11 Books That Will Make You Want to Start a Book Club
11 Books That Will Make You
Want to Start a Book Club
This fall brought a spate of books that leave you feeling like you want to call a friend and talk through what you’ve just read. They’re book club gold. (At goop, we’re currently reading one: Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller, who also wrote Swimming Lessons.) But if half of being in a book club is deciding what to read next, the other half is deciding what you eat during the get-togethers. Since we typically meet on Fridays at 9 a.m. LA time/12 p.m. NYC time/5 p.m. somewhere, we do bagels or doughnuts or more carbs—and on a really good book club day: cocktails. Which is why, in addition to these eleven books for your book club’s consideration, we also offer our food editors’ Lady Kombucha Cooler, spiked with Ketel One Botanical Cucumber & Mint. So cheers! By which we mean: Happy reading.
For book clubs that can survive a political pick.
This collection of eighteen personal essays from Obama White House staffers tells the story of Obama’s presidency and a piece of American history from inside the West Wing. The first essay is written by Gautam Raghavan, the book’s editor, who served as Obama’s liaison to the LGBT community and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Raghavan’s piece tells the story behind the legalization of gay marriage and what the process looked like from within the White House. We cried.
If you’re a sucker for cult stories.
Heartbreaker is Canadian Claudia Dey’s American debut. (Fun fact: Dey is also a cofounder of the Toronto-based fashion line Horses Atelier; we love the brand’s jumpsuits.) Set in 1985 in “the territory,” Heartbreaker is told through the perspective of fifteen-year-old Pony Darlene Fontaine, her dog, and her neighbor, who is a boy nicknamed Supernatural. The territory was settled decades ago by a cult leader, and no one leaves it for the wider world. Or maybe they do: The story begins with the disappearance of Pony’s mother, Billie Jean, an outsider who turned up in the territory seventeen years earlier. From there, it takes you on a fast ride as everyone tries to make sense of who exactly Billie Jean is.
If you’re not afraid of getting a little dark.
In the summer of 1969, buttoned-up, thirty-nine-year-old Frances Jellico moves to Lyntons, an old English country house that’s come undone. Her job is to write a report on the garden architecture for the new owner. The wrench is a couple, Clara and Peter, who are staying in the rooms below Frances at Lyntons and who are anything but buttoned-up. From the moment Frances meets them, she can’t stop watching or thinking about them. Cut to the present day: Frances is on her deathbed, looking back at that summer, as she makes a confession to the vicar from Lyntons who has come to see her. Fuller’s writing is seductive, brooding, twisty—it unsettles you quietly, slowly.
For deep thinkers.
Laura van den Berg’s thirty-seven-year-old protagonist Clare shows up in Havana to attend a film festival for a horror movie. While in Cuba, Clare runs into her husband, which is strange considering that he died in an accident five weeks earlier. From there, you’ll drop hard into Clare’s rabbit hole as she tries to parse reality from fantasy. But van den Berg is at her sharpest as a writer when it comes to the mundane: the everyday moments that make up a marriage—and how it could be that you could know a person so well and yet, perhaps, know next to nothing.
For poetry and music lovers.
No two pages in this collection of poems, notes, lyrics, and drawings that was published two years after the songwriter’s death at eighty-two are alike. Sometimes you flip to a nine-word poem, other times, a wordless caricature or photocopied pages from one of Cohen’s many notebooks. But his signature self-deprecating dark humor (especially funny in “I’m Your Man”) is woven throughout the book, which can be either a quick read or a meandering meditation, depending on your mind-set. The Flame is an intimate dive into Cohen’s creative process—all of his songs, including his most famous, “Hallelujah,” began as poems, for instance. And it’s a brilliant look at what his son, Adam, has called “my father’s final efforts as a poet.”
If you know your friends won’t start reading until the day before book club.
Alethea Black’s memoir shares the same kind of lyrical prose as her ethereal 2011 story collection, I Knew You’d Be Lovely—it makes you want to underline paragraphs as you read. You’ve Been So Lucky Already is in part about how Black attempts to heal from a mysterious illness. It’s also about how she attempts to navigate grief after her father, an MIT mathematician and her best friend, passes away. It sounds like it would be sad, but it’s not. And you can read it in a single sitting or two.
If there’s no personality test you haven’t taken.
Everyone knows the Myers-Briggs personality test because it’s used everywhere. It can determine the way children are taught in preschool, who their college roommate will be, and what kind of job they will get. But why? This book, written by an associate professor of English at the University of Oxford, shows how a home-brewed 1920s personality test—conceived by a mother-daughter pair, adapted from Jung, and written on 3×5 note cards—became a phenomenon. The story of Myers-Briggs and the birth of personality testing turns out to be one of religious fervor, obsession, and a postwar search to understand the self. It’s nothing like we expected—and very interesting.
For book clubs that are always looking for the next Gone Girl.
Riley Sager followed his 2017 bestseller Final Girls with a story about an up-and-coming artist named Emma Davis. Emma obsessively paints just one thing: three girls who vanished from her summer camp bunk fifteen years ago. When her work presents her with an opportunity to return to Camp Nightingale, Emma hopes she might be able to find out what happened to her friends that summer—and resolve the guilt she feels about their disappearance. (Sager’s next book, Lock Every Door, is due out July 2019. It’s already in our cart.)
If you can’t look away from family sagas.
Natasha Solomons (The House at Tyneford, The Song of Hartgrove Hall, The Gallery of Vanished Husbands) is one of the best writers of historical fiction working today. Family dynasties, European politics, old war estates, love affairs, worlds on the brink of change: Solomons knows how to draw readers into a particular place and time. And once you’re there, you just don’t want to leave. House of Gold begins in Vienna in 1911. Greta Goldbaum, of the Goldbaum banking family, one of the wealthiest in the world, is getting ready to move to Hampshire. She’s not happy—or quiet—about it. There, in England, Greta marries Albert Goldbaum, a distant cousin. At first, Greta has no interest in Albert, but their relationship begins to morph into something she couldn’t have predicted. When WWI becomes a reality, the different branches of the Goldbaum family are, for the first time in two centuries, on opposing sides. And Greta is left somewhere in the middle.
To remember the power of narrative.
We’ve been following Glory Edim, the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, for going on a year now (if you’re not already, do the same on Instagram @wellreadblackgirl). WRBG is a Brooklyn-based book club and online community; there are monthly meetings, literary events, and an annual festival. Through WRBG, Edim has become known as a megaphone for the work of black female writers and for starting important conversations about the enormous racial inequities in publishing. And now her first book is here. It’s a collection of essays by greats like Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, and Jacqueline Woodson. Together, they reaffirm why being able to recognize yourself in literature matters and how a story can help us understand the world and see our way through it. (Looking ahead several book club get-togethers: Edim’s second book is set to be a memoir, coming in 2020.)
If your book club is stacked with nerds.
Whether or not you’ve given much thought to fossils, Paige Williams’s reporting will surprise you. The New Yorker staff writer began reporting on fossils in 2009 and finished her research for what became The Dinosaur Artist in 2018. All of her facts are arranged around the story of a thirty-eight-year-old fossil collector from Florida. In 2012, Eric Prokopi finds himself embedded in a global conflict over a tyrannosaurus skeleton that’s been unearthed in Mongolia. It’s a story that gets at the dichotomy between science and commerce and asks us to reexamine our relationship to natural history and to question: Who can really own the past?