The best book club books invite discussion, reflection, and arguments—er, I mean, spirited debate. Whether you enjoy family dramas and beach reads, or sweeping historical fiction and fantasy, these books will keep you chatting way past the end of the meeting.
, by Madeline Miller
Miller’s much buzzed-about follow-up to 2011’s The Song of Achilles is narrated by the dazzling, captivating, vengeful Circe, daughter of Helios, who is banished by Zeus after turning her ex’s new love into a sea monster. Dismissed as useless when she was a girl (when your dad is the sun god, there’s a lot to live up to), Circe’s true skills are her penchant for herbs and spellcasting. Circe’s infatuation with mortals is her biggest strength and greatest weakness, and you’ll breathlessly follow her witchy, thousands-of-years-in-the-making adventures.
Book clubs will love: the immersive mythology, and how relatable Circe is, even as a goddess.
The High Tide Club, by Mary Kay Andrews
New York Times bestseller Andrews delivers a tale of Southern romance and suspense that kicks off when Josephine, an eccentric, almost century-old heiress living in a Grey Gardens-esque crumbling mansion by the sea, hires lawyer Brooke to complete a mysterious task. Brooke must gather the descendants of Josephine’s best friends for a reunion that may prove either profitable or deadly.
Book clubs will love: the island locale and juicy family secrets.
By Invitation Only, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Meet the Stiftels, peach farmers in South Carolina. They’re in for some serious culture shock when their beloved only son, Fred, becomes engaged to Shelby Cambria, the wealthy daughter of a Chicago-based private equity master of the universe. When the two families are thrown together, first in Lowcountry and then in the Windy City, their disparate backgrounds clash, and multiple secrets come tumbling out.
Book clubs will love: the humor and surprises from the queen of Lowcountry beach reads.
Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain
After depicting the life of Hadley Richardson in her bestselling The Paris Wife, McLain sets her sights on Hemingway’s third wife, acclaimed war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Her connection to Hemingway begins in Key West, Florida, in the late 1930s and ramps up against the invigorating, terrible backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Two stars are on the rise—journalist and novelist, equal in skill—but one must eclipse the other.
Book clubs will love: the wartime atmosphere and complex characters.
, by Charlies Frazier
As was his stunning, National Book Award–winning Cold Mountain (also a film starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law), Varina is set during the Civil War. The novel is narrated as an oral memoir by its titular heroine, Jefferson Davis’s much-younger wife, whose views of the conflict did not necessarily match those of the Confederate President. Little has been written about the First Lady of the Confederacy, and the story depicted here is full of rich and often unexpected details about the antebellum south as well as Varina’s post–Civil War life in New York.
Book clubs will love: the underrated heroine and her take on the biggest issues of her era, some of which reverberate to this day.
Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky
Having survived the car crash death of her young daughter, for which she was accidentally responsible, Mackenzie Cooper changes her name and starts a new life in a new town. As Maggie Reid, she works as a makeup artist beautifying others while never losing sight of the literal and metaphorical scars she’s hiding. When a friend’s teenage son finds himself in trouble with the law, Maggie knows she should back away—her probation prohibits fraternizing with criminals—but helping out another troubled soul may provide her with a modicum of peace in her own life.
Book clubs will love: contemplating what they’d do in Maggie’s situation, and the rich relationships Maggie finds post-tragedy.