Want to start a book club, but don’t know what you and your friends should read together? Or maybe you’re in a long-running group, but you’re struggling to find next month’s pick? You’ve come to the right place: Below, you’ll find 50 great
book club books for any type of group. The titles listed here span more than 40 years of publishing history, are all widely available in paperback, and clock in at under 400 pages — which means you’ll never have to just pretend you read until the end.
There’s something here for every taste, too: From historical fiction like
Girl with a Pearl Earring and In the Time of the Butterflies, to affecting memoirs like Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land and , to imaginative, out-of-the-box reads like Somebody’s Daughter Memoirs of a Polar Bear and Piranesi, your group is sure to find something up their alley.
Starting your own book club is as easy as picking out a title and getting a handful of fellow readers to share it with. So check out these 50 great book club books, and
get reading. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 After the Bloom
Rita knows her mother, Lily, has a long history of mental illness — and a habit of disappearing suddenly — so it isn’t a huge shock when Lily once again goes missing. But getting to the root of Lily’s most recent vanishing act will require digging up the long-lost facts of Rita’s Japanese Canadian family history, which all point back to Lily’s time in an internment camp.
2 Bastard out of Carolina
Dorothy Allison’s semi-autobiographical novel centers on Bone, a young girl growing up in Greenville, South Carolina in the 1950s. Bone’s 15-year-old mother, Anney, fights to maintain Bone’s dignity, despite the fact that Bone’s birth certificate is stamped “illegitimate.” That’s easier said than done in a community where everyone knows their neighbors’ business —
all of their business, except the cruelty and depravity of Bone’s stepfather, Daddy Glen. 3 Big Stone Gap
Ave Maria Mulligan is pretty happy with her life in 1970s Virginia: The unmarried 35-year-old has become the town’s spinster, but she’s also a leader in her community. When her mother dies, though, her world is blown apart. Not only was she
not her father’s biological daughter, Ave learns, but she also has a claim to a large inheritance — thanks to a family she’s never met, living on the other side of the world. 4 The Book of Polly
With two adult children out of the nest, Polly thought she was done raising kids. But when she became pregnant in her late 50s, just before her husband’s death, she found herself starting over with her daughter, Willow, by her side. It’s been mother and daughter against the world for all 10 years of Willow’s life, but Willow has a lot of questions about who her mother was before she arrived. When a devastating diagnosis comes into their lives, Polly will finally be forced to answer Willow’s questions.
5 The Book That Matters Most
Still reeling from the end of her 25-year-long marriage, Ava seeks solace in a book club. The club asks that each member pick one title for the group to read: the book that has had the greatest impact on their life. Ava knows exactly which book she’ll pick — the one that she turned to as a child after she suffered two devastating losses — but tracking it down proves troublesome. As Ava chases down that elusive book, her daughter, Maggie, grapples with struggles of her own while trying to build a life in Paris.
6 Breath, Eyes, Memory
Twelve-year-old Sophie is forced to leave the only home she’s ever known when her mother, Martine, summons her from Haiti to New York. Once Sophie arrives, things only get more complicated: She discovers that she is the product of her mother’s rape, and finds herself increasingly disturbed — both by her mother’s traumatic episodes and by her misguided attempts to shield her from the same fate.
7 The Buddha in the Attic
Julie Otsuka’s powerful novella traces decades in the lives of a group of “picture brides”: young women who immigrated to America from Japan to marry Japanese American men — whom they knew only through portrait photographs provided by their matchmakers — in the early 20th century.
8 Call Me By Your Name
The basis for the 2017 film of the same name, André Aciman’s
Call Me By Your Name centers on Elio, a 17-year-old American-born Jewish boy living with his parents on the Italian Riviera. There, Elio embarks on a passionate, ill-fated love affair with Oliver, the Jewish American graduate student his literati parents are hosting for the summer. 9 Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land
As a Métis woman living in the United States, Toni Jensen’s life has been shaped by violence — violence often ignored or excused. In
Carry, Jensen traces this personal history — from her childhood hunting trips with her father, to veiled threats made in a creative writing workshop, to her experiences at the Standing Rock protests — alongside the long legacy of violence in the U.S. 10 Cyclopedia Exotica
Woman World, graphic novelist Aminder Dhaliwal explored feminism and patriarchal structures by imagining a future in which women — both cisgender and trans — were forced to reshape society when men went extinct. In Cyclopedia Exotica, Dhaliwal tackles xenophobia, following a community of immigrant cyclopses as they make their way in a world built for those with two eyes. 11 The Death of Vivek Oji
In late-20th-century Nigeria, Kavita and Chika struggle to understand why their son, a military school student, now wears his hair long and appears increasingly feminine. Even Vivek’s oldest friend, a cousin named Osita, can’t explain the changes he sees in Vivek. But when Vivek dies unexpectedly, each of his family members is forced to reckon with how they handled his gender expression and sexuality.
