All the best book club recommendations in one place so that you are always ready with the perfect book club suggestions.
When I bought my first house, I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood. Being a stay-at-home mom with a baby, I struggled to meet people and make new friends. Until one day, someone invited me to the neighborhood book club.
At book club, we chatted for hours about raising kids, work, neighborhood gossip, and, of course, books. I finally found that sense of companionship I had been missing.
However, every book club night seemed to awkwardly end with the question: What are we going to read next?
Now you have the answer!
To make your book club life easier, I’ve put together all of my favorite book club recommendations in one place. My list of book club suggestions is so long, I even had to make a table of contents to help you navigate it quicker.
The Best Book Club Books
One of the highest-selling books of recent years, Michelle Obama’s memoir is easily one of the top book club books to read. Detailing her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her success as a working mother and her years in the White House, Michelle Obama shows how her past has shaped her into who she has become today. A poignant memoir of a woman trying to do her best for her family while balancing the greater good of having a husband in politics, Obama’s story is a remarkable tale no matter what your political affiliation.
For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she raises herself in nature after her family abandons her. Now, as she comes of age, she begins to yearn for something more than her loneliness – maybe even a connection with the locals. An exquisitely written tale, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the best book club recommendations that will stand the test of time.
M. L. Stedman
After years serving in World War I, Tom Sherbourne takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a small island far off the Australian coast. Tom’s young and vivacious wife enjoys their life on the island until she is beaten down by years of miscarriages and stillbirths. When a baby is discovered washed ashore on a boat carrying a dead man, Tom and Isabel decide to keep her, setting up one of the most heart-wrenching conflicts you’ll ever read.
One of the most powerful memoirs of recent years, Jeannette Walls recounts the story of her tumultuous childhood. She opens the book with the account of how at 3 years old, she ends up hospitalized with severe burns after pouring scalding water on herself when cooking hot dogs for lunch. You meet her charming father Rex, equal measures brilliant and paranoid; her mother Rose, selfish and depressed; and her three siblings, trying their best just to survive. To quote my husband, “Sometimes someone’s train wreck of a life is fascinating.”
Khaled Hosseini writes the best books for club books, and I had a hard time choosing between them. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini covers thirty years in Afghanistan, from the Soviet invasion to the post-Taliban years. Illegitimate child Mariam is forced to marry Rasheed, a man thirty years her elder. Stuck in a horrible marriage, Mariam’s life changes when they take in a teenage girl. Discussing family, friendship, and the struggle to survive, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a thought-provoking read.
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
On the German-occupied island of Guernsey, the residents form a book club as an excuse for breaking curfew. Written as a series of letters after the war between the book club and writer Juliet Ashton, the story gives you a look at what life was like on the occupied island. This fun novel is sure to leave you smiling at the colorful cast of characters and makes the perfect book club book.
Best Book Club Books for Discussion
There is no excuse to not read Tara Westover’s spectacular memoir. In my opinion, Educated is one of the best books of the last decade. Westover grew up in the rural mountains of Idaho with no formal education. Despite her extremist survivalist parents and violent older brother, Westover managed to make her way into college, eventually earning a PhD. Her amazing determination is inspiring while the circumstances of her childhood are incredibly sad.
Set in 1970s Ohio, Celeste Ng’s debut novel starts with the drowning of Lydia, the beloved daughter of James and Marilyn Lee. As the family struggles with her death, the author takes you deeper into the cracks and flaws of this mixed-race family. It is a poignant character study into the dynamics of a family where the parents’ unfulfilled hopes are pinned on one child, to the detriment of all. The story unfolds masterfully, and Celeste Ng’s writing is exquisite. By the end, I was in tears for these poor children and the damage that had been done by their parents’ selfishness.
In post-World War II Japan, Nori, the illegitimate daughter of a Japanese aristocrat and a Black American GI, is hidden away on her grandmother’s estate to conceal the family shame. All Nori knows is the attic she is confined to until she meets her legitimate half-brother, Akira, a boy who shows her the world contains so much more. A clear winner among the best book club books of 2020, this complicated story about shame and the need for acceptance would be a perfect choice for your book club.
Blogger Alix Chamberlain has built herself a brand empowering women. When she moves to Philadephia, she feels overwhelmed by her two young daughters and comes to rely on her babysitter, Emira Tucker. While watching Alix’s two-year-old, Emira is shocked one day to be stopped by a grocery store clerk, only because she is black. Reid certainly sparks a conversation about racism and privilege.
