Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Great Book Club Picks

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's theme:

Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks

I've belonged to a couple book clubs, and loved them. I think the key to picking a good book is to find a novel with layers - not something you just breeze through in a sitting with a cuppa tea. It should stick with you, give you something to think about, have characters you can root for or against. A bit of controversy never hurt, either, but stick with fiction - unless you want real arguments. I also like reading something that had a connection to your geographical locale, which is admittedly easier to do if you're reading in New York than Oklahoma.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving.
My book club did read this, and I'm so glad. I probably never would have picked it up otherwise. If I remember, pretty much everyone loved it, but there was still plenty to talk about. I hate when you get a book about which everyone says "This was great!," and then...nothing. There is so much going on in this story that it is sure to lead to engaging conversations.
The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood.
It's a retelling of a classic, so people will be familiar with the general story. It's a great book to take a character's side - do you think Penelope's full of it? Is Helen unfairly demonized? What's really going on with the maids?
The Lifted Veil, George Eliot.
It's short. Yay! And there's a lot packed into this novella, so there's still plenty to talk about. Plus, if people like this, maybe they'll be willing to tackle Middlemarch the next time you suggest it. Which is, um, not short.
House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus III.
The last book club I was in was a group of lawyers. We often picked books with a bit of a legal angle, but not anything too close to work. This would seem to fit that. It's about a woman who loses her house because she ignores notices and tax bills, and what happens to her and the new family of recent immigrants who buys the house. I can imagine people having very strong reactions to this and being firmly on the side of one or the other characters.
Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, Assia Djebar.
I really wanted my book club to read this, but for some reason the others didn't seem to be as fascinated with it as I was. I love the title, and it has to do with a girl growing up in Algeria, and there's war and independence and the role of language. This is the only book on my list I haven't actually read yet, which needs to change, asap.
The Taste of Salt, Martha Southgate.
Because it's good. And you get to talk about race and addiction and family issues. See? Interesting conversations, I promise.
The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck.
Sometimes picking a classic means that more people show up. Either they've read it before, or it's one of those books that they will read if they're just given a bit of a push.
Sula, Toni Morrison.
Morrison is intimidating, but this book is pretty straightforward and accessible. The are no Beloved type ghosts to confuse the heck out of everyone, but it's still a wonderfully written, beautiful book. Plus, the friendship of two young girls is at its core. I know there's plenty to talk about there.
The North of God, Steve Stern.
Again, this one is short but powerful. It has a lot of references to Jewish culture, so it helps if people have at least a working understanding of Judaism. Warning: it's a bit of a downer.
House of Mirth, Edith Wharton.
Another classic, this time with an ambiguous ending, drug usage, plenty of scandal. Perfect.


Tanya Patrice said...

Interesting choices - I hope to get to Taste of Salt sometime in the next few months.

Christina said...

Ooooh, GREAT list! I have a lot to say.
I was *this* close to putting Owen Meany on my list. John Irving tends to make for some excellent discussion.
George Eliot and Toni Morrison are perfect for book clubs. I had a good group discussion about Silas Marner a few years back, and over at The Blue Bookcase we just did a triple-review (sort of an online approximation of a book club) of The Bluest Eye.
And I've been wanting to check out House of Sand and Fog ever since seeing the movie; I can imagine it would give people a lot to think/talk about.
House of Mirth would make a great book club selection, too.
I want to be in your book club!

Anonymous said...

I love all the unique picks. Thank you for your suggestions.

-FABR Steph@FiveAlarmBookReviews
My Top Ten...

MJ said...

@Tanya: I definitely recommend Taste of Salt. I hope you enjoy it!

@Christina: Thanks for your kind words! I really miss being in a book club, so this was a great topic.

@FABR Steph: Thanks :-)

Candice said...

Very unique list! They all sound like great reads with great topics to discuss.

Andi said...

Excellent choices! Some of these I've read, others not. I'm always up for a good discusson-worthy book, and several of these are on my wishlist already.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of these D: Margaret Atwood's is definitely on my to-read list though. I feel it's my duty as a Canadian to read everything she's ever written XD

LBC said...

I like the inclusion of the Melville House novellas on your list.I really like the House of Mirth as well. I'll have to check out some of these others.

MJ said...

@Candice: Thanks! I had fun picking them.

@Andi: Thanks - I love a "meaty" book, too, especially for a book club discussion.

@coffeeandwizards: Margaret Atwood is great! I've read several of her books and I think they would all make good books for a book club.

@LBC: Thanks! I was surprised by how much I liked House of Mirth. I did read this for a book club, and it was a very lively discussion.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Thanks for the list. I have Sula and have been thinking on when to read it.