What makes for a great book club book? Based upon what’s been popular this past year, that would be mysterious boxes, imprisoned octopuses, road tripping giraffes, brilliant chemists with charming dogs, crime-solving senior citizens, high anxiety, snarky booksellers, caribbean cake, people who pass…and the perennial favorite– fraught family relationships.
These books have a lot to offer, and choosing any of them for your reading group will guarantee you a beefy conversation, which you can get started using our guide featuring 101 handy book club questions.
That said, this book list does not represent long-standing, classic book club reads.
Rather, we’ve curated this list of the best book club books from recent years, choosing those that are great reads and which have also been very popular with book clubs. We’ve selected 12 books each from the past three years and we will build a list of an additional 12+ books throughout 2023.
That’s a lotta choices for your book club!
So, bookmark this page, and check it regularly, because we’ll be adding at least one new book to the the list every month.
And don’t ignore the older books further down the page, especially if you are in a book club that doesn’t like to buy hardbacks or battle a hold queue at the library. Because many of the books from 2020 and 2021 are pretty easy to get now.
(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)
The Best Books Club Books of 2023
Black Cake, Charmaine Wilkerson
Siblings Byron and Benny try to set aside their differences as they try to understand the mother who recently died. She leaves behind a traditional Caribbean black cake and an 8 hour recording that reveals some startling family secrets.
The story is about loss, about the decisions we make that we can never take back, and the sacrifices we’re forced to make. Some of the book’s themes include: fraught family dynamics, resentments and regrets, the cultural diaspora, regrets, race and identity and climate change.
Read it for book club and use our Black Cake discussion guide.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Gabriele Zevin
Two childhood friends, Sam and Sadie reconnect while at university in Boston. They are both into gaming and soon find that together, they have genius for developing unique games. They team up with their friend Marx to bring their games to market.
But the book is only partly about that. It’s also a coming of age story with themes of grief, loss, the creative process and the distinctions between familial love, romantic love, and the deep love that friends can develop over time.
Read it for book club and use our Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow discussion guide.
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, R.F. Kuang
This genre-bender mixes speculative fiction and historical fiction to examine the power that language and translation can have on world culture. Set in Oxford in 1828, the Royal Institute of Translation (also known as Babel) is responsible for translating works and using those very precise translations to imbue silver with magical properties. The silver, in turn, is used in all manner of mechanical and architectural technologies.
Robin Swift, a Chinese orphan, is brought to London by a professor of Babel. Robin is given an education and admitted to Babel, where he is to learn the art of translation and silver-working. While there, he also become acutely aware of racial and economic injustices perpetrated by the Institute. What follows is some rich world-building, escalating action and a sharp commentary on the perfidy of colonialization.
The book provides no shortage of topics to examine, which you can do using our Babel discussion guide.
The Measure, Nikki Erlick
If you received a mysterious box and the contents could tell you how long you had to live, would you open it? And if so, how would you respond to the knowing?
Erlick’s book tackles these questions when everyone over 22 receives such a box on their doorstep. The book follows eight main characters as their lives are changed by the knowledge. Reactions range from defiance to resignation with societal conflicts arising between the short-timers versus those long-timers.
This book is a popular Read with Jenna choice would make a particularly good book club read– lots to talk about here– which you can do using our book club questions for The Measure.
The Best Books Club Books of 2022
Remarkably Bright Creatures, Shelby Van Pelt
Seventy-year-old Tova Sullivan works the nightshift as a cleaner at Sowell Bay Aquarium. She was recently widowed and also still mourns the loss of her son, who disappeared into the Puget Sound. Tova doesn’t really need to work, but she like to keep busy and she prefers to share her time with those who don’t ask a lot of questions.
Enter Marcellus. He’s a giant octopus who was rescued by the aquarium. However, he believes himself to be a captive. He fancies himself a pretty bright octopus and he keeps stretching the bounds of his tank by occasionally escaping…and Tova keeps finding him. Over time, the two develop a very special bond.