Following three generations of Palestinian women, Rum’s powerful story highlights the dangers of beliefs that view women as inferior. The tale begins with the arranged marriage of Isra, forced to move to America where she knows no one. Years later, Isra’s daughter Deya herself faces an arranged marriage in Brooklyn. This raw account of the oppression of women in an extremely strict family is depressing and at the same time beautifully written.
When Kate develops leukemia as a child, her parents decide to have another child – one specifically with a perfect bone marrow match for Kate. Thus, all Anna’s life, she has undergone countless procedures to help her older sister. But now Anna has had enough and is ready to live her own life unconstrained by Kate’s illness. As Anna makes a life-or-death decision, you’ll feel torn between Anna’s needs, Kate’s needs, and the love and desperation of their mother. It’s a book that will make you question how you would react. Hopefully, you will never have to find out.
Good Book Club Books About Family Drama
Mary Beth Keane
Though their children Kate and Peter become the best of friends, Francis and his wife have learned to keep their distance from Brian’s wife due to her precarious mental health. When tragedy strikes between the two families, Brian’s family moves away in shame. But when Kate and Peter fall in love, the two families must learn to confront the tragedy that ties them together. A story of love and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes serves up the perfect blend of family drama and character study to win it all the stars.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
In 1983, four famous siblings throw an epic summer party at their Malibu mansion. Secrets come out, the party gets out of control, and a fire will burn it all down by dawn. Malibu Rising is a gorgeous family drama that surpasses a simple beach read. The story of the Riva children abandoned by their famous rockstar father is heartbreakingly sad and yet still hopeful. The characters come alive as each sibling ponders if they can escape their parents’ fates. An all-around brilliant read that belongs among the best book club books of 2021.
How well do you know your mother? In 1949, four Chinese women, all recent immigrants to San Francisco, gather together weekly to play Mahjong, chat about their pasts, and hope for the future for their daughters. This tale of mothers trying to pass on their wisdom to their American-born daughters who don’t truly understand them will make you want to learn more about your own mother.
In this classic love story, art student Clare and librarian Henry try for a sense of normalcy as Henry time shifts through their life. Henry has Chrono-Displacement Disorder; he unexpectedly gets pulled to important emotional moments in his past and future life. A mind-bending romance that is a choice if you are looking for book club recommendations.
In a small town in Massachusetts in the 1960s, Dahlia and Louie Moscatell have finally found a rhythm as long-term foster parents. Then a social worker begs them to take on one more foster child – a six-year-old indigenous girl who will change their family dynamics forever. Patry Francis hits the emotions hard in this powerful story of love and family and the struggles of the foster care system.
While training to swim across the English Channel in 1934, Florence Adler drowns off the coast of Atlantic City. After the tragedy, her mother makes a fateful decision – to keep Florence’s death a secret from her other daughter Fannie, on bed rest for an extremely high-risk pregnancy. Rachel Beanland knocks it out of the park with this debut novel based on a true story from her family’s history. With an insightful look at the intricacies of family life, Florence Adler Swims Forever is a great option if your book club loves historical fiction.
Uplifting Book Club Books
Ove, a cantankerous old Swede, just wants to be left in peace so he can commit suicide, but his pesky neighbors keep getting in the way. This heartwarming tale that you’ll find downright hilarious will be a book club favorite for years to come. Highlighting our need for connection in the modern world, A Man Called Ove typifies how important it is to leave our digital worlds and make sure we check in on our neighbors.
Crotchety old A. J. Fikry is struggling in life. He is now a widow. His bookstore is failing. To top it off, his rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe has been stolen. On the verge of becoming a complete recluse, a plot twist occurs that will gives Fikry a second chance at life. A heartwarming tale perfect for any book club.
Not all book club books have to be serious literary works. Set during the Great Depression, Englishwoman Alice Wright marries a handsome American and finds herself transplanted to rural Kentucky. To escape her unhappy home life with her withdrawn husband and overbearing father-in-law, Alice agrees to become a traveling librarian, riding around the countryside bringing books to local residents. In her new job, she meets other fierce women and gains lasting friendships. Add in plenty of drama, love stories, corrupt businessmen, and even murder, and you have the perfect light historical fiction for any book club that wants a Hallmark Channel style novel to read.
