I’m currently a part of three different book clubs. Reading and writing are some of my favorite pastimes, but talking about reading and writing is pretty much my favorite pastime. Give me a glass of wine and sharp conversation about character development, and I am in an Eva shaped hole in heaven.
While a novel can have an impact on you (and there is something to be said for wanting to have and hold a story just for yourself), or it can have gorgeous prose or be totally delightful, that doesn’t always mean it necessarily generates a great discussion or that insistent need every book lover has to discuss it with someone RIGHT AWAY.
I created a list of some of my favorite books I read this year that are not only page-turning, delicious reads, but that also generated incredible discussions.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara I’ve never devoured an 800-page book so quickly and completely before this novel came into my life (that includes the Song of Ice and Fire series and the Harry Potter series– two of my all-time faves!). There is something so special about A Little Life. It’s immersive, intelligent, beautifully written, and deeply felt. The story is quite difficult to stomach, but it is never perverse or exploitative. It’s certainly not for the feint of heart, but the best kind of literature goes beyond the surface plot (which was mesmerizing enough) and dives deep into the guts of its characters, the soul of its world. Yanagihara pens her characters with such complete understanding, devotion and objective scope that you can’t help but feel like you’ve lived life with them. I could (and have) talk(ed) about this book for hours it is that good and that meaty. Prepare yourself with tissues and a reading buddy, because this is a book you MUST discuss.
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli The best kind of YA novel. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda has witty, nimble dialogue, relatable and interesting characters, a pulsing plot and sweeping romance. Smart, funny and warm. A great book club choice if you are looking for a diverse book (the plot centers on Simon, a gay teenager who hasn’t come out yet), and/or if you are looking to chat about all the ways adolescence has and hasn’t changed since your time (I still cringe at the thought of cell phones in high school which makes me sound like the dinosaur that I am).
- The Circle by Dave Eggers I read The Circle when it first came out in 2013, but now that the movie is due this summer, I am reminded of just how much I needed to talk about it when I finished it. I made my husband, sisters and mom all read it so I would have more people to discuss it with even outside the rich discussion in my book club. It’s spooky and unnerving and altogether fascinating. The questions it raises about technology and privacy are enough to create interesting conversation, let alone the plot and characters of the book itself.
- Anything Rainbow Rowell has ever written. You may think I’m exaggerating (and maybe I am a little because I thought “Carry On” was okay but it wasn’t my favorite) but, in general, there is something so captivating and inclusive about Rainbow Rowell’s writing. From page one of Attachments, you are all in. Eleanor & Park does one better and grabs you in the first few lines. Not only are all her books (Fangirl and Landline included) excellent stories with funny, complex characters, but they also beg major questions about who you are and what you want in life. Not to mention killer dialogue and bangin’ romances all around. You’ll be talking about these a LOT.
- My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout This is one of the most unassuming books. It’s a massive story in 193 pages. The writing is exceptional, the characters are interesting and the exploration of self and love and parenting and illness is unlike anything I’ve read. I needed to talk about My Name Is Lucy Barton as soon as I finished it because I was so filled up by it.
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Okay, so Big Little Lies has gotten a lot of play this year due to the (excellent) HBO miniseries based on the same story. Sometimes, I avoid books or shows that get a lot of hype because I either don’t believe it could possibly live up to it, or because I simply want to be contrarian. However, this is a novel (and a show) that if you do read it, you will NEED to talk about. Another that I forced into everyone’s hands (well, ears because this is one of the rare times I think the audio book is better than the reading experience). Overall it’s a funny, nuanced, well-paced mystery with a variety of complex female characters that you will need to dissect immediately.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas This YA novel is nothing short of revelatory. In The Hate U Give, Thomas manages to encompass what are rage-inducing, political, cultural and topical issues, in a palatable and page-turning way. The narrative voice is strong and funny and heartbreaking. Perfect for a long, important discussion about the state of our world, as well as questioning our own values, biases and perspectives.
What are your favorite books to talk about?
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