“This book warmed my heart! It was charming, wholesome, and thoughtful. This book explores themes of grief, healing, aging, loneliness, and friendship.”
Read it for book club and use our Remarkably Bright Creatures discussion questions.
West With Giraffes, Lynda Rutledge
This lovely read will help you understand what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late. In the book Woody (the narrator), has a great affinity for animals and this novel is really his coming of age story.
Inspired by a true story, it’s one a heck of an adventure, featuring a road trip transporting two giraffes across the U.S. from New York to San Diego. The grand adventure is complete with stowaways, circuses, attempted giraffe-napping, biblical catastrophe, romance, shocking truths, sacrifices, and tragedy.
Amidst all this, the giraffes themselves represented peace since the characters managed to forget their hardships with them around. The book’s themes embrace hope, resilience, love, and the importance of remembrance and storytelling.
Here’s our West With Giraffes reading guide.
Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
In Elizabeth Zott, Garmus has created a such commanding character! Elizabeth is a brilliant chemist, but because it’s the late 1950’s, she battles a thick wall of sexism in her quest to work on her research. She finds her soul-mate in Calvin Evans, who’s also a brilliant chemist. But the fates intervene and several years later, Elizabeth finds herself a single mother, trying to make ends meet.
Through an odd circumstance, she suddenly finds herself the host of an afternoon cooking show. She’s a brilliant cook, and she refuses to treat her homemaker audience like idiots. So, she brings her uncompromising spirit and no small amount of chemistry to the show.
The book tackles serious issues such as sexism, sexual assault and family tragedy, but it’s also often laugh out loud funny. The dialogue crackles and the quirky cast of characters include her brilliant daughter, a reverend with doubts, a take-no-prisoners PR hack, a neighbor with marriage issues, the TV producer and and a truly awesome dog.
Read it next month and use our Lessons in Chemistry discussion guide.
Book Lovers, Emily Henry
Emily Henry’s romances are perfect for book clubs who are looking to keep it light. This book follows Nora (a literary agent) and Charlie (an editor) as the love interests, as well as Nora’s sister, Charlie’s parents, a hunky horseman, and assorted small town characters.
The book very deliberately twists the Hallmark romance trope which features the city slicker as the fish out of water in a small town. In this version, Nora’s sister drags her out of NYC to a chickie getaway in rural North Carolina. While there Nora, is surprised to run across Charlie, an editor with whom she has had a somewhat competitive and snarky texting relationship.
Sparks fly, there’s a bookstore that needs saving and the city slickers come to find out what they really want.
Here’s our Book Lovers discussion guide.
The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams
In this fictional account, Esme’s father works in the Scriptorium, which is a fancy word for the garden shed that James Murry and his team used to develop the first (and not fictional) Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
Esme spends time under the big table in the Scriptorium and she gathers word slips that are lost, discarded or otherwise don’t make the cut into the OED. Over time, she begins to realize that the discarded words tend to relate to women.
Esme discovers that the beauty of these words (even the vulgar ones), is that they relate to very valid women’s experiences. And for Esme, this is enough to confirm the importance of the words and merit for their preservation. And so, Esme decided to create her own dictionary consisting of the lost words.
With the suffrage movement’s rising and the Great War looming, Esme publishes her Dictionary of Lost Words.
This book is fun for clubs who really into lexicography. Use our Dictionary of Lost Words book club guide for your discussion.
It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover is really hot right now. Her books have been getting all the love on TikTok and the popularity has overflowed into book clubs. In this pick, we follow Lily, a girl in her early twenties, who has never had it easy. She’s always had to work hard for what she wanted. After graduating college she gets up and moves to Boston. While there she meets and falls for Ryle, a thriving, handsome neurosurgeon with a dark side. Lily also shares an unlikely friendship with Atlas, whom she met when he was a homeless teen.
The story is powerful. The relationships are complicated. Thinks get dark, sad and painful. In other words, this book will give your club a lot to talk about.
