10 Great Books for a Book Club

By Friday, July 15, 2016 , ,

Despite the title of this post, sadly, I’ve actually never been part of an organized book club (anyone want to help me change that? Working on it). However, I think I have a decent idea of what makes a good book club pick. A great book does not necessarily mean it’ll be a good book club book. If everyone loves it, that’s excellent, but there has to be more to it than that. Book clubs need discussable material. Books with social issues, deep characters, complex and biased themes, and author agendas would be right at home in a book club. If people disagree on certain aspects of a story, all the better. It makes for a more interesting and layered conversation. So I’ve come up with a list of ten good book club picks here, and I hope you’ll join in with your favorite discussable books!

1. Seven Men by Eric Metaxas 
Biography snapshots. Various times throughout history. Seven widely different men of huge accomplishment and great sacrifice. 
Discussables: How do these men exemplify sacrifice? Where were they right and where did they stumble? How can we look to these men and emulate them today? 

2. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling 
Fantastical world of witchcraft and wizardry. A school of magic. A quest to defeat an evil dark lord. Marketed as children’s and young adult fantasy, but applicable for all ages. 
Discussables: Friendship, love, family, death, purpose in life, sacrifice, standing up for what is right, good and evil, coming of age, learning from mistakes and tragedy, creativity in the writing of the magical world 

3. Poldark Series by Winston Graham 
Opens on the 1780s in Cornwall, England. Struggling economy. Copper mining. Complicated family relationships. Aristocracy juxtaposed against the impoverished. Fights for justice for the less fortunate. Twelve books in all. 
Discussables: Class and rank, social justice, hypocrisy, role of law and lawmakers, family, marriage, effects of war on a nation, role of the affluent in helping the poor

4. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 
1790s Virginia. Slavery. Confusion about race relations and status. Servant-to-employer connections, some positive and some negative. Colonial women with rightful confusion about their place in society.
Discussables: The plight of many slaves in colonial America, class and rank, racial prejudice in colonial times, relationships between slaves and masters, ill-treatment of women (both slaves and free) in the 1700s, marriage expectations for women in the 1700s

5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 
The story behind the victory of the nine-man American rowing team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Great Depression. Nazi propaganda. Ultimate underdog story. 
Discussables: How much did you know about competitive rowing before reading? What surprised you? What would it have been like to fend for yourself like Joe in the middle of the Great Depression? The friendships between the team members are strong and inspiring – how did it affect you as you read? How did you feel reading the accounts of the boat races?

Photo Credits: A Happy Little Family Blog, BookFifty on Instagram

6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 
1940s France. Nazi occupation. Two sisters in unimaginable situations. Secret French Resistance movement. Harsh look at World War II brutalities. 
Discussables: Where did the sisters make the right and wrong decisions? What would you have done in their shoes? Are there ever easy choices for them? What was the worst situation? Do you identify more with Vianne or Isabelle? What do you make of their relationship with their father?

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 
1960s Mississippi. Civil Rights Movement. Dangerous but rewarding friendship between races at the time. 
Discussables: Civil Rights Movement, history of race relations in America, female friendship, unlikely friendships 

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
1960s-1990s Afghanistan. Multi-generational scope. Mistreated women. Rise of the Taliban. Unlikely friendship for survival’s sake. 
Discussables: Middle Eastern perception of women, whether the women in the story made right choices in various difficult situations, our role as America in defending innocents in the Middle East

9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
Quadriplegia. Loss. Identity questions. Unexpected friendship and love. Controversial ethical questions. 
Discussables: What do you make of Will and Louisa’s connection and how did it change as the story progressed? How did you react when the controversial plot element was introduced? How did you feel with the resolution? Who was in the right and who was in the wrong at the end? Did you sympathize more with Will or Louisa? 

10. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay 
Sister relationships. Cancer. Family. Food and literature. Marriage and parenting. Processing grief and tragedy. Guilt and forgiveness. 
Discussables: How are Lizzy and Jane both at fault for their difficult relationship? What do you make of their relationship with their dad? How do they help and hurt one another? Who are the steadying, calming figures in the story? When did you think the sisters were making progress and then were surprised by another difficult twist?

What books would YOU choose for a book club and why? What types of books have you found work particularly well in discussions?

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