Don’t be caught without a suggestion when it’s your turn to host book club. Just choose one of these top 20 book club books for 2020.
*Update: Enjoy my newest list of book club books for 2021!
Every month, one of the highlights of my social life is attending my neighborhood book club. I love taking an evening off and congregating with my bookish friends to discuss literature.
Sometimes the night contains more gossip and much-needed life advice than book discussion. When we do delve into our book club books, I’m always thrilled to hear the various perspectives. We may have read the same book, but each of us takes away something entirely different.
Often, our evening rolls to an end, and then the dread moment comes. Who is hosting next month? And what are we reading?
If you are looking to avoid the awkwardness when the inevitable moment arrives, I’ve got you covered. With discussion-worthy content, stimulating nonfiction and great reads from the last few years, you won’t have to debate what new book club books to read next.
Here are my top 20 favorite book club books for 2020.
Discussion Worthy Book Club Books for 2020
For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she was abandoned by her family and has been raised by nature itself. Now, as she comes of age, she begins to yearn for something more than her loneliness – maybe even a connection with the locals. An exquisitely written tale that quickly became one of 2018’s bestselling books, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of the best book club books to read in 2020.
If you are wanting light-hearted book club books for 2020, you’ve found the perfect choice in socially awkward Eleanor Oliphant. She has the habit of saying exactly what she thinks and much prefers to spend her weekends at home talking on the phone to her mother. When Eleanor and her slovenly coworker Raymond help an elderly gentleman after a fall, the three become friends and Eleanor learns that opening up isn’t always a bad thing.
One of the best World War 2 novels released in recent years, We Were the Lucky Ones is based on the epic true story of the Kurc family. Separated during the war, they determine to not only survive the atrocities but reunite and be a family again. To make the story even more compelling – it’s a tale of the author’s ancestors. If your book club loves WWII historical fiction based on true stories, this is a perfect pick for you. Read more →
The American Dream. Many hope for it, but how many truly find it? Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel details the lives of Cameroon immigrants living in New York City: Jende Jonga, who is trying to apply for legal status under a false asylum claim; his wife Neni, struggling to finish schooling in hopes of becoming a pharmacist; and their son Liomi, trying to balance his American-ness with his Cameroon side. In the days preceding the Great Recession, Jende gets lucky enough to get a job as chauffeur to Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive. Mbue brilliantly paints a fascinating look at immigrant life – the struggles with the immigration system, the desire for a better life, the balancing of cultural differences and the financial burden that comes with being poor in America. Through her writing, Mbue asks you to ponder: What brings happiness? Is the American dream all it’s cracked up to be?
The first time Lucy met Diana, she disaapointedly finds her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. Much more of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two different people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship. If you’re looking for book club books about family relationships, you don’t want to miss this one.
Mary Beth Keane
Just listen to this premise: NYPD cops Francis and Brian happen to move next door to each other in the suburbs. Though their children Kate and Peter become the best of friends, Francis and his wife have learned to keep their distance from Brian’s wife due to her precarious mental health. When tragedy strikes between the two families, Brian’s family moves away in shame. But when Kate and Peter fall in love, the two families must learn to confront the tragedy that ties them together. A story of love and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes serves up the perfect blend of family drama and character study to win it all the stars and a well-earned place among my list of book club books for 2020.
Great Book Club Reads
Not all book club books have to be serious literary works. From the author of Me Before You comes her latest novel that will charm you. Set during the Great Depression, Englishwoman Alice Wright marries a handsome American and finds herself transplanted to rural Kentucky. To escape her unhappy home life with her withdrawn husband and overbearing father-in-law, Alice agrees to become a traveling librarian, riding around the countryside bringing books to local residents. In her new job, she meets other fierce women and gains lasting friendships. Add in plenty of drama, love stories, corrupt businessmen, and even murder, and you have the perfect light historical fiction for any book club that wants a Hallmark Channel style novel to read.
Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, has been a book club favorite since its release. Now, prep your book club for her newest release – a love story set in a secret world of magic. Graduate student Zachary Rawlins stumbles upon a mysterious book full of fantastical tales, only to find himself in the narrative. From there, he follows hints to a secret library, preserved by guardians intent on protecting it. After that, he finds himself swept into a magical mystical world, and, hopefully, you will be, too.
In April 1942, Slovakian Jew Lale Sokolov is a prisoner in Auschwitz. Instead of manual labor, his assigned task is to tattoo the numbers onto his fellow prisoners. Not only is this haunting tale based on a true story, but Heather Morris personally interviewed Lale Sokolov for the book. If you love reading about World War II, be sure to check out this stunning novel. FYI, its sequel, Cilka’s Journey, is just as good (and works as a standalone).
