There are an estimated 50,000 book clubs in the UK. By our count, that’s a whole lots of people getting together to chat books and, probably (if it’s being done right), a whole lot of wine being drunk, too.
The Girly Book Club, one of the biggest book clubs in the world, is run by London-based book lover Erin Woodward. She came up with the idea in 2008 when she moved to London and wanted to meet new people. She now runs 60 clubs worldwide and has 45,000 members. So that, whether you're in New York or Toronto, you can find a friendly gang of girls to drink Sauvignon Blanc and talk fiction with.
Here are her favourite books to read in 2017.
5 Must-Reads For Your November Book Club
Well it’s that time of the year, the temperature drops and the days get shorter time to invest in a new pair of cozy slippers and warm blanket to cuddle up and get some serious reading done. Here are my November Book Club suggestions!
If you like a good family drama...
Chamberlain has always been my naughty pleasure but without good cause. She’s written over 25 books and with most authors that churn out a book every year or so they tend to get a bit formulaic, not so with Chamberlain. She’s a natural storyteller and her newest book is no exception – Tess DeMello makes a huge mistake that alters the course of her life, as she tries to make amends she ventures into a family brimming with secrets and false pretenses. Does a good girl have to pay for one mistake for the rest of her life?
What to talk about: Why people cheat? Interracial marriage in the 1940’s.
If you like many stories interwoven and an unclear ending...
Welcome to Sycamore Glen, North Carolina. A restful all-American community where neighbors help one another and the rumour mill is rife. The story centers around the local pool where all the families assemble during the summer to cool down during the long heat wave. Each family is plagued with its own problems and past regrets. Throw in a couple closet skeletons and ta-da the perfect receipt for a highly digestible read.
What to talk about: The course of a friendship, can you pick back up where you left off?
If you’re looking for something highly relevant...
This book has an incredibly high GoodReads rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from over 50,000 votes. If that’s not lure enough, this is Thomas’ first book and when the manuscript went to auction 13 publishers bid on it. That’s unheard of for a debut novelist. But all with good reason – the story of Starr Carter is exceedingly relevant in today’s world as she tries to survive in two competing worlds, the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy prep school she attends. When she sees her best friend, Khalil, gunned down by police Starr is the only one who knows the real story – but telling it isn’t going to be straight forward.
What to talk about: Racism and the different perspectives she uses to tell her story.
If you love a true story...
This is a quick bite-sized read. Jen Waite meets and marries a man, Marcus, to whom her love knows no bounds. It’s the first time in her life that she’s felt such an all-consuming devotion for someone. It’s a beautiful thing. Or is it? A couple weeks after the birth of their first child, Lulu – her husband of five years’ changes, seemingly overnight. Gone is the man who loved, cherished and respected her and in his place is a complete stranger. After a grueling month of trying to care of her child while figuring out what happened to her husband, Jen has to make some difficult choices on how to move forward for Lulu’s sake – if not her own. I am a sucker for a memoir so knowing this was a true story made it difficult to read at times, and although I commiserated with what Jen was going through, I couldn’t pretend to understand it.
What to talk about: Is Marcus really as Jen describes him - a psychopath?
If you love an apocalyptic tale...
Described as The Hunger Games meets Station 11, The Wolves of Winter is such an enticing read. 7 years ago nuclear war and disease wiped out society as we know it. Lynn McBride and her family must survive the harshest of winters in the Yukon by hunting and foraging. When a stranger comes into their camp McBride must find a new way to exist in this world.
What to talk about: Would you have acted similarly in Lynn’s place?
5 Must-Reads For Your October Book Club
If you like a social commentary...
This book is so multi-faceted it’s hard to choose what to highlight. Firstly, don’t start this book unless you have a good hour of time in front of you because it’s a slow burn and some will abandon it but perseverance will be rewarded. Over 700 pages long Hill explores the relationship between a young professor, Samuel, and the mother that abandoned him when he was young. Angry and hostile Samuel never anticipates reuniting with his lost mother until she is forced into the news after an unseemly incident involving an attack on the Governor of the state. Hill time travels as he tells the story from both mother and child’s point of view and visits each of their childhoods in the process. A great piece of American literature.
What to discuss: His portrayal of millennials.
If you like a good mother daughter story...
This is Pisel’s debut novel but it’s certainly a homerun. Grace has been arrested and sentenced to death for killing her baby boy. She’s been abandon by her daughter and left by her husband who believed in her innocence until his own untimely death. But what if she was innocent? What if this is all just a terrible mistake? Grace’s lawyer, Ben, believes she is innocent and helps track down her estranged daughter who unearths lost documents that could prove Grace isn’t the monster the country believes her to be. But what now?
What to talk about: Heavy topics to explore here – like the death penalty.
If you like a good family saga...