Read it for book club and use our It Ends With Us discussion guide. And we also have a guide for It Starts With Us, the sequel.
The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
Who wants to sit around knitting and playing bridge? Not these four amateur sleuths. Rather, they spend their time reviewing cold cases and chasing up criminals. Meet The Thursday Murder Club, Cooper Chase Retirement Home’s most deadly social group. These retirees each bring a unique set of skills to solving the murder of their retirement home developer.
This book makes for such a fun book club read. It’s surprisingly light in tone and not too long. But there are enough twists and turns to give your book group a lot to talk about. And if you like it, there are more in the series to keep you going.
Use our book club guide for The Thursday Murder Club to get the convo started.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Kim Michele Richardson
This book came out in 2019, but it’s been a slow burn with book clubs as it gets discovered by more and more reading groups. This book is about the Packhorse Library Project. It was a 1930’s WPA program that sent librarians deep into Appalachia to deliver reading materials to the remote communities.
19 year old Cussy Carter is hired to be one such librarian. Her route is complicated enough, what with slippery creek beds and steep mountain terrain. But she also has to contend with folks are are suspicious of the government program, and who are more focused on getting food on the table than learning how to read.
Her life is complicated by the fact that she is a descendant of the Blue Fugate Family. This lineage was affected by a genetic trait that gives her skin a blue hue. At a time when color conferred social status, she experiences a range of discrimination and maltreatment because of her condition.
The book has some lovely themes of perseverance, agency and finding ones-self.
Read it for book club and use our Troublesome Creek discussion guide. We’ve also got a list of more books about the Packhorse Library Project.
Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid
The book follows the Riva siblings over the course of 24 hours, as they prepare to attend their famous sister Nina’s house party. These flawed characters come to the party packing a combustible brew of secrets, toxic relationships, betrayals and emotional family dysfunction.
By the end of the party, it all spills over and the house party (literally) ends up in flames.
Read it for your book club and use our Malibu Rising discussion guide and also one for Carrie Soto is Back, which features a character from Malibu Rising. And check out our complete list of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books (ranked!)
The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Belle da Costa Green was far more than a librarian. She was hired by J.P. Morgan to curate his collection of books, manuscripts and artworks, which were housed in the newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. She became a formidable collector and curator, and a captivating fixture on the New York society scene. However, Belle was hiding a secret. She was not the White woman that New York (and Morgan) saw, but rather, Belle was Black. Her family had moved to New York, hoping to pass as White in order to gain a more secure economic life.
This book is a fictionalized account of her life as an extraordinary librarian, curator, lover and “passing” person of Color at a time when it was quite dangerous to do so.
Read it for your book club and use our discussion guide for The Personal Librarian.
The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles
Much like the titular Interstate, The Lincoln Highway spans the country, connecting the stories of five young characters in Midcentury America, and presenting a slice of a time that was in no way simple.
This book is not a quaint portrait of a romantic era. Rather, The Lincoln Highway is a layered journey about the burdens of expectations, the grief of lost dreams, and the meaning of home.
Reading groups will appreciate discussing the books themes of ambition, privilege, metamorphosis and mental health.
Here are the book club questions for The Lincoln Highway.
Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
Doerr masterfully connects five characters, over hundreds of years through their relationship to a single book. That book tells of a shepherd, Aethon, seeking a magical, heavenly place in the sky– the “Cloud Cuckoo Land” of the title.
The characters range from a 15th century orphan who teaches herself to read, to a modern day teacher trying to stage Aethon as a play, to a women from the 22nd century who’s seeking an unspoiled home world on an interstellar ship. Their stories converge around the book and other shared experiences.
This is a good book club book for it’s unique timeline, compelling characters and hybrid genre.
Read it for book club using our Cloud Cuckoo Land discussion guide.
If you like this sort of meta thing where books are a big part of the book, then check out our article which features 20 books that feature books and manuscripts as a key narrative driver.
