Looking for book club recommendations for the new year? Just choose one of these top 21 book club books for 2021.
My neighborhood book club night used to be one of the highlights of each month. We’d gather together in someone’s living room and discuss the best book club books … or just gossip and share life advice.
How times have changed.
My book club hasn’t met since the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean yours can’t. Your format might change, but your discussion doesn’t need to end.
If you are looking for recommended books to read for your book club, I’ve got you covered. With discussion-worthy historical fiction, fascinating nonfiction, and fun reads from the last few years, you won’t have to debate what new book club books to read next.
Here are my top 21 favorite book club books for 2021.
Book Club Books: 2021 Releases
In the Texas panhandle in 1934, severe drought plagues the land. With crops failing, dust storms whip up, leaving the farmers fighting for survival. In the perilous times of the Great Depression, Elsa Martinelli must decide whether to stay and fight for her land or head west to California which offers her family a better life. Unsurprisingly, Hannah’s new book is one of the best books to read in 2021.
A family drama of twin sisters from the author of The Mother-in-Law. Growing up, Rose was always Fern’s protector, keeping her safe from their sociopath mother. When Fern does something truly wrong, Rose covers it up, instilling eternal gratitude in Fern. As an adult, Fern and Rose’s complicated relationship comes to a head when Fern begins to realize her sister as secrets of her own.
Coming home to help his parents move, Kieran Elliott is haunted by old memories and past mistakes. His reckless teenage decision ended up costing the lives of three people during a storm. Now, a body is discovered on the beach of his hometown and the police think it might be connected to the previous deaths. Harper’s character-driven mysteries are always on top of my to-read list.
Historical Fiction Book Club Books
In post World War II Japan, Nori, the illegitimate daughter of a Japanese aristocrat and a Black American GI, is hidden away on her grandmother’s estate to conceal the family shame. All Nori knows is the attic she is confined to until she meets her legitimate half-brother, Akira, a boy who shows her the world contains so much more. A clear winner among the best historical fiction of 2020, this complicated story about shame and the need for acceptance would be a perfect choice for your book club.
At the top of my list of best book club books for 2021 is Ariel Lawhon’s amazing World War II novel. Nancy Wake, a New Zealander living in Paris, becomes a spy for the British and rises to one of the top leaders of the French Resistance and one of the most decorated women of the war. The story is split into two narratives – the first starting with Nancy parachuting into France in 1944 and the second telling of her courtship with her husband, Henri Fiocca, before the war. You’ll fall in love with Henri and cheer on Nancy as she transforms into a fierce fighter and respected commander. As the earlier timeline catches up with the later one, you’ll feel all the emotions of a woman caught up in a terrible war.
This dark retelling of the famous Frankenstein tale focuses on Elizabeth Lavenza, a woman who is taken in by the Frankenstein family and eventually becomes inseparable from the infamous Victor. As Victor descends into darkness, with an increasingly dangerous temper, Elizabeth must use all her cunning to survive. One of the best book club recommendations if you are in the mood for a dark and intriguing premise.
The clear favorite of the most-anticipated books to movie in 2021 is Kristin Hannah’s World War 2 drama. Set in a small village in occupied France, the story centers around two sisters. Forced to house a German officer in her home, the older sister Vianne Mauriac must decide, to protect her daughter, where exactly she should draw the line of being complicit with German demands. On the other hand, her younger sister Isabelle Rossignol feels committed to doing anything she can to resist the German occupation.
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Light & Fun Book Club Reads
On the 19th anniversary of their son’s murder, Lord and Lady Hardcastle throw a party with the same guests as that fateful day long ago. At 11 pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. In a Groundhog Day-esque fashion, Aidan Bishop must relive this day 8 times, but from the perspective of eight different witnesses. His task: identify Evelyn’s murderer, or do it all over again. Evelyn Hardcastle will throw you into a brilliant game of Clue (plenty of book club ideas!) as you see the same events from multiple perspectives. Just ignore the why this happening and jump right into the mystery come to life, with plenty of fun twists and turns along the way.
V. E. Schwab
To escape a forced marriage, Addie LaRue makes a bargain with the devil in 1714. She gets to live forever, but the catch is she will be forgotten by everyone she meets. After 300 years, Addie has become resigned to her fate until she meets a young man who remembers her name. An all-around joy of a read that will be a perfect choice if your book club enjoys a little bit of fantasy.
On a remote island, the perfect wedding turns deadly in this thrilling mystery. The high profile wedding between a television star and a magazine publisher is supposed to be the perfect event. Set off the coast of Ireland, all the stops have been pulled out. Yet once the guests arrive, past conflicts come into play and someone turns up dead. Was it the bride? The best man? The wedding planner? Foley keeps you guessing until the end, giving each suspect a firm motive to want to commit murder. If you are looking for good reads for book clubs, The Guest List is the perfect page-turner for you.
