Whether your club meets online or in person, there’s nothing quite like a discussion about a good book. This article will give you the 20 best book club books for discussion, so you can easily impress your fellow bookworms.
For those of you who have never been good at reading or interpreting literature, joining a book club may be the perfect place to start. Joining a book club is easy, it’s a great social booster, and it can help you learn a little more about literature.
Quite often, you’ll start debating something within the book and it’ll develop into discussions about larger social, historical, and political conversations.
If you’re keen to join a book club or you’re already a part of one, this article will guide you through some of the best books to read and suggest so you can impress.
Not only will this article suggest some great novels to sink into but it’ll also hint at some of the themes used and some of the discussions you can have after reading.
Book club books don’t just have to be the older classics that you read (and hate) in school, there are some brilliant modern works of literature that provoke just as much discussion. However, this list will still touch on the classics for those of you who enjoy them.
Without further ado, here are the 20 best book club books for discussion.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This one has received some varied reviews, so it’ll be interesting to see how you feel after reading it. The premise is brilliant – it is set inside a library that contains millions and millions of books, each one providing a different reality based on alternative choices.
The Midnight Library follows Nora Seed as she is given the opportunity to read through her alternate realities and choose a different one. The story is grounding and humble but many think it didn’t live up to expectations – this would be a great point of discussion!
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Such A Fun Age centers around a young black girl called Emira, who works as a nanny for a wealthy white family. The story delves into her polarized life – her sensible, obedient work life and her outgoing, party-oriented home life.
Emira is a very lovable character but she gets influenced by two dominating white characters, her boyfriend and boss. This will provoke some interesting debates about black agency in white-dominated spaces.
Educated by Tara Westover
This has a slightly different flavor. It’s a memoir that concentrates on a young girl, forced out of an education by her parents’ remote and isolating rural lifestyle, who goes on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.
Educated is inspiring and brilliantly written. You’re bound to find points of discussion in the childhood-related themes and unconventional parenting methods included.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
This one is all about feminism, so if you’re looking for an older classic that hones in on the restricted, 19th-century female experience, Jane Eyre may be your best bet. This story is written in bildungsroman style, detailing her life from childhood all the way into adulthood, and closely follows her relationships, actions, and life choices.
Without giving too much away, Jane Eyre is filled with empowering quotes and Jane’s character, despite her plain depiction, is groundbreaking in many ways, considering the stringent restrictions on female freedom.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Be ready for the tissues because this one is heartbreaking. But it’s still a brilliant read with a range of fascinating moral questions that can spark some interesting discussions.
My Sister’s Keeper is the tragic tale of a family whose daughter is struggling with cancer. In order to save her life, the family decide to have another child to act as the donor providing blood, bone marrow, minor organs, and tissue that may help save her sister. Realizing she is entitled to her own bodily freedom, she takes legal action against her parents.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow is set in 1922 and follows Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat who gets put under house arrest in a small attic room, missing out on some of the most intense periods of Russian history that are taking place on the other side of the walls.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr Carter is 16 years old and is exposed to two completely different realities. She lives in a very poor area yet attends a suburban prep school. But both of Starr’s worlds are turned upside down when her best friend, Khalil, is shot by a police officer.
The Hate U Give sheds a light on the racial injustice that weaves its way into the American justice system. Khalil represents so many innocent black people who have been unlawfully killed by white police officers.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi is a great choice if you’re busy. It’s quite a short novel but it’s packed with hidden meaning and thought-provoking themes. The novel is predominantly set in the ruins of a giant coastal mansion. There, our protagonist explores the halls and corridors, with only one companion.
Although this book feels like a twisted ancient historical fiction novel, its premise lies in psychology and madness. With one shocking revelation at the end, the points of discussion are endless.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing is an intriguing generational tale that begins centuries ago with two twins who are set on completely different paths. One is sold into slavery and one marries a wealthy slave owner. This is the story of how those polarizing circumstances set their future generations on completely different life paths.
Moving, traumatic, and centering around identity, this book can provoke some interesting, if not almost controversial conversations.
Vladimir by Julia May Jonas
Vladimir hones in on an English professor, popular with colleagues and students alike, who comes under scrutiny following dangerous accusations made against him.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Adventurous, inspiring, and thought-provoking are words that completely sum up this book. It focuses on a shepherd, who goes on a journey across Andalusia and parts of Northern Africa searching for treasure. Along the way, he meets new people, finds out more about the world, and learns more about himself.
The Alchemist is perspective-changing and short too, so great for those who don’t have much time.
Push by Sapphire
Disclaimer: this one is very explicit in both language and themes. It follows a young black girl, Precious, who is exposed to poverty, injustice, sexual assault, trauma, and bullying.
