Book suggestions for a book club
September 28, 2017 2:54 AM   Subscribe

I am in the process of starting a book club with some friends and acquaintances. Can you please suggest some books which we absolutely should read?


* The books would need to be easy to get a hold of. Either from the local library, or as an ebook for not too high a price. How do people normally get books for a book club? I have no idea.

* I would prefer to read works by women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQI community.

* Both classic and modern suggestions are welcome.

Thank you
posted by kinddieserzeit to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This might be too broad a question. Can you give a couple of examples of books that you are planning to read or considering?

My first rec is always The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin, but it's science fiction and probably not for people who never read scifi at all.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:30 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, I just read "Capture the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward and devoured it. Think it ticks most of your boxes.

I agree though, a bit more specificity might help narrow down your list.
posted by stillmoving at 3:32 AM on September 28, 2017

How do people normally get books...
Many libraries have book club kits. Have you checked with yours? A librarian can suggest what to read as well, and my local library can usually get multiple copies via the local system "inter-library loan" if they don't have a kit.
posted by evilmomlady at 3:43 AM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A couple of possible ideas:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, because I have never read anything by her and probably should.

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche, because it's a weird and gross book and I think it would be interesting to discuss with others.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:45 AM on September 28, 2017

A book club I was part of in a past life got members to make suggestions and then vote on what to read next.
posted by bunderful at 5:00 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

My (mostly nonfiction) book club just read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It's short, sparked an interesting discussion, and the library had plenty of copies. Some members of my book club always buy the book and others always get it from the library. I try to look for the electronic version that's available for free through my library first - in this case, I listened to it as an audiobook.
posted by beyond_pink at 5:28 AM on September 28, 2017

If you want a short, very Canadian, weird, amazing little book by a woman author that will DEFINITELY inspire discussion, I'd recommend Marian Engel's Bear
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:36 AM on September 28, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was the best book I read this summer and the one I was most likely to get other people to read.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 5:41 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
posted by fancyoats at 5:53 AM on September 28, 2017

My book club has chosen to read only women writers for a year, with an eye towards diversity of experience. We're about halfway through this list currently:
1. The Vegetarian – Han Kang (please read this one, it's incredible)
2. Blood, Bones, and Butter – Gabrielle Hamilton
3. The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories: Angela Carter
4. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
5. A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
6. Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler
7. H Is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
8. The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis
9. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
10. Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
11. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
12. The Dry – Jane Harper

As far as how easy these are to get - we've had mixed results. The nice thing about having the list in advance is that I can request a library transfer, or search for used copies online (which are usually cheap but take longer to ship). We also share copies of particularly hard to get titles.
posted by jennypower at 6:07 AM on September 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was in a book club for about a year and BY FAR the best conversations we had surrounded the book Little Children. It was a fantastic read and a gripping story and encouraged lots and lots of great discussion.

There is also a film starring Kate Winslet that we watched afterwards which was nice.
posted by JenThePro at 7:13 AM on September 28, 2017

Some publishers will actually print book club editions of their books, with discussion prompts in the back. you might want to look for these as you narrow down your search.

Oreo by Fran Ross, is a great short read that would be a perfect start based on your stated criteria.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:16 AM on September 28, 2017

The Other Typist is a good book club pick; great discussion because people really wanted to talk about the ending and their take on what happened. Also, just a good, literary novel. Should be easy enough to get now.
posted by LKWorking at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2017

Amazon has tons of book lists. Books that have won awards, Man Booker shortlist, Pulitzers, National Book awards. You can also google best books women, best books people of color, to get lists of books to browse. Maybe start with Handmaids Tale, as not everyone has read it and it's well worth reading. Or Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Your local library and bookstores are also good resources.

My book group had the person who hosted the meeting choose the next book, but any rotation will do. Members were allowed to veto a choice, so it could get interesting. It's useful to check reviews and make sure some people think it was pretty good. NPR has good reviews, and Buzzfeed's book section can be worthwhile, though lately it's been thin, and every major newspaper has a book section. We chose books available in softcover, as new hardcovers are too expensive. Once a book has been a bit popular and has been out for a year or so, you should be able to get it from libraries or bookstores. Sometimes not-so-great books generated good discussions.

Our setup was that the host was also the moderator, and had questions or comments to start things off. Try to make sure you ask every person for an opinion at some point. My book group met on Sunday afternoons and got better when someone started serving wine.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

A book club I was part of in a past life got members to make suggestions and then vote on what to read next.