Great Books Club Reads from 2021
The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah
It’s the depression and the dust bowl drought has ravaged Elsa’s farm. The crops and farm animals are dying and then her son takes ill. Elsa has to decide whether to stick it out, or like so many others, take a perilous journey and migrate to California.
This book is not an easy journey for readers and the themes of tough times, tough women and survival will make for great conversation fodder.
Use our Four Winds reading guide to aid your group discussion.
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
Don’t we all sometimes find ourselves plagued by the “what if”? What if we had (or hadn’t) married that person, what if we had studied something different in school…or turned left instead of right? Haig’s story explores just that when suicidal Nora finds herself in The Library. She is given a chance to see what some of her other lives may have been like…if she had only made different choices.
The structure of the library as a second chance institution and the spooling out of Nora’s many potential lives makes for a truly interesting read…and one that your club will enjoy discussing. You can use our Midnight Library guide to help you get started.
Anxious People, Frederik Backman
This character driven story is ostensibly about a bank robbery gone wrong. The bank robber, having failed at robbing the bank, bursts upon an apartment viewing and proceeds to take a group of unfortunate strangers hostage. But really, the book is about a group of mismatched folks, each with their secret fears and mistakes, slowly opening their hearts to one another.
It’s tragic and hilarious and believable and absurd and whimsical and humorous. Well, that should give you plenty to talk about, right?
We’ll help you with that, here’s our Anxious People book club guide.
The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave
Reese Witherspoon called The Last Thing He Told Me a book with “…mysterious identities, unreliable friendships, dubious loyalties and terrifying chase sequences”. It’s all that, but we also liked it for the complicated family dynamic, the high-tech hijinks and the duffel full of cash.
And here’s our discussion guide for it.
Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
O’Farrell’s novel imagines Shakespeare’s family life, in particular his eccentric wife Agnes and his young son Hamnet. She’s a strong force for Shakespeare’s career, which is just taking off when Hamnet succumbs to a sudden fever. The book carries themes of love, loss, fraught family dynamics and making the hard trade-off between family and personal fulfillment.
The book’s transcendent qualities and prose, along with a rich imagining of Shakespeare’s family life are what will give you such a good Hamnet book club discussion. Here’s our guide for Hamnet.
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
Identity–whether we are born into it, or whether we choose it for ourselves–is at the heart of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. Although the intertwined lives of the characters span time and generations, all of the characters grapple with the powerful pull of the places they come from and the families who made them who they are.
This complex family story will help your group reflect on the powerful issues of race, class, and gender. And we’ve got you covered with these book club questions for The Vanishing Half.
Apples Never Fall, Liane Moriarty
Joy and Stan have recently retired from running a successful tennis club. After helping out a woman in need, Joy, the wife and mother of four, has disappeared. Her adult children are rightfully concerned. But they’re reluctant to report Joy missing, because they know the prime suspect will be their father, and they’re not in agreement about his innocence.
Then the police come a knockin’ everyone has secrets to hide.
Your group will love peeling back the layers of this idiosyncratic family and their twisty tale.
Klara & The Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro describes a near future world were inequalities are entrenched by genetics and artificial friends are companions to the elite, assisting in homeschooling and keeping children company. Klara is an insightful and noble Artificial Friend who cares for a young child.
The plot is a slow burn and it’s chock full of ethical dilemmas. But in typical Ishiguro fashion, there are not a lot of answers. And that’s what makes this such a great book club book– it leaves quite a bit of fodder for your group to discuss.
Which you can do, using our Klara and the Sun discussion guide.
The Guest List, Lucy Foley
Storm tossed moody island…check. Bridezilla and Groomzilla…check. Wedding guests with secrets…check. A dead body…check. What more do you need from a thriller? The mystery is now only a whodunnit, but a whogotdone during a wedding set on a remote Irish island.
With all the dark secrets and twisty turns, The Guest List will definitely feed a great book club discussion. And we’ve got a reading guide for The Guest List to get you started.