If you are wanting uplifting book club books, you’ve found the perfect choice in socially awkward Eleanor Oliphant. She has the habit of saying exactly what she thinks and much prefers to spend her weekends at home talking on the phone to her mother. When Eleanor and her slovenly coworker Raymond help an elderly gentleman after a fall, the three become friends, and Eleanor learns that opening up isn’t always a bad thing.
Without warning, Le Cirque de Rêves arrives in town, a circus that only operates at night. Within its walls live two competing magicians, Celia and Marco, who will do anything to win. When they fall in love, a love so magical it affects the world around them, their dangerous game becomes even more precarious. Having taken the book club world by storm over the last decade, The Night Circus charmed its way into my list of the best book club recommendations.
Thrillingly Good Reads for Book Clubs
A recently returned Vietnam War POW, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family to the Alaskan frontier. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers and just what Ernt needs. But when the harsh Alaskan winter approaches and Ernt’s mental state begins to deteriorate, his wife and daughter must fight to survive. A captivating, stay-up-all-night novel that is a favorite among book club suggestions.
A tale of secrets and lies among perfectly respectable parents, powerful Maddie, gorgeous Celeste, and timid Jane. The three women’s lives cross ending in an (accidental?) death. Discussing serious topics like domestic abuse, Big Little Lies perfectly balances humor and suspense to keep you coming back for more.
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Just days away from her wedding to her charmingly attentive rich fiance, Nellie feels like someone might be following her. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Vanessa is obsessed with her replacement and desperate to stop the wedding. You might think you know how this domestic thriller will end, but appearances can be deceiving. In their first collab, Hendricks and Pekkanen have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, keeping the plot twisting and you second-guessing how it’s all going to end.
Instamom Emmy Jackson is known for telling it as it is to her millions of Instagram followers. She knows exactly how to monetize her life as a “good-enough” mom. When Emmy’s online narrative pulls further from the truth, it begins to strain her marriage. Meanwhile, an obsessed follower begins stalking the family, with a major grudge against Emmy. This accurate portrayal of influencer life (with plenty of thrills thrown in for fun) will make you think about how putting our lives online affects us.
The first time Lucy met Diana, she disappointedly finds her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. Much more of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two different people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship. If you’re looking for book club books about family relationships, you don’t want to miss this one.
Way out in the Australian outback, brothers Nathan and Bub Bright find the body of their brother Cameron on the edge of their ranch. Did Cam end his own life walking out into the desert or did someone end it for him? More an enveloping character study than a murder mystery, The Lost Man looks at the secrets a family keeps combined with a fascinating portrayal of life in the outback.
Best Book Club Reads: WWII Fiction
Anthony Doerr masterfully interweaves the stories of Marie-Laurie, a blind French girl who flees from Paris to the coastal city of Saint-Malo with her uncle, and Werner, a German radio operator charged with rooting out the French resistance. While the plot is interesting in and of itself, the character development and storytelling will keep you glued to the page.
Set in a small village in occupied France, the story centers around two sisters. Forced to house a German officer in her home, the older sister Vianne Mauriac must decide, to protect her daughter, where exactly she should draw the line of being complicit with German demands. On the other hand, her younger sister Isabelle Rossignol feels committed to doing anything she can to resist the German occupation.
A book narrated by Death might be off-putting at first, but quickly you’ll fall in love with this Young Adult WWII historical fiction. In 1939, Liesel Meminger is sent to live with foster parents in Munich. There she befriends the charming neighborhood boy Rudy and settles into a life of book thievery. Coming of age during the rise of the Nazis, Liesel and Rudy must face the complications of growing up in a dictatorship they hate.
One summer day in 1934, 13-year-old Briony Tallis misunderstands a flirtation between her older sister and a neighborhood boy, with devastating consequences. Now, as World War 2 rages, an older Briony starts to realize the reality of what happened and the full repercussions she has caused. Can Briony find atonement or is it too late? No matter what you do, make sure to read until the very end, because the ending is what makes this one of those books that move you to rethink everything you just read.
It all starts when sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses her mother Dorothy stab a man to death on a calm summer day. If that doesn’t get your interest piqued, I don’t know what will. Kate Morton masterfully unfolds the backstory of Dorothy’s life during World War II. The more you learn about Dorothy, the more you’ll keep wanting more.
