8 Book Clubs We Admire for Their Excellent Taste in Reading

January 13 2022
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There are so many book clubs out there that it’s hard to keep track of them all! Luckily, over here at Book Club Favorites, we love combing online spaces for different books and perspectives. We’ve rounded up some of the best book clubs and their books that we also recommend reading from the past year. From trustworthy celebrity book clubs to publications that just get it, you’re sure to find some more books, discussions, and fodder to bring back to your book club.

Lucky
by Marissa Stapley

Of course, we had to start off with a Reese Witherspoon pick! Her recommendations are always filled with exciting plots and complex characters, and her Instagram is a fun place for the bookish community to guess what the next pick will be. Reese’s December 2021 book club selection was LUCKY by Marissa Stapley—yet another fabulous rec! After pulling off a million-dollar heist, Lucky Armstrong is ready for a brand-new life, complete with a new identity. But without her father or boyfriend by her side, Lucky is feeling terribly alone for the first time in her life. Lucky learns about truth and the cost of personal redemption as she avoids the law and tries to build a future for herself. Between confronting her past, reconciling with her father, finding her mother, and coming to terms with the man she thought she loved, Lucky has her hands full. Book clubs will fall in love with this multidimensional character filled with grit and independence.

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Lucky
Marissa Stapley

A thrilling roller-coaster ride about a heist gone terribly wrong, with a plucky protagonist who will win readers’ hearts.

What if you had the winning ticket that would change your life forever, but you couldn’t cash it in?

Lucky Armstrong is a tough, talented grifter who has just pulled off a million-dollar heist with her boyfriend, Cary. She’s ready to start a brand-new life, with a new identity—when things go sideways. Lucky finds herself alone for the first time, navigating the world without the help of either her father or her boyfriend, the two figures from whom she’s learned the art of the scam.

When she discovers that a lottery ticket she bought on a whim is worth millions, her elation is tempered by one big problem: cashing in the winning ticket means she’ll be arrested for her crimes. She’ll go to prison, with no chance to redeem her fortune.

As Lucky tries to avoid capture and make a future for herself, she must confront her past by reconciling with her father; finding her mother, who abandoned her when she was just a baby; and coming to terms with the man she thought she loved—whose dark past is catching up with her, too.

This is a novel about truth, personal redemption, and the complexity of being good. It introduces a singularly gifted, multilayered character who must learn what it means to be independent and honest...before her luck runs out.

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Infinite Country
by Patricia Engel

INFINITE COUNTRY by Patricia Engel, another Reese Pick, paints a heartbreaking portrait of one family’s immigration story. INFINITE COUNTRY is a sweeping love story that unfolds into a tragic family drama. As one family is split between two countries, attempting to one day meet again, they grapple with the daily costs of living as undocumented Americans. Rich, immersive, and entirely poignant, INFINITE COUNTRY is a perfect pick for your next club’s discussion.

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Infinite Country
Patricia Engel

A REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK and INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“A profound, beautiful novel.” — People * “Poignant.” —BuzzFeed * “A breathtaking story of the unimaginable prices paid for a better life.” —Esquire

This “heartbreaking portrait of a family dealing with the realities of migration and separation” (Time) is “a sweeping love story and tragic drama [and] an authentic vision of what the American Dream looks like in a nationalistic country” (Elle).

I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country “is as much an all-American story as it is a global one” (Booklist, starred review).

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The Death of Vivek Oji
by Akwaeke Emezi

Vox’s book club includes a newsletter, live discussions with authors, and more. But what makes it stand out is that they don’t just talk about the book, they become experts on the book, which allows for a deeper dive. When Vox picked DEATH OF VIVEK OJI they started off with sage advice: “Treat it as an inverted murder mystery.” The novel starts with Vivek’s death, which coincides with his village burning down, and we then follow his mother, who searches for the culprit. But as Vox points out, the novel quickly turns the murder mystery genre on its head while also exploring gender and racial identity. Akwaeke Emezi’s writing is always amazing, and their newest book YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY comes out this summer.

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The Death of Vivek Oji
Akwaeke Emezi

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We Are Not Like Them
by Christine Pride

This Good Morning America pick is about the lifelong bond between two women, one white and one Black, and the devastating event that alters their lives forever. After Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager, her friendship with Riley begins to spiral. Riley, a television journalist, is tasked with covering the story of the shooting. As Riley grapples with the implications that this event has on her Black community, her friendship with Jen is also severely strained. WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM offers a multitude of discussion points for book clubs. From the complexities of race to the strength of friendship, this book’s themes will stick with you long after closing its pages.

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We Are Not Like Them
Christine Pride

“Now these women, they can WRITE!” —Terry McMillan, New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not All Downhill from Here

We Are Not Like Them will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” —Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting novel about the lifelong bond between two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.

Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.

But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.

Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them explores complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges.

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A Little Hope
by Ethan Joella

Named as a bonus selection on Jenna Bush Hager’s book club list, A LITTLE HOPE demonstrates the power found in community. Greg Tyler has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare type of cancer. As Greg and his partner, Freddie, attempt to navigate these unprecedented circumstances, their lives intertwine with the stories of friends and neighbors in their quiet Connecticut town. Each character confronts their own desires and fears while learning to survive with strength and hope.

