What makes a good book one of the great book club books? Book club books aren't ones that you simply read and then place back on your shelf. They are the books you can't stop thinking about—the books you thrust into the hands of your friends and family because you are absolutely desperate to talk about it with someone. The stories that capture our imaginations and leave us exploring new ideas, are the very best book club books.
The best book club books are ones that keep you up until the early hours. But they don't need to be literary works of art—some of the best romance books, or the best thriller books can make for fantastic book club reads too, allowing us to explore themes that relate to our own lives, such as love, work, loss, and relationships.
And these kinds of stories are meant to be shared, discussed and debated. So our expert Books Editor has rounded up the best book club books from a range of genres—including autobiographies, crime thrillers, and feel-good novels—to pitch for your next meeting...
W&H's pick of the best book club books
From the best historical fiction books to the best mystery books, and everything in between—the titles chosen below are packed with topical and important talking points, mind-bending twists, laugh-out-loud observations and characters that will stay with you long after reading. Our selection of book club books—which includes some of the best books of 2021—should provide discussion inspiration whether you’re a book club aficionado, keen to start a reading club, or are simply looking for a read that is a cut above the rest. Now your only issue is to decide which one to download on your eReader first...
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
When it comes to novels set behind the velvet rope, there is a clear winner at the helm in Malibu Rising—especially if you are craving a story that not only offers fun and frivolity, but also depth, humor, and characters that are every bit as frustrating, loveable and contrite as members of your own family. Taylor Jenkins Reid delves out all this and more in her 2021 novel, which takes place over 24 hours at a Malibu house party thrown by four famous siblings—surfer and model Nina, surfer Jay, photographer Hud, and the youngest, Kit. A sexy, scandalous tour de force, with really relatable characters that are sure to spark discussion.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Beth O’Leary has a unique way with feel-good writing, and her debut bestselling novel The Flatshare is the best example. It follows the quirky home setup of upbeat Tiffy and her slightly more serious “flatmate” Leon, who share a bed but have never actually met each other. With a whole host other endearing and not-so-endearing characters, it’s a heartwarming but amusing read (with a couple of twists and turns) that shows us how the best situations can come out of the most unconventional of circumstances. A great one to choose if you want to explore the theme of unconventional and unexpected relationships.
Bad Choices by Lucy Vine
Lucy Vine’s knack for hilarity was introduced to us all in her number one bestselling Hot Mess and carried through to her subsequent releases, so it’s no surprise that her newest drop Bad Choices promises to leave us as breathless and blurry-eyed from laughter as its predecessors. One of the best book club books to read with your girlfriends, this one is all about the messy stories and nostalgic occasions of those ever-important codependent friendships we all had at some point in our youth.
The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan
Karen Swan transports us to the historic city of Stockholm and the beautiful Swedish coast in this epic tale, where Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for Hanna and Max. Looking after three children, life is ticking along, until Bell receives a call to say Hanna’s first husband has woken up from his coma, sending shockwaves through the family. This story of forgiveness will soon have you swept along and dreaming of Sweden—one of the best book club books for those with wanderlust.
The Sight Of You by Holly Miller
This entrancing and beautifully written novel follows Joel and Callie, brought together, as if by fate. Only Joel doesn’t want to let anyone close. Haunted by dreams of what is going to happen to the people he loves, it’s no different when he meets Callie. He knows exactly how this ends. The question is, does he carry on living regardless? One of the most big-hearted of book club books that shows just how fragile life truly is, and a truly endearing story about love and loss.
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley
Lauded as one of the best feel-good novels of the last few years, Pooley quickly introduces us to a group of intriguing characters—none of them quite what they seem. Stricken with guilt about his past, flamboyant artist Julian Jessop wants to share his truth. But from the moment he writes it in a notebook and leaves it for someone to find, he couldn’t have imagined the impact it will have. This heartfelt and joyous read shows what it means to embrace who we really are.
