The top six book club books recommended by Real Simple readers:
- The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
- Life of Pi, by Yan Martel
- The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
I think what makes a book good is when there is plenty to talk about. But to be the best it has to be one that stays with you. For me, that one is We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. We read it in October 2004 and we’re still talking about Kevin!
East Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Several years ago, my book club of 10 years read The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Although the book was set in the Belgian Congo in the late 1950s, it made me question the way I live, the little decisions I make each day, and the things I take for granted more than any book I can remember reading.
You expect me to pick just one? Impossible! Instead, here are my nominations just from what we’ve read in the past year. (Indulge me.) Best fiction by a man with an amazingly convincing female perspective: A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. Best fiction recently uncovered but written 70 years ago: Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. Best nonfiction for moms with school-age kids: The Case Against Homework, by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish. Best inspirational (and what have you done lately?) nonfiction: Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Really, my book club picks a fabulous variety of books, so I could go on and on.
Woodland Hills, California
It was a book most of us would never have found on our own, as it’s often shelved under “fantasy” rather than “fiction”―and most of us had never looked in the fantasy section of a bookstore before. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is a beautifully written, oddly seductive, and captivating book from beginning to end. As an added bonus, it’s the story of strong women. Our book club was together for more than five yeas and this was one of only two books that was universally loved.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. I hadn’t read Steinbeck since high school and was captivated by this startling and poignant book. I found myself staying up half the night to finish reading it.
A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines. We weren’t crazy about the book, but this is the one that got us started. Now, 10-plus years later, a few deaths, a few births, and countless other celebrations of life and we are still together. What a wonderful, opinionated group of women we are. Some of us would never have connected had it not been for this club.
Highland Park, Illinois
Finding the Doorbell, by Edie Thys Morgan and Cindy Pierce, sparked the liveliest and most revealing discussion we have ever had. The book features important content, delivered with a rare combination of matter-of-fact tone and hilarious anecdotes.
Lake Tahoe, California
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. This book allowed us to cry, make fun of one another crying, laugh, and realize how real this story could be in any community.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, has to be the best book we’ve read. From the tragic moments of loss to the heartwarming addition to a family, every aspect spills emotion and true humanity. The main character, Francie, contains a bit of everyone. This is a wonderful book for women of all ages―a timeless tale of growing up and discovering who you truly are.
Walled Lake, Michigan