Book Club Suggestions to get Everyone Talking
By Zoe Doyle, Rowan Jackson, Lauren Jones, Amy Wright and Ana Matute
The new year means a year with new intentions – perhaps beating a reading goal or finally joining a book club. Book clubs can be a great motivator to read, particularly outside of your comfort zone. They can also be an opportunity to explore new perspectives and even make some new book-loving friends! If you’re struggling to find the perfect book to suggest to your group, here are some choices for books that would make brilliant buddy reads.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
Multi-generational stories allow readers to gain an insight into a family’s history against the backdrop of a changing social, political and environmental landscape. This makes a great choice for a book club read as they allow for interesting thematic discussions. Memphis is one such novel that traces three generations of a Southern Black family in Memphis, inspired by the author’s own family history. Told in a non-linear format over seventy years including significant historical events such as the civil rights movement and 9/11, the novel follows Joan’s, her mother, Miriam’s, and grandmother, Hazel’s, experiences with police brutality, injustice, powerlessness and freedom. These difficult themes are balanced with a strong sense of family and the redemptive power of love and forgiveness which make for a powerful novel.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
In my opinion, if you want to get readers engaged in discussion over a book, a thriller with multiple character perspectives and timelines is almost always a winner. Lisa Jewell’s The Family Upstairs is a gripping psychological thriller featuring multiple POV’s, an unreliable narrator and a mystery spanning across several years. Whilst reading the book we become engrossed in the unsettling environment of a dilapidated, inherited manor house in Chelsea and the story behind its, and the main character’s, abandonment. The unreliable, unnerving and often unlikeable characters evoke strong reactions. Combining its creepy and disturbing atmosphere with the fact that a lot of questions remain unanswered, reading groups will find they can discuss their theories endlessly and always find something new to suggest.
Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird
I think it’s easy to overlook children’s books, but they can bring some interesting and unique perspectives which are great to discuss. Welcome to Nowhere draws on Laird’s experiences of working at two camps for Syrian refugees to tell a story about the start of the Syrian civil war and its consequences for everyday people. Told from the perspective of Omar, a twelve-year-old boy, Welcome to Nowhere is an emotional, non-political or economic story about growing up too quickly in the shadow of conflict. His family’s journey, although fictional, is based on fact, and is a heart-wrenching tale. It is a great book for discussion because there are so many important and influential characters, and there’s so much food for thought.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an unforgettable and powerful story about Hollywood actress Evelyn and her extraordinary life when she rises to fame in the 1950s. Now aged seventy-nine, Evelyn decides it is finally time to tell the truth about her success, and for an undisclosed reason she picks journalist Monique to write her story. As Monique interviews Evelyn about her life, one husband at a time, two questions become more and more intriguing: Who is the love of Evelyn Hugo’s life, and why does she need Monique to tell her story? With an unpredictable twist at the end, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is certain to get everyone talking as more is revealed about the complex protagonist and the difficult decisions and sacrifices she makes. The book explores themes including conformity, race and sexuality, and at the back of the book there is a Reading Group Guide with thought provoking topics and questions for discussion.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
If you want to bring multiple opinions to the table, this is the book. The Dinner tells the story of two brothers in Amsterdam, Paul and Serge, and their partners when they met to discuss something their children did.
Herman Koch’s novel is intriguing, and with well-developed characters, you will find yourself questioning why they are like that. It is the novel I recommend if you want to examine your moral thoughts and consider whether it is part of our nature or not. Do we always reflect when we do certain actions, or can we avoid our thoughts?
The Dinner discusses what life represents and whether some people can decide over others because they are more powerful. It is a dark story that certainly will invite everyone to share their opinions.