Share How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

Julianna Haubner is an associate editor at the Simon & Schuster imprint, which she joined in September 2014 after completing the Columbia Publishing Course. She graduated from Colby College with a B.A. in English and history, and happily lives her life according to the three B’s: Books, Baking, and Bravo. A lifelong reader, Julianna is a compulsive borrower, buyer, and collector of literary and historical fiction, biographies, and cultural history. She’s on Twitter @jhaubner2, and is behind your favorite bookstagrams @offtheshelfofficial.  

There are tons of reasons to love book clubs—an opportunity to get together with friends and get through the books on your reading list, the conversation, and, of course, the wine. But let’s face it: choosing a book can be hard, pressure-filled, and stressful, especially when you’re picking it for more than one person to read. Luckily, we’ve lived, learned, clubbed, and read enough to help. Here are some tips to reduce your stress.

Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel
1. First, establish your approach. My suggestion? Alternating.
Giving someone the responsibility each month (or two months, or whatever your timing is) takes the pressure off and also makes things more fun. Not only will everyone feel that their opinion matters but you’ll have the chance to read a wider range of books. This month, for example, it was my turn to pick, and I chose STATION ELEVEN.

Read the full review of STATION ELEVEN.
Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel

For fans of “The Walking Dead”

While “The Walking Dead” hero Rick Grimes and his gang are keeping hope alive but losing their grip fast after a zombie apocalypse, STATION ELEVEN’s Kirsten Raymonde and her band, the Symphony, have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive after a mysterious pandemic has ravaged civilization.


8 Riveting Sci-Fi Reads for People Who Don’t Like Sci-Fi

By Leora Bernstein | January 14, 2019

How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018

14 Favorite Books on Bestselling Author Jenna Blum’s Bookshelf

By Jenna Blum | June 27, 2018

6 Recommended Reads from a Small Town Library

By Allison Tyler | January 24, 2018

11 Books You Should Read Based On Your Favorite “Stranger Things” Character

By Glommable | May 29, 2017

13 Most Shelved Books on Off the Shelf in 2016

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 13, 2016


The Lonely Hearts Hotel
by Heather O'Neill
2. Check out your TBR pile.
Being in charge of book selection is like being asked what your favorite book is—when someone asks you for a title, you can’t think of one. So, look to your shelf for inspiration! Picking from a pile of books you already want to read makes the whole process much easier and kills two birds with one stone. THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, and THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO are a few of the books on my shelf.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Heather O'Neill


Come One, Come All: 7 Circus Novels Not to Be Missed

By Julianna Haubner | January 17, 2019

How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018

Readers’ Choice: The Top 10 Most Shelved Books in March

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 30, 2018

6 Fiction Favorites Now Out in Paperback

By Meagan Harris | January 17, 2018


Brain on Fire
by Susannah Cahalan
3. Think about what else your group has read—and enjoyed.
It’s important to think outside the box and find new titles to love, but also be sure to take into consideration what’s worked and hasn’t worked in the past. Are two of your fellow book clubbers tired of World War II historical fiction? Try GOLDEN HILL, a novel of eighteenth-century New York City, instead! Does someone want to read Stephen King, but doesn’t like horror? Go for one of his less scary classics, like THE GREEN MILE. Does someone really want to dip their toe into narrative nonfiction? BRAIN ON FIRE and IN COLD BLOOD are both great options. Knowing people’s preferences is a good place to start, and from there you can figure out how to introduce new favorites.

Read the full review of BRAIN ON FIRE.
Brain on Fire
Susannah Cahalan

Susannah Cahalan awakes in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. Crazy? Psychotic? Mental breakdown? BRAIN ON FIRE is her story of a devastating autoimmune disease misdiagnosed over and over—all while it appears she is losing her mind.


How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018

12 Great Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based on Nonfiction Books

By Kerry Fiallo | February 26, 2018

18 Reading Resolutions for 2018

By Taylor Noel | December 27, 2017

11 Books That Remind Us There’s No Place Like Home

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 3, 2017

8 Favorite Memoirs from Instagram’s @BooksandPolkaDots’s Bookshelf

By Megan Gardner | January 6, 2017

10 Books Coming to a Movie Theater Near You

By Erin Flaaen | February 25, 2016


by Nora Ephron
4. Be realistic.
Sure, you may really be into that lengthy bestseller, but will people really have time to read 500 pages in three weeks? You don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity, but always be aware of the time of year (if it’s around the holidays, people will probably be strapped for time; if it’s summer, they might have more of it) and where everyone is commitment-wise. You don’t want to give anyone a reason to not finish or not enjoy the book. Some of my favorite short and sweet books are HEARTBURN, THE HOURS, and THE SUNKEN CATHEDRAL.

