Some books become book club classics for a reason. They stand the test of time because they’re engaging, exciting, shocking, or just plain buzz-worthy, making them the perfect conversation fodder for your book club. From award winners to 19th-century classics to 1990s early Oprah Book Club picks, make sure you don’t miss out by choosing these books for your next book club meeting!
White Oleander was an early Oprah's Book Club pick and follows a mother and daughter separated by a crime. Ingrid is a poet with uncompromising values who wants to raise her daughter Astrid to be strong. But when she poisons her boyfriend, Ingrid is sentenced to life in prison and Astrid is left moving from foster home to foster home, struggling to define herself as she experiences an array of different foster mothers, with a mother whose influence extends beyond her prison.
Room is all that five-year-old Jack knows. It's where he lives with his Ma, and when Old Nick visits, he hides in the wardrobe. One day, Ma tells Jack that there's a bigger life outside of Room, and she asks him to do something very scary. What follows is an expansion of Jack's world, beyond anything he could have ever imagined. This is a moving book, told completely through a child's eyes, about trauma and an unbreakable bond between mother and child.
If your club wants to go with a true classic, why not pick up Little Women? It's the perfect read for wintry days, and you can even plan a viewing of the new movie to coincide with your meeting. This novel follows the four March sisters and their beloved Marmee as they struggle to make ends meet and come of age in New England during the Civil War. This 150th-anniversary edition has a gorgeous new cover, beautiful illustrations throughout, and a new foreword written by author J. Courtney Sullivan.
Donna Tartt's books are engaging and complex, perfect for book clubs! The Goldfinch—which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction—is about Theo, who is just 13 when he loses his mother in an accident and barely survives himself. As he's taken in by a wealthy family and exposed to a confusing, lavish new world, he clings to a tiny portrait of a goldfinch, his only connection to his mother. Later as an adult and antiques dealer, Theo's connection to the painting draws him into a complex web that could threaten his life.
This genre-bending novel is full of twists and turns that will make for a lively book club discussion. In 1910, Ursula Todd is born, and then she dies. And then she is re-born again. Each time, she makes it a little further in life before dying. And each time she dies, she's reborn. Her choices affect her lifespan, and her life has a major effect on society and the greater world, especially as she makes it through toward the world's two greatest wars. This is a novel about how small choices and a single life can have a far-reaching impact on the world.
Bernadette is a larger-than-life force for many in her Seattle community, but what many people don't realize is that the pressures of being a partner, mother, and world-renowned architect have left her agoraphobic. When her teenaged daughter Bee asks for a family trip in exchange for good grades, Bernadette disappears, leaving everyone in her family deeply perplexed. Bee decides to track down her mother, going through emails, documents, and texts to create a dossier on where her mother could have possibly gone. This is another great book club pick with an intriguing mystery at the center!
Eleanor Catton became the youngest author to ever be shortlisted and win the Man Booker Prize with her second novel, a historical tale set in New Zealand during the 1860s gold rush. It stars Walter Moody, a man just recently arrived in New Zealand, who walks straight into a mystery that involves a suicide attempt, a large cache of gold, the disappearance of a wealthy man, and fellow gold hunters who are puzzling out what to do about these strange occurrences. This is a big novel, but the complexity of the plot and the richly drawn characters make the pages fly.
Kathryn is a pilot's wife, used to the long stretches of time spent away from her husband. But otherwise, her life and her family are both happy, until the day that her husband's plane crashes and she is left alone. As she struggles to cope with her grief and taking care of her fifteen-year-old daughter, the media is desperate to know every detail about Kathryn's husband and the crash. Along the way, they uncover something that hints at a secret life, forcing Kathryn to re-examine their life together and everything she thought she knew about her husband. This is another Oprah's Book Club pick that has since become a modern classic.
Which book will your book club choose next?
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Tirzah Price is a writer and contributing editor at Book Riot. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.