Push is a heartbreaking story that will continue to surprise you but it’s simultaneously empowering and is a quick read, too.
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
The Lonely Londoners zooms in on the personal lives of immigrants who came to London as part of the Windrush generation. It tackles the racial prejudice they fought, the efforts to preserve cultural preservation, and their integration within white-dominated, culturally different areas.
The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo
This one is slightly different because it’s written in verse. You may flinch at the thought of poetry but The Emperor’s Babe is written in such a clever way, you’ll forget you’re reading poetry.
Cleverly, Evaristo positions her black female protagonist in white-dominated ancient Rome. She’s married to a wealthy member of society, defying the realistic societal regulations that would have forced her into an inferior position or perhaps even slavery. This is a story of experimentation, identity, sexuality, and self-worth. A brilliant concept that will spark some brilliant debates.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
This has been highly praised since its release and there’s no wonder why! The Vanishing Half hones in on racial passing – the concept of appearing racially ambiguous and passing as either white or black.
This story focuses on two twin sisters that have a troubled past. Upon reaching adulthood, they both go in different directions. One sister decides to pass as white, marry a white man, and live with the privilege attached to her white identity, The other sister marries a black man and raises a black family with connections to their black culture and heritage.
This story really highlights the differences between many black and white privileges and develops the idea of identity and belonging.
East, West by Salman Rushdie
This is a collection of short stories that merge white and Asian cultures. In classic Rushdie style, there are many cleverly-used references to white pop, TV, film, and music culture.
East, West will spark some interesting debates about the differences and prejudices held between Eastern and Western regions. However, it does rely on you knowing certain cultural references in order to follow and fully understand the stories.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This one is either a real crowd-pleaser, or it falls flat, so why not read it and decide for yourself? Mrs. Dalloway hones in on a lonely woman, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway who lives for hosting parties and socializing. She is confronted by numerous obstacles as a woman, which can provoke some fascinating feminism-oriented debates.
Her story is juxtaposed with that of a World War I veteran battling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Vivid descriptions of his hallucinations paint a realistic and horrifying picture of what it’s like to be haunted by memories of war. The differences between these two lifestyles and the way in which they are treated by society are very insightful.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
If you’re fascinated by AI, this might be a good choice for you. Klara and the Sun follows Klara, an artificial ‘friend’ who meticulously observes the customers that browse the shop filled with similar ‘friends’.
This book will provide a completely new perspective on our ever-changing world and is narrated by one of the most innovative and different characters in literary history.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 36. From the eyes of a doctor, we are taken through his tough medical education, his diagnosis, and his treatment.
When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable novel that will make you see the world differently and appreciate your health. It contemplates one key question: with death just around the corner, what have you got to lose?
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard of this Dickens classic. This is just a personal favorite but many of Dickens’ novels such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol have heaps to delve into and discuss in detail.
Great Expectations follows a young orphan, Pip, who begins as a very poor child. With an unknown helping hand, he is given a second chance at a wealthy life and moves to London to live the high life. There, Pip loses himself and forgets his roots. This book criticizes the impact of wealth and status on your personality and moral code.
Whether you love re-reading the classics or you’re looking for the newest contemporary hype, this list has a wide selection to choose from so you can wow your other book club members from every angle.
These are some of the most provocative and discussion-worthy books available, so make sure to get your hands on them and kickstart some great conversations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should you join a book club?
Book clubs are great places to meet like-minded people and have great, in-depth discussions. There are tons of different book clubs across the globe, some of which specialize in specific genres or authors, while others are all-encompassing safe spaces where everyone is welcome.
What classic book should I start with?
If you’re looking to start reading classic fiction we’d recommend beginning with a modern classic. The older classics written by some of the all-time greats are fantastic reads but they can be inaccessible to new readers. The old language can make these books confusing or hard to follow, so starting with modern authors (who are equally as brilliant), such as Virginia Woolf, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and Sylvia Plath is an excellent way to ease yourself in.
What makes a good discussion-worthy book?
Interesting characters, gripping plot lines, and social/historical/political criticism can really help kickstart conversation.
What is the best classic book to read?
This is all up to interpretation and preference but some of the best classic books are written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, the Brontë sisters, and the common names you’ll often hear crop up in book club discussions. They may seem generic, but there’s a reason why they’re so popular!
What’s a good book to read if you want to start a discussion about race?
On this list, there are many books that either touch on or center around racial issues. Homegoing, The Vanishing Half, The Emperor’s Babe, East, West, The Hate U Give, and Such A Fun Age are all great books to provoke racial discussions.