Our book club does this. There are 8-12 active members (depending on travel, school schedules, newborns, etc). Each person gets a turn to suggest selections as the year goes on. We usually suggest 3-4 books, over email, including a description of each book lifted from Good Reads or Amazon, and then we discuss the selections and vote at the next meeting. Suggestions are usually made two months out (meaning we already have at least one or possibly two months of books already selected by the time someone is making their suggestions). Sometimes, depending on the time of year (back to school or Christmas, for example) members will take the length of the offerings into account before making a selection.

How do people normally get books for a book club?

About half of our club read the hardcopy or ebook, and about half will get the book on Audible.

Our group has a lot in common in that we are all moms of school aged children, but otherwise our interests and backgrounds are diverse, so the selections offered have been diverse as well. The group has been very forgiving in reading topics or genres that they normally wouldn't. No one is like "I want this book club to be focused on mysteries only" or anything like that. That's kind of the point of a book club, to read something you otherwise might not.

As for what to select, when we were first getting started, before we knew each other and each other's tastes very well, we asked people to suggest their absolute favorite books, that they were willing to read again. You can also check with your local library to see what their current book club selections are (for ex, our local library sponsors four different book clubs, each devoted to a particular genre. We sometimes lift suggestions from their list).
posted by vignettist at 7:57 AM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best book club discussion I remember having (and this club has been around for 15+ years) was about Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Mothers by Brit Bennett. In fact, I read that book as part of the Another Round book club, which also included other great suggestions given the sorts of authors you would like to focus on.
posted by freezer cake at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been part of two book clubs that each choose books different ways:

1) Everybody made a suggestion, and then members voted on the book they wanted to read for the month.
2) We rotated the book chosen to a new person each month, and we all read whatever book that person picked. This worked well for our small book club (we only had 4 people), but maybe wouldn't work so well for bigger ones?

...the theme being that not one person picked the books all the time, and the members of the club were invested in what books were picked.

Each member was always responsible for getting a hold of the book to read in whatever way they wanted (grabbing a copy from the library, downloading it, audiobook, buying it off Amazon, whatever).

One thing that you might find interesting - I do! - is that the books you love the most don't always make the most interesting picks. The book I've had the best discussion about was Room by Emma Donoghue, which nobody in my book club particularly loved, but it turned out to be really fascinating to discuss (because none of us had a clue what the book was about before reading it), and generated some strong opinions.

Have fun!
posted by warble at 10:02 AM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm in a 22-year-old book club, and we pick our books in a variety of ways. At various points we have assigned people a month and they get to pick the book (subject to argument by other members); other times it's just a free-for-all and we consider suggestions until we get a general consensus from those in attendance.

We do have a general theme, which is: great novels considered to be classics of the form, or otherwise influential/important. This tends to lead to older works, and we seldom read anything less than 10-15 years of age. I believe the most recent novel we have read was probably Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I strongly recommend having a theme for your club, it makes it easier to focus the discussion. Even for books we generally dislike or don't have a lot to say about, we can start a conversation by asking, "Why is this books considered to be a classic?" and work from there.
posted by suelac at 11:04 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Two books by women that provoked some great discussions in the book group I am a member of:

- Shine Shine Shine, by Lydia Netzer

- My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
posted by merejane at 1:27 PM on September 28, 2017

I was part of a book club for about 10 years, and we read a book a month. The book that elicited the most discussion was The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.
posted by LauraJ at 1:49 PM on September 28, 2017

Some books my book clubs have read that fall into your rubric and have gone over well:

- The Fire Next Time by Baldwin

- Left Hand of Darkness by LeGuin, second this

- Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

- I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

- The Neopolitan books by Elena Ferrante

- The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

- Parable of the Sower and Kindred, both by Octavia Butler

- Golden Days by Carolyn See

To the question on acquiring books, I have some advice from an eleven years and running book club's success: always have another book in the hopper. At every meeting, we vote on the book we're reading after next month's book. Alibris and are both great places to find every single book for usually close to a dollar plus shipping.
posted by kensington314 at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2017

These are some selections by my lesbian book club:
* "The Fire-Brand and the First Lady," by Patricia Bell-Scott, about the friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Pauline Murray, a lesbian and black civil rights activist.
* "Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds," by Judy Grahn.
* "Outlaw Marriages: the Hidden Histories of 15 Extraordinary Same-sex Couples," by Rodger Streitmatter.
* "The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture," by Bonnie J. Morris.
* "How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World," by Linda Hirshman
* "Infidel," by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, autobiography of a Somali-Dutch activist and politician.
posted by maurreen at 5:21 PM on September 28, 2017

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