular characters from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and their next adventure.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. With a book that is (on the surface) about car racing, it may seem curious that this book is so popular among book clubs, but the narrating dog and the happy ending must be draw.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Perhaps one of the most talked-about book club selections recently, The Help tells of life in a southern Mississippi town on the edge of the Civil Rights movement. The three ladies narrating the story describe life as black women serving white families, who engage the women as caretakers of their families while also embracing the idea of segregation.
- The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Grossman describes his book as a mash-up of Harry Potter and Narnia but set in the real world.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Whether it’s the long title of the book or the fact that two authors collaborated on it that captures the attention of book clubs, the heartwarming story is definitely what keeps them reading it.
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Written by a woman with a PhD in neuroscience, Still Alice tells the story of a 50 year-old woman, Alice, with early-onset Alzheimer’s–as told from Alice’s perspective.
- Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. This story tells two stories set in different times, yet intertwined. The first is set in the Vel d’Hiv’ in France in 1942 when foreign-born Jews and their French-born children were sent to Auschwitz, while the second story tells of a modern-day American, married to a French man, who is trying to solve the mystery behind the previous owners of their apartment.
- The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani. This story tells of a young woman in 17th century Iran who is forced into a new life that eventually leads to her autonomy through her skill as a rug maker.
- Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri’s collection of short stories features stories of women and their relationships with parents, husbands, siblings, or lovers.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Read this book for a lovely tale of two women from different backgrounds, one very young and one much older, who learn to find meaning in their lives.
Recent Popular Selections
These books have been enjoying popularity over the past few years in many book clubs.
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Based on research Gruen did at actual circuses, this story tells of a man who joins the circus after he discovers his father’s veterinary business is failing.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The second book by Hosseini, this one explores the lives and fortitude of two women in Afghanistan. The tale of friendship set against the backdrop of a country that is far from kind to women makes for powerful reading.
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Follow the lives of two young women chosen to be friends for life in a China that was clearly a man’s world when your book club reads this novel.
- The Memorykeeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. Bad weather leads to a shocking secret that is revealed after many years in this story about the power of love.
- The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Fidelity, or the lack thereof, and political intrigue feature in this story about King Henry VIII and the Boleyn family.
- Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. This enchanting book tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. The life of the witch and how she became unfairly branded makes for both an entertaining read and fodder for great discussion.
- Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Christopher, a young man with autism, sets out to solve the mystery of a murdered dog in the manner of his favorite character, Sherlock Holmes.
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri’s novel explores the experience of a young man growing up in America with Bengali parents and his journey trying to find his identity between two cultures.
- Runaway by Alice Munro. Each of the women in this collection of short stories faces a watershed moment and each chooses a path that veers off from society’s expectations for women. Munro’s brilliant writing and characterization is likely what makes this book a favorite.
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This epic novel traces the life of Lin, a man who struggles to find his peace among the violent lifestyle he leads.
- Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins. Whether your book club wants a strong, independent woman leading a whole cast of interesting characters or a mesmerizing story about an unusual roadside attraction, they will get it in this novel by Tom Robbins.
Book Club Standards
These are some of the most popular books read and discussed by book groups–and for good reason. These novels will leave readers thinking about the literature and ensuing discussion for years to come.
- Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This fictional account of a woman just barely mentioned in the Bible has become not only a standard of book clubs, but has inspired groups to take on the same name in an effort to promote the sisterhood described in the book.
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Read this story of survival to discover why it is a favorite among book clubs.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison. Sethe and her daughter Denver try to escape the haunting effects of slavery in this novel that Morrison based on the true story of a slave.
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Another popular favorite among the book clubs, this touching story moves from Greece several generations ago to to the modern day life of Cal and the repercussions of decisions made long ago.
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This powerful story is another must-read that documents an evangelical preacher and his reluctant family’s move to Africa and the relationships formed there that parallel the political climate of the region.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. A futuristic cautionary tale, Atwood’s story explores a world where women are stripped of their rights and forced into lives of slavery based on their skills and abilities.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Loyalty and friendship are infused with humor in this unforgettable story.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The lyrical writing and magical realism that document the history of a village and a family in the village make this book a favorite.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The young shepherd in this story guides readers on a journey of self-discovery in this beautiful tale.
- Bel Canto by Ann Pachett. A party at an embassy in South America turns frightening as terrorists take the entire party hostage for months. The relationships that form among the people with diverse backgrounds creates an interesting read enjoyed by many book clubs.
Book Club Favorites Turned into Movies
These books would make awesome book and movie double-headers for any book club.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The story of two boys from different social classes in Afghanistan and their friendship became a popular, and somewhat controversial, book that has enjoyed many book club readings and was made into a popular movie a few years ago.
