A Great First Book Group Choice…

Only a quick post today but one that I am hoping that you will help me with. Not that I need to question that, you are all always really helpful! I’m looking for recommendations of books that would make the perfect first book group choice for the first discussion meeting.

Though I’ve joined a lovely book group in Levenshulme (we are actually meeting tomorrow to discuss ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ by David Mitchell – thoughts soon) the house mate of one of my friends, who also wants in too which is ace, in the centre of Manchester has asked if I’d like to set up a book group with them and others in the city centre of town. Well how could I say no? I’m not leaving the Levenshulme one, I think I can manage with two and it is a great way of making more new friends and reading more diversely.

I’ve been asked to come up with the first title and I’m a bit stuck. You see when I cofounded The Riverside Readers we had a meeting where we discussed our favourite books, it seems in this group they just want to get a title and get cracking! All good with me but what oh what to choose?

I think something that is a mix of genres, is page turning and also wonderfully written, something not too new and not too old would be good, but are there any books out there which encompass all these things? Help!

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26 Comments

Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts

26 responses to “A Great First Book Group Choice…

  1. I see your dilemma! I’m afraid I’m not much help as I don’t tend to read a lot of modernish, non-genre books at the moment but how about Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson? I quite enjoyed this one and the paperback was released last month. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Major-Pettigrews-Stand-Helen-Simonson/dp/1408809559/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298228226&sr=1-1

  2. I also have no answers. But I suppose I’d choose something modern and accessible, something on the Waterstones ‘3 for 2′ list at the moment? That way you’re starting from a comfortable point to move on from once you’ve sussed out the group!
    If you have any hints and tips for setting up a book group I’d be really interested… I keep wanting to do it but am a bit nervous as am not a massive ‘bookish’ person with high brow literary comments, just someone who likes to read books!

    • The Waterstones 3 for 2 is a brilliant idea, and next time I go in I will have a look at the selection that they have.

      Hints and tips on a book group? That to me sounds like it could be a perfect prose practise question. What would you like help with? Email me if you want to.

  3. I was thinking W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Painted Veil” until you said “not too old”. However, even though it was written in the 1920’s it still feels very accessible today. I reviewed it in January and wrote at the end of my review “this would be a great choice for book clubs” because I feel like there was so much I wanted to discuss after I finished it.

    • Ha, in terms of old I meant more 1700s and before. I dont think of the 1920s being that long ago, more a modern classic sort of period. I think you are right that The Painted Veil could be a fantastic choice for a book group. Thats a possible. Thanks Brenna!

  4. Jenny

    Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. It’s a book that has lots of discussion points, and it’s a really good read. OK, many people read it at school, but that might be a few years ago, and my experience is that people like to come back to a real classic like this.

    Further reasons for choosing a slightly older book such as this: it is less likely, prehaps, that members will have read this book as recently as they may have read some of the books on current prize long- or shortlists, or bookstore lists. So it puts all members at a common starting-point.

    This book has the further advantage that it is readily available from libraries and second-hand / charity shops. It is also relatively short!

    • Oooh To Kill A Mockingbird would be excellent if it wasnt one of my favourite books. I think if I heard anyone slate that book I wouldnt be accountable for my actions and that might not make a great first impression.

      Love all your reasoning behind why older books are better though Jenny, I had completely missed out on all of those points.

  5. Jon Appleton

    Have you read CROW LAKE by Mary Lawson (Vintage)? It’s a fantastic book, published about five years ago so widely available second hand and new. Lots for a reading group to discuss!

  6. From your request description, my immediate thought was Rebecca, but maybe it would put off some men who don’t realise that it’s not chick lit? Having looked at the comments, I can definitely second Jon’s suggestion of Crow Lake – a really clever novel which still has a lot of mass appeal. I think (given the number of people who end up on my blog by searching for it) that it must be on school syllabi in the US.

    • Like with To Kill A Mockingbird if someone slated Rebecca it would be curtains so think I might have to miss that one out. Though I know The Eyre Affair (with all its Mrs Danvers) is a possibility. I will definitely have to see what I have been missing with Crow Lake now.

  7. gaskella

    One title that provoked great discussions at our book group last year was Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, which is stylistically very clever and has serious underlying themes. Last month we read a Magnus Mills book – and that also gave us great discussions.

    • I love the title of that Mark Dunn book Annabel. I have also heard nothing of it so I will have a gander at that one. Magnus Mills would be a good author I can imagine, and also a nice short choice once in a while.

  8. Bryoak

    It would have to be the highly unusual and hard-to-put-doen The Book Thief’, or the fantastic ‘Room’ or even the fantastic ‘Gargoyle.’ Any of these will lead to a great discussion and certainly all fit the criteris of being page turners…

    • Room would be good, though I have read it so would be less inclined to re-read another book as am doing a lot of that with my Levenshulme one. In fact its the same with all those titles but your right about them being page turners.

  9. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
    What a Carve Up by Jonathan Coe
    This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

    Any of the above would get the group off to a cracking start.

    • I am off to look up the last two of those, I could re-read the first choice actually as that is a book I read ions ago and I have his new book already so need to get some more Hollinghurst under my belt as Green Carnation research!

  10. Susan E

    Couple Ideas: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

  11. The one book that sparked the most discussion in my group was the Old man and the sea. You wouldnt think that a book under 100 pages would and I only I think gave it 3/5 but it did have everyone talking for hours.

    • Sometimes its the books that get the most mixed reception that are the books that get the most discussion I have found. If you all love it then you just rave for ages and if you all loathe it can get depressing.

  12. Chris

    The house mate of? With her? What am I chopped liver?

  13. I agree with Jenny, ‘To Kill A Moching Bird’ is always good for discussions. Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ is amazing on also for a brillaint discussion.

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