As 2022 comes to an end, we’re taking stock of the incredible books we were lucky enough to read and discuss on Book Club Favorites this past year. We’ve traveled through time, revealed family secrets, experienced beautiful friendships, and more! We know it can be difficult to decide the next read that’s perfect for you, so to help you out we’ve created a list of some of our top picks of the year. Whether you’re in a book club now or just love reading and talking about books with a close friend, one of these discussion-worthy novels should definitely be your next read.
Book Club Favorites: 9 of the Best Novels of the Year
You’ll understand why they call New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner the queen of the beach read once you pick up THE SUMMER PLACE! When Ruby announces she’s engaged to her pandemic boyfriend and marrying in three months, it takes her family and especially her stepmother, Sarah, by surprise. As the family arrives at their Cape Cod house for the wedding, hidden family issues and secrets start to reveal themselves. THE SUMMER PLACE is a bighearted, witty, feel-good novel about what it really means to be family. While you’ll definitely fall in love with the Danhauser family, you will also fall for the Cape Cod lifestyle.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of That Summer comes another heartfelt and unputdownable novel of family, secrets, and the ties that bind.
When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house in Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.
But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.
When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.
From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (The New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love can surprise us.
If you’re looking for a book that will fill your world with glitz and glamour, ON GIN LANE by Brooke Lea Foster is the novel for you! But there is so much more to this read than just experiencing the glamorous life of the rich and famous summering in the Hamptons in the 1950s. When Everleigh “Lee” Farrows’s fiancé, Roland, surprises her with a hotel he built in her name, she decides to embrace her young socialite role. However, when a fire breaks out, both of them fall under suspicion and Roland finds himself in a financial bind. Lee’s life is flipped upside down and she’s forced to decide what kind of life she really wants. ON GIN LANE is at once a page-turner and a reminder of the importance of carving out a place and staying true to yourself.
“Utterly captivating. What a lovely summer novel!” —Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author
“On Gin Lane encapsulates the very best of historical fiction.” —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author
After her fiancé whisks her off to the glistening shores of Southampton in June of 1957, one young socialite begins to realize that her glamorous summer is giving her everything—except what she really wants—in this new novel from the author of Summer Darlings.
Everleigh “Lee” Farrows thinks she finally has life all figured out: a handsome fiancé named Roland, a trust in her name, and a house in Bronxville waiting for her to fill it with three adorable children. That is, until Roland brings her out to the Hamptons for a summer that will change everything.
Most women could only dream of the engagement present Roland unexpectedly bestows on Lee—a beachside hotel on the prized Gin Lane—but Lee’s delight is clouded by unpleasant memories of another hotel, the Plaza, where she grew up in the shadow of her mother’s mental illness. Shaking off flashbacks, Lee resolves to dive into an unforgettable summer with poolside Bellinis, daily tennis matches, luncheons with her Manhattan circle, and her beloved camera in tow. But when tragedy strikes on the hotel’s opening weekend, the cracks in Lee’s picture-perfect future slowly begin to reveal themselves, and Lee must look deep within herself to determine if the life she’s always wanted will ever truly be enough.
From the regal inns to the farmland, the well-heeled New Yorkers to the Bohemian artists, the East End of Long Island is a hodge-podge of the changing American landscape in the late 1950s—and the perfect place for Lee to discover who she really is.
What are we really able to inherit? New York Times bestselling author Jamie Ford explores this question in his latest book, THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY. In this lyrical novel, you will meet Dorothy Moy. She is many things, including a poet, mother, wife—and medium? Basically, she can remember things from the lives of her ancestors. While that is a burden she is willing to bear, she’s not able to bear the thought of her daughter taking on those same burdens when it looks like she may have similar abilities. THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY is fast-paced and filled with incredible female characters. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and chock-full of Ford’s trademark dry sense of humor. If you’re looking for a book to give you all the feels, you’ve found your next read!
The New York Times bestselling author of the “mesmerizing and evocative” (Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet returns with a powerful exploration of the love that binds one family across the generations.
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.
As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.
As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.
Katy Hays’s debut thriller, THE CLOISTERS, is a propulsive read filled with discussion-worthy themes: privilege and power, art and academia, desire, and deception. Ann Stillwell is excited to land a summer job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but less so when she finds herself reassigned to the Cloisters, the medieval branch of the organization located in upper Manhattan. The place is opulent and feels a bit mysterious, a vibe that is taken to the next level by the team of researchers captivated by disturbing theories and predictions from a fifteenth-century deck of tarot cards. Tension builds as crimes unfold and Ann must uncover the truth before it is too late.
The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel following a circle of researchers as they uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.
When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.
Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.
A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
A curse, psychic predictions, and multigenerational family drama are at the heart of Carolyn Huynh’s debut novel, THE FORTUNES OF JADED WOMEN. The Duong sisters and their offspring haven’t been on good terms for a long while due to a familial curse and have largely lived apart from one another. After receiving an extraordinary prediction from an influential psychic, however, they find themselves on a life-affirming journey of healing. Their relationships are tested by misunderstandings and acts of bad behavior as they attempt to reunite and reclaim their heritage. Hopeful and humorous, this bighearted read is sure to delight your book club.
For fans of Jonathan Tropper, KJ Dell’Antonia, and Kevin Kwan, this “sharp, smart, and gloriously extra” (Nancy Jooyoun Kim, The Last Story of Mina Lee) debut follows a family of estranged Vietnamese women—cursed to never know love or happiness—as they reunite when a psychic makes a startling prediction.
Everyone in Orange County’s Little Saigon knew that the Duong sisters were cursed.
