I’ve been in the same book club for nearly ten years now. It’s a pretty diverse group of women but we have one thing in common: we love to read. One Sunday a month we gather at the host’s house and discuss the themes, character, and merits of a different book. But after the discussion is over, we spend almost as much time choosing our next book. We come armed with literary magazines, Amazon links, and recommendations for friends, and usually have about 10-12 books in consideration at any meeting. It’s a fun way to learn about new books.
One thing I’ve noted is that not every great book lends to a great book club discussion. Some of our best discussions, in fact, have been inspired by books that none of us particularly enjoyed. Whether we’re debating over character intentions or questioning an author’s attitude towards immigration, I always enjoy this monthly discussion with smart women, and I thought I would share some of the books that have inspired the best conversations over the year.
image-89 1 of 13A Confederacy of Dunces
This class tale of a blundering narcissist is hilarious, but the themes of underlying isolation are just as relevant in the internet age as they were when it was written.
image-90 2 of 13First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (P.S.)
This tragic and harrowing memoir follows a young Cambodian girl whose family is torn apart by Pol Pot's regime. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, and her siblings were sent to labor camps. It's a story of brutality but also of survival.
image-91 3 of 13Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Movie Tie-In): A Novel
This is a heartbreaking novel about a boy searching for peace in the aftermath of 9/11 and his father's death. This book brings up many existential themes that provoke a great discussion.
image-92 4 of 13The History of Love
The History of Love spans of period of over 60 years and takes readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach. At the center of each main character's psyche is the issue of loneliness, and the need to fill a void left empty by lost love.This is a book that doesn't wrap up perfectly, so readers will likely enjoy processing what really happened with the richly-drawn characters.
image-93 5 of 13Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
A book that focuses on the inhuman treatment of women in 19th-century China, this book is a great discussion-starter for talking about issues of feminism, as well as friendship, loyalty, and familial bonds.
image-94 6 of 13The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
This story follows the life of a Oscar, a promising young Dominican child growing up in New Jersey who morphs into an overweight, awkward teen who is desperate to lose his virginity. The book explores issues of class & race discrimination, class & race discrimination, unrequited love, political persecution, and sexual assault, and provides the reader with a lesson in the political, social and economic history of the Dominican Republic
image-95 7 of 13The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This book is an insightful glimpse into the world of an autistic teenager with a great talent for mathematics. It prompted some great discussions on the nature of love, as well as the realities of living with Autism.
image-96 8 of 13The Glass Castle: A Memoir
This memoir details Walls' challenging childhood and the heartbreaking paths her family traveled down, leading them to homelessness. It prompted a great discussion on poverty and homelessness.
image-97 9 of 13Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir
This book was a fascinating read about life as a Orthodox Jew, and one man's journey of losing his faith and then finding it again.
image-98 10 of 13The Memory Keeper's Daughter
What happens when a baby is born with Down syndrome? The Memory Keeper's Daughter explores deception, family secrets, the influence of the past on the present, our tendency to rationalize poor decisions, and the tenuous nature of human connections . . . it's full of rich themes for a book club discussion.
image-99 11 of 13The Sheltering Sky (P.S.)
This novel follows three young Americans who travel to the North African desert in search of themselves and new experiences, to devastating results. It touches on themes of privilege, survival, nihilism, and existential angst.
image-100 12 of 13White Teeth: A Novel
Zadie Smith takes on race, sex, class, history, and the minefield of gender politics . . . lots of great food for discussion here.
image-101 13 of 13What is the What
This eye-opening and heart-wrenching story about one of Sudan's lost boys will leave you contemplating the power of the human spirit.
Do you have any book recommendations for a good book club discussion?