Saving Missy by Beth Morrey
In what’s been described as a ‘coming of old’ story, we meet prickly Millicent (Missy). Grieving for her husband, with a son living in Australia and a daughter she hasn’t spoken to for a year, she is lonely. That is until she meets two very different women who help her realise it doesn’t have to be that way. Featuring a cast of flawed but lovable characters, this is a story of friendship and having a second chance at life. This is one of the book club books to savour for days to come after you've finished it.
Magpie by Elizabeth Day
Marisa has only known Jake for a few months, but when he asks her to move in and start trying for a baby, it feels right. In Jake, she's found someone who will love and look after her the way she needs, and for a while, everything is perfect. But when lodger Kate arrives, Marisa is unnerved by how comfortable she seems in the house, how intimately she covets Jake and how interested she is in their baby. Just what is this stranger's story? Intelligent, twisty, and delicate in its handling of sensitive themes, Magpie is the thinking woman's thriller.
The Survivors by Jane Harper
When Kieran returns home to the small town of Evelyn Bay on the Tasmania coast, he does so purely to help his parents pack up their house. He hasn't been back to the place in years, ever since the tragic events that saw three teenagers lose their lives at sea, yet Kieran has never been able to forget what happened, and neither, as it soon transpires, has anyone else. When the body of a young woman then washes up on the shore, it sparks an investigation that uncovers more than anyone could have predicted. A brooding and darkly atmospheric mystery.
Kim Stone series by Angela Marsons
If you're looking for a stream of gripping book club books to carry your group through a good number of meets, then the Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone series is well worth your attention. Following the savvy but haunted Detective Inspector Kim Stone and her team as they endeavor to catch a different enigmatic serial killer in each installment, the series will leave you desperate to know what happens next at every corner, with multiple story arcs in each book and group of characters who you’ll end up feeling like you’ve known for a lifetime. If you’re a fan of Line of Duty, this one is definitely for you.
What You Did by Claire McGowan
When a group of university friends gets together after 20 years, friendships and relationships start to unravel after one of them is found bleeding and traumatized after claiming to have been assaulted by someone else in the house. Dark memories are brought to the surface for our protagonist as she is left questioning some of the supposedly best years of her life—and a hoard of twists and turns makes for a riveting group discussion that will make you forget all about your mandatory book club glass of wine.
The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney
Packed full of domestic suspense, The Perfect Wife explores the idea of perfection in a person and in a relationship through the lens of science, technology and resurrection. It begins as protagonist Abbie awakes to find that she doesn’t quite remember exactly who she is. Her husband—a tech expert and Silicon Valley legend—tells her she is an artist, surfer and loving wife and mother. But she is also something else entirely. After a horrible accident stole her life from her five years ago, her husband brought her back thanks to a technological breakthrough. As Abbie gets to know her new self and her new world, she is suspicious that her husband may not be all that he seems either.
Liar by Lesley Pearse
Set in 1970s London, Pearse’s latest dark tale follows Amelia White, whose ambitions to become a reporter might just become reality when she discovers a murdered woman’s body. Determined to report the truth amid a media frenzy, more bodies begin to pile up, pushing her to the absolute limit. One of the most thrilling book club books on our list, and one that you'll definitely want to make sure you've ready before the next meeting to avoid spoilers!
The Curator by M. W. Craven
Christmas may be the time for loving and giving, but when a sadistic serial killer begins displaying body parts across Cumbria, things get a whole lot darker. The National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw now face a case that is as disturbing as it is difficult to unravel. Jaw-droppingly shocking and intense, there’s no escaping this novel’s tense narrative and tightly woven mystery.
The New Girl by Harriet Walker
Walker’s gripping thriller is against the backdrop of the— crazy, but arguably realistic—fashion industry. One of the more psychological book club books, this narrative explores friendship, motherhood, grief and betrayal, meaning it'll likely spawn all sorts of brilliant conversations. This has already been optioned as a film too, so you can just imagine how brilliant it is with someone willing to take it to Hollywood.