Olivia, a DR, is coming home from treating an epidemic in Africa and has to be quarantined over Christmas with her family who don’t seem to understand a thing about her. Her father reviews restaurants while her sister Phoebe has a completely frivolous job at a television station, how are these people even related to her? Her mom is constantly fretting and running around to try and accommodate her daughter while hiding her own serious illness. Throw in an illegitimate child and obnoxious finance to the quarantine and you have the makings for a really good book.
What to discuss: How we never get along with our family but love them all the same.
If you like an unlikely tell-all love story....
If you read the synopsis on the back cover, you may, as I did, think this really isn’t your cup of tea. I picked up the book several times, placing it back each time on the massive stack of good intentions I have on my night table. Eventually, I pealed back the front cover to unearth the actual pages of the story, and it took 3 pages until I completely enthralled in Evelyn’s story. A story about a celebrity at the pinnacle of her career with a secret that could end it all.. What I loved most about the story is that it was set in the 50’s and onwards, so no social media, although the newspaper very much play a role in this story. I’ve read a couple of Reid’s book and at the heart of all them is a very deep and true love story. This is no exception.
What to discuss: The lines Evelyn crosses in order to be famous? How far would you go?
If you’re looking for something a bit different...
Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis
The most interesting thing about this book is that the author is 22. I don’t know what you were doing at 22, but I most certainly didn’t have an achievement as big as a book under my belt. And a good book at that. Coined as a “modern coming of age” story, it’s really so much more than that. Davis’s voice is so rich, funny and compelling that you’ll implore her to do nothing but write more books as the world truly needs more - STAT.
What to discuss: Our own stories from growing up, relationships, sex all that fun stuff.
5 Must-Reads For Your August Book Club
If you like a strong female lead...
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Yet another World War Two novel, but nothing about this book is run of the mill. Best selling author Kate Quinn tells the story of two women, a former female spy and American socialite, who set out on a journey to find her cousin in 1947. Based on the real life Alice Network, this hefty read will have you completely enthralled at every page.
What to discuss: This book explores a whole other side to WWII that you might not be as familiar, see how well your history classes prepared you!
If you like a good secret-driven plot...
Saints for All Occasions by Courtney Sullivan
Nora and Theresa Flynn are born in Ireland. They lose their mother very young and Nora, the eldest, takes on the role of raising her sister. When Nora’s boyfriend decides his fortune is waiting for him in Boston, they travel across the pond with Theresa in tow. What was supposed to be a few years in America turns into a lifetime and when Theresa gets into trouble Nora has to pick up the pieces and enters into a soul-destroying lie that will punish them all.
What to discuss: What would you have done in Nora's position?
If you like a good romance...
Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino
When Emiline’s roommate shares a book she couldn’t put down the shock is too much. She finds herself reading a story way too familiar, her own harsh childhood there in black and white written by her best friend and first love, Jace, with whom she lost touch with years before. You’ll rip through this in one sitting and be online shortly after ordering whatever else Carlino has written.
What to discuss: Why does it take Emiline SO LONG to finish the book - come on, now.
If you like a human triumph and a lovable mutt...
Free Days with George by Colin Campbell
George is a dog. Colin is a man. Both are going through a bit of a hard time when they meet. Free Days with George is a heart warming story about the healing power of companionship mixed with a healthy dose of patience and straight up love. And don’t worry, the dog doesn’t die for once!
What to discuss: Getting a dog? Or maybe taking up surfing lessons?
If you like a good family drama...
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
Ronni Sunshine has three adult daughters, Nell, Lizzy and Meredith. But she’s not the greatest mum, having chosen her career (as an actress) over raising her children. As a result, all three are currently facing their own challenges, including single motherhood, crumbling marriages and the inability to build the lives they truly desire. Now Ronni is ill, and asks all three girls to come home in order for them to see out her final wishes. Can they make up for the time that has been lost or are some mistakes irreversible? I’d argue that every family is dysfunctional, yet the problems these sisters face will most likely make you feel better about your own family woes.
What to discuss: The intricacies of family drama and how would you react to Ronni’s request.
5 Must-Reads For Your July Book Club
If you enjoy a good love story...
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This isn’t your daily dose of romantic wonder. It’s an impossible predicament starting on page one. Emma meets and marries her high school sweetheart Jesse, life is better than okay. Until, on their very first wedding anniversary, Jesse disappears in a helicopter crash. Cue despair and misery, Emma spends the next two years trying to find a way through her own heartbreak. Eventually she does, and goes on to rekindle a short lived romance with a high school friend, Sam. She falls in love, gets engaged and is as happy as she has ever been before. But what kind of story would that be? A late night phone calls reveals that Jesse isn’t actually dead – he survived the crash. Now what? What would you do? You don’t actually know which way it’s all going to turn out until the very end.
