Some time ago I asked the members of my book club what they thought made a good book club book. Most agreed that it can’t just be a satisfying and well-written story. In order to be worth discussing, it needs a little something more: a controversial issue, a moral dilemma, a loathsome character, an ambiguous ending. Based on their thoughts I put together a list of some of my favourite novels which I think would be fantastic for book clubs, with links to my reviews:
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
My book club had so much fun responding to this novel I wrote a blog post about it. Our antics included a facial expressions Round Robin and a challenge to describe 20 years of your life in 1 tweet. Goon Squad is experimental but also highly relatable: a wonderful combination.
Room by Emma Donoghue
An amazingly gripping and original novel in which a mother must protect her child under the most heinous circumstances imaginable. This book lends itself to a ‘what would you do, if you found yourself here?’ debate.
Palladio by Jonathan Dee
Hugely underrated, Dee is also one of the most confounding novelists I can think of. In our spoon-fed world, it’s a refreshing change to not be told what to think, but it’s also bewildering and unsettling and this is where your book club comes in. Was the main character a visionary? Or just a pretentious ass? Was the protagonist a sap? or a trailblazer? Talk all night and you still might not know the answers, but you’ll enjoy the conversation.
The Slap by Christos Tsolkias
If you are part of one of the only book clubs in the Western world who has not yet read this book, what the heck are you waiting for? I challenge you to find any book that will get a book club more outraged and disgusted. So many characters you will love to hate…get into it!
How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
Is Marta delusional, or did something terrible happen to her? Is Hector her protector or the perpetrator of a terrible crime? The ambiguity in this gripping début is guaranteed to generate a great debate.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
A story told by an unreliable narrator always makes for a good discussion as the punters must choose whether or not to believe their version of events. Added to some ethical questions in a life-or-death scenario, you’ll have plenty to talk about.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Would you rather die, or stay alive when everyone you love is dead? How far would you go to survive? Would you kill someone else in self-defence? Eat them if you were starving? So many juicy questions to be mulled over in response to this post-apocalyptic masterpiece.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This is a deeply disturbing book and one I badly needed to debrief on with someone else. It is relatable in a way that is frightening and leads to self-reflection that can be uncomfortable. Best enjoyed by a book club who already know each other well, or who really want to get to know each other much much better!
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
A kind of contemporary To Kill a Mockingbird which explores the moral issues we face when the justice system fails us and those we love. Would you take matters into your own hands? Would you condemn someone else for doing that?
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I know many book clubs like to read an occasional classic and this is one that really got tongues wagging at my book club. There were odious characters, and complex family issues leading to interminable feuds and all sorts of other fascinating ideas to sift through.
Your turn: Which books have generated the best discussions in your book club?