I was recently asked to help found a book club, never mind that I’m already a member of a book club. What is it about people and exclusivity? We all want some.
Here’s a list of the books that had the most people talking actually ABOUT the book rather than the latest gossip. And when I say talking, I mean thick, meaty discussions that allowed for some intense conversation.
I also highly recommend that when hosting, you provide dessert, and that the dessert has chocolate somewhere in the name/ingredient list. Because, so help me, if you serve a vegetable platter, I might throw it at you.
EIGHT BOOKS TO READ IN YOUR BOOK CLUB: (details below)
Elizabeth: My Story
This heartbreaking memoir follows the Elizabeth Smart story about the 14-year-old girl that was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home, then fortunately returned a little less than a year later. Topics could include kidnapping, child molestation, polygamy, panhandling, helping the homeless, judging others, etc.
This was a wide-eyed read for me, a scary experience from page to page, especially because I’m familiar with the Salt Lake area, having hiked extensively there. The inside look into the type of man who would do something like this was incredibly revealing and truly horrifying.
I hugged and kissed my children much longer in the weeks following my reading, and I got rid of it – partly so others could read it, partly because I don’t plan on reading it again.
This book is essentially about the black women that worked for NASA during the space race – a lovely tribute to both women and a minority and the roles they played at the time. However, it’s so much more. In these pages are vignettes about others who worked for NASA, others that lived during this time of racial and gender inequality, and sometimes those are the best parts.
Topics may include racial or gender inequality, the growth and change in science, the space race, the working woman, etc.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s version of The Scarlet Letter, it has a more intricate plot and depth to characters that allow for better reader-character interaction. Topics may include fallen women, manipulation of others, reputation, illegitimate children, forgiveness and repentance, etc.
Gaskell is one of my favorite authors. Her book North and South is wonderful, and the movie beats any Jane Austen adaptation – yes, I’m serious. Try Cranford and Wives and Daughters too – also fantastic, and yes, the movies are also wonderful.
The Hiding Pace
Another memoir, this time of a WWII survivor who was Christian, but spent those horrifying years hiding Jews. Topics could include Concentration Camps, WWII, war and its effects, what it means to be a true Christian, etc.
This is a book I’ve read and reread over and over again since I was very young. It reads smoothly, and Corrie is a woman who feels real; someone you can commiserate with, making the story all the more personal. The Christian themes can be for anyone – her big heart inspires us all to be better in our trials, whatever they may be.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
This fictional novella by the well-known Robert Louis Stevenson is pulled apart over and over again as we argue about the nature of man, and of course the obvious question: Can we truly overcome our baser side?
Topics could include the nature of mankind, the search for truth or meaning, including it necessary?, the idea of science intervening with psychology and religion, and of course agency of humanity, etc.
I love Robert Louis Stevenson’s style, so I find his short stories my favorite. However, for a book club, this allows for some very strong and important opinions to be shared. Also, is that cover not perfect??!
Held captive for years, a woman and her young son are finally freed, allowing for her son to finally see the outside world for the first time. Topics could include kidnapping, rape, the raising and care of children, etc.
I couldn’t read this book when it came time for my book club. Others had a wonderful time talking about the intense subject matter, but as a mother of a son, it felt like it would be too easy to have nightmares.
The Man in the Brown Suit
Any of Agatha Christie’s mysteries would serve – they’re all exceptionally well written (This is a favorite). What’s really interesting about her stories is the psychology behind the characters. I defy you to read a book and find a character that acts uncharacteristically. Topics may include murder and what would drive someone to such an act, the predictability of mankind, and the psychology of a person, etc.
The Trimmed Lamp
O’Henry wrote a ridiculous amount of short stories, but they were all incredible. Thought-provoking and inspiring and interesting, all within about 10 pages. Grab a couple of them for a shorter read (say November? December?) that will still pack a punch during your discussion. I recommend The Trimmed Lamp for starters, a lovely story about two young women and the choices they make.
Lastly, I just wanted to add that if your book club needs something relaxing, say…a fluffy romantic ‘beach’ read? You could try A Wager to Win, which is most definitely fluffy. The sequel will be coming this summer too! Of course, if you’re in a mother-daughter book club and need something you’ll both like…you could try The Unbreakable Curse, my fractured fairy-tale. I would love to know what you think of either or both of them, so feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.