Imagine growing up in the remote mountains of Idaho, never attending school, and with parents who taught you to be so suspicious of the world that you’ve never seen a doctor. This was Tara Westover’s early life, and here she tells us how she bravely stepped away from it to get a formal education. This book raises fascinating questions, not just about the institution of education, but the moral evolution that ensues when a young woman takes her fate into her own hands.
A Spark of Light
As with most of her novels, Picoult’s latest can take book club discussions in several directions. The issues of gun control and women’s reproductive rights take center stage in this gripping story, but then there’s the structure: what effect does Picoult achieve by delivering the narrative in reverse chronological order? This one might require more than one meeting to grasp.
Fans of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue will dive headfirst into this revealing look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s relationship with Lorena Hickok, Eleanor’s close friend and lover during FDR’s presidency. Bloom’s fictional account of the true romance elegantly shines light on a little-discussed fact of American history.
Night of Miracles
A tug-at-the-heartstrings tale, Night of Miracles celebrates the power of community and is a timely reminder of how compassion can be an antidote to challenging situations. Defy your book club-mates to resist the uplifting message of Berg’s latest, which teaches us that love is often found in unexpected places—and people.
Set in 1761 Paris, this bizarre story could keep a book group talking all night—or at least up all night. Based on the life of Madame Tussaud, the novel is at once macabre and funny, weird and warming. Its originality makes it compulsively readable, while it remains inscrutable enough to fuel endless conversation and interpretation.
Mary Lynn Bracht
World War II separates two sisters in Korea in this debut novel by Mary Lynn Bracht, an American author of Korean descent. The powerful tale chronicles the ugly realities that war forces one sister to endure, while surfacing the anguish the other feels as she tries to make peace with the past. Can love triumph over evil? Readers will relish the ways these sisters find out.
A window on the time when two Constitutional Amendments were passed—the 18th, which banned the sale of alcohol, and the 19th, which gave women the right to vote—Liberated Spirits will ignite a conversation around women and politics in the roaring ’20s. Prohibition and voting rights were entwined in a complicated relationship, and readers will love dissecting it.
In Search of Lost Books
Giorgio Van Straten
Bibliophiles with a taste for the philosophical will delight in this story of eight “lost” works by famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Lord Byron, Sylvia Plath, and others. It’s a globe-trotting, centuries-spanning literary detective novel that will reveal the inner book reviewer in every reader. Charming and disarming, it’s also a book nerd’s dream.
The Boat People
Sharon Bala’s timely debut novel promotes a deep dive on international relations. The story centers on a group of refugees who flee to Canada during the Sri Lankan civil war and are thrown into detention amid suspicion that they’re terrorists. The politics and social justice issues raised here demand thoughtful consideration.
John Banville picks up the narrative of The Portrait of a Lady where Henry James tantalizingly left off, and convincingly imagines the rest of Isabel Archer’s life. Because the award-winning author is so skilled at portraiture, he’s able to craft a would-be sequel of which James himself surely would have approved.
Finding just the right book for a group read is like selecting wine for a dinner party: it needs to please a variety of palates and spark great conversation. No matter the theme or genre, a book club book will encourage debate and inspire readers to articulate their thoughts. The books on this list range from historical fiction to current events, spanning eras and geographies from 18th-century Paris to present-day Idaho. These gifts for book clubbers will galvanize conversation, delivering inspiration well after the final page.
Editor: Eliza Smith; Featured Image: Matt McCarty