Spending a couple of hours just in the company of a good book feels like heaven for many readers, including me. But reading doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. The most sociable readers have always the option of joining a book club either in person or online to discuss previously agreed books and have a lively, but respectful, debate.
Generally-speaking, any book is a good book to choose to read for a book club. However, some are bound to spark a more spirited discussion than others. It’s important to choose books that are interesting to muse about, that make readers think, maybe arrive at different conclusions, or look at the characters from different perspectives. I have five recommendations that I believe are good options to read in a book club.
Although Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is full of fantastical elements, it focuses on very human experiences. This book, which is ultimately about memory and traumatic experiences, has as main character Piranesi, who lives in an immense house surrounded by the sea. He joins the Other twice a week to discuss their endeavours to discover some unknown knowledge. His emotions are portrayed with a meaningful subtlety. For such a short book, it provides many topics for discussion. How do memories influence our perception about ourselves? What clues about the ending did readers find? What did readers discern about what was going on in that world at various stages?
Yeong-hye had always been a dutiful wife. One day, after having a disturbing dream, she decided to become a vegetarian, which shocked her family, though. Told from three different points of view (her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister), The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a book about abuse, mental health issues, rebellion against social conventions and desire. Not only is the ending a source of interesting questions to debate, but the same is also true of Yeong-hye’s experiences as a child, of their consequences for her current state of mind, and of readers’ opinions on each perspective.
Written in the 1960s by the Portuguese author Maria Judite de Carvalho, Os Armários Vazios, Empty Wardrobes in the translation into English, is a story about how three women let their lives be shaped by men in various ways. Dora Rosário mourned her deceased husband for ten years. Her outlook on life changes when she learns about some upsetting past occurrences. As the events are not narrated from Dora’s perspective, though it seems so at first, but by a woman who knowns her and that gradually becomes directly involved in the events, it is acceptable to believe that the book doesn’t have the most reliable of narrators. Did the characters act in the way we are told? An interesting question for those who like taking part in book clubs to debate.
The unnamed narrator and main character in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier marries Maxim de Winter after meeting him in Monte Carlo. Following their honeymoon, they move to Manderley, his family home. There, she starts feeling more acutely the pressure of filling the place of his deceased first wife, Rebecca. She seems to have exceled in everything, so the narrator becomes plagued by doubts and insecurities. As we only have indirect accounts about Rebecca, it would be interesting to discuss how readers perceived her, her actions, her reasons, as well as her relationship with Mrs Danvers, Manderley’s housekeeper. Moreover, it wouldn’t be nonsensical to consider the importance of appearances.
For sure one of the most famous dystopian novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell has already been read by a myriad of people. But even those who are already familiar with the book may want to pick it up again and talk about it in a book club. It portrays a society living under an authoritarian regime that survives thanks to mass surveillance and a huge dose of gaslighting. The main character, Winston, works in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite information so it always serves the interests of the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. His life becomes even more in danger when he meets Julia. Despite the book having been first published in 1949, it is still undoubtedly relevant. Readers could discuss the new forms of authoritarianism, “doublethink” and the possibility of surveillance via social media, for example.
What books do you think are worth discussing in a book club? Tell me in the comments!