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A Little Hope
Ethan Joella

A deeply moving, life-affirming novel about residents in a small Connecticut town facing everyday fears and desires—a lost love, a stalled career, a diagnosis—that pulls at the heartstrings and provides hope, for readers of Olive Kitteridge.

In the small city of Wharton, Connecticut, lives are beginning to unravel. A husband betrays his wife. A son struggles with addiction. A widow misses her late spouse. At the heart of these interlinking stories is one couple: Freddie and Greg Tyler.

Greg has just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a brutal form of cancer. He intends to handle this the way he has faced everything else: through grit and determination. But can Greg successfully overcome his illness? How will Freddie and their daughter cope if he doesn’t? How do the other residents of Wharton learn to live with loss, and find happiness again?

An emotionally powerful debut that immerses the reader into a community of friends, family, and neighbors, A Little Hope celebrates the importance of small moments of connection and the ways that love and forgiveness can help us survive even the most difficult of life’s challenges.

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Milk Fed
by Melissa Broder

Selected as a Belletrist book club pick and named Best Book of the Year by several publications, MILK FED by Melissa Broder is perfect for any club looking for a risqué and smartly funny read. Rachel is obsessed with food rituals. Any sway from her daily caloric intake makes her feel as if she’s losing all control. It’s not until her therapist encourages her to take a 90-day sabbatical from her toxic mother that she begins to release her obsessions. In her freedom, Rachel meets Miriam, a young overweight Orthodox Jew working at a frozen yogurt shop. Slowly, as the girls’ relationship progresses, Rachel becomes entirely infatuated with Miriam’s body and eating habits. Rachel’s story is told through spiraling obsessions, physical hunger, sexual arousal, and spiritual desire. MILK FED is wild, dark, and hilarious—sure to spark an uproarious discussion. 

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Milk Fed
Melissa Broder

Named a Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Time, Esquire, BookPage, and more

This darkly hilarious and “delicious new novel that ravishes with sex and food” (The Boston Globe) from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today is a “precise blend of desire, discomfort, spirituality, and existential ache” (BuzzFeed).

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, through obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Rachel soon meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

“A ruthless, laugh-out-loud examination of life under the tyranny of diet culture” (Glamour) Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is “riotously funny and perfectly profane” (Refinery 29) from “a wild, wicked mind” (Los Angeles Times).

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Red Island House
by Andrea Lee

The New York Times’s Group Text picks a monthly book and features a thoughtful, personalized column on it, discussion questions, and recommendations on what to read next. The types of books they pick span genres but usually have that special quality of fully immersing you in another’s perspective and in a new region of the world. Encapsulating this theme fully, their March 2021 pick, RED ISLAND HOUSE, plants you on the lush beaches of Madagascar. The book utilizes island-life symbolism to evoke themes of marital discord between an adventurous Black American professor and an Italian businessman. This evocative novel is layered with cultural clashes, a luscious landscape, and nuanced explorations of tourism, colonialism, and privilege.  

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Red Island House
Andrea Lee

From National Book Award–nominated writer Andrea Lee comes a gorgeously evocative epic about love, clashing cultures, and identity, set in the tropical African island nation of Madagascar.

“People do mysterious things when they think they’ve found paradise,” reflects Shay, the heroine of Red Island House. When Shay, a Black American professor who’s always had an adventurous streak, marries Senna, an Italian businessman, she doesn’t imagine that her life’s greatest adventure will carry her far beyond their home in Milan to an idyllic stretch of beach in Madagascar, where Senna builds a flamboyant vacation villa. Before she knows it, Shay has become the somewhat reluctant mistress of a sprawling household, caught between her privileged American upbringing and her connection to the continent of her ancestors.

At first, she’s content to be an observer of the passionate affairs and fierce rivalries around her, but over twenty tumultuous years of marriage, as she and Senna raise children and establish their own rituals at the house, Shay finds herself drawn ever deeper into a place where a blend of magic, sexual intrigue, and transgression forms a modern-day parable of colonial conquest. Soon the collision of cultures comes right to Shay’s door, forcing her to make a life-altering decision that will change her and Senna’s lives forever.

A captivating, powerful, and profoundly moving novel about marriage and loyalty, identity and freedom, Red Island House showcases an extraordinary literary voice and an extravagantly lush, enchanted world.

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Interior Chinatown
by Charles Yu

In conjunction with PBS NewsHour and the New York Times, the Now Read This book club ended in April 2021 but its Facebook group and discussion questions are still helpful resources when reading through books and may even inspire your own club with insightful questions. Their past picks, such as INTERIOR CHINATOWN, are also great for any book club. A satirical look at Asian representation in media, INTERIOR CHINATOWN follows Asian actor Willis Wu as he attempts to break out of stereotypical roles and to become “Kung Fu Guy.” Told in the format of teleplay, there are a lot of elements to deconstruct and talk about. And the Now Read This discussion questions will certainly help!

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Interior Chinatown
Charles Yu

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Emily Lewis | January 14, 2022

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By Book Club Favorites | January 13, 2022

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By Off the Shelf Staff | January 12, 2022

New in Paperback: 10 January Reads to Start the Year Off Right

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7 Lyrical Stories That’ll Take Your Breath Away

By Holly Claytor | January 10, 2022

January eBook Deals: 15 Superb Reads for Your Digital Library

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 7, 2022

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