The Lost Apothecary, Sarah Penner
Hidden deep in London’s East End is the site of a former apothecary shop from the 18th century. The shop is discovered in modern day by a women trying to reset her life after being betrayed by her husband.
Back in the day, this particular shop was fronted by the usual tinctures and ointments. But in the back room, the Apothecary ran a dark business, secretly dispensing poisons in order to help liberate women from the lovers and husbands who have wronged them.
My own book club enjoyed the murdery elements, questions of female agency and the dual time frames of the novel.
Here’s our Lost Apothecary book club guide.
Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner
Crying in H Mart is far more than a simple food memoir. In the book, Zauner explores her life growing up as a Korean American, an awkward adolescence, her Mom’s high expectations and lots and lots of eating in her Grandmother’s apartment. It’s also a painful foray in to the pain of grief. It’s a searing, devastating and often funny look at Zauner’s life (so far).
Zauner is a singer and guitarist, so she certainly knows how to deliver a performance, so the book is great on audio. In fact, it made our list of best audiobook memoirs. We’ve also got a book club guide for Crying in H Mart.
The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides
In this intense psychological thriller, the question isn’t whodunnit, but rather why. And Alicia, the killer, refuses to talk about it. Theo is a forensic psychotherapist is assigned to get her talking, but he’s too obsessed with Alicia and he’s got some serious issues of his own.
The book provides perspective through Theo’s investigation, and Alicia’s own diary entries. Get ready for a hair-raising ride!
And then use our discussion guide for The Silent Patient to get your conversation started.
Must Read Pics from 2020 (and Earlier)
Hey- don’t forget about some of the must read book club books from previous years. They are still hot with reading groups and much more likely to be out in paperback or in the library.
American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins
This novel is about a Mexican bookseller who was forced to escape cartel violence. She flees with her son to the US and they face a harrowing journey while riding “The Beast” train. They travel with many other migrants, each with their own stories. The book is an intense and compelling look at the very human reasons why people choose to embark upon a risky migration.
This book has been insanely popular with book clubs, but it’s also controversial. Cummins’ intention was to give a face to the migrants who come to the US seeking asylum. And while many reviewers and book clubbers have loved the book, it has also received criticism for not being an owned voices book. That alone, could give you some very interesting fodder for your book club.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn had a plan to get out of her dreary life in Hell’s Kitchen and boy did she execute on it. She ended up an “it girl” during the 1950’s golden era of Hollywood. She not only racked up seven husbands, but she has a closet full of skeletons and a lot of stories to tell. Toward the end of her life, she engages with Monique, a journalist, to spill it all.
This is a great book club read for its themes of how to navigate the patriarchy, warped entertainment culture, keeping secrets and how to own your life.
Plus, we’ve got a book club guide for Evelyn Hugo.
A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. It’s a prison sentence…but a pretty fancy one. The Hotel Metropol is a world unto itself, and within its walls, “the world had come and gone”. The hotel is the count’s prison, and it’s his sanctuary, but for how much longer can it be either?
The book’s themes take on topics like selfhood, friendship, simple pleasures, hope and how you can survive a lot if you have nice wine.
Use our Gentleman in Moscow book club guide.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, Isabel Wilkerson
Caste is an analysis of race, class and caste…and how they aren’t the same thing. Wilkerson looks at the topic of caste by examining America’s Jim Crow system (and our ongoing hangover form it), the stratified caste system in India and the system that was evolved by Nazi Germany.
My own book club found so much to discuss with this book: how race is a construct, how America exported it’s racist agenda to other countries, how the insidious nature of discrimination still lingers. It’s one of the best book club books for any club interested in understanding more about race.
Here’s our Caste book club guide.
Circe, Madeline Miller
Miller specializes in imagining the lives of lesser known characters and gods in Greek Mythology. In this one, she tells the story of Circe, who is the daughter of the sun God Helios. When Zeus discovers her powers, he banishes her to an island. Subsequent events force her to choose a life among the Gods (and her family) and that among the mortals whom she has come to love.
