IT SEEMS TO ME that book clubs were made for women who know who the Kardashians are but don’t really care.
After all, what’s the one question women ask one another (after discussing the merits of going gray)? In my experience, the question is the modern equivalent of “Read any good books lately?” specifically, What is your book club reading?
So I’ve compiled the beginning of a book list, a few more than a baker’s dozen in no particular order and with not a lot of explanation (Amazon reviews or Goodreads can do that for you). A lot of books wind up being “book club books,” so you may have already read a bunch. But there may be some hidden gems.
Did I leave out your favorites? Of course I did! Feel free to add to the list—the more the merrier! Just put your recommendations in a Comment so everyone can see them. And remember, sometimes the best discussions stem from books we don’t like.
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, by Deborah Feldman. A young ultra-Orthodox woman leaves her Brooklyn Hasidic community. The book is also a Netflix series, starring the young Orthodox girl from the terrific Israeli TV series Shtisel, also on Netflix.
The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead. “Inspired by a real [“correctional”] school in Florida, The Nickel Boys is a haunting narrative that reinforces Whitehead’s prowess as a leading voice in American literature.” —TIME
Red Notice, by Bill Browder. “Part John Grisham-like thriller, part business and political memoir” (The New York Times), “Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.” (Fortune)
The Italian Teacher, by Tom Rachman. “A poignant, touching tale about living in the shadow of a brazen artistic genius . . . Unforgettable.” —USA Today
If It Bleeds, by Stephen King. “Four new, exceptionally compelling novellas (The Washington Post); “It is striking—sometimes eerily so—how necessary these stories feel today. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, by Elif Shafak. As exotic as the Istanbul setting is, and as carnivalesque her characters, British-Turkish writer Elif Shafak, author of The Bastard of Istanbul and Three Daughters of Eve, delivers a compellingly human story in a most audacious structure.
Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson. A sunken German U-boat? Off the coast of New Jersey? Two weekend scuba divers searched for the truth—and who knew about it—half a century later.
Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami. Gripping, prophetic and suffused with comedy and menace, this is an astonishingly imaginative detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of buried secrets from Japan’s past.
Are You Happy Now?, by Richard Babcock. John Lincoln is a book editor miserably ensconced in a third-rate publishing house, whose overwhelming ambition is to flee the Midwest and land in New York—where, he imagines, he’ll work with real writers. Are You Happy Now? is a comic novel about the hard work of understanding what it is you want.
Citizens of London, by Lynne Olson. The behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the entitled millionaire who ran the Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain.
Old Filth, by Jane Gardam. FILTH stands for Failed in London Try Hong Kong, and Old Filth, a retired lawyer who made his reputation in Southeast Asia, finds in his English-countryside retirement that his life was not quite as he remembers it.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. “A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature . . . through the eyes of an abandoned child.” —The New York Times Book Review
A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. Magnificent, and humorous, this sweeping novel pits four ordinary people against India in the time of Indira Gandhi and the State of Emergency. The scope and the humanity call to mind the best of Dickens.
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. The orphaned Anglo-Indian twin brothers Stone come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. We all fell a little bit in love with this Russian aristocrat forced to live out his post-Revolution life in a Moscow hotel—as a waiter. What could have been a tale of oppression turns into a surprisingly sunny saga, thanks to the count’s grace, dry humor and noblesse oblige.
Educated, by Tara Westover. Westover’s personal story, growing up in a family in which girls were to become wives—and in which coveting an education was considered sinful is simply stunning.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah. Ignore what has to be the ugliest book jacket in years (see photo on our homepage) and settle in for a memoir by the South African star of The Daily Show that resonates with politics and real life, offering refreshing perspectives on both.
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