12 The Dying Game
The Dying Game, Asa Avdic imagines a near-future world controlled by a Soviet Union that never fell. Against this bleak, Orwellian backdrop, intelligence agent Anna Francis is tasked with administering a very unusual test to six people vying for a coveted intelligence role. She’s to pretend she’s just another competitor, then stage her own death — and surveil the others as they realize there’s a murderer among them. But what she sees on the camera feeds will make her question everything she knows about her assignment. 13 The Echo Wife
Evelyn perfected cloning. But just because two people share DNA doesn’t mean they’ll be exactly the same: Just ask Martine, Evelyn’s own clone, who embodies everything Evelyn is not. Safe to say, the two aren’t natural allies. But when Evelyn’s husband — who was cheating on her with Martine — turns up dead, Evelyn and Martine will have to work together to unravel the mystery.
14 Empire of Wild
One year ago, Joan’s husband, Victor, vanished after an argument. Now, Joan’s just spotted Victor leading a tent revival — except that he swears his name is Eugene and that they’ve never met before. At a loss, Joan draws on her Métis heritage to investigate Victor’s disappearance, Eugene’s past, and a horror figure straight out of Métis legend.
15 The English Patient
As World War II comes to a close, four people — a thief who’s lost the use of his hands, a sapper with PTSD, an amnesiac Englishman who’s suffered extensive burns, and the nurse in charge of caring for him — come together at an isolated Italian villa in this heart-wrenching, cerebral novel.
16 Everything Here Is Beautiful
When they were children, Miranda was always responsible for keeping Lucia on the straight and narrow, even when Lucia’s mental illness was at its worst. Now, Miranda’s built a life for herself in Switzerland, far away from her sister — until she’s pulled back into Lucia’s world to bail her out once again... if Lucia will accept Miranda’s help.
17 Exit West
Nadia and Saeed don’t have much in common, but — bound by the shared trauma of living in their war-torn country — they find themselves falling hard and fast for one another. Their relationship grows increasingly strained, though, when they flee their homeland through a series of magical doors, each of which opens a portal to a different part of the world.
18 Girl at War
Ana’s life changed forever in 1991, when the Croatian War of Independence upended life in Zagreb. Ana — then just 10 years old — escaped the ongoing conflict by fleeing to the United States, where she spent a decade trying to forget her old life... until she decided to return to Croatia, and confront her past once and for all.
19 Girl with a Pearl Earring
No one does historical fiction quite like Tracy Chevalier, and his 1999 novel is a particular treat: The story centers on 16-year-old Griet, who goes to work in Johannes Vermeer’s household, and ultimately becomes his student and muse. Whether you loved the
Girl with a Pearl Earring film adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth, or you’ve never heard of the book before in your life, you’re sure to savor this page-turner. 20 The God of Small Things
Set in mid-century Kerala,
The God of Small Things centers on fraternal twins Rahel and Esthappen, both of whom are too innocent to realize the looming tragedy that’s about to befall their family. Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning novel is a profound treatise on forbidden love and unbreakable ties. 21 A Head Full of Ghosts A Head Full of Ghosts centers on the Barretts, a family whose normal suburban existence is thrown for a loop when their daughter, 14-year-old Marjorie, begins to show signs of mental illness. Doctors prove unable to help, so the Barretts turn to a Catholic priest, who suggests conducting an exorcism — and bringing a TV crew along for the show. But something goes terribly wrong when the priest is trying to help Marjorie, and the terrifying events are captured on film.
Now, a decade and a half after the family’s darkest day was televised, Marjorie’s younger sister is ready to talk about what happened.
22 High Cotton
Darryl Pinckney’s autobiographical novel follows its unnamed narrator as he comes of age in an upper-middle-class home in midcentury Indianapolis. When he leaves the nest, he struggles to fit in with his Columbia University classmates, and this alienation — a symptom of both his economic privilege and others’ racial prejudice — shadows him wherever he goes.
