We’re book club fanatics. We love to talk about books to book club people all day long in our Book Club Favorites group, and in our personal circles. And now that Labor Day has come and gone, we’re turning our faces toward the impending crisp air and orange leaves of autumn and looking forward to (virtual) book club meetings full of hot cider and mulled wine. These are the ten books we’re most excited to share and read with our fellow book lovers this fall.
10 Book Club Books We Recommend Leafing Through This Fall
Hannah’s Pick #1: This incredible novel follows a young woman born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder who loves Vikings and Viking lore. She lives with her older brother, and when she discovers that he’s gotten himself into some trouble, she sets out on her own quest to save him, find her own Viking strength, and become legendary. It’s an uplifting, heartwarming book about an unlikely heroine that left me crying with hope and amazement by the end.
Indie Next Pick for February 2020
Book of the Month January 2020
LibraryReads January 2020 Pick
Bookreporter New Release Spotlight
New York Post “Best Books of the Week”
Goodreads “January’s Most Anticipated New Books”
The Saturday Evening Post “10 Books for the New Year”
PopSugar “Best Books in January”
Book Riot Best Winter New Releases
“Zelda is a marvel, a living, breathing three-dimensional character with a voice so distinctive she leaps off the page.” —The New York Times
“Heartwarming and unforgettable.” —People
For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:
1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.
But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.
“A most welcome and wonderful debut” (Tyrell Johnson, author of The Wolves of Winter), When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all...we are all legends of our own making.
Holly’s Pick #1: Bridie Divine is a hard-hitting female detective ready to take on even the most bizarre of cases. With her pipe in hand and seven-foot-tall house maid in tow, Bridie accepts a mysterious case surrounding the kidnapping of Sir Edmund Berwick’s daughter, Christabel. But Bridie quickly discovers that Christabel is no ordinary little girl. She is reported to have supernatural powers that have captured the unwanted attention of curiosity collectors. In Victorian London, Bridie sets off on a miraculous and magical adventure to find the missing child, accompanied by a tattoo-covered ghost—even if this journey digs up her buried past. For a wildly immersive read with a tinge of magical elements, THINGS IN JARS is the perfect escapist read for your book club.
A January Book of the Month Pick
“Miraculous and thrilling…A few pages in and I was determined to read every word Jess Kidd has ever written.” —Diane Setterfield, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Once Upon a River
“An impossible wonder: a book for everyone, and yet somehow a book just for you...A sumptuous tour of Victorian London, resurrected here with a vigor and vibrancy to rival The Crimson Petal and the White...Utterly magical.”—A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
“A perfect mix of hilarity, the macabre, and a touch of romance, Things in Jars is ridiculously entertaining, all as it sneaks up and makes you feel things…Simply: Jess Kidd is so good it isn’t fair.” —Erika Swyler, bestselling author of The Book of Speculation and Light from Other Stars
In the dark underbelly of Victorian London, a formidable female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child in this gothic mystery—perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation.
Bridie Devine—female detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.
Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.
Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.
Hannah’s Pick #2: Alice Hoffman is a master of writing fiction with fantastical elements that make you realize life itself is magical. In her novel THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW, two girls escape Nazi Germany with the help of a golem. As World War II progresses, each of the girls finds their own path of resistance and hope. This beautiful story is ultimately about a mother’s love, and what people are willing to sacrifice for those we love.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL
On the brink of World War II, with the Nazis tightening their grip on Berlin, a mother’s act of courage and love offers her daughter a chance of survival.
“[A] hymn to the power of resistance, perseverance, and enduring love in dark times…gravely beautiful…Hoffman the storyteller continues to dazzle.” —THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
At the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. Her desperation leads her to Ettie, the daughter of a rabbi whose years spent eavesdropping on her father enables her to create a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Hanni’s daughter, Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never-ending.
Holly’s Pick #2: Stanford Solomon’s shocking 30-year-old secret is about to come to light. He faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. Stanford Solomon is not actually Stanford Solomon—he is Abel Paisley. And now, as he nears his final days, he comes face-to-face with his daughter for the very first time. Irene Paisley, a home health aide, has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead. This rich novel traces the consequences of Abel’s decision as it takes readers on a journey from colonial Jamaica to present-day Harlem.
Longlisted for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A “rich, ambitious debut novel” (The New York Times Book Review) that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
*An Entertainment Weekly, Millions, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2020 Pick and Buzz Magazine’s Top New Book of the New Decade*
Stanford Solomon’s shocking, thirty-year-old secret is about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford has done something no one could ever imagine. He is a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley.
And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.
These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present-day Harlem. There is Vera, whose widowhood forced her into the role of a single mother. There are two daughters and a granddaughter who have never known they are related. And there are others, like the houseboy who loved Vera, whpose lives might have taken different courses if not for Abel Paisley’s actions.
This “rich and layered story” (Kirkus Reviews) explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is a “beguiling…vividly drawn, and compelling” (BookPage, starred review) portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret.
Hannah’s Pick #3: Lisa Taddeo embedded herself in the lives of three women in America and reported on their sex lives for 10 years. The result is this incredible piece of narrative nonfiction. If your club likes to really dig into the topic and the themes of your books, I highly recommend it: the 336 pages of true events covered in this story can lead to hours and hours of discussion. After I finished reading this book, I desperately searched for someone else who had, because I could not sit alone with my emotions about it. Now that it’s in paperback, I’m eager to continue sharing my excitement and thoughts with more people.
