7 Best Books to Start Your Book Club

If you’ve recently started a book club, you may be scratching your head wondering what book you should start with. Depending on the people who are in your book club, there are a few selections that are considered “big hits” in the book club world. Here they are:

  1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 

This is a great choice, especially if your readers are mostly female. This is about a book club, set during WWII. Villagers come together to ration their food, share books, and support one another through the rough years. Great read, fun tie into the nature of a book club.

  1. The Shack 

Is your book club part of a church or religious organization? Sticking to books that reflect your values may be a strong selling point to get more people involved. Check out The Shack, and discuss just how much you all love it. This is a great book for men and women, and would be a great way to start conversation.


  1. The Art of Racing in the Rain 

Did you meet some of your book club members at the dog park? Do you all have fur children? This is the best book since Marley and Me for people who love animals. Yes, bring tissues, but also enjoy a very unique and loving story that will be great to discuss while your dogs romp around in the background.

  1. The Book Thief

 This book is universal, whether young, middle-aged, old, man or woman. This is also a great book if you want to have a “family book club” that allows parents and school-aged children to discuss books together. Set in WWII, it opens the dialogue about a lot of things, including loss, the Holocaust, and death itself. Such a great book.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night 

If you’re hoping to draw more young teens and male readers into your book club, start with a book like this. About a young autistic boy who tries to solve the death of a neighbor’s dog, it is unique, incredibly visual, and an impressive read.


  1. To Kill a Mockingbird 

Even if people have read this before, talking about it in book club just brings about a different perspective. Stick to the classics for the first session, if you want, and discuss the themes that are thick in this Harper Lee classic. There are also tons of book club discussion guides online for this book, if you’re wondering where to start the conversation.

  1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time 

If you’re hoping to start a book club that is rife with cultural and worldly lessons, this is a great place to start. Don’t stick to the traditional, white suburban literature. Expand your horizons. Use this book to discuss the perils in the Middle East, and the need to improve education (especially for females) in such a restrictive culture.

Non-Traditional Book Clubs

For some of us, traditional book clubs just don’t fit our needs or lifestyle. Maybe you can’t meet up once a month, or maybe you don’t like the books that book clubs pick. Or maybe you just don’t like the people who are in book clubs. But if you still find yourself drawn to the idea of discussing a book with your peers, here are a few ideas for non-traditional book clubs that can help you get over the hump.

Different Books 

Instead of all reading the same book and purchasing ridiculous amounts of the book you’re only going to read once (or fighting for a copy at the local library), why not all read a different book? This way, you can bring your copy, your rundown of the plot, and your review of the story. Maybe someone in your book club will like what you’ve read, and ask to borrow your copy. Next time, you get your book back and you might borrow a book from someone else. This is also a great way to let people pick their own books so they keep coming back.

Book Trade  

Have a ton of books you’ve already read? Bring a box to a book trade or book swap. Enjoy food and refreshments while you peruse other people’s selections, and take home a few new books. Then you can get together next month and do it all over again! This is a great way to share books you love without having to pick one and discuss it even if you hated it!


Blind Date With a Book 

Have your friends and book club members wrap up a favorite book of their own in paper. On the paper, write or draw a little riddle about what the book is about, or just the general genre. Don’t be too specific because you don’t want to give away the book title! Have your fellow members choose a book based on their wrappings, and let them take them home before opening them. They have no idea what they’re going to get, but make sure they really do read them. Then, next month (or whenever you’re scheduled), have them return the books and discuss. You can do the blind date swap again, or just do it every other time. What a fun way to get someone to read a book they normally wouldn’t.

Online Book Clubs  

There are tons of online book clubs, and while these may not be as personal or fun as in person book clubs, they get the job done. It’s especially nice because you can pick from more book clubs that have tastes similar to your own, so you’re not stuck reading the same chick lit over and over and over. Sites like Goodreads have tons of groups and monthly clubs you can join, as well as ways to review and share your books with other people. You can also find a ton more books that you would have overlooked at the book store or library!

A Brief History of Book Clubs

The printing press went into mass effect in 1455, and with it came a literary revolution. While most people still couldn’t afford books (or even learn to read), the higher aristocracies in areas managed to “hoard” most of the books published across the world. About 200 years later, books became a bit more accessible, especially is multiple copies. As books were produced more, more people could purchase them, and thus began open discussion about published works.

The first real book clubs were believed to have begun in France between the 1600’s and 1700’s in “parlor meetings,” where women would gather to discuss books (a rather scandalous behavior at the time). A lot of cafes and public spaces were discussion forums for various books, and men especially could discuss their new reading materials in pretty much any setting. Many “book club historians” (if there were such a thing) believe that this sparked the idea that people could get together to specifically discuss a new publication.


Because of the expense of books until the beginning of the 20th century, some people simply “pitched” on books together, and passed them around between their friends and family. After everyone had read it, they would discuss an idea. In fact, this is how libraries started – first in New York and then in Boston. Groups of people would buy books together, and then lend out their copies for free to others who had no chance of affording it.

Towards the end of the 19th century, more and more women began noticing their need for intellectual and personal rights. Instead of gathering for sewing, knitting, or childcare functions, they began coming together to read, increase their knowledge, and discuss revolutionary ideas. This is also considered one of the reasons that book clubs are still mostly female today – because of the roots in the suffrage movement.

In the early 1900’s, book publishers began releasing books en masse, and programs like “A Book a Month” began popping up at affordable rates. This is when home book buying began to be commonplace, and made it possible for people to own books that everyone else owned as well. Towards the 1940’s and 1950’s, suburbs began popping up and reading (being the only affordable entertainment, as TV was still very expensive) became a central conversation piece, especially for housewives.

Of course, as TV became more popular in the late 1900’s, fewer people read unless it was related to school. Then Oprah came along, and made book clubs cool again. Everyone wanted to read what the queen of daytime television was reading, and suddenly book clubs began popping up all over the place. Today, it’s estimated that there are about 100,000 operating official book clubs in the US (between libraries and churches that file official book club chapters). However, a quick Google search turns up over 14.5 million results, indicating that there are plenty more out there that are just not “official.” That’s a lot of book clubs!