If you want a true story...
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
Christopher Knight was twenty years old in 1986 when he decided he had enough of society and disappeared into the woods of Maine. He lived in a tent and built a compound for himself just a few minutes away, in a dense forest, from nearby cottagers. He survived by breaking into their homes and stealing food and supplies. He lived like this for almost thirty years. Despite breaking the law thousands of times, Knight is very likeable and honest. Finkel paints a curious portrait of an unusual man who really just wanted to be left alone.
If you want a heated discussion...
Lilli De Jong by Janet Benton
Meet Lilli De Jong, the year is 1883 and being pregnant and unwed in Philadelphia isn’t an ideal situation for a young woman. Shunned by her Quaker family, Lilli is resolute in her pursuit to keep her child and raise it herself. Through a series of diary entries, we become well acquainted with the new mother and her inner most thoughts. A testament to the lengths a mother will go to for her child. This book is a celebration of love and motherhood.
If you're in the mood to learn a thing or two...
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
I reluctantly admit I had to start this book twice because I didn't get hooked the first time. But the rave reviews sent me back for a second try. I locked myself in my room and decided I was going to get through the first 100 pages before deciding. I was hooked on page 52. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a compelling story about a young girl, Li-yan, born in a hill tribe in the mountains of China where superstition is king. Every animal, tree and leaf has a spirit and the Akha people live according to a very firm set of beliefs. It's a curious time because other parts of China are changing very rapidly and the Akha are mostly protected from these changes, but Li-yan must leave her home after a series of misfortunes befall her. The life she finds beyond the tea trees of her home will have you in tears while rallying around her as she grows and accepts an eventuality she could never have dreamed of.
If you want a whodunnit...
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Jewell does it again with this complicated, far-fetched story about a missing teenager in the prime of her life and the journey her mother must undergo to finally make peace with the heart-wrenching loss of her daughter. I knew very early on what was going to happen, I just didn’t know how. It’s still highly entertaining and a very quick read.
5 Must-Reads For Your June Book Club
If you want an emotional journey...
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
This heavy-hitting book will have you laughing and crying at the same time. An epic love story intertwined with a heart wrenching marriage trying to navigate domestic abuse. For me, this is the only book that has ever shed light on what it must be like to be in an abusive relationship, to the point where you can truly empathize with her indecision on whether to stay or go. Well done Hoover!
What to discuss: The theme of domestic abuse can’t help but take the limelight and it would be interesting to hear if Hoover gave you a different view on the issue.
If you love a hopeless romantic...
The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon
Toon's newest book will strike just the right chord with her readers as she tells the story of witty Bridget, a successful travel journalist wishing to become the next Helen Fielding, but with little luck she decides to accept a ghost writing gig of a woman who recently died midway through writing her highly-anticipated sequel. Bridget decides to finish it for her. But of course, nothing is ever straight forward and as she becomes more engulfed in the dead woman’s life everything changes.
What to discuss: The characters are rich and diverse and you’ll have a great time diving into what you would have done in their shoes.
If you want a bit of history...
Homegoing By Yaa Gyasi
Okay, a bit of history is putting things lightly, The Girly Book Club's official June title covers 300 years of slavery both in America and Africa. The reviews are in and they are good! This is Gyasi's debut novel and it’s quite the feat – so well researched and crafted. But you’ll either love it or hate it, as each chapter tackles a new character that is only tenuously linked to the previous making character development high and dry.
What to discuss: A powerful subject that affected so many lives. The way the book is told will allow for thematic discussion instead of character lead convos.
If you love family drama...
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Meet Ruth, likeable daughter to Howard Young, a prominent history professor who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Ruth, newly broken up from her fiancé decides to move home to help take care of her father. It’s not the subject that makes this book so good it’s the telling. Khong’s voice is utterly hilarious and tender while she tackles this impossible subject.
What to discuss: Anyone who has ever dealt with ageing parents, or grandparents, will know first-hand how trying it can be. It’s sometimes nice to just know, you’re not alone.
For those who love a historical romance...
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Set in London during World War Two this books focuses on what it was like for those in the city during the war. Discusses the exodus of children to the countryside and the bombings in the city that changed countless lives. Mary, a wealthy politician’s daughter, is not immune to the turmoil around her and we fall in love with her as she overcomes many obstacles that seem insurmountable.
What to discuss... Deception, friendship, family commitment, to name a few.
5 Must-Reads For Your May Book Club
If you're going through a period of change…
Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Despite finding out on page one that Lili’s husband, Dan, is killed in a terrible car accident, this book is lighthearted. Fast forward three years from the accident and life is pretty predictable, which seems to be all that Lili can really handle. Until, of course, a handsome, kind, wealthy farmer enters the picture and Lili has to figure out how to move beyond her deep loss. Waxman’s voice is witty, emotional and often profound.
