Finding the best book club book can be tough since most book clubs have people with differing tastes. Plus, you want to make sure it’s a book people will have strong feelings about so there’s stuff to discuss.
In my experience (unless you’re in a book club with specialized tastes), a good book club book generally needs to be at least somewhat accessible, have some positive buzz (no one wants to read a book everyone says is garbage), and has to strike a good balance between having an eventful plot but also digging into some interesting issues everyone can get excited about discussing. It also helps if the authors are well-known. There’s definitely exceptions to this, but that’s typically my strategy if I’m trying to come up with books to suggest for a group read.
But anyway, without further ado, these are my picks for the best books to read with your book club for 2019!
An Anonymous Girl (January 2019) is the newest release from writing team Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Their first book The Wife Between Us wasn’t perfect but had some fun twists. I would definitely limit this recommendation to only groups of mystery/thriller lovers, but I’m guessing their follow-up will be similar — a quick, fun read if your group likes psychological thrillers.
This one is about a girl who agrees to participate in a psychological study on ethics and morality. Soon, it’s not clear what’s real and what’s part of the test…
Update: Read my review of An Anonymous Girl
I hemmed and hawed a little about including this one, The Huntress (released February) by Kate Quinn (author of The Alice Network). It’s gotten great reviews, but it’s also a very hefty historical fiction novel about two people who join forces in order to track down a Nazi war criminal.
I think this book might intimidate some more casual readers, but if your book club is more intense, this might be a good one to take for a spin.
Update: Read my review of The Huntress (I really enjoyed this)
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins (released March 5, Riverhead / Penguin Random House) tells the story of the rise and fall of a fictional 70’s rock and roll band. It’s got a VH1’s Behind the Music feel to it since it’s told as an “oral history” from a pastiche of perspectives, and it’s a fun and accessible book.
A lot of people are really loving it, though some of the reviews are a bit more mixed. I’m at about the half-way point of reading this right now, so I’m sure that review will be up soon! I’m withholding my judgement on it until then.
Update: Read my review of Daisy Jones & the Six
The Bride Test (released May 7) by Helen Hoang is a great pick for book clubs whose members also enjoy a little romance. Her previous novel The Kiss Quotient was such a crowd-pleaser, and early reviews for The Bride Test have been promising as well.
Esme, a mixed-race girl, falls for an autistic man who is convinced that he is incapable of feeling love. But his mother and Esme have other plans…
Exhalation (released May 7) by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that’s great for people who love science fiction.
“In The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In Exhalation, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom, the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.”
Ask Again, Yes (released May 28) by Mary Beth Keane is a understated but sincere and insightful story about love, forgiveness and the bonds that tie people together. This is a great book for book clubs that like deeply personal family dramas about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.
Book Blurb: “A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.”
I really enjoyed this book, and there’s so much to talk about. I would imagine a good book club discussion of it would probably venture into very personal territory though, so it might be better for book clubs with friends who know each other rather than strangers.
Update: Read my review of Ask Again, Yes
Recursion by Blake Crouch was released on June 10. It’s a plot-driven “thriller about time, identity, and memory.” Something called “False Identity Syndrome” has started afflicting the memories of its victims, and a New York cop must battle to discover the truth and defeat it.
I don’t normally read sci-fi thrillers, but I really enjoyed this book. Recursion is plot heavy, but it’s a interesting and surprisingly coherent plot considering its dealing with bending the rules of time and memory. It’s an action-packed and exciting ride, but has a few good discussion opportunities as well.
Update: Read my review of Recursion
Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame is back again, this time with a work of fiction called City of Girls (expected June 4, 2019). It’s got adventure, sex and glamour, so there’s a good chance it’ll be a crowdpleaser. It’s about a woman who’s older and recalling her life experiences over the years, starting from her childhood in the 1920’s and going from there.
I think this one will be a popular book club pick, but I’ll add a big caveat that the reviews for it have been pretty mixed.
Update: Read my review of City of Girls
Fans of Jennifer Weiner may be interested in Mrs. Everything, to be released June 11. The plot is similar to City of Girls, there’s two sisters charting their journey from the 1950’s until the present. It’s a book about women’s roles and how they’ve changed over time.
Part chick-lit and part literary, Mrs. Everything is sure to show off Weiner’s ability to craft great female relationships in a fun, accessible novel.
I’m sure most people came across Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning Underground Railroad as some point. His next book, The Nickel Boys (June 3, 2019), has been getting great buzz as well.
Early reviews are very positive, and the book is a slim 224 pages. The Nickel Boys delves back into the topic of race, this time through two boys in Jim Crow Era-Florida. I know I’m definitely going to be reading this.
Update: Read my review of The Nickel Boys (this is definitely going to end up on all the best books of 2019 lists)
If you haven’t heard about this book yet and you’re a fan of the Night Circus, I’m guessing you’re pretty excited right now. Yup, Erin Morgenstern is back after many years and she has a new book coming out…in November. The Starless Sea, cover yet to be revealed. I know, I’m sorry it’s such a long ways off. I have no doubt hordes of people will be reading it, so perhaps your book club can too!
I enjoyed the Night Circus, but not as much as everyone else. That said, I liked it enough that I’m still very curious about what Morgenstern is capable of, so I will most likely be reading this when the time comes. It’s about a grad student who finds a mysterious book in the library that leads him into a magical subterranean world…
If you’re up for some more serious fare, Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new book coming out, The Water Dancer, in September.
Unlike many of his previous works, this is a work of fiction. It’s about a boy who is born into slavery, but who possesses a mysterious power. Hiram has a brush with death that compels him to change his circumstances, but he’ll need to master his gift if he wants to find a way to escape the life he was born into.
Margaret Atwood’s sequel to her famed Handmaid’s Tale will be hitting the shelves in September. The Testaments will undoubtedly be very widely read when it arrives. Atwood has offered scant information about it, though the description notes that it picks up 15 years after the end of the original.
Atwood’s message about it: “Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” —Margaret Atwood”
When All is Said by Anne Griffin is probably not going to be as well-known as some of the other titles on this list, but if you’re looking for a good book that will impress your book club, this could very well be it. It consists of five monologues from a man looking back at his life, all linked by the presence of a stolen, valuable coin.
It’s gotten fantastic reviews, and it’s been described as a compassionate, touching, melancholy book. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it’s definitely on my list of books to read this year.
Another title to keep your eye on is The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I really loved Patchett’s Bel Canto, and enjoyed State of Wonder (though was not quite as impressed with it). I’m definitely curious about The Dutch House, to be released September 24.
Initial reviews on the book have been very positive. It’s about two siblings, Danny and Maeve, their bond to each other, and their ties to their house where they grew up.
For everyone who loves YA books, On the Come Up by Angie Thomas is her follow-up to the very popular The Hate U Give. I’ll be honest, I probably won’t read this one, since I generally don’t read YA. But it’s gotten fantastic reviews, so if your book clubs loves YA novels, this one would be a great pick.
It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl who wants to grow up to be a rapper, but has practical concerns in her life to consider as well.
Those are my picks for now! I left off any books that are part of a series, since it’s always iffy as to whether your book club members have read the other books in the series. I’ll be updating this list as reviews roll in and 2019 shakes out!