Young adult fiction makes great book club books for groups who love a little more plot-based stories. Already snagged by Universal to become a major motion picture, The Grace Year is 2019’s hottest new young adult novel. This The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies story takes place in the male-dominated oppressive Garner county. Every year, all 16-year-old girls spend their “grace year” in seclusion so that their magic burns out of them. Before they go, eligible bachelors select brides from the grace year girls. Tierney James knows she will never be a chosen wife, nor does she want to be, and dreams of someday changing this dystopian society. Yet in her grace year, Tierney begins to wonder: Do women even have magic? With plenty of action that moves the plot along quickly, I devoured this novel in a night and can’t wait to see the movie!
Eleven-year-old Ren is given one final task when his master dies: to find his master’s severed finger and return it, in the next 49 days, or his master’s soul will be doomed to wander the earth. From there, his story will mingle with that of dance hall girl Ji Lin who has found the finger, all while a tiger stalks the town. Mixing Chinese folklore and superstition with historical fiction, Choo brings the time period to life in this beautifully written and imaginative story. You’ll feel completely swept away into the slight mysticism of the story, and I guarantee this will make an excellent book club pick for 2020.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones and the Six is my pick for the best book of 2019. Already snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s company to become an Amazon miniseries, Daisy Jones and the Six is making waves this year. After her highly successful novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid is back with an addictingly fun read about the rise and fall of a fictional 70s band. With sex, drugs, and plenty of drama, you’ll feel like you are watching a biopic on VH1 – but an extremely well-written one.
Coming off The Nightingale, her wildly successful World War II novel, Kristin Hannah’s next book explores the untamed wilds of Alaska. A recently returned Vietnam War POW, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family to the Alaskan frontier. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers and just what Ernt needs. But when the harsh Alaskan winter approaches and Ernt’s mental state begins to deteriorate, his wife and daughter must fight to survive. A captivating, stay-up-all-night novel that is a favorite among the book club books for 2020.
The 2021 Book Club Book List is Here!
Nonfiction Books Club Picks
Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s new memoir only took weeks to outsell every other book published in 2018. Detailing her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her success as a working mother and her years in the White House, Obama shows how her past has shaped her into who she has become today. No matter your personal political views, Michelle Obama’s dedication to improving the lives of women and girls makes her an inspiring individual and worthy of your book club books in 2020.
There is no excuse to not read Tara Westover’s spectacular memoir. Westover grew up in the rural mountains of Idaho with no formal education. Despite her extremist survivalist parents and violent older brother, Westover managed to make her way into college, eventually earning a PhD. Her amazing determination is inspiring while the circumstances of her childhood are incredibly sad. One book club book that will stay with you for a long time.
I can’t begin to describe how incredible this book is. Instead of telling you her life story, Maggie O’Farrell gives you glimpses into her life through separate incidents where she brushed against death, which has occurred surprisingly often. From a childhood illness to near-fatal accidents to miscarriage, O’Farrell gives you such an intriguing look not just at how she has almost died, but more importantly how she has lived. If your book club is willing to listen to an audiobook, this is a great choice.
If you have an insane amount of money (say from creating Microsoft) how do you use it to change the world? Over a lifetime, Melinda Gates, co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has discovered that the key to alleviating poverty, decreasing childhood death and even increasing food production all comes back to empowering women. The statistics throughout the book are staggering, and Gates makes a strong argument for how empowering women affects so much more than you would think. Luckily Gates focuses on the numbers and less on the memoir aspect because, while Gates is an admirable woman, her own story is … shall I say … kinda dull. The numbers, though, will leave your book club plenty to talk about.
It’s been six years since Malcolm Gladwell last published a book, and while he has interesting podcasts, you’ll want to dive into his take on a new topic. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell focuses on what happens when we encounter new people and why those encounters so often turn out poorly. With his mix of statistics, scientific research and interesting anecdotes, Gladwell is the ultimate storyteller. Be prepared for lots of debate as many of his viewpoints will probably be quite controversial with some people. Making it a perfect book club book to spark conversation.
If you choose to read self-help book club books, Rachel Hollis’s motivational book Girl, Wash Your Face, was one of the most talked-about books of 2018. Honestly, Hollis’s writing seems to provoke extreme reactions – you’ll either love it or hate it. Which makes it perfect for a conversation.
Normally I don’t recommend celebrity memoirs as book club books because they are so hit and miss, but I hear rave reviews for Trevor Noah’s life story everywhere I turn. Telling of his formative years in South Africa during the last days of apartheid, Noah shows you a fascinating slice of history. With his ability to change accents and mimic is mother, Trevor Noah’s audio narration of the book is fantastic.
What book club books are you reading in 2020?