You’ve had those moments. Desperately turning the pages and hoping for that bit that will reignite your reading group’s bookish chatter. While any book can be conversation worthy, some books are so absorbing and rewarding that you can’t wait to discuss them with other book lovers. From the poignant to the provocative, here are 12 titles that will give your book club the gift of gab all year long.
The Child’s Child by Ruth Rendell Writing a novel within a novel is no easy feat, but Rendell pulls it off by cleverly linking Grace and Andrew Easton’s (a brother and sister cohabitating in a mansion they inherited) lives to the manuscript from a previous century that Grace finds in the house. Sharing a home with your brother and his lover can’t be easy, but when your reading material eerily mirrors your troubled relationship, it’s even worse. Rendell excels at complex psychological portraits and The Child’s Child definitely ticks that box.
The Taker by Alma Katsu In rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley has to decide whether to help a mysterious woman escape his hospital and her police escort. But will he, once hears her jaw-dropping story of lust, obsession, and immortality? We all take the gimlet-eyed view that our own generation created illicit sex, drugs and betrayal, but Katsu’s masterfully imagined historical thriller will give you all the heartbreaking and juicy details of what our ancestors got up to in these last few centuries.
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell Lisa O’Donnell’s debut novel tells the riveting story of young sisters Marnie and Nelly, who are tasked with avoiding the suspicion of authorities after they bury their drug addicted parents in the backyard of their Glasgow housing project. How they get to this point and what happens to them as they struggle to stay together as a family is beautifully told in their distinctive voices and alternating points of view.
The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook Many books have focused on the tragedies and atrocities of WWII, but what happens when the conquerors and the conquered have to coexist? Brook heightens the emotional tension of such a reality when he places Rachel Morgan, the wife of a British colonel, and her family in the appropriated home of a German widower and his daughter. The atmospheric and moody nature of the book and its characters communicate trouble to come, but from where?
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty From family tragedies we see on the news, to what we think our neighbors and their kids, all of us have something to say about parenting. Moriarty adds her voice to the fray with her story of three women who meet and form a friendship when their children attend the same pre-school. As you might guess, nothing is as it seems unless you were expecting secrets, lies and murder. Unraveling who is killed and why is at the heart of this satirical, though chillingly accurate, mystery.
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey Maud’s friend Elizabeth has gone missing and no one cares to help find out what happened, so Maud decides to play detective. Maud, however, is 82 and is suffering from an advanced case of Alzheimer’s disease. And, she won’t let that stop her from finding her friend. The difficulty and limitations of her search form the backbone of this deeply moving novel about sisters, friendship, and the growing crisis of providing care for the elderly.
The Absolutist by John Boyne The best-selling author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas also writes riveting historical fiction for adults. The Absolutist is the illuminating and transformative novel centered on Tristan Sadler, a young soldier who after World War I attempts to find the sister of his dead comrade so that he may return her letters. Boyne’s portrayal of the physical and psychological damage war (and other people) inflicts on Tristan and his friend Will is nuanced, devastating and brilliant.
The Children Act by Ian McEwen Several of McEwen’s books showcase his remarkable ability to shed light on the intricate morality of life’s decisions. In The Children Act McEwen explores the life of High Court Judge, Fiona May, as she’s weighing in on the right of seventeen-year-old Adam (a devout Jehovah’s Witness) to refuse the blood transfusion that will likely save his life. Questions of religion, what constitutes adulthood and the right to self-determination are deftly pursued in this emotionally compelling novel, that manages to capture your heart without yielding concrete answers.
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell Page-turning reads ala Gone Girl have whetted public appetite for novels featuring strong, mysterious female characters who may or may not be just a little crazy. Enter Suzanne Rindell’s Rose Baker, a police department typist in Prohibition-era New York who is drawn into the glamorous, intriguing and thrillingly dangerous world of Odile Lazare. Though Odile’s life is filled with bootlegging, illicit underground nightclubs, corruption, and murder, Rose can’t walk away and Rindell’s suspense filled pages will keep readers guessing until the last possible second.
The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson Combining “based on a true story” and “book within a book” into one package just might be kryptonite for most readers. Johnson has written an atmospheric novel set during the Jim Crow era of the American South, featuring a young female attorney, Regina Robichaud. Working in Thurgood Marshall’s office, Regina is sent to investigate the murder of a young black man, and its possible link to several other murders of black men in the area. Johnson’s work is deeply affecting and reflective of a painful time in American history that has ramifications for the current day injustices and race relations.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion No matter what stage we are in our lives, everyone has a hilarious dating story. Maybe two. Though none probably have as many as Graeme Simsion’s handsome, but socially awkward genetics professor Don Tillman. Simsion manages, with perfects results, to balance light hearted humor and romance with a deft exploration of relationship goals and ideals as witnessed via Don’s attempt to find a mate through his “wife project”. This delightful love story has many twists and surprises along the way, making it as compelling and entertaining as any “heavier” book club read.
Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston If there is little relief to be found in the tedium of a “9-5”, let us find it in knowing our mistakes rarely kill anyone in the course of the work day. Gynecologist and surgeon Dr. Nancy Mullion appears before a medical review board who will determine whether she will keep her medical license after almost killing a patient. Weston’s novel is a graphic and eye-opening portrait of the lives of surgeons (abortion providers in particular), but she also closely examines the random and largely haphazard way life decisions are cemented. The details of Nancy’s circumstances may not resonate with our own, but the manner in which they are made are surprisingly familiar and relatable.