As someone who runs three (yes, three) online book clubs, I read a lot. Of course, I always have done, but I used to do it in isolation. In the last couple of years, first with the Author Effect, then with 52 Books in 52 Weeks, and most recently with One Book One Facebook, I've come to appreciate reading a book along with a group. The things some people love that others hate. The parts others pick up on that you missed. Appreciating a well-written line together. I've learned that reading in tandem enhances the reading experience. But of course, all of you who are already in book clubs know this!
So, without further ado, the following is a list of five books I've read in tandem in the last year or so that have made for great book club discussions:
"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."
When the daughter of a prominent public figure is abducted as part of an extortion plot, her family falls apart. But the questions really begin when she's returned months later confused about her name and with large gaps in her memory. The book floats back and forth through time as the mystery of her disappearance, and her disappearing memory, is revealed. With a twist at the end that I did not see coming, this book raises all kinds of interesting questions about families, what you might do in a similar situation and whether it's really possible to forget terrible things and what might push you over that edge. There's a reason this debut novel is a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for best debut author.
"Anne nudged me again. She wasn't laughing this time; a man in a suit was urgently shooing the woman and her child off of the lawn. Anne looked back at me and shrugged. A moment after that the room filled with a loud thumping noise, and every head in the place turned to see a blue Medivac helicopter ease from the sky down to a spot on the grass as gently as a butterfly lights on a twig."
There's also a reason this debut has a 4.4 star average rating on Amazon - the beautiful writing and page-turning plot. When popular teacher, Neil Kazenzakis, breaks up a fight after school, he thinks he's just doing his job. What follows instead is a compelling cautionary tale about how the simplest actions can sometimes be taken completely out of context and lead to the worst consequences. We have been reading this book in One Book One Facebook and it's given rise to all kinds of great discussions about choices, the nature of love and how true so much of the book feels.
"After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz are figuring out how to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia, who can see sounds, taste words and smell sights, is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother's unfinished novel to say her final goodbyes and lay their mother's spirit to rest."
This book recently made Library Journal's top five women's fiction books for 2014. You could spend a whole book club discussing how synesthesia (being able to taste or smell words) might affect you and your perceptions. Walsh uses deft prose to explore loss, moving on and the bond between sisters.
"In the days leading up to my husband Owen's death, he visited Alison's house every afternoon."
There, right there, is how you start a book off creating tension. And that's what this debut does throughout. As Augusta and Owen's quiet life in the country unspools, Black keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering how they got there and how it's all going to fall irrevocably apart. Great topics for your book club include whether a couple can come back from infidelity, how honesty works in a relationship and whether you guessed the twist that results in Owen's death.
"A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American!"
Who hasn't harboured some fantasy of running away and joining the circus? And that's how this book begins, with sixteen-year-old Jules trying to do just that. She gets her way, bringing her famous circus family with her, only to find there was a very good reason her father wanted to stay away. To paraphrase The Princess Bride, there's mystery, wire walking, trapezes, fights and a great kiss. Highly recommended for YA focused book clubs, particularly.
And that's it, folks. Got a book club favourite book? Tell me all about it.