Book Club Suggestions
Guide To Starting A Book Club
Book Club Suggestions
Finding great book club suggestions is vital if you want to have a successful, thriving book club. Choosing the right books can be difficult however, particularly if there are a wide range of different personalities within the group and if the members are well read.
Although it is important to choose something that all the members of your club might enjoy, too much consensus can actually be a bad thing. Nobody wants the kind of bookclub where everyone sits around agreeing what a wonderful book it was; what is needed is a little contention, just not too much.
When picking a book think about the kind of people that you have in your book club. Are they more likely to enjoy something light and frothy, or would they prefer something with a little more substance? Ideally a book club should read a range of different styles and genres so that members are introduced to types of books that they would otherwise not read.
Things To Avoid
An important factor for a book club is the length of the book. If your book club meets fairly regularly you need people to have time to read. Choosing war and peace will mean that reading becomes a chore. A book like Wolf Hall is another example of a book that many people love but which is inappropriate for a book club because of its length.
One word of warning. My book club for a while asked people to take turns nominating a book that they loved to be the book club read. What we didn't consider is that these were books that were close to people's hearts. This meant the when the books in question were heavily criticised by other members the people were offended.
Similarly, people do not like to be responsible for making others spend money on a book that they perhaps won't enjoy. Try to draw up a list of possible books and let the members select books from it together. That way no one person feels responsible for picking something that other members don't like.
Book Club Suggestion - My List
These are all books that I have found to be great choices for book clubs. They were generally, although not universally enjoyed, and created a lively discussion. I will continue to add to it with any books that our book club has great success with!
The Road- Cormac Mccarthy
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Make no mistake, this novel is bleak. Set in a post apocalyptic world, this Pullitzer prize winning novel is the story of a journey of an unnamed father and son. Without doubt a modern classic The Road is both haunting and compelling and stays with you long after you read it.
Throughout the novel we have no idea what the apocalyptic event is, only its terrifying impact on earth and humanity; the fact that the earth is dying. For this reason some critics have named it as the the most important environmental book ever written; highlighting to just what extent humanity is dependent on an intact eco system.
Viewing this as simply a book about the folly of man is to leave out so much though. Not only does it encompass suffering (the images of cannibalism are not easily set aside) but in the end the book is also a book about love. In a book where there is almost no hope this is the only tiny glimmer.
This book is now so well known that it may be too well read to be fresh to many book club members. However many people are more than happy to reread it and for those that haven't read it it is sure to be a popular choice.
Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler
Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant is a novel about ordinary family life, but it is no ordinary novel. The characters are so well observed and the details ring so true that you recognise them at every turn.
The story of a family with three children whom the father deserts, it tracks each of the characters attempts to deal with this, following them through to adulthood. Interestingly it does not turn the mother into a hero but shows her at times abusive attempts to pull her family through and bring her children up as a single mother all the while insisting to neighbours that her husband is away on business. It is utterly human in its portrayal of a family, from their inability to sit down to a meal together, to the mothers disappointment in her children.
The interesting thing about this book is that the characters are so multi-faceted. The characters that we believe to be the villians at the beginning of the novel are not necessarily them at the end. The characters that Tyler appears the most sympathetic towards are flawed almost as much as those that are the villains.
What makes this a great book club book is that people generally view the characters so differently depending upon their own relationships within their own family. This creates great discussion as some readers find one or another character unbearable whilst other readers have great sympathy for them
The book Thief - Marcus zusak
The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak
The Book Thief uses the unusual literary device of being narrated by the character death. Some people, including myself, find this very off putting, however it is well worth persevering with. The novel is set in WWII Germany and follows the story of a nine year old girl, Leisel Meminger. After the death of her brother and the disappearance of her mother and father Leisel is sent to live with a foster family in a working class German Street. The book follows her story throughout the 1930'a and 1940s and the various characters she meets and friends that she makes along the way.
The book centres around the theft of books, one of the only ways that Leisel finds to feel alive. It is very difficult to write more about this book without spoiling the read for others, suffice to say that it's themes provide a fantastic basis for book club discussion. It also provides another interesting insight into this period in history.
