I do love my book club. By now, I’ve been in several, but my current one is my favorite. We formed as a group of moms whose kids (mostly) attend the same school, and who live (mostly) close to one another.
Book clubs can vary so much — there are those that concentrate pretty closely on the book, and everyone makes an effort to read it and contribute to a discussion about it. And there are those like mine, where you show up, drink a little wine, and chat…occasionally even about the book.
There’s an art to picking good books, too. Some of my favorite reads don’t actually make good book club picks because you have to have something to talk about. Happy stories with a simple plot and a predictable, comfortable endings are hard because there’s no there there. You need a little tension, maybe some controversy. Some of these books I’ll never read again (Gone Girl messed with my head. I hate that.) But I had to talk them out with someone afterward. That right there is what makes a good selection.
So here are a few to get you started — I threw in some bonus good books that pair nicely with each other in case you want a theme for a few meetings (speaking of meetings — I’ve noticed that once a month is just about right. Enough time to allow everyone to read the book without losing momentum.)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen — A peek into circus life during the Depression, with lots of room for discussion about Jacob, and his relationships and decisions. The ending might be improbable but I absolutely love it.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain — A fictional look at the life of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, and at the Lost Generation. I’d follow it up with Hemingway’s own book A Moveable Feast, where McLain got a lot of her info. It’s a short, very readable book (in case you’re worried about your book club being too much like school)
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles — ok, I’m realizing I’m on a 20’s and 30’s-era binge here. But I got lost in imagining New York City in the 30’s and the ending is one I didn’t see coming. I’d follow it up with The Great Gatsby — though it’s 10 years earlier, it still has similar themes of money and identity and lots of jazz music.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — I didn’t like Gone Girl. Like I said, it messed with my head and made me want to chuck my book out the window except it was a library copy. But I did want to find someone else and yap all about how much it disturbed me and that makes for a good discussion.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — this is one, like The Hunger Games trilogy, that affected me differently as a parent than it would have when I was younger. As a teen, I would just have enjoyed the story. But as a grown-up, watching these kids figure out problems way beyond their years…again, I need to talk it out with someone. Also, I’m a sucker for dystopian young adult novels.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes — A young girl takes a job working for a formerly successful businessman and adventurer who is severely injured after an accident. You can talk all night about the choices the characters in this novel make.
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis — I think we read this in October, as a sort of spooky-book alternative (because I can’t do horror. I won’t sleep for a month and I keep my husband up investigating strange noises and everyone gets mad at me.) I like Lewis because he wrote more than 50 years ago about spiritual things…but they’re things we all still wonder today, and his books are totally, easily readable (again, we’re not in school here).
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen — oh, come on! If you haven’t read it yet, jump on the bandwagon and try it out. You can’t go wrong, really you can’t. And there’s so much to talk about — here are a few questions to get you started.
Speaking of which, if you need some questions for book club, try Lit Lovers. They have some for just about every book I’ve looked up.
Have fun! What’s your favorite book club book?
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