“This book is about love; the love between lovers, the love of a mother, and the love you must find in yourself. This book proves why family of choice will always be greater than family of origin. This book is about magic, and how we can find it in ourselves if we look hard enough. This is a book about becoming the witch you’ve always buried deep inside you.”
Here’s our discussion guide for Circe.
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
Noah was born in South Africa during Apartheid. Having a Black mom and a White dad ensured that he was never a neat fit in Johannesburg. He got by on his wits and a lot of hustle, sliding in between Black, White and “Colored” cultures.
The book is an intimate look at the practical realities of Apartheid with a fascinating take on Noah’s complicated childhood.
We featured this book on our list of great audio memoirs for Noah’s fun performance and fantastic character voicing.
Use our discussion guide for Born a Crime.
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
When Danny and Maeve’s father dies, he leaves everything to their estranged step-mother. She kicks them out, and with that, the once wealthy siblings are forced to make their own way in the world. But the house remains a looming anchor in their relationship.
The book’s themes feature abandonment, betrayal, damaging silences, revenge and a lot of sibling loyalty.
For those who like audio, Tom Hanks does a great job with narration.
Use our discussion guide for The Dutch House.
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sing has some serious lasting power. It was published in 2018 and it sat on bestseller lists for a long time. It’s still a book club favorite, but there are more library copies available now, so this is a great book club book for groups who prefer to use the library.
In the story, Mya is the “Marsh Girl” of Barkley Cove. One after another, her family left her until at the age of six, she was left to fend for herself in the watery landscape.
There are lots of themes to discuss, including the coming of age story, the whodunnit of a murder and a life lived in nature.
Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other weaves together the stories of a large cast of British women of color, including mother, daughters and lovers. The book lays bare complicated feminist themes as well as issues of multiculturalism, gender roles, gender fluidity, Lesbian life and painful multi-gen family dynamics.
If you choose it for book club, be sure to use our Girl, Woman, Other book club guide.
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
This book is a slow-moving character portrait filled with complex family dynamics, small-town politics and the dangers of privilege. Mia’s daughter Pearl becomes friends with the kids of their landlord, Mrs. Richardson. They all become embroiled in the high drama of teenagers coming of age. The book also features a fraught local battle regarding the adoption of a Chinese baby by a rich, white family.
The fire smolders until it totally erupts.
Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
A plane enroute from Newark to Los Angeles crashes, killing everyone on board except for 12 year old Edward Adler. But the book isn’t just about the flight and the crash. It also follows Edward throughout his life as his friends, remaining family and doctors help him heal.
“It’s thought provoking in a number of ways – how does a young boy bear his grief, this loss, the trauma of what he has experienced but it made me consider how little we know of the burdens that people whose paths we cross might carry. This book is full of sadness, without a doubt, but it is also filled with shared sorrow, love, friendship and caring. A beautiful story.”
Educated, Tara Westover
It’s a miracle that Westover survived her childhood. And yet, she not only did that, but she managed to educate herself, ultimately earning a PhD. Her childhood was fraught with fundamentalist ideology and a profound lack of trust in institutions (including schools). Westover’s story is the ultimate tale in pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.
Lots to talk about here regarding themes of abusive family dynamics, self-motivation and being a fish out of water.
Read it for book club and use our Educated discussion guide.
Yet More Book Club Resources
If that’s not enough for you, we’ve got a bunch of book lists by topic and a series of guides for books recommended by the book clubs for Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, Oprah, Good Morning America and some key award winners.
- Reese’s Book Club
- Jenna’s Book Club (includes all of the books…with ratings!)
- Good Morning America Book Club
- Oprah’s Book Club
- National Book Award
- Booker Prize
We’ve also got book club resources like:
- 101 generic book club questions, which will work for any book.
- Tips for starting your own book club.
- 10 tips for setting rules and expectations for book club.
- Why joining a book club is so very worth it.
- Strategies for sourcing and choosing book club books.
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