10 Books EVERYONE In Your Whole Book Club Will Like... Hopefully
Every reader knows how hard it is to find a book that everyone in your whole book club will like — and I do mean, everyone. Just because you and your most literary of best friends have the same taste in dessert, pinot grigio, and Saturday night activities (aka: getting together to discuss the book you all just read together) doesn’t mean you all have the same taste in books, making the search for the next perfect book for your book club seem nearly impossible. Plus, there can be a lot of pressure behind your selection; what if everyone hates it? Or worse, what if they read your much-angsted-over selection and then judge the rest of your bookshelves forever? Let’s face it: there’s a lot riding on you choosing the right book for your book club.
But don’t worry, I’ve done some of the heavy lifting (by that I mean reading) for you — at least for your next 11 books, anyway. In my (admittedly, totally subjective) opinion, the titles on this list are books everyone in your book club will love (or at least like. A little.) And hey, if for some reason they don’t, I give you full permission to blame me. See, all that pressure is starting to lift already, isn't it?
Here are 10 books everyone in your whole book club will like… hopefully, anyway.
1. The Girls by Emma Cline
Everyone I know has been talking about this book, and after reading it I totally see why. Evie Boyd is only 14-years-old when, in the wake of her parents' divorce and a fight with her best friend, she meets a young woman named Suzanne who lives on what, at first, seems to be a utopic ranch hidden in the hills of northern California. As Evie is drawn deeper and deeper into Suzanne’s life, she becomes enthralled with what turns out to be a cult, led by a disturbing, if mildly compelling man named Russell. But while freedom and never-ending-love seem like appealing pursuits, Evie begins to realize she might have been drawn into something a whole lot darker. While clearly resonating with the Manson murders that effectively ended the American 1960s, The Girls tells of being young and unsure, and how one startling moment of inspiration in that uncertain space can lead someone, in this case Evie, to change the trajectory of their life — for better or for worse — in ways no one would have ever expected. Cline’s exploration into how the path to destruction doesn’t come in one fell swoop, but happens in tiny, incremental moments, one after the other, is perhaps more relevant today than ever.
2. Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin
Where Virginia Woolf said a woman needed one room of her own, Olga Grushin gives that woman forty. Mrs. Caldwell, the axle around which the dreamy, fluid prose of Forty Rooms rotates, has lived a life contained within these forty rooms — literally and metaphorically. Grappling with issues of female identity and the choices women are often compelled to make, Forty Rooms will take you through Mrs. Caldwell's life of love and loss, dreams realized and others discarded, as she questions her decisions and explores the path never traveled. And at the end of it all, has she lived her life well? You’ll just have to read to find out.
3. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Ten-year-old Darling and her young friends are living in a Zimbabwe shanty town following the military-ordered destruction of their homes and neighborhoods. Then her father returns from working abroad for years — during which time he sent the family no money and little communication — and is in the advanced stages of AIDS. Dreaming of a better, more peaceful future, Darling is sent to the United States to live with her aunt in Detroit, Michigan. There she is forced to find a “new name” and while the U.S. offers Darling more opportunities and safety, she finds herself homesick for a home that no longer exists. With touching prose, wisdom, and humor, We Need New Names tells a story common to many immigrants struggling to build a home far away from home.
4. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Chinese-American teenager Lydia Lee is the favorite child of her parents, Marilyn and James. She is beautiful, popular, and destined for great success. Unfortunately, she’s also dead — her family just doesn’t know it yet. (Don’t worry, this is definitely not a spoiler alert.) So begins Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You , the 2015 ALA Alex Award winner about family secrets, hidden identities, and a tragedy that will either save the Lee family from each itself or destroy it completely. Pulling together a common array of novel elements: a missing teenage girl, a community lake, a family with deep turmoil hiding just beneath outward appearances, Ng has re-envisioned this story, taking you into unexpected territory from the very beginning.
5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The utterly compelling Homegoing tells the story of two sisters, Effia and Esi, born in different African villages at the same time. While the sisters share the same father, they are entirely unknown to one another. One will be sold into slavery, the other married to an Englishman and given a life of (relative) freedom and comfort, though their paths cross in an unexpected way. From a civil war in 18th-century Ghana to 20th-century Harlem, this novel will take you around the world and back, from the worlds of Effia and Esi to those of their descendants, showing how two lives so very close together can grow so unimaginably apart.
6. Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
In the wake of her sister’s death, Elyria takes off for New Zealand on a one-way ticket, without telling her family and friends. Spiraling down a path of haphazard and often reckless behavior, Elyria’s actions in her life mirror the inner-turmoil she experiences in her mind. While her husband tries to find his “missing” wife, Elyria tries to find her “missing” self — and realizes that this angry, risk-taking, psychologically deteriorating woman might actually be her. Haunting and surreal, this novel will show you the darker side of that dream we all (sometimes) have about throwing everything we have away, and starting our lives anew somewhere else.
7. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
Like a revolving door of all equally compelling characters, Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife ventures into a landscape marked by death and destruction — the Balkans — and asks how we, as humans, respond to the impermanence of life. One of the characters, Natalie, is a traveling to the Balkans as a physician on a mission trip to an orphanage, but she has her personal reasons for making the journey as well: years ago her grandfather died a mysterious death, and Natalie wants to solve it.
8. A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl
This novel is equal parts funny and touching. Six years ago, in the wake of her family’s unexpected dissolution, former actress and wife Valerie Torrey left both her husband and her role on a sci-fi sitcom, moving across the country and taking her young son Alex with her. But now it's time for Alex and his father to reunite, and Valerie is taking him across the country (again) to do it. Making the best out of a bad situation, on the road from New York to L.A. Valerie takes her son to one comic book convention after another, immersing him in a world of fantasy before the jarring (and possibly disappointing) reality of meeting his estranged father.
9. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
If you don’t remember the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses (don’t worry, I didn’t either) it’s basically like reliving the 12th grade all over again (sneaking out at night, dancing) without all the covert operations, sexism, and being forced to get married as a punishment for disobeying your parents. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is essentially that story re-imagined, with 1920s flappers instead of medieval damsels. Exploring the realities of asserting oneself as a woman and standing up for what one believes in, it ends with a kind-of real-world “happily ever after” but with more bills to pay and less fairy godmothers.
10. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
Set in a future, dystopic America, On Such a Full Sea introduces readers to Fan, a woman who, as far as I can gather, is occupied entirely by her career of diving into fish tanks to clean them and retrieve any dead fish — so, future dystopic America is a little stranger than I expected. But when Reg, Fan’s lover, mysteriously disappears, Fan leaves her ordered, homogeneous, tall-walled community and begins to look for him (but first she poisons all the fish, which seems a little mean-spirited to me, although I'm sure it's meant to be symbolic.) What she discovers outside the walls is a landscape in grave decline, and nothing like she expected.