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Sayuri was forced into the secret world of the geisha in pre-WWII Japan in this story that is not only a captivating read, but a movie worth watching as well.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. The engaging storyline and rich characters in this first of the trilogy written by Larsson has made this a popular read among book clubs. A Swedish movie based on the book has just been released and promises to be equally successful.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Inner strength and the overcoming the difficulties of life as a black woman in the south are the focus of this book and the successful movie based on the book.
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Discovering family secrets and the depth of a mother’s love lie at the heart of this book.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. While the movie may not have won any awards, this book is a popular read among book clubs for good reason–it’s one that is difficult to put down.
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. A young woman finds love among the three women who take her in and teach her about family and overcoming the trauma of her childhood.
- My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Anna is conceived and born to be a genetic match to save her sister, who has leukemia. After years of her body being harvested for her sister, Anna decides to sue for rights to her own body.
- Lovely Bones by Alice Seibold. While the movie wasn’t terribly true to the book and certainly didn’t garner much praise, the book is an interesting read that has a girl who was murdered narrating as her family discovers the truth behind her death.
- Brick Lane by Monica Ali. The story of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman, and her arranged marriage that takes her to the foreign life in London parallels the life of her sister, who married without permission and eventually found herself living as a social outcast back home.
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Ondaatje weaves a beautiful tale of love and loyalty in a time of war in this book that was made into a movie that captured the essence of the written work.
- Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Working as domestic help in the house of Dutch painter Vermeer, a young woman inadvertently becomes inspiration for his work.
- Atonement by Ian McEwan. Book clubs enjoy discussing the decision made by a young girl and the repercussions of her actions in this book that was made into an Oscar-winning movie.
Oprah has been providing readers with advice on great literature for years now. This list features a few of the selections from Oprah’s Book Club.
- Night by Elie Wiesel. Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel tells the story of a young boy who is separated from his mother and sister en route to a concentration camp during WWII and the harrowing experience he survives.
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Tolle offers instruction on how to make positive changes in your life be being open to the present.
- A Fine Balance by Bohinton Mistry. Mistry paints an amazing picture of India and its people in this sprawling novel with an impressive cast of characters.
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. This story is a modern-day Hamlet set in the American midwest with a mute boy as the son who suspects that his uncle has been up to no good.
- The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Dive into Follett’s world full of rich characters and entertaining story-telling with this book.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Morrison explores issues of racism though the eyes of a child in this book that has not only been widely discussed in book clubs, but has also been the subject of book banning and challenging.
- The Known World by Edward P Jones. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel explores slavery in the American south and features a little-known aspect of slavery–that some free black men owned slaves themselves.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Wandering the country in search of friendly people, food, and survival, this father-son duo takes the reader on a frightening journey of what-if.
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Explore the ideas of marriage and romantic obsession against a backdrop of social instability in this masterpiece.
- We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. The Mulvaney family experiences a tragic event that leads to their destruction and the journey to repair themselves and the family.
Whether your book club is looking for great summer reading or regularly enjoys chick lit, these books are sure to fit the bill.
- Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: A Novel by Rebecca Wells. This book about mothers, daughters, and life-long friendship is a popular read for book clubs.
- Chocolat by Joanne Harris. When traveling chocolatier Vianne and her daughter settle in to a small French village, they bring big changes for everyone–and not always welcome ones.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Always a book club favorite, this book details the relationships and adventure of two friends.
- The Year of Living Famously by Laura Caldwell. Kyra Felis is happy as a budding fashion designer and new wife to an Irish actor. When her husband’s movie becomes an overnight success, Kyra’s life changes dramatically.
- Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes. This Irish novel tells the story of a group of 30-something friends and their life as single women on the dating scene in this humorous and tender book about friendship.
- Tuscan Holiday by Holly Chamberlin. When this mother and daughter go on a trip to Florence, Italy, they face some unexpected changes that shape their relationships in new ways.
- Dream House by Valerie Laken. When a couple buys a house in an attempt to save their marriage, the history of the house creates a whole new element to the relationship in this book that involves a bit of masterfully-woven suspense.
- Dress Rehearsal by Jennifer O’Connell. Lauren makes wedding cakes for a living and learns to spot the success of each couple by their response to the cake tasting experience. Read on to see into what madcap adventures Lauren and her friends become entangled as they face weddings that touch close to home.
- The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center. Pregnant and going into labor, Jenny’s fiance has just taken off with only a note. Jenny is surrounded by engaging characters who support her as she starts her life with her daughter–and when the fiance comes back wanting to make a go of it.