Code Name Verity immerses you in a world of intrigue with the story of a British spy, Agent “Verity.” Captured when her plane crashes in occupied France, Verity is interrogated by the Gestapo in an attempt to learn of her mission. As she confesses under torture, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what secrets she is willing to exchange for her life. How far is she willing to go for her mission? A brilliant and emotional read that makes a great book club recommendation.
Historical Fiction Book Club Suggestions
Growing up in a Southern black community obsessed with skin color, the Vignes sisters run away at age sixteen. Though identical twins, their lives end in completely different paths. One returns to live in their hometown while the other secretly passes as white. A fascinating story from beginning to end, Bennett explores more than race, as she contemplates how the past affects future generations when their daughters’ lives intersect. Nuanced and complicated, this thought-provoking book is just what you want out of literary fiction and every bit deserving of its spot among the best book club books.
Min Jin Lee
In the early 1900s, Sunja falls for a wealthy stranger in Korea. When Sunja finds she is pregnant, she learns he is married. Refusing to be his mistress, she instead marries a kind but sickly preacher. Moving to Japan, she becomes best friends with her sister-in-law, a friendship that will pull her family through hardships for generations to come.
If you are looking for a gorgeous novel about family relationships and feminism, try this book club favorite. Born in Boston in 1900 to Jewish immigrants, Addie Baum embraces life in America in a way her parents never truly can. She wants to go to college, find true love, and live her own truth. Told from the perspective of an old woman looking back on her life, The Boston Girl gives a magnificent portrayal of Addie’s life and her search to find her place in the world.
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by the Bolsheviks and sentenced to spend the rest of his life on house arrest. Thus the wealthy count is forced to move from his suite at the Metropol, a grand hotel across from the Kremlin, to a servant’s room in the attic. Over the ensuing decades, he witnesses Russia’s tumultuous history from his window and must ponder what it means to be a man of purpose. This glorious novel is one you’ll want to read slowly, savoring every word.
Sue Monk Kidd
At age 14, Lily Owens runs away from her father and moves with her nanny to Tiburon, South Carolina. There they are both taken in by the Calendar Sisters, a charming but eccentric trio of beekeepers. As the white Lily comes of age, she learns about womanhood and the Black Madonna from these four Black women she has come to consider her family. A heartwarming story set amid the racial tensions of the 1960s, The Secret Life of Bees is a delightful story perfect for book club night.
In 1959, Baptist preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo as missionaries. Expecting to civilize the locals, they instead realize they are calamitously unprepared for post-colonial Africa. Over the next decades, the Price family finds themselves completely changed by their experiences.
Nonfiction Recommendations for Book Clubs
As a young idealistic lawyer, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice defending the most desperate of clients. Over the years, he helped the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women with nowhere else to turn. One case, in particular, stands out: Walter McMillian, a young man on death row who insists he is innocent, and very well may be. Stevenson inspires his readers to consider how compassion is needed for true justice to be served.
As a therapist, Lori Gottlieb spent all day helping others with their problems. Yet, when her longtime boyfriend unexpectedly broke up with her, she found herself on the receiving end of therapy. Gottlieb’s memoir is top-notch with exceptional pacing, slyly weaving in explanations of therapy within the fascinating story of Gottlieb’s therapy sessions. You’ll quickly become attached to finding out what happens to her patients – a narcissistic tv producer, a dying newlywed, and a depressed senior citizen. A great book club book that highlights the importance of discussing mental health.
Normally I wouldn’t recommend a celebrity memoir in the top book club recommendations because they usually have such a limited shelf life, but Trevor Noah’s life story is the exception to the rule. Telling of his formative years in South Africa during the last days of apartheid, Noah shows you a fascinating slice of history. With his ability to change accents and mimic his mother, Trevor Noah’s audio narration of the book wins him the award for the best audiobook of the decade.
After covering the US memory championships, journalist Joshua Foer decided to embark on a quest to see if he could also become a memory specialist. Drawing on cutting-edge research and expert knowledge, Foer learned all the memory tips and tricks to become the US Memory Championship. An enjoyable read cover to cover, Foer’s book successfully bounces between his training, the history of memory, the science of how our brains work, and the techniques used to retain massive amounts of information quickly.
Author Gretchen Rubin embarked on a year-long project to make her life happier. Every month, she examined a different aspect of her life – whether it be her marriage or her health – trying to improve herself and become happier through targeted action and research. Rubin’s happiness project will spark debate about privilege, expectations, and how much we can influence our own happiness.
