With so many books on the bestsellers lists, how can you decide which books would be good reads for your book club? This reading list provides fiction and nonfiction recommendations complete with links to reviews and book club questions for a year of interesting and varied book club reading.
1. 'Water for Elephants' by Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen opens with a day of disaster at the circus and Jacob Jankowski admitting he kept a secret from that day for over 70 years. The novel then moves to the ninety-something year old Jacob in a nursing home. As the older Jacob fights to survive the indignities of old age he recounts the story of his life with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on earth.
- Read a complete review of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
- Water for Elephants Book Club Discussion Questions
2. 'The Thirteenth Tale' by Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a rich story about secrets, ghosts, winter, books and family. The Thirteenth Tale is a book lover's book, with much of the action taking place in libraries and book stores, and the line between fact and fiction constantly blurred. It is hard to believe this is Setterfield's debut novel, for she makes the words come to life with such skill that some passages even gave me chills.
- Read a complete review of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
- The Thirteenth Tale Book Club Discussion Questions
3. 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' by Shaffer & Barrows
Juliet Ashton lives in London after World War II when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, who lives on Guernsey, one of the Channel islands between England and France. Dawsey's letters make Juliet interested in life on Guernsey, which was occupied by Germans during the war. She begins exchanging letters with other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a hodge-podge group of readers who formed their society as an alibi to keep from getting arrested by the Nazis.
4. 'Three Cups of Tea' by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is the true story of Mortenson's work building schools in remote villages in Pakistan. Mortenson moves from a lost climber who promises a school to one small village to a major player in promoting peace through education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His story is too crazy to be made up. Three Cups of Tea is good reading for anyone who wants to understand more about Central Asia and be inspired by what one humble person can do.
5. 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is a fiction novel that reads like a memoir. Although Memoirs of a Geisha is not based on one person's story, it provides insight into Japanese culture and the lives of geisha at the beginning of the twentieth century.
6. 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is unlike any other book I have read. That's because the narrator, Christopher John Francis Boone, is unlike anyone I have ever met. He is a teenager with an intellectual and behavioral disability who is a mathematical genius but cannot understand human emotions. The novel is written as if Christopher is writing it for a class assignment, but through this "assignment" the reader watches a mystery unfold.
7. 'The Black Dahlia' by James Ellroy
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is an exquisitely written book of murder and obsession that takes the true details of the unsolved 1947 Elizabeth Short murder and creates a fictional story of a police detective determined to solve the case. The Black Dahlia is a page turning mystery novel, but it is also much more. Ellroy uses the story to delve into the dark recesses of the human psyche and force the reader to deal with obsession, evil, right and wrong.
8. 'Handle with Care' by Jodi Picoult
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult is the story of a family with two daughters. The second, Willow, was born with brittle bone disease, a condition that makes her bones break easily and that limits her height and movement. When Willow is four, her parents decide to sue their OB for "wrongful birth," claiming that Willow's condition should have been diagnosed earlier in the pregnancy so that they could have had an abortion.
- Read a complete review of Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
- Handle with Care Book Club Discussion Questions
- If Your Book Club Likes Jodi Picoult, Try These Similar Books
- If your book club wants to read other Picoult books, check out this complete list of Picoult's books
9. 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd centers on Lily's search for a connection to her mother who died in a tragic accident when she was a toddler. Taking place in South Carolina in the 1960s, The Secret Life of Bees explores race, love and the idea of home in turbulent times.
- Read a complete review of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
- The Secret Life of Bees Book Club Discussion Questions
10. 'The Shack' by William P. Young
The Shack by William P. Young is a story about Mack, a man whose daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered. A few years after her murder, Mack receives an invitation from God to meet Him at the shack where they found his daughter's bloody clothes. Mack goes and works through the meaning of suffering as he spends the weekend with the Trinity, uniquely portrayed (God the Father is a large black woman, for instance).
11. 'When You are Engulfed in Flames' by David Sedaris
David Sedaris has made a successful career telling hilarious and personal stories about his own life. When You Are Engulfed in Flames is the latest installment, and while it has much in common with his previous works, it also demonstrates a maturing and evolving author.
12. 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell investigates the causes of extreme success (outliers). Gladwell’s claim is that it is not primarily individual talent, hard work, or merit of any kind that causes success, but sheer circumstances and luck.