I am always looking for good book club ideas. I’m part of several book club groups and the number one thing we look for is a well-written book that leads to a lively discussion. (Lively does not necessarily mean controversial.)
When I was recently asked to recommend some good book club books, I had a lot of favorites so it was mostly a matter of narrowing it down. I also tried to pick different types of stories—not everyone loves my favorite genres as much as I do.
Here is my list of 7 Absolutely Awesome books that make for great book club discussions.
The Rent Collector — Camron Wright.
Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, and the expense of medicines that are not working. Then Sang Ly learns a secret about the ill-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money—a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past.
Discussion Topics: poverty, discrimination, bigotry, hope, second chances, and redemption.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet — Jamie Ford.
In the 1940s, Henry Lee’s world is a jumble of confusion. His father is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at an exclusive school, Henry meets Keiko, a young Japanese American. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love. After Keiko and her family are swept away to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry is still trying to find the words that might explain the actions of his father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Discussion Topics: family loyalty, generational conflict, racism, war, and injustice.
The Poisonwood Bible — Barbara Kingsolver.
Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his wife and four daughters on a mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
Discussion topics: religion, obsession, culture, forgiveness, family.
The Invention of Wings — Sue Monk Kidd.
On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, she is given ownership of ten year old Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a slave who is to be Sarah’s handmaid. Over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Discussion Topics: slavery, abolitionism, struggle, freedom, empowerment,
(Kidd’s book The Secret Life of Bees is also wonderful for book clubs.)
Dancing on Broken Glass — Ka Hancock.
Lucy and Mickey probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder, and she has a family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.
Mickey promises to take his medication. Lucy promises not to blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, they have good days and bad days—and some very bad days.
But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.
Discussion Topics: marriage, commitment, mental illness, cancer, love.
The Roots of the Olive Tree — Courtney Miller Santo.
Set in a house on an olive grove in northern California, The Roots of the Olive Tree is a beautiful, touching story that brings to life five generations of women—including an unforgettable 112-year-old matriarch determined to break all Guinness longevity records—the secrets and lies that divide them and the love that ultimately ties them together.
Discussion Topics: generational bonds, secrets, longevity, joy and sorrow, strength, despair, hope, forgiveness, love.
The Persian Pickle Club — Sandra Dallas.
It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up, and there’s not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farm wife, a highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use.
When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another.
Discussion Topics: abuse, fear, secrets, strength, acceptance, teamwork, friendship.