14 Book Club Books Guaranteed to Get Everyone Talking
These great reads are perfect for sparking discussion and even spirited debate, with or without wine.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
The riveting story of a girl growing up in a survivalist Mormon family in rural Idaho, who survives severe psychological and physical trauma to eventually graduate from Cambridge. Make sure to have everyone in your club peruse the Customer Reviews on Amazon before discussing. They’re almost as entertaining and provocative as the memoir itself.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
A fascinating window into how psychedelic compounds in mushrooms and other natural substances may hold the secret to treating illness, heightening creativity, and even glimpsing the afterlife. What makes this book so readable is that the 63-year-old author tries many of these psychedelics for the first time and writes about his experiences. Given medical marijuana’s rising popularity and supposed effectiveness, should psychedelics be examined more closely next? This title belongs on our list of best books to read for summer.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
A fantastical, transportive novel about a slave boy in Barbados who escapes his evil owner in a hot air balloon and wends his way to America, Canada, the Arctic, London, Europe and eventually Africa. It’s a fun romp around the world, but like these other unforgettable books, it’s also a poignant look at freedom and friendship.
The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
If your group enjoys stories about animals and sea creatures, then this is a must-read. The author, a naturalist, spends time and develops relationships with octopuses at the New England Aquarium. Not only will it teach you about their interesting lifestyles, but it will also trigger a debate about the level of consciousness among all creatures and how we humans treat them. It might just be one of those books that change your life.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
The subject of this bizarre novel—a burnt-out young woman who drops out of society to do nothing but sleep for an entire year—will have you alternately laughing and crying. Nonetheless, by the end, you’ll be wondering whether she just might be onto something.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
This ingeniously crafted novel interweaves the stories of a diverse group of people who have life-altering relationships with trees. That’s right, trees. You’ll not only learn a lot of fascinating facts about trees, but you’ll also never look at the outside world quite the same again. Simultaneously romantic and scientific, passionate and political, the book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019. Check out these other romantic books to read as a couple.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
What if, in these #MeToo days, women who are sick of being treated as second-class citizens developed a superpower that allowed them to terrify, control, and even kill men? That’s the premise of this modern-day Handmaid’s Tale. The debate is whether to cheer or condemn them as they turn society on end. Don’t be surprised if this book is also be made into a movie or TV series—these are the other books to read before they hit the silver screen.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Part detective story, part travelogue, this poetically written novel is—above all—a love story. It begins in America and ends in Burma (modern-day Myanmar). Along the way, it will immerse you in mystery, emotion, and, most intriguing, the exploration of what a soul mate really means. Some will find it sappy; others will want to read it again and again.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
If you’re looking for a book no one in your club has heard of, try this delightful underground novel that has sold six million copies worldwide. The story is exactly what the title describes—a centenarian escapes from his nursing home—and so much more. (He serendipitously ends up advising such dignitaries as Stalin, Churchill, and Mao.) While it’s a lighthearted and fun read, the book also raises the issue of how we view aging in our society.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
On the brink of turning 50, the heartbroken gay protagonist (Arthur Less) of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel sets out to travel the world and find himself. But it’s far from a depressing book with a cliché plot. Rather, what happens to him along the way—in Paris, Berlin, India, the Sahara, and more—is wonderfully entertaining and insightful. The question becomes: Is Less really More than he thought? Definitely add this to the list of books that make you want to travel.
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
This outstanding debut novel traces three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn who are torn between the individualism surrounding them and their strict Arab upbringing. This book will get you thinking about religion, feminism, oppression—all the hot topics that make for good discussion. Make this one of the 50 books to read before you’re 50.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
This provocative Pulitzer Prize-winning book argues that in the last half-billion years there have been five mass extinctions on Earth—and we are now in the midst of the sixth and most devastating. The author takes readers around the world to meet scientists, examine research, and witness firsthand the changes that are happening to our planet. Few things are currently more controversial than human beings’ impact on the Earth. Do you agree? Talk amongst yourselves.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
This is the much-anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale—Atwood’s 1985 classic that became the basis for Hulu’s blockbuster TV series. In Atwood’s new book, she jumps 15 years into the future (after Offred steps into the unknown). If your club members are fans of this series, you’ll definitely want to put this on your reading list.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The latest novel from the author of Eat, Pray, Love hits all the right notes for a women’s book club. It explores female sexuality, promiscuity, aging, love and—of course, in true Gilbert fashion—finding yourself, all from the perspective of a 90-year-old woman looking back at her life. And when your club is done reading all these books, here are 9 thoughtful ways to donate them.
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