Top Ten Tuesday

Top ten Tuesday: book club recommendations

The Broke and Brookish this week is looking for suggestions for book club reading.

This wouldn’t be an easy one for me since our book club has rather wide ranging tastes – each person chooses a book so it reflects their taste rather than necessarily what the club as a whole likes. We went down the path of chick lit for a while turned me off but I’ve been introduced to some new authors in other month so it’s almost balanced out. For me a good book club read is one that has plenty of issues and dimensions that can lead to a good discussion – I want more than someone saying “I picked this because I thought it would be fun” and that’s all they can say about the book (believe me it has happened). The book choice doesn’t have to be particularly weighty but something to at least get your teeth into.

If I had my wishlist it would include:


I’ve gone for a mixture of styles, subjects and country of origin of the author (too many book clubs seem to focus only on Western literature).

  1. The Many by Wyl Menmuir reviewed here. A Booker long listed title from 2016 that I thought superb. It keeps you guessing about what the main message is.
  2. Another Booker 2016 candidate – and one I would dearly have loved to see win – is Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing which traces the effect of Communist rule on three musicians. It’s an epic that stretches across centuries and countries. Not always easy to grasp it had tremendous emotional power. Reviewed here 
  3. The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw. Set in Japan, a wonderful elliptical story in which a professor of law tells a story about his father’s fascination with traditional Japanese jigsaw puzzles.It’s a metaphor for how our lives are constructed by fragments. Reviewed here 
  4. The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien. Set in a remote Irish village it examines what happens when a dictator on the run from atrocities he committed in his country attracts the attention of a lonely housewife. This book will have you thinking about actions and consequences and forgiveness.  Reviewed here 
  5. From Korea comes a book that was a knock out bestseller and not just in Korea. Please Look After Mom  by Shin Kyung-sook looks at the mother-child relationship which is thrown into question when an elderly mother goes missing in an underground station while on her way to visit her children. As they search for her they discover secrets about her life and uncomfortable truths about their own attitudes.Reviewed here 
  6. Possession by A. S Byatt was my choice when I joined the book club. I wasn’t sure I had make the right choice until the meeting but surprisingly we had a great discussion about the different forms possession can take -whether for artifacts f the past or for another individual. Reviewed here
  7. Holiday by Stanley Middleton.Who is he I can hear you asking. Not surprised really.Despite having written more than 40 novels he has more or less disappeared from our radar. A pity. This is a short novel from 1974 in which a middle aged man facing a crisis is his marriage takes a spur of the moment holiday at the seaside. It’s the same resort he visited year after year as a child when his parents took him for their annual holiday. Reflections of those times  days mingle with more recent and more bitter memories. Good for discussions around nostalgia and relationships. Reviewed here 
  8. L’Assommoir by Emile Zola. It’s not the first book in Zola’s Rougon-Marquet series of 20 titles but this doesn’t matter too much. Read it for its superb rendition of life on the breadline in nineteenth century Paris. You can, if your book club is of an academic mind, get into all kinds of discussion about Zola’s theory of naturalism and inherited conditions. Reviewed here
  9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Chances are that your club has already read Half a Yellow Sun which is an earlier novel by Adichie. Americanah gives a view of life for a girl who leaves Nigeria – one of the people who achieves the dream – only to find its not what she expected. Can she make a new life or do the ties that bind back to the homeland prove stronger? It’s a novel about choices you make to fit in with a new way of life and how experience changes you. It might sound rather sombre but there are some outstandingly funny scenes in a hairdressing salon. Reviewed here
  10. Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan: We hope this never happens to anyone. But it does. What if you were one of the passengers in a ferry or cruise liner that is sinking. You’ve got yourself into a lifeboat and are now waiting for rescue. But days go by, water and food supplies dwindle. Who gets to live in those circumstances?  Who deserves to die?  And who has the right to make those decisions?  Those questions lie at the heart of Charlotte Rogan’s debut novel. This isn’t the best written novel I read in 2013 but it was one that stimulated a lot of discussion in our book club meeting. Reviewed here 

Those are just some of the books I’d suggest. What would your recommendations be?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

21 thoughts on “Top ten Tuesday: book club recommendations

  • Oh those autocorrect gremlins! I got some but didn’t see them all. “Raise its head” and “would still” are what I meant in the first para. I hate that you can’t edit you’re own comment.

  • Great selections Karen. My club used to have a few rules including length. The book couldn’t be more than 300 pages and had to be paperback. But we were working mothers then! Now we are older we only have one rule. Does it have things to talk about? Length though does raise irs had a little. We world still avoid reading a lot of books over 400 pages but we do read some. The luminaries, Wolf Hall, Crime and punishment are recent examples.

    We choose by consensus twice a year. We throw books into the ring, not literally of course (haha), and people say yay or nay. We mostly read literary fiction but we do read non fiction. We’ve had the odd poetry night too.

    But recommendations. Well there’s always Jane Austen! She never fails to get discussion going I’ve found. It’s always good to throw in a classic. A great Japanese classic would be Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka sisters.

    • I like the idea of throwing them into the ring and seeing you all wrestle for your champion. It does sound a practical way since them people can read ahead. Our group chooses month by month so if there is a chunkster it really doesn’t give time to get through it.

      • Ah, yes. Month by month wouldn’t suit us. People like to plan their reading and book purchase/borrowing. If they’re away like to know what’s coming up so they can read in advance. We carefully plan our chunksters to be our summer read, ie January read, or after a short read.

  • Those all seem like they would be great for discussion. When I read The Vegetarian I kind of wished I was reading it with a group because there were so many pieces I wanted to talk to someone about.

    • I just bought that one – just based on what I’ve heard it could indeed be a good one. The only issue would be that some group members wrinkle their noses at a ‘foreign’ sounding name…. sigh

      • Oh dear. Well just know it is not an easy book to read, very unsettling, but I thought it worthwhile and still think about it a year later.

  • The Snow Kimono is on my TBR. As our book club is potluck (each member presents a book he/she enjoyed during the previous month), so I’m not sure what criteria I would need to look at to propose a book club book.

  • I’ve not read any of your book club choices but the one that appeals the most is Little Red Chairs although for a what would you do type of read Lifeboat also sounds very appealing.

  • Some great choices their. My very small book group is reading The Magic Toyshop this month. Some favourites of the past include How to be a Heroine (essays about literary heroines) Nora Webster, Red Dust Road, Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge and The Awakening.

  • The Many would be at the top of my list too; I keep recommending it to friends. I read the Lifeboat when it was first published and am now reading Rogan’s new book – Now and Again. As for the rest, thanks for the suggestions – I always get good ideas from your lists, so thanks.

    • delighted to meet another fan of The Many. I wasnt all that sure about Lifeboat but I did like the unreliable narrator aspect

    • the only thing I didnt like much about Americanah was the blog postings

  • I liked Snow Kimono a lot, and the Zola is one of my top books of all time. I have the Middleton on the shelf–drawn to it as I love books about people on holiday.

    • Now if we were on a dating site governed by reading habits we would no doubt be classed as soul mates. 🙂

  • I’m always interested to hear how other book groups make their selections. My book group has a very relaxed approach – someone/ few people make a few suggestions and we agree on the next book. Other groups I know have a rule that the host chooses; or that the host suggests a couple of books and the group picks from that.

    Agree that the best are those that generate a discussion (as opposed to “That was good…”). Lifeboat has been in my TBR stack for ages – I must get to it and then push it on my book group!

    Here’s my list –

    • ours is pretty flexible too – each person gets to choose a book. it works sometimes but then we went down a path for a few months of children’s books…….The only rule is that it has to be available in paperback to save cost


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