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Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

January 18 2021
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As a full-time book enthusiast, there is no better time of the month for me than the day I get to sit down with my fellow literary friends and chat up a storm over our book club selection. Taking a deep dive into character development, eminent themes, and author inspiration is true excitement for a bookworm like me and the members of Simon & Schuster’s Book Club Favorites program. Each month, we host a lively discussion, which often features the author of the choice title too. With the dawn of a new year, I am eager to read and discuss a full list of new books. Below are just some titles Book Club Favorites will be reading and chatting about this year. Be sure to join the club for exclusive bookish content and all the resources your club needs to spark an exciting discussion of your own.

White Ivy
by Susie Yang

WHITE IVY by Susie Yang is the very first title that Book Club Favorites will be discussing in 2021. This stunning debut novel traces the life of a Chinese-American girl and her dark obsession with one classmate. Ivy Lin’s immigrant grandmother teaches her that stealing is the quickest way to blend in with the white upper-class town they live in. With this in mind, Ivy builds a web of lies as she works her way into the close-knit circle of her elitist crush. This novel is perfect for book clubs because it offers incredible insight into the immigrant experience and an exploration of class and race in America. As your club reads this story, ask yourself this question: Why does Ivy struggle so much with embracing her Chinese culture?

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White Ivy
Susie Yang

***LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION’S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE***

From prizewinning Chinese American author Susie Yang, this dazzling coming-of-age novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate offers sharp insights into the immigrant experience.

Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.

Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.

Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.

Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.

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Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson

YELLOW WIFE is the perfect book club read for fans of historical fiction. Born as a slave on a plantation in Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has grown up protected by her mother’s position as the estate medicine woman. On her eighteenth birthday, in 1850, Pheby is promised freedom, but things do not unfold as planned. She is forced to leave her home and is unexpectedly thrust into slavery at the most infamous slave jail in Virginia. There, Pheby faces the most ultimate and cruelest test of survival. The raw and heart-wrenching scenes between slaves and their jailers were at times hard to read. Discuss your reactions and any aspects of history you learned from this novel with your group.

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Yellow Wife
Sadeqa Johnson

“A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

Called "wholly engrossing" by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Anne Jaconette | April 9, 2021

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Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman

As a big fan of Fredrik Backman, I am always excited when a book club chooses to read his unique and intelligent novels. Fortunately, Book Club Favorites has his newest novel, ANXIOUS PEOPLE, slated for later this year. When an apartment open house turns into a hostage situation, eight anxious and chaotic strangers are forced to discover that they have more in common than they could have imagined. Each hostage carries their own pain and secrets, which unfold throughout the story. Here is one important point to discuss with your club: Character development and understanding of human nature is central in this story. How did your opinions about the characters change throughout the novel?

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Anxious People
Fredrik Backman

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and “writer of astonishing depth” (The Washington Times) comes a poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.

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Mirrorland
by Carole Johnstone

If your book club loves a good psychological thriller, then I have the book for you! MIRRORLAND is a dark and twisted story of twin sisters, El and Cat, who, as children, invented an imaginary place under their pantry stairs, referred to as Mirrorland. Years later, when El mysteriously goes missing during a sailing excursion, Cat is forced to return to their childhood home, which is filled with creepy hidden corners and dark secrets from their past. Someone has left clues for Cat all over the house, leading her straight into Mirrorland once again. Publishing in April of this year, MIRRORLAND is a hair-raiser you’ll want to be on the lookout for. The book opens with a quote from The Count of Monte Cristo about the power of imagination. With your group, discuss how this epigraph relates to the girls’ ability to adapt to extreme circumstances and trauma.

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Mirrorland
Carole Johnstone

“Dark and devious... Beautifully written and plotted with a watchmaker’s precision.Stephen King

“A dark, twisty, and richly atmospheric exploration of the power of imagination” Ruth Ware, author of One by One and The Woman in Cabin 10

With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is a thrilling work of psychological suspense about twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting...

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.

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In Five Years
by Rebecca Serle

What would you do if you woke as a version of your future self, next to a new man in an entirely different apartment than the one you live in now? That is exactly the premise of IN FIVE YEARS. Dannie Kohan spends one hour exactly five years in the future before reawakening in her present-day life. This is a story about self-discovery and life choices that will have you grasping the tissue box. Think about this topic with your club: Dannie is driven by structure in her life and her career as a corporate lawyer, but power is taken out of her hands as the novel progresses. How does Dannie deal with this lack of control?

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In Five Years
Rebecca Serle

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A Good Morning America, FabFitFun, and Marie Claire Book Club Pick

In Five Years is as clever as it is moving, the rare read-in-one-sitting novel you won’t forget.” —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists

Perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day—a striking, powerful, and moving love story following an ambitious lawyer who experiences an astonishing vision that could change her life forever.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.

She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.

But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Faye, Faraway
by Helen Fisher

Speaking of time travel, FAYE, FARAWAY is a highly anticipated and book club–friendly novel publishing this month. Faye’s mother died when she was just seven years old, and she has yet to get over the intense pain of losing her. But one day, when she is 36, Faye is suddenly given a chance to reconnect with her mother when she travels back in time to 1977. Faye’s mother does not recognize Faye as her daughter, and the two women quickly become close friends. These beautiful moments Faye shares with her mother make it only harder for her to leave the past. She knows that soon enough she must make the most difficult decision she has been faced with. Something to consider within your own book club: How does losing her mother at such a young age define Faye and affect how she raises her own daughters?

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Faye, Faraway
Helen Fisher

A heartfelt, spellbinding, and irresistible debut novel for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander that movingly examines loss, faith, and love as it follows a grown woman who travels back in time to be reunited with the mother she lost when she was a child.

Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters. Every night, before she puts them to bed, she whispers to them: “You are good, you are kind, you are clever, you are funny.” She’s determined that they never doubt for a minute that their mother loves them unconditionally. After all, her own mother Jeanie had died when she was only seven years old and Faye has never gotten over that intense pain of losing her.

But one day, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself in 1977, the year before her mother died. Suddenly, she has the chance to reconnect with her long-lost mother, and even meets her own younger self, a little girl she can barely remember. Jeanie doesn’t recognize Faye as her daughter, of course, even though there is something eerily familiar about her...

As the two women become close friends, they share many secrets—but Faye is terrified of revealing the truth about her identity. Will it prevent her from returning to her own time and her beloved husband and daughters? What if she’s doomed to remain in the past forever? Faye knows that eventually she will have to choose between those she loves in the past and those she loves in the here and now, and that knowledge presents her with an impossible choice.

Emotionally gripping and ineffably sweet Faye, Faraway is a brilliant exploration of the grief associated with unimaginable loss and the magic of being healed by love.

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MENTIONED IN:

New in Paperback: 11 Rejuvenating April Reads to Inspire You

By Alice Martin | April 12, 2021

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By Off the Shelf Staff | April 8, 2021

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