Robin Kall, host of the popular Reading with Robin iTunes podcast and radio show (available at ReadingWithRobin.com) and host of the Point Street Reading Series in Providence, Rhode Island.
If you belong to a book group and it’s your turn to pick a book, the pressure is on! If you’re like most book group members, you want to select a book that the whole group will be glad they read and that makes for a good discussion.
It’s impossible to please every reader. But you can boost your odds that the majority of your group will be glad they read it.
Here are 10 novels and two nonfiction books that are good options for book clubs because they generate conversation…are available in paperback…can be enjoyed by a range of readers…but are not so well-known that club members are likely to already have read them…
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is set in late-19th-century Paris, where a famed soprano discovers a secret from her past written into a new opera. It’s a delicious and fulfilling read that spans generations and continents.
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman is a funny, poignant, brilliantly written debut novel about a family of Russian Jews living in Brooklyn who face a moral dilemma. The book is set in current day, but the characters confront issues that bring them back to World War II.
This Side of Providence by Rachel M. Harper features well-written characters confronting challenges in pursuit of the American dream. It’s a window into broken homes and addiction where success is anything but assured.
The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan is a timely and meaningful story about a nurse helping a pair of veterans—a World War II vet who is dying of cancer…and a veteran of the war in Iraq who also happens to be her husband. The sections about World War II will appeal to both history buffs and fiction fans.
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt is a page-turner about a teenage runaway set in the late 1960s and early 1970s against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Manson murders. You won’t be able to put this one down.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, a debut novel about the death of a teenage girl, is both family drama and crime thriller. It’s a book you won’t soon forget.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta is a witty, racy tale of family life in suburbia. These are not the sorts of families you would want to belong to—the “Little Children” of the title is a reference to the immaturity of the book’s adult characters.
Cost by Roxana Robinson masterfully explores the drama that ensues when adult children return to the family homestead.
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas is a moving multigenerational saga about an Irish-American family in the mid-to-late 20th century. Whatever your nationality, you are likely to find a piece of your own family within its pages.
The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson shows the tragedy and comedy of its middle-aged main character’s upper-middle-class suburban life. Thompson’s writing has been compared to the work of John Updike.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, lays out the harrowing effects that the harsh sentences handed out for drug possession have had on minority communities in the US. Few nonfiction books written in recent years are as likely to provoke as lively a debate.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, an autobiography, recounts Sotomayor’s inspiring journey, which begins as the child of an alcoholic father living in a housing project and leads to her seat on the US Supreme Court.