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My book club has been meeting for over a year, and it’s probably the longest stretch in which I’ve ever stayed involved with the same group of people. And while we do lean pretty heavily toward being a Cocktails/Snacks Club if I’m being honest, we have also had some excellent discussions about everything from the value of unlikable heroines to what constitutes white privilege. Here are ten books that are sure to start some conversation at your book club:
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding– Bridget’s Modern Woman Schtick rings a little outdated in 2016 (Sex in the City-ish, ya know?), but there is so much my book club unpacked with this one. Body image, dieting, smug marrieds, the use or uselessness of an unlikable narrator (no one liked Bridget, which I’m sure says something about our internalized sexism). How feminism has changed in the 15 years since the book came out. And then, of course, you can watch the movie together and drink a lot of beer.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh– We pondered the purpose of retelling fairy tales with this one, but the big discussion focused on consent. The main character weds a Caliph expecting to possibly be killed the next morning, but she has plans for preventing that from happening. But to put her plans into effect, she has to sleep with him and consummate the marriage. She consents (“consents”) for her own reasons, but the Caliph doesn’t know that, making him both a rapist and the main love interest. Discuss.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– My book club spans the political spectrum, which gave us lots of room to talk about everything in this book: immigration, marriage, white privilege, race, academia (plus more of the “I didn’t like her but couldn’t stop reading about her” phenomenon). We had lots of “I’d never considered what that must be like” from white readers, which made the whole thing worth the price of admission.
Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu– This YA novel about a teen girl who escapes from her Duggar-esque super-conservative Evangelical Christian family would be such a conversation-starter, especially if your book club has a mix of religious faiths or backgrounds. Religious extremism of any type is on everyone’s mind right now. And then, of course, you can hate-watch The Duggars’ TV show and drink lots of beer (there’s a theme here).
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins– I was happy when this was selected for my book club because it gave me an excuse to see what the fuss was about, and ultimately that became what the conversation was about: did the book deserve the fuss? It’s worth picking up a mega-runaway-best-seller for your club occasionally just to see what your friends consider best-seller worthy, or “must-read.”
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes– This is a great pick for the very end/beginning of the year, when people are in Reevaluating Life/Making New Goals mode, plus it gives your club a nonfiction kick. Pour several glasses of wine, pop some Rhimes-approved popcorn, and get a little closer to the other members of your book club by actually talking about how you feel about your own life and choices.
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan– Every book club should work in (heh) a romance novel every now and then, and Courtney Milan’s feminist, fun historicals are an excellent starting point. Really, any book in the Brothers Sinister series would work. All the heroines are bright and strong and not all the heroes are alphas. You get the best of the romance genre without stuff that might scare off the newbies, and there’s so much to talk about (WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE STEAMY BITS?).
Saga, Volume 1 by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples– There’s real value and possibilities for discussion when you mix up the genres and formats you have your book club read (as I’m sure you can tell from this list so far)– don’t leave out the comics! Saga is SUCH an excellent gateway comic: it’s funny, and is about a family just trying to stay together, and is sexy and weird and in space! It’s also super adult (violent, sex shown on the page), so be warned if your book club is sensitive to that.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff– A book about art and privilege and marriage and secrets, where no one is likable but everyone is fascinating. Something to talk about on pretty much every page, including how she’s structured the book and what makes it a success (or not, IDK, your opinion is your own).
The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein– Are there vampires or is the narrator having a mental breakdown? You could argue about this for hours. With beer. Ahem.
That’s it for me! What are your favorite discussion-generating book club books?