23 The Honjin Murders
If you like classic murder mysteries, like those written by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, you’ll love Seishi Yokomizo’s Detective Kosuke Kindaichi series. The first of these is
The Honjin Murders, which follows the unlikely amateur sleuth as he solves a brutal murder involving a high-profile wedding in a sleepy Japanese village. 24 Human Acts
Human Acts weaves its way through the lives of various students and citizens living through a 1980 student protest in South Korea, all of whom are connected by their proximity to a young boy named Dong-ho, who was killed in the midst of a demonstration. 25 In the Time of the Butterflies
Six months before General Trujillo’s assassination, three of his most vocal critics — the Mirabal sisters — died in a suspicious car crash. Julia Alvarez’s
In the Time of the Butterflies resurrects the three Mirabals and their fourth, apolitical sister, Dedé, to tell their stories. 26 The Incendiaries
Phoebe, a Korean American college student still reeling from her mother’s untimely death, finds solace in a quasi-religious group founded by an activist who was once detained in North Korea. Phoebe’s friend and classmate, Will, recognizes that the group’s beliefs aren’t benign — after all, he’s had to extricate himself from fanatical factions in the past. When the group begins committing violent acts, both Will and Phoebe will have to reckon with their faith — and with their feelings for one another.
27 The Intuitionist
Lila Mae Watson is an Intuitionist — someone who
feels the problems of the elevators they inspect — and, as such, is already disliked by the Empiricists, who rely solely on systematic measurements to evaluate machinery. Lila Mae also happens to be the first Black woman to join the Department of Elevator Inspectors; suffice to say, she’s got a lot to prove. So when a brand-new elevator crashes following Lila Mae’s inspection, she throws herself into a private investigation of the incident, even as tensions in the department rise. 28 Jazz
Set in 1920s Harlem,
Jazz centers on Violet, a middle-aged woman whose husband has just murdered his teenage lover, Dorcas. Violet causes a scene at Dorcas’ funeral and stabs the girl’s corpse — but in the aftermath, she enters into a strangely comforting friendship with Dorcas’ aunt, whose life seems to mirror Violet’s. 29 Kindred
Octavia E. Butler’s
Kindred centers on Dana, a 26-year-old Black woman living in 1976 with her loving, white husband. Through a series of fainting spells, Dana is transported to the Weylin plantation in early-19th-century Maryland, where she meets her ancestors: a rich white man named Rufus and an enslaved Black woman named Alice. 30 Kitchens of the Great Midwest Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a heartfelt and deeply affective novel, told in a series of vignettes highlighting dishes served at a restaurant run by Eva Thorvald — a masterful chef whose mother abandoned her when she was very young. 31 Like Water for Chocolate
As the youngest of her mother’s daughters, Tita de la Garza is forbidden to marry, lest her mother wind up with no one to care for her in her old age. So when Pedro asks for Tita’s hand in marriage, her mother offers him Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, instead. Pedro accepts, if only to be close to Tita, setting off a chain of events that will change the De La Garza women’s lives forever.
32 The Lover
This Prix Goncourt-winning autobiographical novel centers on an unnamed 15-year-old attending boarding school in Saigon, in what was then called French Indochina. With her father dead and her mother emotionally unavailable and financially ruined, the teenager clings to the affections of her lover, the 27-year-old scion of a wealthy Chinese family — but is only able to fully appreciate what transpired between them once their love affair has ended.
33 Memoirs of a Polar Bear
A uniquely inventive novel, Yoko Tawada’s
Memoirs of a Polar Bear traces the lineage of a trio of polar bears famed for both their performances and their writing: a Canadian-born Soviet Party member and circus performer; her daughter, Tosca, a Canadian expat who performs in East Germany; and Tosca’s son, Knut, who grows up in a Lepizig zoo. 34 Mexican Gothic
When she receives a distressing letter from her cousin Catalina, Noemí leaves her socialite life in Mexico City behind to rescue her. Catalina recently married a white man and moved to his family’s home in the Mexican countryside, and her in-laws insist that her nervous condition is the only thing that’s wrong. Noemí can’t shake the feeling that her cousin is in danger, however, and she’ll be damned if she goes home empty-handed.
35 The Mothers
Nadia once had a summer romance with Luke, when she was 17 and he was 21. It wasn’t meant to be serious, but it quickly got complicated when Nadia got pregnant: Luke paid for Nadia to have an abortion, then abandoned her at the clinic. Nadia hid this from her very pious then-best friend, Aubrey — and when Luke later married Aubrey, he kept it under wraps as well. Now, Nadia’s back in town, and all three of them will have to confront their shared past.