It started with their ancestor, Oanh, who dared to leave her marriage for true love—so a fearsome Vietnamese witch cursed Oanh and her descendants so that they would never find love or happiness, and the Duong women would give birth to daughters, never sons.
Oanh’s current descendant Mai Nguyen knows this curse well. She’s divorced, and after an explosive disagreement a decade ago, she’s estranged from her younger sisters, Minh Pham (the middle and the mediator) and Khuyen Lam (the youngest who swears she just runs humble coffee shops and nail salons, not Little Saigon’s underground). Though Mai’s three adult daughters, Priscilla, Thuy, and Thao, are successful in their careers (one of them is John Cho’s dermatologist!), the same can’t be said for their love lives. Mai is convinced they might drive her to an early grave.
Desperate for guidance, she consults Auntie Hua, her trusted psychic in Hawaii, who delivers an unexpected prediction: this year, her family will witness a marriage, a funeral, and the birth of a son. This prophecy will reunite estranged mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins—for better or for worse.
A multi-narrative novel brimming with levity and candor, The Fortunes of Jaded Women is about mourning, meddling, celebrating, and healing together as a family. It shows how Vietnamese women emerge victorious, even if the world is against them.
What does it mean to be a “good mother”? And who gets to decide? Jessamine Chan’s chilling novel, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS, grapples with these questions in both a tender and terrifying way. The story follows Frida, a loving mother who has a very bad day and ends up in a dystopian government reform program that seeks to teach women how to be good mothers. While under constant surveillance, Frida must achieve near impossible standards or face losing custody of her child. This heartbreaking exploration of modern-day parenting and societal expectations is packed with provocative questions you’ll want to discuss with your club as soon as you finish reading!
In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
A searing page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.
Looking for a book to draw you in, keep you captivated, and inspire an engaging book club discussion? WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM will not disappoint! Starting from just the prologue, your emotions will be stirred, and you won’t be able to put down until it’s over. Best friends Jen and Riley have been as thick as thieves since grade school. They are as close as sisters—closer even—and remained that way into adulthood. But their friendship and sisterly bond are critically tested when Jen’s husband, a police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teen. Covering the story for the local news, Riley is caught between a rock and a hard place—her community and her lifelong bond with Jen—while wrestling with the larger effects of the tragic incident. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to take in and much to unpack with this story.
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK
Named a Best Book Pick of 2021 by Harper’s Bazaar and Real Simple
Named a Most Anticipated Book of Fall by People, Essence, New York Post, PopSugar, New York Newsday, Entertainment Weekly, Town & Country, Bustle, Fortune, and Book Riot
Told from alternating perspectives, this “propulsive, deeply felt tale of race and friendship” (People) follows two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event.
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 takes “us to uncomfortable places—in the best possible way—while capturing so much of what we are all thinking and feeling about race. A sharp, timely, and soul-satisfying novel” (Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author) that is both a powerful conversation starter and a celebration of the enduring power of friendship.
If you were a big fan of Jess Kidd’s first novel, THINGS IN JARS, dive into THE NIGHT SHIP (pun-intended). This dual-perspective novel of sea life based on the real-life events of the shipwreck of the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age, is an intriguing history that in itself should get the discussion going. But if you need an extra dynamic element to explore, this story’s protagonists are also children from separate time periods. Mayken is a girl shipwrecked on an island in Western Australia in 1629 and Gil is a boy living by the sea with his grandfather in 1989 after the death of his mother. Although they live more than three hundred years apart, Mayken and Gil’s stories weave together in eerie ways that’ll give book clubs lots of substance to talk about. Plus, Kidd’s signature ghostly elements are beyond a bonus.
Based on a real-life event, an epic historical novel from the award-winning author of Things in Jars that illuminates the lives of two characters: a girl shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia and, three hundred years later, a boy finding a home with his grandfather on the very same island.
1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks.
1989: A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck…
With her trademark “thrilling, mysterious, twisted, but more than anything, beautifully written” (Graham Norton, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Jess Kidd weaves a unputdownable and charming tale of friendship and sacrifice, brutality and forgiveness.
Some of the best discussions start with books that everyone can relate to in some way, especially stories about family dynamics. PEOPLE PERSON, by Candice Carty-Williams, was one of those books. This story follows a distant family of five half siblings brought together by a drastic and dramatic event. From one of the siblings’ perspectives, Dimple Pennington’s, we see the relationships—or lack thereof—between her and her four half siblings change with each passing moment, exploring that even in the toughest times, blood may be thicker than water. Filled with classic sibling dynamics, family drama, and hints of a nature vs. nurture element, this book will get the discussion going amongst and about family and friends.
The author of the “brazenly hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is first novel” (Oprah Daily) Queenie returns with another witty and insightful novel about the power of family—even when they seem like strangers.
If you could choose your family...you wouldn’t choose the Penningtons.
Dimple Pennington knows of her half siblings, but she doesn’t really know them. Five people who don’t have anything in common except for faint memories of being driven through Brixton in their dad’s gold jeep, and some pretty complex abandonment issues. Dimple has bigger things to think about.
She’s thirty, and her life isn’t really going anywhere. An aspiring lifestyle influencer with a terrible and wayward boyfriend, Dimple’s life has shrunk to the size of a phone screen. And despite a small but loyal following, she’s never felt more alone in her life. That is, until a dramatic event brings her half siblings Nikisha, Danny, Lizzie, and Prynce crashing back into her life. And when they’re all forced to reconnect with Cyril Pennington, the absent father they never really knew, things get even more complicated.
From an author with “a flair for storytelling that appears effortlessly authentic” (Time), People Person is a vibrant and charming celebration of discovering family as an adult.
Photo credit: iStock / Anastasiia Yanishevska