by Ashley Owens
Hello all… It’s been a minute since I’ve posted, but summer will do that to you! Life has been full of weekend trips, family events, spending time with partners & friends, and also a very taxing 6-week work training. To say that I’m tired would be an understatement!
One of the constants in my busy schedule (besides changing diapers) is my bookclub. Every month some of my very closest friends gather and drink (more drinking than talking about books, if I’m being honest) and it is such a nice gathering and that always fills up my little bookworm heart with goodness. I’m not the only one who chooses the books though – every member sends me 2 suggestions, and I draw randomly from a bowl to pick what we will be reading! When possible, I try to make a drink, food, or dessert that is themed to the book choice, because I’m a nerd like that.
Given how obsessed I am with books, I thought I would share some recommendations for book club picks in case you ever want to start your own club! I’m going to make this a short “series” of blog posts on here, and today I’m going to focus on adult fiction literature.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It feels fitting that the first book on my list is one I’ve actually read for book club specifically. “Evelyn Hugo” is pretty much all over the book world right now, and rightly so. It’s easily my favorite read of the year, and instantly after reading it I knew it was in my all-time favorites list.
This book tells the story of Evelyn Hugo; an Elizabeth Taylor type old-time Hollywood actress who was very famous and full of rumors. Set in alternating timelines, the first being present day with Evelyn telling her story
to an aspiring journalist and the other back in time to the actual events she’s revealing, her story has so many layers and surprises to it and is absolutely fascinating.
In my experience, our club held one of its best and longest discussions on this book over any others. There were so many ways to feel about Evelyn and those around her, her choices, and her story.
Beartown by Fredrick Backman
This one is also in my favorite books of this year! It left me speechless and went places I was absolutely not expecting.
This novel centers around the tiny, rural town of Beartown in Canada; a town that would not survive without Hockey. But when a horrible act is committed, the town is divided and chooses sides. There are more points of view in this book than I can count, which completely fits the story given that it’s point is to really investigate the nature of the individuals of the town, and therefore the town as a whole.
I think this would make a great book club pick because while yes it centers around a controversy, it forces people to think about their true nature and maybe face some uncomfortable questions.
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
This was also a recent pick for my book club! Which I was over the moon about because Ian McEwan is hands down one of my all-time favorite authors.
Honestly, this book is so unique and I’m unlikely to forget it anytime soon. The entire thing technically takes place in the course of maybe 4 hours (if that), and centers on a very much newleywed couple as they spend their first night together post-wedding. But because of a series of flashbacks to give context, everything is really fleshed out despite being short.
Most people in my club were happy it was short, and thought the length was the right fit for the story. It lends itself super easily to discussions for bookclub, not just around the structure of the novel (novella?), but on the implications of every little detail given.
Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
With all of the interest that readers seem to have lately in retellings or re-imaginings of myths & fairy tales, you would think more people would know about this book. But I don’t know a single other person who has read it!
The title says it all honestly – this book is about the life of Cleopatra’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene, immediately after her mother commits suicide and she is taken to Rome by Caesar.
I went into this with literally no expectations –
I listened to it on audiobook because it was available at my library and I have a deep interest in Ancient History – and ended up being completely enamored with and invested in it. I found myself making excuses to be in the car more often to listen to it! I learned so very much as a result of it, too.
So little is known about Cleopatra and her family, that I think anyone who reads this can’t help but learn a lot as well. The sharing of things learned would make for a good book club discussion, as well as some discussions around Cleopatra II, since she was at such a formative age when her life was turned on its head.
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Yes yes, the movie adaptation of this book is being released soon. But do yourself a favor and read it before you see it, okay?
This one is kind of hard to describe: told from the point of view of her daughter, Bee (as well as random other emails, postcards, newspaper articles, etc.), this book is about the circumstances surrounding Bernadette Fox’s disappearance.
It’s hilarious, crazy, kind of mysterious, and so completely original…
there would seriously be so much to talk about for a book club… even just about Bernadette herself, who is so eccentric! The book definitely matches the personality of both Bee & Bernadette.
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
I will keep this one simple, because Margaret Atwood is obviously a master at her craft: this is a retelling of the Shakespeare play The Tempest, and is absolutely a feat of creativity, attention to detail, and writing.
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
Prepare yourself if you choose to read this one; it’s heavy. Both because it’s so freaking long and the actual content.
A part of history often not talked about in schools, Moloka’i is about the life of Rachel, a Hawaiian born in the early 1900’s who contracts lepracy and is sent to the leper colony of Moloka’i. The book is about her entire life, from when she is sent away, all the way to her last days. Seriously, it’s not an upper.
If your book club doesn’t mind a longer read, this is totally worth it, though
It’s chalk-full of history, questions of morality and mortality, and the exploration of culture and identity.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The last book on this list that I actually read for book club! And I read a signed copy of it that I got when I went to a conference for the store I used to work at, so this book club meeting meant a lot to me when it happened!
It doesn’t sound like much at first – a novel that takes places in Iceland about the last woman to be hung to death – but there is SO MUCH to unpack in this story. It’s fascinating and intricate and so freaking well-written! The author was only like 22 when she wrote it, which I find completely inspiring.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
When it comes to Adult Historical Fiction about WWII, most people would suggest either “The Nightingale” or “All the Light We Cannot See.” I’m here to tell you that there are SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS. Yes those 2 books are stunning, but I’d like to highlight a lesser-known one.
In my opinion, this is Jodi Picoult’s best novel. Her writing is much more sophisticated in it and the story itself is thoughtful and different for her. It’s just so impressive, and actually kinda long!
“The Storyteller” follows the journey of a very meek young lady named Sage, who is asked by a beloved elderly man if she will kill him. When she asks why, he confesses that he was a Nazi and deserves to confess and die.
Needless to say, this story is thought-provoking and gripping, and definitely lends itself well to a book club.
Check out her website here: http://wp.sparkylovesbooks.com/