Books for Book Groups…

After my previous post on a few things Book Group orientated and The Riverside Readers I said that I would come back with a post on my personal top Book Group reads as well as discussing my top Book Group tips. Those two things would actually make a bit of a Bible of a post and so I will do the top books today and a few tips and my own experiences for and of Book Groups on Thursday, so hopefully you are all still interested in all things Book Group related. Could I fit the words Book Groups in these previous sentences if I tried?

After seeing Novel Insights wonderful post on her personal top twelve books a group could read in a year I thought I would have a go. This isn’t plagiarism it’s simply joining in, ha. Having been in a few book groups (in fact I am currently in two though one is rather rogue and we only do one every so often when the whim takes us) I realised that I had a list of 38 books that I could choose from. Some of the books haven’t worked (Tales of the Jazz Age – we all had different editions which all featured a different selection of short stories), some have received indifference, some have been disliked and some have been loved, more on those in my list.

Though I haven’t featured the books that were indifferent or went wrong I have included one book which I didn’t care for but caused great discussion and that’s one thing I have noticed from book groups, I might not always like a book but that in itself when lots of people do can make for a great book group read as it causes debate. So what five things do I do in order to make a book group choice now, I may not have always done this in the past mind;

  1. Books you wouldn’t normally read – one of the main points of a book group in my mind – but which are accessible, you don’t want to alienate your other group members.
  2. Books which have been received with strong reviews/thoughts both positive and negative way when they came out, this could cause great debate.
  3. Books that make you think and cause all sorts of discussions with yourself in your own head though you can’t always predict these in advance.
  4. Authors you love and admire who other people might not have tried, though don’t be precious on these as they could get ripped to shreds.
  5. Books that challenge and push you as a reader, if they are going to do this to you they probably will be to others.

Looking back at all the book groups I have been part of in the past which book would I recommend the most? Well after some whittling of the 38 I have read with book groups I came up with the final twelve (like Novel Insights I have chosen a years worth) that I think have caused the greatest discussion in no particular order.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
  • The Bell – Iris Murdoch
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (close tie with Atonement to be honest)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • Animal’s People – Indra Sinha
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (the one I didn’t like – discussion was great)
  • The Book of Dave – Will Self
  • Kafka on the Shore – Hariku Murakami

So there it is. You can see the full list of all 38 books now on the “new and improved” Book Group page where you can also see what the next book group read is. You may be wondering why some of the above list are in bold. Well my Gran wants a list of five books, as I mentioned on a previous post, she could put forward for her book group. I am actually going to send her a list of new books she and her group are less likely to have read along with the five above in bold. More book group musings on Thursday when I will be discussing Book Group decorum and what made me sensationally (love the drama of that word) leave a book group I started after two years! Let me know what you think of the final twelve too can you spot any themes in them? Also please do tell me of any great books you have done in a book group in the past.

P.S Sorry no picture on today’s post I am not a big fan of posts with no images, if it drives me to crazy will be the shot of The Riverside Readers again!


Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts

15 responses to “Books for Book Groups…

  1. Interesting post Simon! I’ve only once been in a bookgroup, for 6 months, (met a bloke there and then it was sensible to leave when we split up!), but I quite enjoyed it and am very envious of all of you people with bookaholic meet ups. I guess for me the main bonus of book groups would be discovering other boos that I might not otherwise have come across. I have read over half of your list, so some more obscure books might be good too. But at the same tme, it’s vital to ensure that there will be plenty to discuss!

    • For me, apart from the chatter and the new lovely people I have met, finding books I might not have read or reading books that have been languishing on my TBR is part of the pleasure! Plus sometimes the people have turned my book views around!

  2. Oh I’m definitely reading things I would not have touched (see today’s review) but not necessarily in a good way. In fact, I’m brewing and stewing about trying to find another one, or starting my own. That is why your list is so helpful. Believe me, I am going to use it as an example of what a proper book club reads! Not this trash that I keep having to buy.

    • I shall pop over to your blog shortly Sandy. What seems to be happening with your book group? Maybe its a phase of choices that just arent very you, we all have to endure one or two of those a year maybe?

  3. novelinsights

    Oh it’s certainly not plagiarisim, I’m honoured. Nice picks there, and the comment next to Grapes of Wrath made me giggle. It sums up what I think is the beauty of book groups as well. You might not like a book as you say but it can lead to a great discussion and challenge you to read something you might not have bothered with. I’m getting a bit of book group nostalgia looking at that list!

    • Awww thanks Pol could do without being sued in all honesty at the moment hahaha. Grapes of Wrath wasnt my favourite it has to be said! But like you say I admit the book made for great discussion. Awww the nostalgia… the next post will bring even more memories back hahaha.

  4. This year in our book group we’ve had wonderful discussions on Me Cheeta, and Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, but also a non-fic book – Bad Science by Ben Goldacre – which got us all worked up and led off in all sorts of tangential health-related areas.

    Last year, we read 1984 and it still has the power to disturb as did Blindness by Saramago (my fave book group read from last year).

    All these were challenging but readable and had strong supporters to be chosen which made them ideal books for us.

    • Oh thanks fr your book group previous reads recommendations Annabel thats ace. I have always wanted to try Paul Auster and Saramago. I actually saw someone reading Bad Science on the tube yesterday how random.

  5. Hi Simon, sorry to be the wet blanket here, but I don’t find this list very exciting. Why? Because these are books I would normally read (and, in fact, I have already read many of them). Given that one of my motivations for joining a book group is to read books I wouldn’t normally read and books that take challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone, I’m feeling like I’m in a bit of a quandary with this one…

    • Not a wet blanket at all Kim. As I said these wouldnt be the actual ones I would recommend to my Gran they are quite, quite different. This is merely showing out of all the book groups I have been at which ones have caused the best discussions. I am omly sharing my past experience not saying these are the best, I am well aware I am no book group authority or book expert hahaha.

  6. Just spotted that your next book group read is ‘Flowers for Algernon’ – I read it last year and adored it. I’ll be really interested in seeing the group’s comments.

  7. Simon, I agree with Kim. I enjoy having the opportunity to read books that either I wouldn’t normally read/hadn’t heard of before (Voice Over being a perfect example) and/or reading books that I had always meant to but never have. The problem with choosing classics or “typical” bookgroup reads is that -although they are great books- chances are a lot of people have already read them. Case in point: last month for both my bookgroups I had read both of the books and out of four of the Riverside Readers choices, I have read two of the books previously. This isn’t a complaint as I have enjoyed the opportunity to reread them and glad that people had a chance to read them for the first time, but it’s an observation.

    • I would have put Voice Over in the list of books that are great for a book group but I didnt really think I should as I wasn’t actually there.

      This isn’t designed to be the books that you simply must read for a book group its me looking back on what has worked in the book groups I have been at before. The numbered points are how I look for books in the future which is a different thing I just linked the two together through this post.

      I think in any book group someone is going to have read a book they have read before, but the discussion at the last group was interesting just for that reason as well as for us who hadnt read it before.

  8. Pingback: Book Groups… The Good & The Bad « Savidge Reads

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