Book clubs can be hit or miss. Assemble the ideal group and choose a page-turner and you’re set. Gather a disinterested crew and pick a total dud and you’ll regret ever having expressed interest. To avoid the latter fate, consider one of these 13 books that are ripe for debate and discussion of feelings. (Also consider reading up on how to assemble a successful book club, from someone who does it for a living—seriously.)
13 Books Every Book Club Should Read
1. Girl, Woman, Other By Bernardine Evaristo
Last year, Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize, for her multi-voiced novel about an interconnected group of Black British women—including a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity, a jaded teacher and a successful investment banker. Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
2. the Vanishing Half By Brit Bennet
In a small, predominantly black community in the South, the identical twin Vignes sisters were inseparable. But later, one decides to run away to California and pass as white. Her white husband and friends know nothing of her history, and her twin sister longs to find her. Weaving together generations of family history, from the Deep South to California and spanning the 1950s to the 1990s, this new novel by the author of The Mothers is an emotional family story that also explores the American history of passing.
3. the House Of The Spirits By Isabel Allende
Not necessarily light reading, but Allende’s breathtaking 1982 novel is more than worth a read. It follows the Chilean Trueba family through four generations and incorporates elements of Gabriel García Márquez-esque magical realism. It can get kind of confusing, so it’s great to have a group of friends to help you figure out what the hell is going on.
4. my Brilliant Friend By Elena Ferrante
If you’re not on the Ferrante bandwagon yet, now’s the time. A gorgeously detailed portrait of a friendship between two young girls, this novel takes an oft-discussed topic and injects it with such immense minutiae that you get totally sucked into their world—and can’t wait to get your hands on the next three books in the Neapolitan Novels series.
5. hood Feminism By Mikki Kendall
This powerful essay collection tackles an uncomfortable topic for many women: feminism. Kendall argues that the feminism many women know actually excludes and ignores certain groups and only benefits a specific type of female. She asserts the feminist movement and its participants need to face these issues head-on…and they need to do it today.
6. big Little Lies By Liane Moriarty
Whether or not you've watched the HBO series, Big Little Lies is an excellent conversation starter. Moriarty delves into serious topics (domestic abuse, female friendships, murder) with her trademark wit and dark humor in this hit 2014 book. Anyone with a kid or two will find it extremely relatable and after you finish it you can analyze whether Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and crew were perfectly cast (spoiler: they probably were).
7. normal People By Sally Rooney
Rooney's second novel (after 2017’s Conversations with Friends) is about Connell and Marianne, classmates in a small Irish town, where Connell is popular and Marianne is essentially friendless. Despite their differences, they form an unlikely couple. They eventually enroll at the same college, where their roles are flipped and suddenly Marianne's the cool one. They date, break up and make up—a few times over—in a will-they-won’t-they relationship that will keep you hooked to the last page.
8. furiously Happy By Jenny Lawson
We don’t think of a book about mental illness as inherently funny, but Lawson is able to make the hilarious most of a not-so-great situation. Diagnosed at a young age with a litany of mental issues including depression and phobias, Lawson resolves to combat her challenges by being “furiously happy” and, in turn, makes it totally OK not to be OK.
9. we Could Be Beautiful By Swan Huntley
A tightly written psychological thriller about Manhattan’s elite, Huntley’s wonderful novel asks if we can ever really trust another person. Her protagonist, Catherine, has lived a life of (unfulfilling) luxury when she meets William, an equally privileged man who seems to have it all. Turns out, he doesn’t, and it’s fun and addictive to watch as the facade slowly disintegrates.
10. wow, No Thank You By Samantha Irby
When she published her first hit essay collection, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Irby was working at a veterinary clinic in Chicago. She has since left that job and city, and charts the sometimes rocky transition in this collection, which covers bad dates with new friends, spending time in L.A. as a “cheese fry–eating slightly damp Midwest person” and more.
11. the Secret History By Donna Tartt
Not quite as long as The Goldfinch, Tartt’s debut novel about a group of friends at an elite Vermont college is enthralling. Opening with a murder, The Secret History reads like a slow burn, with tension building gradually and an ending that will blow your mind. Reading it as a group, you can’t help but talk about what you would do in an even vaguely similar situation.
12. darling Rose Gold By Stephanie Wrobel
For the first 18 years of her life, Rose Gold believed she was seriously ill. But it turns out that her mom, Patty, was just a really good liar. After serving five years in prison for conning people out of money under the guise of raising funds for her not-actually-sick daughter, Patty gets out and begs her daughter to take her back in. Patty insists that all she wants is to reconcile their differences, and that she's forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows that her mother always settles a score.
13. the Book Thief By Markus Zusak
A total book lover’s pick, Zusak’s 2005 novel was on the New York Times best-seller list for 375 weeks for good reason. It’s about a young girl in Nazi Germany who steals books before they’re burned, and it speaks to the immense power of words—even in the bleakest situations. Be forewarned: You will cry and you will be moved.