What books has your book group liked?
May 14, 2017 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Me: in a long-running book group, made up mostly of white, middle class, urban or suburban women who knit. You: in a long-running book group which is demographically not like mine. What are some of the books your group has enjoyed?

The ideal book would be in English, available on the Kindle in the US, enjoyable to read, and written by a woman.
posted by The corpse in the library to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Fun Home was the biggest hit in the book club I participated in for about two years. Our demographics differed from your group's, but there'd be enough overlap overall that I had doubts about whether to answer.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:57 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Picking books is not easy. Our group required that whoever picked the book must have read it. Had to be in paperback, preferably by a woman, usually fiction. We rotated where we met, and when the group met at your house, you chose the next book. The group started to get cranky, rule-bound, and started wanting to read only classics, so I bailed, and need a new group.

Some books my group read and loved & had good discussions:
Elizabeth Strout Amy and Isabelle: A novel and Olive Kitteridge
Pat Barker, esp the Regeneration Trilogy
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
and these authors, but I can't remember which title(s): Laurie Colwin, Margaret Drabble, Penelope Lively, ToniMorrison

Not currently in a group, but I would recommend:
Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel, Maria Semple
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett Both the author site and bookstore site have book lists.

Amazon has some good lists; and you can look up bestsellers for any given year, National Book Award, Mann/ Booker Prize, Pulitzer Prize- Fiction.

useful lists- I googled best novels women
Feminista's 100 Great 20th Century English-language Works of Fiction by Women
Guardian 100 best novels
25 women you absolutely must read in your lifetime.
posted by theora55 at 1:27 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
posted by basalganglia at 1:32 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

The books that most people liked and that led to good discussions from my book club have been Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Rainbow Rowell's Carry On, Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, and Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give. We read a lot of YA, though I think those latter three all cross over really well.
posted by leesh at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2017

Any books by Isabel Allende. But my favorites are House of Sprits and Eva Luna.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:56 PM on May 14, 2017

I'm in a sort of atheist non-fiction book club. One of our favorite reads that fit your criteria is Stay by Jennifer Hecht. The subject seems bleak, but it was enjoyable. Check out her other books too.
posted by beyond_pink at 2:32 PM on May 14, 2017

Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Here's a review written by a blogger who's probably pretty close to your demographic.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also wonderful- it's a lovestory told through the observant eyes of a Nigerian-American woman and a Nigerian-British man.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:46 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

My book club recently had an enjoyable discussion about Bernice L. McFadden's The Book of Harlan. Most of us liked/loved the book, but the discussion we could have about it was really interesting. There was a lot to talk about with both the content of the book and the project of it: the author imagines the life of her grandfather, sometimes with counterfactual history.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 3:43 PM on May 14, 2017

Not in a book group right now, but Zadie Smith seems like an obvious choice?
posted by praemunire at 3:44 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Code Name Verity and Where'd You Go, Bernadette? I've been in a couple of different long-term book clubs over the years, and depending on the membership, we also had good luck with:

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
N.K. Jemisen's The Fifth Season
Jo Walton's The Just City
Emily St. John Mantel's Station Eleven
Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
Colette's The Vagabond
Amor Towles's The Rules of Civility
Kate Atkinson's Life After Life
posted by gideonfrog at 4:13 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
My Real Children - Jo Walton

And another rec for Code Name Verity.
posted by ClingClang at 4:25 PM on May 14, 2017

I am in a lesbian book club. We are also white, middle class and usually over 50.

An autobiography we read was “Infidel”, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who became a Dutch politician.

We also enjoyed “The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice” by Patricia Bell-Scott.

I don’t know how you’d feel about reading something specifically about lesbians. If so, we got a lot out of “The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture” by Bonnie J. Morris.
posted by maurreen at 6:40 PM on May 14, 2017

I was in a One Book Book Club. We read one book. Then we had a reprise and read a second. I'm a queer, sort of genderqueerish, urban person.

Book One: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Short, provocative, different than anything else I've read. We really liked talking about it.

Reprise Book: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats. Also made for really thoughtful conversation.
posted by latkes at 7:19 PM on May 14, 2017

Thirding Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Excellent read. We also read her YA book, Purple Hibiscus, which none of us realized was YA until the discussion (it makes sense now).

Seconding Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. These both offer a differing and important perspective on our current society and offer a lot for book club discussion.
posted by LKWorking at 8:31 AM on May 15, 2017

The horizontal world
Breathing Underwater (not by a woman)
Ahab's Wife
posted by SyraCarol at 3:31 PM on May 15, 2017

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah went over really well for a book club of similar demographics to yours, plus a group I know of older women who use their book club as an excuse to drink a lot of win together. (I think all the bookclubs are reading it right now!)

Also very book-clubby: The Goldfinch or The Secret History, both by Donna Tartt, and The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

Other popular titles that are somewhat off beat for the book club circuit (as far as I know, anyway!) that my more eclectic book club has liked:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern***
Wool by Hugh Howey
by Scott Lynch
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

***I do not know a single person who didn't find this to be a really lovely book. If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend it! My experience has been that it's not quite mainstream enough that a lot of "book club ladies" haven't read it, but it's literary enough and just so goddamn beautiful that they fall in love with it.

Happy reading!
posted by firei at 5:52 PM on May 15, 2017

The most successful book group I've been in had a simple rule for picking books: the person who hosted got to pick. It's amazing how well this worked. But we also considered a book if a success if it sparked lively debate, so it was ok if half the people hated it. Demographics: thirty-something, mostly white, educated professionals in DC (journalists, policy wonks, political staffers). Men and women.

Most popular/best debates:

- The Left Hand of Darkness, Octavia Butler
- Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel
- Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
posted by lunasol at 7:39 PM on May 15, 2017

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