Lullaby by Leila Slimani
Compelling from the menacing opening line Lullaby is guaranteed to elicit a strong reaction from all readers, but given the fact that it’s about a nanny who murders the children in her care, it’s not one for the fainthearted. There are, however, heaps of talking points around class, race and family, so it ticks both the thinking and feeling boxes, which is what makes it one of the best book club books. Plus, it's also been made into a movie (making it one of the best book-to-movie adaptions on our list), so you can even discuss the book in two formats, if you wanted to.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
A dive into the issues of prejudice, racism and injustice in the US told through the lens of a young couple’s loving but turbulent relationship, as Roy is sent away for 12 years for a crime that his wife Celestial knows that he didn’t commit. There’s much to discuss in this gripping read, not just the societal concerns but the nuances of couple relationships, not to mention the blockers that can arise among friendships. There are also interesting literary devices used throughout, with different points of view translated through diverse media.
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
A new novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Strout is a drop-everything-else moment—and we'd recommend you do, for this gloriously engaging book that once again stars the infinitely fascinating Lucy Barton. Through the story of Lucy's lifelong relationship with lover, husband, friend, and confidant William, Strout demonstrates her keen understanding and empathy of the human condition through characters that resonate, prose that strikes like a match at the emotions, and a story that could belong just as easily to us as to her indomitable narrator. A love story, but more importantly, a life story—and one that positively sings with perception.
Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh
The most recent novel from the Man Booker long-listed author of The Water Cure imagines a world in which women are given a ticket on the day of their first period, informing them whether they will become a mother or not. A white ticket grants you children, while the blue ticket offers freedom from choice. But, as protagonist Calla is about to discover, things can go horribly wrong if the wrong ticket is issued. Delving into themes of motherhood, female instincts, and the balance of power between men and women, it boldly challenges the reader to face an unsettling what if, making it one of the best feminist books on our list.
Fault Lines by Emily Itami
Japanese housewife Mizuki lives in a beautiful Tokyo apartment with her husband and two children. By rights, she should be happy, yet she often fantasizes about throwing herself off the balcony—anything to break the monotony. Then into her life one rainy night comes restauranteur Kiyoshi, and through him, Mizuki rediscovers her passion for the vibrant city, for life, and freedom. The further she falls, the deeper Mizuki strays towards a point of no return, and soon she is faced with a difficult choice. A love story with a difference that introduces a fresh and exciting new literary voice, and that sparks a conversation about conventional family roles.
Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason
When a book is recommended by almost every person you encounter, you can be confident that something extremely special is in store—and this is very much the case with the achingly poignant, painfully human, and darkly humorous Sorrow And Bliss. When we join Martha at the start of the novel, she is at her 40th birthday party with her husband Patrick and is very much not okay. The reasons why become apparent as we travel with Martha back to childhood, meet her eccentric British family and witness her myriad struggles as she grapples with mental illness. An exquisite modern classic.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Penned by the former Head of Drama Series at HBO, captivating debut The Paper Palace has the caliber of unforgettability that publishers dream about. Opening with 50-year-old mother-of-three Elle awakening at the Cape Cod house where she spends all her summers, the narrative then takes us on a journey not just back to the events of the previous evening—when Elle had sex with Jonas on the lawn while their respective partners chatted away indoors—but to the mid-50s when they initially met. Elle has a choice to make about her future happiness, but first, she must revisit the past.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
One for lovers of writing, this new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All The Light We Cannot See is a cross-generational study of enduring hope in the face of war, the power of knowledge, and how stories continue to teach readers what it means to be human. Set inside the walls of Constantinople, an Idaho library with a devastating hidden secret and an interstellar ship of the future, it interlaces characters through their love of the story of Aethon, who dreamed of becoming a bird so he could fly up to a Utopian world. A magical, meaningful book.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Can you really have book club books list without an appearance from Sally Rooney? Well, we’re eschewing her famous Normal People for the *slightly* lesser-known Conversations with Friends—because after all, isn’t that what a book club is really about? This follows aspiring writer Frances and her best friend Bobbi, who get swept up into the world of literary hubbubs, fancy houses and luxury holidays when they befriend a glamorous couple with whom they start a complex relationship.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Protagonist Edie finds herself in a complicated situation in this award-winning Sunday Times bestseller, after she finds herself in a relationship with a white, middle-aged married man whose wife is semi-open to an open relationship. She then meets the pair’s adopted black daughter who doesn’t have anyone else in her life who looks like herself. Edie finds herself falling into this family’s life with the backdrop of racial and sexual politics providing interesting discussion points.