Read the full review of HEARTBURN.


Love Is Dead: The Best Breakup Reads Based on Your Go-To Breakup Album

By Julianna Haubner | February 14, 2019

A Bookseller Recommends 6 Books You’ll Want to Read Again and Again

By Mary Laura Philpott | August 20, 2018

How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018

The 5 Best Novels I Read This Spring

By Elizabeth Breeden | July 27, 2017

Reading Nora: 12 Essential Books for Every Nora Ephron Fan

By Julianna Haubner | July 5, 2016

Sometimes All You Need Is Nora Ephron and Blueberry Pie

By Leora Bernstein | October 30, 2015


Why We Came to the City
by Kristopher Jansma
5. Pick some options and poll the group.
In a group, there will always be different opinions. So, my best advice is to pick three books and offer the options for a vote. It’s a great gesture to show that you want everyone to be up for what you’re reading, and if for some reason there’s a tie, you can still make the executive decision. Here are a few options to get you started: THE POSITION, THE GERMAN GIRL, and WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY.
Why We Came to the City
Kristopher Jansma

I’m a huge fan of what I call “group novels”—books that focus on a few people, usually friends, in a specific place and over a specific period of time. Mary McCarthy, Meg Wolitzer, and Kathleen Alcott are among my favorites, and this past year, Kristopher Jansma joined the fray. Set in New York in the early years of the financial crisis, WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY follows a group of college friends after graduation, and presents some of the most honest and beautiful portraits of relationships I’ve ever read (just read the first chapter—it’s insane). This novel is an unflinching, heartbreaking, and somehow uplifting story about how people change your life as everything else changes around you, and about how a place can do the same. —Julianna


My 6 Favorite Literary Squads

By Julianna Haubner | October 9, 2018

Readers’ Choice: The Top 10 Most Shelved Books in August

By Off the Shelf Staff | August 31, 2018

How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018

We’ll Always Have Brooklyn: 13 Books to Get You Through Your Post-“Girls” Funk

By Julianna Haubner | June 13, 2017

10 Books We Can’t (and Won’t) Stop Talking About

By Off the Shelf Staff | April 4, 2017


Saints for All Occasions
by J. Courtney Sullivan
6. Think about themes.
Let’s be real: most of the time, book club discussions are only about the book But, picking a title with some personal, political, or cultural resonance might do a better job of keeping the conversation on track. It also a great way to support writers who are focusing on contemporary topics and get out of your comfort zone. Warning, though: be sure that there aren’t any extreme viewpoints represented that might create controversy! (Unless you like that sort of thing.) AMERICAN WAR, BEHOLD THE DREAMERS, and SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS will all fit this bill.
Saints for All Occasions
J. Courtney Sullivan


How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018


The Rules of Magic
by Alice Hoffman
7. Find a way to tie it all together.
What better way to get people excited about what you’re reading than to find something that brings it to life? Coordinate your meeting’s menu with where the book is set or find a fun local bar or restaurant that serves that cuisine. When reading THE SUN ALSO RISES, my book club met for tapas and sangria. If it’s a book that’s been adapted into a movie or miniseries, have a viewing and then compare/contrast. Reading THE RULES OF MAGIC? Make a date to watch PRACTICAL MAGIC, the story it sets the stage for. Most of all: have fun with it!
The Rules of Magic
Alice Hoffman


Enter for a Chance to Win a Luxurious Reading Oasis

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 27, 2018

A Spellbinding Story of Family and Sacrifice

By Taylor Noel | October 17, 2018

What Book Should You Read Based on Your Zodiac Sign?

By Lara Blackman | October 1, 2018

How to Pick the Perfect Book Club Book in 7 Steps

By Julianna Haubner | July 30, 2018

10 of the Best Books We’ve Read So Far This Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 16, 2018

5 Second Summaries: THE RULES OF MAGIC

By Elizabeth Breeden | June 30, 2018


Need more book club recommendations? Here are 11 Book Club Picks Perfect for Summer!

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create an Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.