36 New People
Caucasia author Danzy Senna comes New People. Here, readers meet Maria and Khalil, a pair of successful, biracial Stanford alums set to have the wedding of the season — in Martha’s Vineyard, no less! But when Maria, who is often mistaken for a white woman, becomes infatuated with a dark-skinned Black man, she’s forced to question the success story the media has made her and Khalil out to be. 37 Our Last Days in Barcelona
After her sister goes missing in Barcelona, Isabel, a Cuban exile, sets out to find her in Spain. Her journey, set in the 1960s, mirrors that of their mother, who tried to escape her past in Cuba by traveling to Barcelona in 1936, only to have it come roaring across the sea to meet her — a piece of family history Isabel learns while searching for her sister.
Years ago, Sae, Maki, Akiko, and Yuko were the last people to see their friend, Emily, alive. They left her in the custody of a stranger none of them could later describe to police — a suspected killer who remains uncaught. Emily’s grieving mother put a curse on the four misguided friends back then, and now, it’s come to collect.
This dreamlike novel will have your book club talking long after your wine glasses are empty. The story here centers on the eponymous Piranesi, a man trapped in a labyrinthine house of seemingly endless hallways, winding staircases, and sculpture galleries. He’s looking for something — something he knows only as A Great and Secret Knowledge — but his search will leave him questioning the very nature of his reality.
40 The Plague of Doves
Young, bisexual, and mixed-race, Evelina struggles to find a place to belong. She seeks grounding in the stories her grandfather, Mooshum, is willing to share about their tiny North Dakota town’s checkered past — including a grisly case of multiple murder and the subsequent lynching of several local Ojibwe men.
41 Real Life
Brandon Taylor’s lauded debut follows Wallace, a young Black man from Alabama, as he pursues a biochemistry degree in the Midwest. He’s worked hard to finish his studies without letting anyone get too close to him, but one fateful weekend will make him reconsider his place at the University.
42 Saints at the River
When a young tourist drowns after an ill-advised dip in one of South Carolina’s
Wild and Scenic Rivers, the local community is torn over whether to allow her family to attempt a recovery mission — not only because the river is likely to claim the lives of the rescuers, but also because tampering with the river could open it to further ecological damage in the future. At the center of it all is Maggie, a photojournalist who’s sent back to her hometown to document the case, just as tensions begin to rise. 43 The Salt Eaters
After she survives a double-headed suicide attempt, the wife of a philandering militant finds herself at the Southwest Community Infirmary, undergoing a radical treatment administered by Minnie — a faith healer who works with a haint named Old Wife.
44 Sister Mine
Abby and Makeda were born as conjoined twins, the children of a demigod and a human woman. They were separated early in life, and the surgery left Makeda without the magical mojo Abby shares with their father. As such, Makeda made it a point to blaze her own trail, but she’s pulled back into demigod politics when dear old dad goes missing.
45 Somebody’s Daughter
Ashley C. Ford’s powerful memoir unravels her complicated relationship with her father, a man who was incarcerated for most of her life for a crime the family kept secret from her. In
Somebody’s Daughter, Ford teases out the impact of absence, violence, and love — not just on her life, but on her father’s as well. 46 Tell the Wolves I’m Home
This coming-of-age novel centers on June, a precocious 14-year-old girl living in 1987. Her uncle, Finn, has just died from AIDS-related causes, and his lover, Toby, was barred from attending the funeral. Together, June and Toby work through their grief and lingering guilt.
47 They All Fall Down
Another taut thriller, Rachel Howzell Hall’s
They All Fall Down follows Miriam as she and six other guests travel to a Mexican island in the Sea of Cortez. They’ve all been invited to what they think is the getaway of a lifetime, but each of these vacationers has a secret, and someone’s threatening to expose them all. 48 The Widows of Malabar Hill
In this lush historical mystery, an Oxford-educated lawyer living in 1920s Bombay is tasked with a tricky assignment: interviewing the secluded Muslim widows of her father’s late client. The women have signed away their inheritance without explanation, and the lawyer must determine whether the widows are carrying out their own wishes — or someone else’s.
49 Year of the Rabbit
Year of the Rabbit, Cambodian French artist Tian Veasna recounts his family’s 1975 flight from the Khmer Rouge, who seized control of the country just three days before Veasna was born. Based on interviews with the artist’s family members, this is a gripping account of life under the oppressive regime and the difficult choices some made to seek asylum elsewhere. 50 The Year of the Witching
If the Prophet and his followers had their way, Immanuelle — the result of her mother’s forbidden romance with a man of a different race — would never have been born. As such, Immanuelle has grown up knowing herself to be the source of her family’s shame; even though she does her best to follow the Prophet’s Holy Protocol, her neighbors still look down on her. But when Immanuelle discovers her late mother’s diary in a forest haunted by the ghosts of executed witches, she begins to uncover the secrets her Church has tried so desperately to hide.
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