Oprah Book Recommendations
The American Dream. Many hope for it, but how many truly find it? Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel details the lives of Cameroon immigrants living in New York City. In the days preceding the Great Recession, Jende gets lucky enough to get a job as a chauffeur to a Lehman Brothers executive. Mbue brilliantly paints a fascinating look at immigrant life – the struggles with the immigration system, the desire for a better life, the balancing of cultural differences and the financial burden that comes with being poor in America. Through her writing, Mbue asks you to ponder: What really brings happiness? and Is the American dream all it’s cracked up to be?
When Oprah Winfrey relaunched her book club in 2012, she started with Strayed’s inspiring memoir. Sometimes it takes doing something crazy, like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for you to truly put your life in order. By 22, Cheryl Strayed’s life felt out of control, so she decided to make a life-changing decision to hike the PCT. You’ll laugh at Strayed’s mishaps, be in awe had her stupidity and bravery, and, if you are like me, really want to go for a hike.
An outcast among her fellow Africans, Cora finds life as a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia particularly hard. When Caesar, a new arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, the two hatch a plan to escape. Yet in their efforts, Cora kills a young white boy and the two are furiously hunted as they journey to freedom in the North.
When you think of castes, India’s strict caste system likely comes to mind. In Caste, Wilkerson argues that America has its own hidden caste system, a hierarchy that has influenced the United States both historically and currently. Using fascinating stories, Wilkerson points out that on top of race and class, our understanding of caste systems must also change if we are to better ourselves as a nation.
At first glance, newlyweds Celestial and Roy seem like the perfect American couple. He’s a young executive, and she’s an emerging artist. However, as life comes into play and Roy is unjustly imprisoned, their marriage begins to fall apart. Discussing love, marriage, and race, this thought-provoking read is among my favorite of Oprah Winfrey’s book club recommendations.
Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Recommendations
After writing about recovering from a marriage rocked by infidelity in Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle has a new memoir about her love story with US soccer star Abby Wambach. Doyle details how she found herself by realizing her true power comes from within and not from the expectations others put on her. If you’ve read Love Warrior, you’ll have an interesting time discussing the public face we put on our lives. If you haven’t, you’ll still have a great time debating how much you agree with Doyle’s opinions.
On a remote island, the perfect wedding turns deadly in this thrilling mystery. The high-profile wedding between a television star and a magazine publisher is supposed to be the perfect event. Set off the coast of Ireland, all the stops have been pulled out. Yet once the guests arrive, past conflicts come into play and someone turns up dead. Was it the bride? The best man? The wedding planner? Foley keeps you guessing until the end, giving each suspect a firm motive to want to commit murder.
In 1915, Eve Gardiner is overjoyed to join the Alice Network of the French Resistance during WWI, only to see it betrayed. Then, in 1947, Eve agrees to help Charlie St. Clair, an American socialite desperate to find her cousin, Rose. Rose disappeared in France during the Second World War, and Eve sees the shadows of her past in this new case. Combing both the major world wars, The Alice Network is quite a find for historical fiction readers.
Read With Jenna Book Club Books
In the Texas panhandle in 1934, severe drought plagues the land. With crops failing, dust storms whip up, leaving the farmers fighting for survival. In the perilous times of the Great Depression, Elsa Martinelli must decide whether to stay and fight for her land or head west to California which offers her family a better life. With her characteristically gorgeous storytelling, you’ll find yourself caught up in the disastrous calamity of the Dust Bowl and emotionally caught up in Elsa’s impossible decision.
This debut novel from up-and-coming author Abi Daré highlights the coming-of-age of a Nigerian woman. All Adunni wants to do is get an education so that she can craft her own future. When her father sells her as the third wife to a local man, Adduni runs away to the city, only to become a servant to a wealthy family. Yet, Adunni finds that no matter her circumstances, she can still speak out for herself and all the other girls just like her.
Shortly after World War II, a real estate mogul buys The Dutch House, a lavish estate outside of Philadelphia. This purchase changes everything for his children, Danny and Maeve – driving out their mother, and leading to Cyril’s remarriage and their exile from the house by their stepmother. A story of the bond between siblings, The Dutch House warns of the dangers of obsessive nostalgia.
What are your favorite book club recommendations?