The instant #1 New York Times bestseller and one of the most talked-about books of the year, Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women is “the most in-depth look at the female sex drive that’s been published in decades” (New York) and a “groundbreaking...breathtaking…staggeringly intimate” (Entertainment Weekly) look at the sex lives of three real American women—based on nearly a decade of reporting.
Hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “riveting page-turner that explores desire, heartbreak, and infatuation in all its messy, complicated nuance” (The Washington Post), Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women has captivated readers, booksellers, and critics—and topped bestseller lists—worldwide.
Declared “the best book of the year” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “a breathtaking and important book” by Cheryl Strayed, Three Women has won praise everywhere from Columbia Journalism Review (“deeply reported, elegantly written, almost uncomfortably intimate”) to Refinery29 (“the hype for Three Women is real; in fact, it’s insufficient”), from Esquire (“a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece”) to Time (“Three Women is a battle cry…For anyone who thinks they know what women want, this book is an alarm, and its volume is turned all the way up.”) In the words of The New Statesman, “This is an unusual, startling, and gripping debut. It feels to me like the kind of bold, timely, once-in-a-generation book that every house should have a copy of, and probably will before too long.”
In suburban Indiana we meet Lina, the homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks and, after reconnecting with an old flame through social media, embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, the seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher; the ensuing criminal trial will turn their quiet community upside down. Finally, in the northeast we meet Sloane, the successful, refined restaurant owner whose husband enjoys watching her have sex with other men and women.
Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy. “A work of deep observation, long conversations, and a kind of journalistic alchemy” (Kate Tuttle, NPR), Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.
Holly’s Pick #3:
Zadie Smith is a profound and iconic writer, and this collection of short stories perfectly exemplifies that. From first loves to cultural despair to the desire to be the subject of your own experience, GRAND UNION is composed of ten extraordinary stories that are both compelling and relevant. For smart and moving takes on a wide range of subjects—including race, gender, and politics—GRAND UNION is a spectacular choice to spark an intellectual conversation at your next book club.
Hannah’s Pick #4: I’m a big fan of memoirs, and WHEN TIME STOPPED is the ideal nonfiction book club read for me. Part detective story and part family history, the book recounts Ariana Neumann’s experience uncovering her father’s past and family history. Growing up in Venezuela, Ariana knew something terrible had happened to her father but didn’t know much about his experience escaping the Nazis. When he died, he left her a box of letters and memorabilia, which sent her on a journey around the world to uncover the man he truly was and the legacy he left behind. It’s a powerful family saga, and it’s utterly engrossing.
In this astonishing story that “reads like a thriller and is so, so timely” (BuzzFeed) Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: “Like Anne Frank’s diary, it offers a story that needs to be told and heard” (Booklist, starred review).
In 1941, the first Neumann family member was taken by the Nazis, arrested in German-occupied Czechoslovakia for bathing in a stretch of river forbidden to Jews. He was transported to Auschwitz. Eighteen days later his prisoner number was entered into the morgue book.
Of thirty-four Neumann family members, twenty-five were murdered by the Nazis. One of the survivors was Hans Neumann, who, to escape the German death net, traveled to Berlin and hid in plain sight under the Gestapo’s eyes. What Hans experienced was so unspeakable that, when he built an industrial empire in Venezuela, he couldn’t bring himself to talk about it. All his daughter Ariana knew was that something terrible had happened.
When Hans died, he left Ariana a small box filled with letters, diary entries, and other memorabilia. Ten years later Ariana finally summoned the courage to have the letters translated, and she began reading. What she discovered launched her on a worldwide search that would deliver indelible portraits of a family loving, finding meaning, and trying to survive amid the worst that can be imagined.
A “beautifully told story of personal discovery” (John le Carré), When Time Stopped is an unputdownable detective story and an epic family memoir, spanning nearly ninety years and crossing oceans. Neumann brings each relative to vivid life, and this “gripping, expertly researched narrative will inspire those looking to uncover their own family histories” (Publishers Weekly).
Holly’s Pick #4:
THE TOPEKA SCHOOL centers around Adam Gordon, a senior debate club champion at Topeka High School in the late ’90s. But the narrative interweaves with Adam’s parents’ lives—both psychologists at a world-renowned psychiatric clinic. After Adam befriends the loner Darren Eberheart, who is, unbeknownst to Adam, his father's patient, his social life takes a disastrous hit. Readers travel through the strengths and struggles of the Gordon family, debating thoroughly complex topics amid a compelling plot. A major driver throughout the story is the concept of toxic masculinity, threaded through Adam’s own thoughts as well has his father’s and several surrounding characters’ actions. While the topics are complex, the lessons are timely and will offer a deep and insightful discussion among your bookish peers.
Hannah’s Pick #5:
This historical-fiction novel transports readers to Spain during the regime of the dictator General Francisco Franco and explores the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. A young photographer from Texas travels to Madrid in 1957 to learn more about the country in which his mother was born. He meets Ana, and through his photos and his encounters with her family, he learns about the repercussions of the war. It shines light on a dark moment in Spain’s history, and it’s also a poignant, enchanting story about identity, love, and struggle.
Holly’s Pick #5: This rich historical-fiction novel set in the 1930s is a must-read for any history-loving book club. After her brother and her fiancé are killed in the Great War, Violet Speedwell succumbs to the life of a spinster. But she cannot bring herself to accept this life of constantly caring for her grieving mother. Violet finally saves up enough to move out and into the town of Winchester, where she is drawn into a society of broderers—women who embroider kneelers for the cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers. This sense of community brings Violet strength, fulfillment, and friendship. That is until her independence is threatened by another encroaching war.
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