- On the Divinity of Second Chances by Kaya McLaren. The unusual family at the center of this book is going through a crisis, and their characterization draws you in as you begin rooting for the family to make it through.
- The Making of Mia by Ilana Fox. Joanne Hill has dreams of making it big as a magazine editor, but her struggles with her weight slows her down. When she finally achieves her goal, however, she is pushed out of the industry and vows to return for revenge.
Take a look at these non-fiction books that enjoy popularity in book clubs.
- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Whether your book group wants to learn about what really goes on behind the scenes at a restaurant, has a huge crush on Anthony, or would like to learn tips such as when the best day to eat out is, then this is the book to read.
- Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This inspirational story tells how one man took on the Taliban by building schools and providing education for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. In an effort to reach some of her life goals, Gilbert took off for a year of traveling, which she documented in this popular book.
- In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. This book made quite a stir when it hit the shelves and continues to be a popular read in book clubs.
- The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Larson pulls off the telling of two incidents in the history of Chicago: the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition and the horrifying acts of serial killer Herman W. Mudgett. This historical non-fiction work is a fascinating read, which is probably why it has remained popular in book clubs.
- Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Leaving her This true story documents Lucy’s battle against a rare form of cancer that leaves her face disfigured from an early age.
- The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. A dysfunctional family life and the abuse incurred has Karr looking back on her childhood in this memoir.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. This autobiographical story of Angelou’s life as a young girl growing up in a time of segregation.
- Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. While most people know who Anne Frank is, many have not had the pleasure of reading her journal documenting her family’s time in hiding from the Nazis. Do yourself a favor and read this one.
- The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. Read about the amazing accomplishments Helen Keller made over her lifetime in this truly inspirational book.
- Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. This popular memoir details life in colonial Africa as Dinesen embraces Nairobi and the people who live there.
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This memoir of a New York reporter who grew up in a dysfunctional family that left her and her two siblings struggling for survival is an inspirational read.
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Nafisi was a literature professor in Tehran just as the laws requiring women to wear a veil and restricting their movements were enacted. She invited some of her favorite students to her home where they could read literature that was banned and, for a while, live freely as they used to be able to do.
Whether you’ve already read this great literature in your own time or not, they are perfect for book groups wanting to explore the classics.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This classic story has captured the hearts of many and continues to do so today.
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck. This story parallels the book of Genesis in a battle of good and evil and has gained the attention of many book clubs looking for a great classic novel.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Perhaps one of the most popular classics, To Kill a Mockingbird is widely read in many book clubs.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The tale of Jane Eyre, a strong an independent woman standing by her principles is a classic worth putting on the list of to-reads.
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Follow the travails of the Joad family as they make their way during the Great Depression.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell. Whether your book club wants an engaging story or would like to delve into the social and political aspects of this allegory, this classic makes an awesome choice.
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin. A feminist classic, The Awakening tells the story of Edna, a woman feeling trapped in the only option she has in life and how she deals with her circumstances.
- Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. For Salinger fans who want to move beyond Catcher in the Rye, this rich story in two parts tells of Franny and her brother Zooey as Franny faces a philosophical crisis and Zooey reaches out to help.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. Humanity’s desire to harness nature and the personal responsibility of doing so are what make this classic still popular today.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Love and faith in humanity carry this story that has remained a favorite for decades.
- The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck. Read about Chinese farmers Wang Lung and his wife O-lan and their devotion to each other and their family in this beautiful novel.
- Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. For book clubs who want to read about love and loyalty in the time of the Russian Revolution, this book shouldn’t be missed.
Mystery and Crime
These books are popular for book clubs that would like to delve into a little mystery and crime now and again.
- The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. A woman in Botswana uses her inheritance to start a detective agency in this book that takes readers on a sweet ride through the African countryside.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Perhaps one of the most popular of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, this one takes Watson to the English countryside to investigate a the mystery behind a ghostly hound.
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. This Agatha Christie classic takes place on a sleeper train and ends with a twist.
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. If your book group is looking for what some consider to be one of the greatest crime novels, then this is the book to read.
- The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon. This popular book centers around brainwashing and political intrigue and has been made into two different movies.
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This popular novel tells the story of symbologist Robert Langdon, who must solve the mystery of the death of a high-ranking official in an ancient secret society.
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Find out what happens when ten strangers are invited to an island for a weekend and suddenly begin to die in this Agatha Christie classic.
- A Time to Kill by John Grisham. If your book club hasn’t read Grisham’s first novel, then this is one you should add to the list.
- Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow. Turow tells an engaging tale of murder, corruption, and a look inside the legal world in this novel.
- Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. Another book recently released as a movie, this one takes readers into an investigation at a prison for the criminally insane that will rock your world.