Recently I had a friend message me that she was starting a book club and would like a few book recommendations.
After a bit of a hiatus last year, the book club I started with a few friends in still going four+ years later. We've been through a lot together in that time, including some great books and some terrible books. As it turns out, not just any old novel is good for book club discussion.
For our club, we've had the most lively discussions over non-fiction books and murder mysteries. Your average well-written novel is entertaining, but doesn't always add up to more than, "I liked it. I hated it. Pass the crab dip."
So, here are a few that I recommend:
As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl. Okay, stay with me here. This isn't exactly uplifting reading. But it's a really fascinating story and we talked about it for hours when we read it as a club. It makes you think about how you think about gender, and what makes you who you are. If you read it by yourself, you will wish you had read it in a group.
Everyone in our particular book club likes non-fiction, but I understand that not everyone does. An interesting whodunit sparks all kinds of conversations, but you really have to have read the book to get the most out of it. We're not above sending someone into the other room if they didn't get to the end. Two that we've chattered on about are In the Woods and Gone Girl (with not everyone loving both of them, but they were entertaining to read and really entertaining to talk about).
One of my favorites in the crime genre is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. There's no mystery to it, but it's a classic, it's a page-turner, and there's plenty to say afterwards.
If you really want to go with something that's novel-like, I suggest A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It's a great book club starter, actually, if people haven't already read it. What is the What by Dave Eggers is also a novel (though based on true events) that I think could surprise a group.
To have a thoughtful discussion about it, there needs to be something meaty about the subject matter. A trigger of some kind that will make people in the group say, "I believe this or I don't believe in that."
So choose wisely, but have fun with it. You can't make everyone happy, but you're not supposed to. I don't think the pick should be up for a vote - our club just rotates who picks each month.
The great thing about a book club is that everyone has such different tastes, you will probably end up reading things that you never would have otherwise. This doesn't mean that you'll like it, but it does broaden the horizons. Were it not for book club I never would have read The Passage by Justin Cronin, one of my favorite reads of 2011.