26 Book Club Recommendations by Bookstore Experts

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How do you select a book that reads fast, is well-written, comes cast with captivating characters, unveils an intriguing plot at a good pace, and most of all sets the stage for an exciting book group discussion?

You ask the experts.

Lucky for you, and Glen Ellyn book groups, our local independent bookstore, Just the Bookstore, has 26 recommendations for book clubs and bibliognosts.

26 Book Club Recommendations by Bookstore Experts


This week, I had the honor of representing my neighborhood book group at the store’s Book Club Night.

Thanks so much to Jane, Sue, Jenny, and Renee for sharing their favorites. Apologies for any errors and the brief quips.

As they presented each book, I took notes. For easy online ordering, click on the book’s title [no affiliate links].

My book group hasn’t read any of these books – yet. I did buy the book that was presented as one of the craziest books you might ever read: Galapagos Regained. At 41 pages in, I agree it’s a bit out there, which is where I like to be.

How many of these books has your book club read? 

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas

The book starts in 1984 and goes through 2043. It follows one character, but many characters are woven throughout. At the beginning of each section, a date establishes the time zone. It’s a fascinating read.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Set in the 1600s in Amsterdam, the main character is a 17 year old girl who marries a 39 year old man. It’s a very unusual relationship. He’s a trader who gives her a beautiful dollhouse for a wedding gift that has all the rooms in the house in miniature. One day all of the figures show up. You don’t know what happens until the end.

Christ Actually by James Carroll

Written by a former Catholic priest, this is a thought-provoking and well done book that’s very good at pulling away the extraneous.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A post apocalyptic tale set around Lake Michigan, the way this book is put together is fascinating. With flashbacks to what life like was like before 90% of the population was gone, this would be a good discussion book.

The Painter by Peter Heller

If you are a visual reader who’s disturbed by violence, you won’t like this book. Set in the south west it’s a great read and is more literary.

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

This book is all about how the printing press came into its own and is a really good historical fiction read.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Following character development in an ordinary family in Baltimore, this book spans a time range from the late 50s to almost the present. The husband’s family story comes in about two-thirds of the way into the book.

All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyid

A woman named Jake lives on a remote British Island working on a sheep farm. Why is she running from her past? You gradually learn about her past. It would be a great discussion for groups who like dark books.

You’ll also see this one in The Tournament of Books, the book lover’s version of March Madness. Each round has a judge with some connection to the book world. The winner, theoretically, gets a live rooster. Just The Bookstore was asked to pick one of the books that answered this question: “What is the one book that you would press into everyone’s hands?” While this may not be the exact book, every customer is different, this is an interesting book to check out.

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Here, you’ll find a collection of stories about women who flew under the radar. Very well written, the stories are quirky, interesting and fun. This one would be great for December when you’re looking for a book you can break into stories.

Outline by Rachel Cusk

First spotted by a store staffer in an article in The New Yorker magazine, this book has lots of really good reviews. But, there’s not much action in it. And, it’s mostly about the author’s life going from London to Greece and the people she met along the way. All the stories are good and Cusk is such a good writer.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

Based on the real relationship between Vanessa and her sister, Virginia Woolf, this book would be really fun to combine with a book by Virginia Woolf.

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

For those who are wondering about F. Scott Fitzgerald and the last years of his life, check out this book of historical fiction. Just the Bookstore’s team recently returned from a conference in Ashville, NC where they stayed in the same hotel as F. Scott Fitzgerald. In the book, you follow F. Scott Fitzgerald to Hollywood where he meets stars and becomes an aspiring screenwriter. Through it all, you get a feel for the seriousness of Zelda’s illness.

Leaving Before the Rains come by Alexandra Fuller

A non-fiction account about the author’s entire life, the writing is so good it’s like poetry. The author gets married while she’s living in Africa, then ends up going to Jackson Hole.

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishamael Beah

The author is a former boy soldier in Sierra Leone who wrote his memoir. Set in Sierra Leone, this is his first novel. Focused on one village where people are starting to make their way back and rebuild their lives, parts of it are heart breaking.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This is the story of an interracial family whose daughter goes missing and is found dead. It’s story about parents’ ideas of what their kids should be. It’s about race, siblings and family – and would make a fantastic book discussion.

A Replacement Life by Boris Feldman

A quirky book set in Brooklyn with Russian Jews, the main character is a writer. His grandfather is really bitter because he feels like he deserves Holocaust reparation money. So, he talks his grandson into writing a fictional application. A great story about immigrants and family, part of it is really funny.

History of the Rain by Niall Williams

Set in Ireland, this book has a very Irish feel. The main character is a bed-ridden young woman who doesn’t leave an attic with 3,958 books. She has them all categorized. You learn her story about her twin brother and her father, who was a poet, in flashbacks. This is a lovely book for those who love Ireland, literature, poets and books.

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

Set in a small town in Mexico within the last 10 years, this is a place where the men are gone. They’re either at work in the U.S. or they’ve joined the drug cartels. Understandably, the women are very afraid for their daughters. The mothers’ main reason for living is to protect their girls. The main character is a girl who moves to Acapulco. It’s funny, sad, and realistic.

Redeployment by Phil Klay

Winner of the National Book Award, a Marine who got his literary degree after serving in Iraq wrote this book. A great book about the recent war, the short stories are about what’s happening overseas and fitting back in with family.

Driftless by David Rhodes

Written in 2008 by a man who was becoming a well-known author in the 1970s, but stopped  writing after a motorcycle accident, this book is set in the driftless area of southern Wisconsin. A story about people that’s fantastic and so beautifully written, one of the readers said, “When I was done I wanted to sleep with it under my pillow.” Over the course of the book, you get to meet people as the characters are revealed.

Galapagos Regained by James Morrow Jr.

Presented as one of the craziest books you may ever read, this book is about a nanny who was hired to be one of Charles Darwin’s zookeepers because the nanny job was already filled. It’s a madcap adventure with a word on every page you’ll need to look up. It’s smart and crazy all at once.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Set in WWII from the view of two teenagers and a Nazi gemologist, this book is beautifully written and detailed. Look for it in paperback by end of the year.

Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett

Amy, the main character, falls and hits her head on her birdbath, which reignites her writing career. It’s snarky and  Amy is not like any other heroine.

Gemini by Carol Cassella

Another overlooked book, the author is a doctor. It’s like a medical mystery with an unidentified woman in a coma. Alternating chapters tell the doctor’s, patient’s, and boyfriend’s stories.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande

When you read it, you want everybody to read it. This is the story of how the medical community is not handing the end of life issues well. “Medical power is finite and always will be.” The author tells lots of stories, including his own father’s.

Bettyville by George Hodgman

“Bettyville” is where the author’s mother goes when she’s in dementia. The author goes back to live in his small hometown where his mother and father haven’t accepted that he’s gay. His mother is very willful, and interesting. Also funny, he calls himself a care inflicter, not a caregiver.

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

Two stories about immigration start in Mexico. It’s an absolutely harrowing journey to get through Mexico. The parallel story is about Alice, who is almost 40 and a breast cancer survivor who wants a child. More emotional than a story about haves and have nots, this is a book about how to get what you desperately desire.


What’s hot on your book club’s reading list?





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