What to discuss: How and when to move on after life throws you a curve ball.
If you need to finish it in one sitting…
I Found You by Lisa Jewell
A one-sit-wonder that’ll have you still guessing with only 50 pages left. In the first few chapters we're introduced to a nameless man - nameless because he has amnesia and can’t remember a thing about his life – let’s call him “Frank”. Frank is taken in by a slightly crazy Alice, who found him alone wandering the beach in the pouring rain. If you can forgive Alice for this recklessness you’re bound to grow quite fond of her as she’s slightly wacky and lovely in a real world kind of way. At the same time, across the country (in London), Lily’s husband has disappeared. Just newly married, Lily is determined to find her husband but has very few clues. Of course, everything comes together in the end – and not in the typical 'aha' sort of way either.
What to discuss: When did you realise whodunnit and how much can we really tell about people when we first meet them?
If you like a good crime novel…
The Dry by Jane Harper
I’m not really a crime drama fan but this book had some great reviews so I had to check it out. Meet Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who has more skeletons in his closet than clothes. Haunted by his past, the death of his best childhood friend sends him home to investigate. But it's very clear he's less than welcome in the town where he grew up and following him as he juggles the “unofficial” investigation with the wrath of the townspeople makes for a very interesting story.
What to discuss: Where do we go from here? This is story one in what will become a series.
If you need a good cry…
A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
A good cry is always cathartic and whether you’re a dog lover or not, there is no way around the tears in this book. You'll have to endure several doggie deaths but, fear not, Bailey is reincarnated every time as he searches for the meaning of his life. Funny, insightful and clever. For anyone who's ever wondered what’s going on behind those big doggie eyes.
What to discuss: When you’ll have time to see the film together.
5 Must-Reads For Your April Book Club
Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero
An intense historical novel set in WWII, that tells of a German doctor who, because of his father’s status in the army, must pretend to be loyal to the Reich. Yet, truthfully he wants to help the Jewish people. Three main characters are intricately woven together in an uncertain time and in an unusual way to create a beautiful yet poignant tale about love and loss.
What to discuss: This book really highlights the plight of not just the Jewish people but of others who suffered in WWII as well. Character development is intense so trying to put yourself in their shoes will provide an interesting perspective.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
All The Ugly and Wonderful Things is just that: ugly and wonderful all at the same time. An epic love story about a very young girl, completely neglected by her drug/alcohol-addicted parents and raised by a family friend. This friend is a very unlikely leading male character who you spend half the book undecided if you love or hate. It’s a very unusual relationship but leads you cautiously down a road where you realise family is no longer defined by traditional roles and in some circumstances love, even when born of darkness, is a true gift.
What to discuss: This book will be the birth of a vibrant debate about the law and societal norms as your book club members will truly be divided by the actions of our male lead. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for this one!
Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom
Grissom's first book was The Kitchen House and this is the second book in the series, although it's a stand-alone novel. It’s the incredible tale of Jamie, son of both a slave and master of a huge Southern Plantation, living as a white man in early 19th century Philadelphia. He sets out to save Pan, a young free boy who was kidnapped by slavers, but to do so he must journey back to the South where deadly secrets await his return and the safe life he built for himself in the upper echelons of society no longer exists.
What to discuss: A curious and difficult time in America’s history. Your members will struggle with the many moral dilemmas Jamie faces, including having to give up his own child to ensure a better life for her.
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
This book tells the story of single father David, a genius who runs a computer lab dedicated to the progression of natural language processing (a computer able to reply to complex questions and conversation). Incredibly intelligent and rather eccentric, we learn he became father to Ada at the age of 48 with the help of a surrogate. The book follows Ada's home-schooled life and her clear distress as her father starts to decline with the onset of Alzheimer’s. But, just as you think you’ve understood the premise of the book completely, and wonder if there is any point in reading the next 200 pages, it veers off into a realm you most certainly didn’t see coming. You'll find yourself wondering if anything you learned about David was ever true at all.
What to discuss: This is an unusual tale about all the things that aren’t said in a family. It will provoke conversations about family life and what we choose to leave unsaid.
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
Ruth tells her own very personal tale about growing up in a Polygamist family where her mother shares their father with two other wives. They have no indoor plumbing or electricity and their mother is forever pregnant. Ruth plays a pivotal role in raising her brothers and sisters all the while supporting her mother who is constantly dealing with her own feelings of abandonment and jealousy. It took an incredibly strong woman to write this book; to rise above the sadness to create something, not only worthwhile, but necessary from such tragedy.
What to discuss: Where to start? There are so many themes running through this book, but first and foremost the polygamist family structure is worth debating.
Here are more of the best new books to read in 2017...