40 great book club novels.

40 great book club novels.

In Monday’s Book Club 101 post, we talked about how a fabulous book club discussion starts with the right book—and it takes more than a great book to make a great book club novel.

To gather this list of 40 book club favorites, I polled you on the MMD facebook page, asked you on twitter, and combed through your suggestions here. I also included some of my personal favorites.

These novels are packed with discussion fodder. This list contains old books, modern classics, contemporary fiction. You’ll find character-driven novels, novels that don’t resolve, novels with unreliable narrators. You’ll read about characters who were forced to make a life-changing decision, or an impossible one. You’ll read classics that you can’t believe you didn’t “get” in high school.

Many of these books tackle big—even uncomfortable—issues. Many are polarizing. All are “discussable”—you’ll have enough material to last all night long.

book club books



  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Contemporary fiction

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  2. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  4. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  5. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  6. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
  7. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Contemporary literary fiction

  1. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
  2. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (2x)
  3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  6. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  7. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  8. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  9. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  10. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  11. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  12. Lizzie’s War by Tim Farrington


  1. Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers
  2. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  4. In the Woods by Tana French
  5. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn


  1. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
  2. Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
  3. Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
  4. Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan (good getting-to-know your group book)


  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  2. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
  3. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  4. The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti
  5. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  6. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman
  7. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

What would you add to the list?

P.S. More of my favorite book club novels.

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  1. Claire says:

    I would add another Mary Russell Doria book, Doc, about a year in the life of Doc Holliday. I got lost in that world and fell in love with Doc.

    • Jane says:

      I have read The Glass Castle in two different book clubs and thoroughly enjoyed the discussion each time. Powerful book.

    • May I suggest Ruth Rendell’s other books if you liked Barbara Vine’s book. They are the same person and Rendell’s books are so much better. Just my opinion. For some reason, the books that she writes under her own name are superb and the ones she writes under her pseudonym juts aren’t up to snuff.

      I would also like to recommend Lisa See’s books if you like Amy Tan.

    • I wish I had been in your book club. I read that book and although I thought the writing was good, I thought the book was a hoax. Having worked in social services almost my entire life, I found her stories completely incredulous. I guarantee you that she could never back any of them up with facts.

  2. Lisa D. says:

    Frustratingly good: Olive Kitteridge. Amazing discussions: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Gone Girl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, The Girl With a Pearl Earring, The Passion if Artemed

  3. Lisa D. says:

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Help, A Child Called It, Gone Girl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, The Prodigal Daughter, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel. Pie Society, The Red Tent, and frustratingly- Olive Kitteridge!

  4. Jane says:

    I loved The Bees by Laline Paull and think it would encourage a lot of discussion. I’m still trying to find someone to discuss it with and I read it a year ago. Lots of familiar books on these lists but new ones as well. TBR list keeps growing and growing and……………

  5. Stacy L Jardine says:

    Our book club just read “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. We had a fantastic discussion and everyone liked the book.

  6. Bonnie Crow says:

    Two of my book club’s favorite books: “The Rent Collector” by Camron Wright (truly amazing book!) and “Safe from the Sea” by Peter Geye!

  7. Mary Etter says:

    Our book club loved “The Nightingale” by Kirsten Hannah, “All The Light We Cannot See” , “The Orphan Train” “The Lake House” by Kate Morton, “The Life Intended”

  8. Barbara says:

    The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goldman (very good)
    Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. (levity)

    Wuthering Heights by Emily Fronte

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