The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung
Katherine has always felt like an outsider in her community, both as the child of an interracial relationship and as a gifted mathematician. Guiding the reader deftly through her family history, Katherine’s own life becomes the ultimate puzzle as discoveries lead her to examine who she really is. A truly spellbinding read well worth checking out.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
What if you had the chance to open a book and try another life you might have lived? In this life-affirming read, Nora Seed does just that when she discovers the secret power of the Midnight Library. Now she gets to see what could have been if she’d taken that job, joined her brother’s band or stayed with that man, by selecting one of its many books. Thought-provoking and compelling—you’ll soon be swept along for the ride.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
After running away from their small, southern black community, the Vignes twins’ paths diverge dramatically. Ten years later, one sister lives in very the town she left, while the other passes secretly for a white woman. This is a truly thought-provoking read that reflects American history and society.
The Confession by Jessie Burton
It’s hard not to fall in love with Jessie Burton’s hypnotic prose, and The Confession is no exception. In this absorbing tale of self-discovery, successful writer Constance Holden and Elise Morceau meet by chance in 1980. When Elise follows Connie to glamorous LA, it’s not long before Elise makes a decision that changes everything. Sure to resonate with anyone who’s ever questioned who they are or the decisions they make, this is a wonderful, compelling book you’ll want to read again the minute you’ve finished!
Do Not Feed the Bear by Rachel Elliot
Sydney is a free runner and always on the move, never quite coming to terms with a tragic event that took place in her past. As her forty-seventh birthday approaches, her partner Ruth wants them to celebrate together, but instead Sidney is standing on a rooftop in St Ives preparing to jump. Facing up to her guilt and grief, she soon encounters the kindness of strangers. Beautifully written, Elliot’s unique and mesmerizing voice pulls you along effortlessly.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
When a novel has been chosen as Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick, you know it’s going to be all sorts of incredible—and should be on your own book club books list! Exploring themes such as motherhood, identity and the crippling weight of secrets, the story begins with the youngest child of the prominent Richardson family setting fire to their home, and continues to enthrall throughout.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
If you loved Classic and mythology in school or were a fan of Madeleine Miller’s bestselling Circe, then Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne should be on your radar for the best book club books. It tells the story of the famous Theseus and the Minotaur but from the perspective of Ariadne, the Minotaur’s sister. Ariadne falls in love with Theseus, Prince of Athens, when he arrives on their island, but pledging her allegiance to him means betraying her own flesh and blood. The wonderfully-written debut novel gives a voice to important women of Greek mythology.
Spirited by Julie Cohen
Incorporating the supernatural into a beautifully realised historical setting, Julie Cohen brings us Viola and Henriette, a pair of Victorian women bonded together by love and courage. Following the loss of her father, Viola’s grief is lifted only by photography, though her pictures appear to pick up spirits that are otherwise invisible. Meeting Henriette, a spirit medium, only draws her further into this other world. Wonderfully written and evocative.
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
A gripping novel for our times, this confirms – again – that Allende is a consummate storyteller. Starting at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, and ending in 1994, we follow two remarkable characters—Rose and Victor—as they flee Franco’s dictatorship and board a ship to Chile, commissioned by the poet Pablo Neruda. Historical fact is exquisitely interwoven with personal stories. This is a stunning portrayal of love, courage, and hope.