When she was sixteen, Emmie Blue released a balloon in England which Lucas discovers across the channel in France, leading to a lifelong friendship. When Lucas gets engaged to be married, Emmie begins to realize that you can’t leave your life up to fate. A heartwarming love story about friendship and loyalty, Dear Emmie Blue was one of my favorite summer releases. You’ll love the complicated relationship between Emmie and Lucas and Emmie’s journey of self-discovery during the novel. (Trigger warning: Sexual Assault.)
In a far distant future, psychohistorian Hari Seldon has analyzed the cycle of history and realizes that after twelve thousand years in power, the Galactic Empire is headed toward collapse. A collapse that will spawn 30,000 years of Dark Ages. To prevent complete disaster and shorten this dark period, Seldon sets up Foundation – a planet on the edge of the galaxy to contain the best minds with the knowledge of humanity. At crucial junctures in history, Seldon has set up steps to sway the course of events to protect the fledgling Foundation. Considered one of the best science fiction books of all time, Isaac Asimov shines in this classic tale that should be considered for your book club books in 2021, not just because of the film adaptation.
Best Books Club Books for Discussion
Caroline Criado Perez
At the top of my recommended book club books for women is this eye-opening book. Caroline Criado Perez shows that we live in a world designed for men that systemically discriminates against women. With overwhelming statistics, Perez exposes the prevalent gender-data gap in countless fields, including medicine, technology, and urban planning. The staggering evidence will blow your mind and make you rethink everything you thought you knew. If you have a chance, Perez’s audiobook narration is spectacular, catching every hint of sarcasm, disbelief, and anger in the author’s voice.
Growing up in a Southern black community obsessed with skin color, the Vignes sisters run away at age sixteen. Though identical twins, their lives end in completely different paths. One returns to live in their hometown while the other secretly passes as white. A fascinating story from beginning to end, Bennett explores more than race, as she contemplates how the past affects future generations when their daughters’ lives intersect. Nuanced and complicated, this through-provoking book is just what you want out of literary fiction and every bit deserving of its spot among book club books of 2021.
Lawyer Dannie Cohan knows exactly where she’ll be in five years – until the night of her engagement. In her post-engagement bliss, she has a vision of herself in five years engaged to someone else. She doesn’t think much of it, until years later when she finds he is dating her best friend. While the premise sounds light-hearted, partway through the story, beach read goes out the window and thought-provoking steps in. You’ll feel compelled to know if the vision came true and surprised at how well Serle counters your expectations.
After writing about recovering a marriage rocked by infidelity in Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle has a new memoir about her love story with US soccer star Abby Wambach. Doyle details how she found herself by realizing her true power comes from within and not from the expectations others put on her. If you’ve read Love Warrior, you’ll have an interesting time discussing the public face we put on our lives. If you haven’t, you’ll still have a great time debating how much you agree with Doyle’s opinions.
Garrett M. Graff
For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, you’ll want to include The Only Plane in the Sky among your book club suggestions for 2021. In this outstanding book, Graff compiles quotes from various people to fill out a brilliant oral history of a timeline of that fateful day. Let me tell you, this is a powerful read. I had to digest it in small pieces because I started to cry from the very first page. If I could rate it six stars, I would.
Top Book Club Books About Racism
Blogger Alix Chamberlain has built herself a brand empowering women. When she moves to Philadephia, she feels overwhelmed by her two young daughters and comes to rely on her babysitter, Emira Tucker. While watching Alix’s two-year-old, Emira is shocked one day to be stopped by a grocery store clerk, only because she is a Black woman with a white toddler. Reid certainly sparks a conversation about racism and privilege, as both Alix and Emira’s boyfriend have completely different views on the same event. If you are willing to forgive the writing a bit, you’ll find it a thought-provoking read.
Therese Anne Fowler
In a gentrifying North Carolina neighborhood, the clash between new and old has deadly consequences. Professor Valerie Alston-Holt has lived in Oak Knoll for decades. It’s where she raised her son Xavier, who is off to college soon. But things go horribly wrong when her new neighbors, the Whitmans, move in. Brad Whitman’s monstrosity of a house damages the root system of Valerie’s precious oak tree, an unforgivable offense in Valerie’s eyes. Yet despite the differences in race, class, and lifestyles, Xavier falls in love with Whitman’s stepdaughter. Far from a light read, the ending will hit you hard, making it a perfect example of good book club books to read.
If you are interested in books about racism in America, An American Marriage is my top fiction choice among the book club books of 2021. At first glance, newlyweds Celestial and Roy seem like the perfect American couple. He’s a young executive, and she’s an emerging artist. However, as life comes into play and Roy is unjustly imprisoned, their marriage begins to fall apart. Discussing love, marriage, and race, this thought-provoking read is one to add to your to-read list.
As a young idealistic lawyer, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice defending the most desperate of clients, and his memoir is one of the best books on racism in the justice system. One case, in particular, stands out: Walter McMillian, a young man on death row who is obviously innocent. Stevenson inspires his readers to consider how compassion is needed for true justice to be served. An exceptional read, Stevenson will help you realize how unjust our justice system is.
What book club books are you reading in 2021?