The White Tiger
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
A worthy winner of the Man Booker Prize for literature, The White Tiger is a book set in India where the central character Balram Halwai charts his rise from a small poverty stricken village and a life of hopelessness in rural India to becoming a driver in Delhi and finally an "entrepreneur" and in his eyes a success.The stark contrasts between rural India (the darkness) and his subsequent life as a driver in Delhi for a wealthy businessman provide interesting insights into Indian life. The book shows us through the metaphor of a rooster cage the trap that many impoverished Indians find themselves in, unable to afford even basic living needs let alone education to improve their situation.
In many ways it seemed to me that this is the book that Q&A (the book upon which the film Slumdog Millionaire) should have been. It seems more real, better observed and still highlights the huge inequalities that exist within India but does so in a less fragmented way than Q&A
For those of us with comfortable western lives this novel serves to show us a life that we will never experience. However it is important to remember that our horror at the treatment of this driver (sleeping in a cupboard, being mistreated and banned from shopping malls) is really horror at India's middle classes. To be a driver in India with somewhere undercover to sleep, even if that place is a cupboard in a basement, is to be middle class.
Nonetheless this is a great book for a book club. Occasionally it is complained about for being too depressing, but in general is well received.
The Red Tent On Amazon
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
I don't know how it was that I had never read this book, but I hadn't and fortunately nor had most of my book club. Before I even start reviewing this book I want to issue you with a warning. This book caused the most heated discussion that we had ever had at book club. This was because of the religious aspects which one member of our club found quite offensive. She was not happy that liberties had been taken with a story that was so sacred to her and found it unacceptably blasphemous. Perhaps then it might be more suited to book clubs whose members are unlikely to be offended by this.
This book is based loosely on the story of Dinah, Jacob's daughter from the bible, and it gives a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of women during the biblical period. I am honestly not sure to what extent it accurately portrays this life but it gave the very strong impression of being incredibly well researched despite being largely fiction.
This book is a strange mix of biblical stories woven into a story with fictional characters and unless you know your bible very thoroughly it can be hard to work out what comes from the bible and what is Daimant's own construction. Nonetheless it is a compelling read.
When I was first introduced to the idea of this book by one of our book club members I was reluctant to read it as the idea of a biblical story just didn't interest me. I was so wrong. The story gripped me from the first chapter and I longed for it not to end. This was the kind of book that I put my children to bed early for, just so that I can have an extra precious half an hour with it. I loved this book, really truly loved it, as did eighty per cent of our book club. I hope you will too.
The Help on Amazon
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Some books transport us to another time and place, and this is one of the books that does it so effectively that you feel like you are there. You don't just read this book, you live it through it's main characters. The story is narrated by the three principal characters in the book, two black maids called Minny and Aibileen, and a white college graduate known as Miss Skeeter.
This story of African American maids working for white families in Mississippi in the early 1960s is utterly compelling. This is truly because the story is presented in a way that is completely believable and makes you understand exactly how such a terrible situation could have prevailed, even if you can't understand why. Not only do you feel outrage at the injustices that they suffer, you go through it with them, from the petty, day to day, grinding discrimination to the unbelievable conditions in which some of these maids live.
The story tells of one white woman's determination to tell the story of these black maids and expose the truth about their lives and those of their employers.
One of the things that made this so compelling for my book club is that some of our members had recently returned from living in Hong Kong, a place where many families still employ filipino maids. It was very challenging to have read such a moving story and then be confronted with the truth that there are still people living similar lives today.
I found this book fascinating and it was a great hit with our book club, creating just enough tension between readers to create a fascinating discussion.
I believe there is also a movie version of this book, which might add extra interest for some book club members. It wasn't out when our book club read this book however, so we discussed only the book.
These are the books that our book club has had the most success with so far. As we continue to read I will put other books that we enjoy on here. Happy reading!
Don't like my suggestions? Have a look at what Amazon rate as this months best book club selections
Book Club Suggestions On Amazon
If you love books as much as I do you may be interested in my Amazon Kindle Review. I love the mustiness, the sound of the pages turning, the smell of real books and the way they feel in my hand.
And yet.... I am a kindle convert.... although of course nobody will ever stop me scouring secondhand bookshops...
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