This Lovely City by Louise Hare
In her debut novel, Louise Hare transports us to post-war London. It’s 1950 and jazz musician and new arrival Lawrie has taken lodgings and fallen in love. Touring the music halls of Soho by night, by day he works as a postman. But when he makes a terrible discovery, he becomes the prime suspect. It soon becomes clear that the new arrivals from the Caribbean may not be as welcome as they’d been led to believe. A thought-provoking mystery.
The Silent Hours by Cesca Major
Following the fates of three souls in France during WW2, this meticulously researched and faultlessly authentic tale reimagines the events that occurred around a real and devastating tragedy. The author has taken this foundation of truth and built an absorbing yet sensitive narrative, one which feels both believable and necessary. A real gem, and a must-read for historical fiction fans—and one you won't stop talking about with friends.
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
This exquisite novel set in 1950s post-war London, follows the journey of discovery taken by features writer, Jean Swinney. Her world is turned upside down when she is sent off to investigate Gretchen Tilbury’s supposed ‘virgin birth’. Before long, her life becomes intertwined with the Tilburys—and there will be a price to pay. A stunning novel that will quickly steal your heart.
The Garden Of Lost And Found by Harriet Evans
Set in both 1919 and the present day, this is a sweeping epic of a tale that unfurls the fates and fortunes of the Horner family, who lived in happy idyll at Nightingale House until one summer day changed everything. Arty, evocative, blissful and boasting a fabulous cast, it’s a mystery that you will want to share with everyone.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Written partly as a memoir and partly to inspire readers, Untamed is an autobiographical insight into how speaker and activist Glennon Doyle defied convention and societal expectation to find her happiest self and live her happiest life. It’s an intimate story that touches on all aspects of life, from relationships to motherhood to society and our relationships with our bodies and our minds.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
This is the captivating true story of a couple who embarked on a walk along the South West Coast Path. Raynor writes about losing her home and her husband Moth’s terminal illness with lyricism and poignancy, evoking the rich beauty of Britain’s coastline as she does so. While it is sad, there is tenderness here, and there is hope, too.
This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
Also on our list of the best audiobooks, comedian Adam Kay’s dedication to the NHS and his description of life on the front line of the medical service is one book you need to grab at your earliest opportunity. The former junior doctor’s diary entries will make you cringe, chuckle and weep in equal measure. Adam penned the novel in secret in between shifts at the hospital, and it's a fascinating look into the life of a medical worker.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
A supremely popular choice, this memoir is one everyone should have on their list. Michelle never sought to be a political celebrity and she arguably lives in the shadow of Barack’s status. But her career is equally as impressive and the memoir—latterly—details the journey of how she used her status in advocating for change and how brilliantly she did so. But it was not a fairytale trajectory—IVF, miscarriage, relationship counseling, family death as well as career and familial struggles are all shared. But her formidable intelligence, humor, courage, and humanity shine through.
Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with five years experience working in digital publishing, ranging from book publishing to magazines. She currently looks after all things Lifestyle for Woman&Home, GoodToKnow and My Imperfect Life.
Before she joined Future Publishing, Emma graduated from the University of Warwick with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies. After leaving education, she started out her publishing career in the world of books, working as a Publisher for an independent digital publisher specializing in back-list and debut commercial fiction novels. With a huge book list and a passion for bringing the best stories to the broadest audience possible, Emma filled her spare time with reading the latest best-sellers and catching up on hit adaptations.
In 2017 she joined TI Media as a fiction writing coordinator on Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction as part of the features team. From here, she used her love of books, working to bring short stories to our dedicated readers and began writing for the books pages of Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman&Home, as well as online features ranging from genre round-ups to travel pieces for womanandhome.com.
After honing her skills, Emma branched out online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first. When she’s not writing about the next big lifestyle trend, she enjoys cooking, long walks and watching as many crime dramas as she can!
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