In theory, book clubs seem simple: You gather friends, you indulge in a good book, and you discuss. But not all books make for great conversation. Sometimes even a book that readers truly enjoy leaves them with little more to say than, “I liked it!” Selecting a book that will keep your members engaged and chatty throughout the meeting can be a tricky task. Here, I’ve outlined tips for selecting a good book club book to ensure your next pick is a hit!
Utilize a book club kit
Give yourself a shortcut by picking a title that already has a book club kit! This will offer you some guidance for your next meeting—and for book clubs just starting out, they’re a great tool for learning how to organize and run meetings. These kits include discussion guide questions, interviews with the author, recipes for your meeting, and more!
Consider: Our team of bookworms created kits for Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, and Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur!
Check out adaptations
If your book club is filled with movie buffs, try reading books that have been adapted for TV or film. This offers the opportunity to discuss the original novel and to dive into why some stories translate to film better than others. Plus, this gives you the chance to pop some popcorn and host a movie screening. If your group doesn’t have time for a viewing, try selecting a book that was recently optioned for an adaptation (such as Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue) and discuss how you think it’ll turn out and who you’d cast.
Consider: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Browse the backlist
It can be incredibly tempting to pick that new release everyone is talking about, but picking a backlist book often means selecting something that’s more accessible for your entire group. With a backlist pick, readers don’t need to purchase a pricey hardcover and they likely won’t encounter a massive waitlist if they try to check it out from the library.
Consider: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Turn to your faves
Last year my book club read Madeline Miller‘s Song of Achilles and we loved it! Now we can’t wait to check out more from her. If your club has a favorite author, see if there’s a book in their backlist you haven’t read yet.
Draw inspiration from other media
Chances are, your book club members consume media beyond books. Take a look at the TV shows, movies, and podcasts members obsess over in their spare time and find books with similar themes. Does your group also listen to true crime podcasts? Check out The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. Miss recapping Game of Thrones together? Read Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. And if your group is addicted to Netflix’s You we have some similar recs for you here.
Revisit a classic with a retelling
Books that reimagine classic tales offer a wide range of topics for a book club discussion. You can analyze the new setting, compare the characters to the originals, and look at the way themes were explored. Ambitious book clubs can even read both books in the same month for a truly in-depth meeting.
Consider: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Get surprised by a plot twist
Nothing gets a book club talking like a plot twist. Did it work? Did readers see it coming? Did it change how people viewed the book? When discussing your next selection, ask your members if they’ve heard about any books with surprising twists or endings, and then prepare to be shocked.
Consider: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Find a personal connection
Look around your group. Is a member a new parent? Try a generational story. Did you all attend the same college? Go for a university novel. Is the group made up of second-generation Americans? Pick up an immigration story. Selecting books that have a special connection to the members in your club is a great way to learn more about each other while reading a captivating story.
Consider: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Connect with current events
A good way to spark discussion in your book club is to read about current events. Both fiction and nonfiction books can help to educate readers about a variety of issues (everything from police brutality to climate change). Readers will show up prepared to dive into a conversation about the story and about how it connects with the world we live in.
Consider: Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Ask trusted readers
If you’re stumped for a good book club pick, turn to readers in your life who aren’t members of your group, such as your local librarian, bookseller, Goodreads friends, your favorite celeb’s book club (Hey, Reese!), or fellow NetGalley members. You could even pop into a reader forum to ask fellow bookworms if they’ve read anything lately that they think would make for an engaging discussion. May we humbly suggest the Forum on BookishFirst, our giveaway platform for consumer reviewers.
Avoid peer pressure
It’s always great to expand your reading to genres you’ve never picked up before, but there’s a difference between that and forcing yourself to read something you know is a poor fit. When the world is buzzing about a new book, it can be tempting to dive in too, even if it’s a genre or topic you don’t generally enjoy. In your book club, don’t be afraid to skip the latest bestseller or award-winner if you know it won’t be a good fit for your group. Read what you love, and know you’re no less of a bookworm for not reading the latest hit.
Sounds interesting but I recall do not like
Discussing new books unless It is fantastic. I follow my favourite authors like Daniel Steel and others. I have a tendency to jump all over the place in authors.
Great ideas about choose great books for our book club! Thank you
Is there a master list for all of the Book Club lists you have put together?
Right now you can find all of our book club content right here and book recommendations here. We have book club specific recommends in the works and they’ll be on the site soon!
Do you have any advice of what to do when a book has been chosen that is emotionally charged by everyone in the group? I am concerned that some that we don’t have a safe space to share true feelings on the book and I am fearful if feelings are shared a disagreement and hurt feelings will take place. This is a Mama bookclub of our homeschool nature study group; I am also concerned how this will affect our children’s future playdates. I really wish the book could be skipped and I have other mama’s in the group that feel the same way. What can be done to keep the bookclub going without discussing this book?
Thank you for your insight,
Hi Elizabeth, this is a great question and I hope I’m able to help. If your group has a moderator or leader that you’d be comfortable approaching privately with your concerns, I’d recommend that as a first step. If it’s not possible to skip the book, it’s at least helpful for them to be aware so that they can focus on keeping the group discussion friendly and safe for everyone. If the group is run democratically, you can also ask to have a few moments at the start of the meeting to express that you think this might be a divisive book in the group and to remind everyone to speak with respect and kindness. Books that bring out differing opinions can spark some wonderful discussions if everyone remembers that they’re there to enjoy time together and respectly share thoughts, and a reminder of that at the beginning of the meeting is likely to do everyone good!