A successful book club pick must accomplish many things. For starters, it has to be a compelling read so the busy people in your club will make time to devour it. It must also be thought-provoking enough to prompt a passionate conversation. It's no wonder that picking your book club's next book can feel like so much pressure!
If you are looking for a few sure bets, look no further. I’ve asked Julie Wendland, the library’s Readers’ Service Coordinator, who administers our book club set program, to tell me what book club set titles have been the most universally enjoyed by our patrons. Here they are in no particular order.
Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir that was released around this time last year…and its popularity has not waned since then. It is about the author’s experience growing up with parents who shun conventional medicine, conventional education…or really anything conventional. Deeply religious and evidently suffering from mental illness (mood swings, delusions of grandeur, paranoia, etc.), her father insisted on keeping his children away from schools, hospitals and anything remotely institutional other than their church. Eventually, as Tara nears adulthood, she decides to pursue a formal education. It opens up her world and makes her realize the extent of her family’s dysfunction. It’s a great book club book because it naturally sparks so many questions: Who or what influenced Tara and set her on a path to become educated? Where did she get the strength and determination to change her life? Does the title refer to Tara’s formal education or some broader concept of education?
A Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman is an engaging novel of historical fiction based on true events. It follows a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth in 1950s Quebec and their journey to find each other years later. This novel will bring up plenty of discussion about this and other little known dark chapters in Canada’s history. Other relevant areas of discussion will be motherhood, how individuals justify immoral acts, and the nature of family.
A Man Called Ove by Swedish author Fredrik Bachman is a charming story about a lonely man whose life is changed by friendship. Ove’s grief over his wife’s death, along with a lifetime of other losses, has transformed him into a sad, bitter old curmudgeon. He plans to end his life, but is continually derailed by happenings in the neighborhood. Ultimately, with the help of his new neighbours, he learns that life may be worth sticking around for. This book has a bit of a dark edge, but is mostly witty, heartwarming and endearing. Side note: Ove is a whisky drinker so if your book club is one where alcohol accompanies discussion, why not trade up wine for an Old Fashioned to remain on theme?
Year after year, Orphan Train continues to be one of our most popular book club sets. It is a heartfelt page-turner that follows seventeen-year-old Molly, who has spent most of her life in foster care. When she’s caught stealing a copy of Jane Eyre from the library, in an effort to keep the peace with her stressed foster parents, she ends up cleaning out elderly Vivian Daly’s attic. Molly learns that Vivian was herself an orphan, an Irish immigrant in New York who was put on the Orphan Train in the late 1920s and tossed from home to home in Minnesota. The growing connection leads Molly to dig deeper into Vivian’s life, which allows Molly to discover her own potential and helps Vivian rediscover someone she believed had been lost to her forever. One book club has said that they appreciated Orphan Train because it illustrates the value and importance of a dialogue between older and younger women – perhaps it would be an especially good pick for a multigenerational book club!
One new addition to our book club set collection is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It’s not a new book by any stretch, but regular requests from book clubs prompted us to purchase it. Deemed unrepentant by a Bolshevik tribunal in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov, our protagonist, is sentenced to house arrest in a hotel across the street from the Kremlin, where he lives in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold. Because of the rich, eloquent writing, book clubs members may want to attend their meeting prepared with their favourite lines and/or passages in mind to discuss.
If any of the above titles has sparked your interest, contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613.354.4883 ext. 3371 to arrange a reservation and if you are looking for suggestions that cater to the specific interests of your club, let us know. We’re always happy to introduce individuals and book clubs to their next great read.