The 21 Best Book Club Books of All Time

  • Post last modified:October 8, 2021
  • Post category:Books

Looking for the best book club books? I’ve got you covered.

The list below has some of the most exquisite, unputdownable novels you’ll ever come across. 

From the Metropol, 1922, to death-ridden Nazi in 1939, these books will transport you to new, daring worlds. 

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Blind since the age of six, Marie-Laure has learned to memorize her Paris neighborhood by touch and navigate her way home using a miniature model of the neighborhood her father built for her. 

However, when the Nazis arrive in town, Marie-Laure and her father take off with a dangerous secret. 

A German orphan destined to grind in the same mine that killed his father, Werner’s life suddenly turns around when he discovers a flair for engineering. His new talent gets him into the harsh military academy, but his fight for freedom is built on suffering. 

At the same time, trapped in a far away walled city by the sea, an old man explores new worlds without ever stepping outside his home. Nevertheless, all around him, danger looms. 

As Europe is embroiled in war and chaos, these lives collide unpredictably. 

What’s in it for you: An exquisite, ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy trying to survive the wreck of World War II. 

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Throughout the years, folk in Barkley Cove have been haunted by the rumors of the “Marsh Girl.” So, when in late 1969, the handsome Chase Andrews is murdered, the locals immediately point fingers at Kya Clark, a.k.a. Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not the kind of girl they think she is. 

Tenderhearted and intelligent, she has survived all this time alone in the marsh, making friends with gulls and learning important lessons in the sand. 

Then the moment comes when she aches to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become mesmerized by her untamed beauty, Kya welcomes the possibility of a new life – until the inconceivable happens. 

What’s in it for you: A heartbreaking coming-of-age novel that will leave you breathless. 

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

In an unjust world where black maids are expected to raise white kids but aren’t trusted not to carry off with the silver….

Aibileen is raising her seventh white kid while nursing the pain of her own son’s unfortunate death; Minny, with her sassy cooking and even sassier tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, fresh from college, curious about the whereabouts of her beloved missing maid. 

Aibileen, Minny, Skeeter. Impossible to believe these three are friends, fewer people could even stomach their friendship. Yet, these women form an unbreakable bond in the search of a truth, a remarkable story they have to tell…

What’s in it for you: An unputdownable novel about a devastatingly unjust world.

4. Educated by Tara Westover  

Educated by Tara Westover

The first time she stepped in a classroom Tara Westover was seventeen years old. Growing up, she was taught to stew herbs into medicine, scavenge in the family scrap yard, and help her family get ready for the apocalypse. 

She had no birth certificate, zero medical records, and had never been in school. 

As Tara grew up, she realized that the world her family offered didn’t have to be her only world. There was a different, dynamic, richer world out there she had to explore. 

The first day she stepped in university was her first day in school. She’d eventually earn a coveted fellowship from Cambridge, graduating with a PhD in intellectual history and political thought.  

What’s in it for you: An exquisite memoir about family, loss, and the strive for a better future. 

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

1939. Nazi Germany. A country holding its breath. 

Death has never wreaked so much havoc – and will continue to wreak much more still.

At her brother’s graveside, Liesel picks up an object partially hidden in the snow: The Gravedigger’s Handbook – probably left there by accident.

It’s Liesel’s first act of book thievery, her first encounter with the world of books and words. Thus starts her love affair with the literary world.

With the help of her father, she learns to read, and soon starts stealing books from mass book-burning sites, the mayor’s wife’s gigantic library, where books are to be found.

These are perilous times, and when Liesel’s family hides a Jewish in their basement, her world both swirls and stands still.   

What’s in it for you: A brilliant, stunningly ambitious novel, the kind that can be life changing.

6. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

At first sight, Ove is certainly the most ill-tempered man you may ever meet. He believes himself surrounded by fools and persists in inspecting daily the local streets.

Rare and a bit old-fashioned, Ove has an unflinching belief about what the world should be like and a lifelong devotion to making it so. 

Despite his quirkiness, there’s something quite irresistible about Ove...

What’s in it for you: A hilarious, touching, uplifting tale of love and community.

7. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel’s life is a predictable, monotonous routine. She catches the same train every morning, knows it’ll wait at the same signal every time, facing a row of back gardens. 

She even feels as though she knows the individuals in one of the houses, whom she calls “Jess and Jason.” Their life – she presumes – is perfect. If only she could be remotely that happy.

Then something happens; she’s sees something surprising, only for a minute before the train moves, but it’s enough. 

Everything’s different now, and Rachel has a chance to become a part of the world she’s only watched from a distance.

Now she has a chance to show them that there’s much more to her than being just the girl on the train… 

What’s in it for you: A gripping, enthralling thriller.

8. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

In Shaker Heights, everyone was talking about how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had managed to burn the house down. 

Shaker Heights is a town where everything is planned – the layout of the roads, the colors of the houses, even the lives of its residents. 

Elena Richardson is a paragon of the perfect citizen. Then comes Mia Warren, a mysterious artist, with her teenage daughter Pearl, who rent a house from the Richardsons. But there’s more to this mother–daughter pair than meets the eye, and all four Richardson children feel drawn to them. 

However, some things in Mia’s past are best kept hidden. And when a child custody battle erupts in the town that puts Elena and Mia on opposing sides, Elena determines to uncover Mia’s dark past.

But this obsession will come with unexpected, catastrophic consequences… 

What’s in it for you: A beautifully written, compelling novel on adolescence and the power of influence. 

9. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

They may have followed their hearts, broken the rules, but what happens next may just break yours. 

It’s 1926, and young Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on a faraway island off Western Australia. He and his wife Isabel are the only inhabitants of this peaceful island, living quiet, contemplative lives.   

Then out of the blue a boat drifts ashore with a dead man and a wailing baby – and the lives of the couple take an unexpected turn.

Only after several years, as they uncover the baby’s real story, do they realize the disastrous consequences of the decision they made that fateful day…

What’s in it for you: A heart-wrenching, emotional rollercoaster.  

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

She was called Henrietta Lacks, but scientists referred to her as HeLa. The daughter of a poor black tobacco farmer, Henrietta’s cancer cells, taken at the time without her consent, became one of the most important species in medicine, creating a multimillion-dollar industry. 

Contrasting the beauty and perplexity of scientific discovery with the worrying questions about who owns the cells and organs of our bodies, this book takes a deep dive into the soul and story of a real woman, whose extraordinary cells live on today in all corners of the world.  

What’s in it for you: A fascinating, compelling, harrowing real-life account.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor struggles with social interactions and tends to say exactly what’s on her mind. She’s perfectly fine with her carefully organized life of minimal human contact, weekends filled with frozen pizza, vodka, and phone calls with her mom.

Until she meets Raymond, a clumsy IT guy from her office. When Eleanor and Raymond meet Sammy, an elderly guy they help, the three find themselves saving each other from their lives of isolation.

Soon, Eleanor realizes she may be capable of finding friendship, even love, after all. 

What’s in it for you: A warm, smart, and uplifting novel about love and friendship. 

12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Vian and Isabelle have always been close sisters despite their differences. Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann lives in the countryside with Antoine, her husband, and their daughter. 

But when war strikes, Antoine is summoned to fight, leaving Viann isolated. Sympathizing with Viann’s situation, their father sends Isabelle to keep her company. 

The war tests the sisters’ relationship and strength. Faced with horrifying situations, Viann and Isabelle find themselves responding in surprising ways as courage and resistance take different forms in their lives. 

What’s in it for you: An unputdownable, emotionally gripping read. 

13. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

This is a stunning memoir of a successful journalist’s journey from the deserted towns in the Southwest to an apartment on Park Avenue. 

Jeanette escapes, at the age of seventeen, to New York with her older sister. Seeking the education and civilization her parents didn’t want, she manages to get her dream life of the “mundane, middle class existence.”

She recounts poignant memories of star-watching with her dad, contrasted with recollections of inconsistent meals, police-car chases and accidents, while revealing her intricate feelings of shame, pity, guilt, and pride toward her parents.  

What’s in it for you: A startling memoir of a journalist’s journey to success. 

14. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The rivalry between two magicians takes an unexpected turn – developing into a star-crossed love story.

At night, the circus arrives without warning, no announcements. It’s simply there when it wasn’t yesterday. 

Magic, dazzle, astonishment at an illusionist performing inconceivable acts of magic: Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves!

However, beneath the smoke and mirrors, two young magicians, Celia and Marco, compete fiercely to best each other in “a game.”

This game is a duel to the death, unknown to them, with the circus the center stage for the extraordinary battle of imagination and will.

What’s in it for you: A compelling star-crossed love story. 

15. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski, an utterly adrift orphan, finds himself in a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits when he jumps onto a passing train. A veterinary student with an unfinished degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus’s animals.

In this new strange world, he meets the beautiful Marlena, married to the twisted yet charismatic August. He also meets the untrainable Rosie, an elephant he finds a way to reach out to. 

Lurking in this world, where but a few can afford the luxury of love, is a love story between two people that overcomes unbelievable odds. 

What’s in it for you: Exotic, erotic, inspiring, and unputdownable.

16. Room by Emma Donoghue 

Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack and his Ma break free of captivity after being held for years in a small shed. 

Experiencing the outside world for the first time, five-year-old Jack struggles to adapt. To him, their eleven-by-eleven-foot room was his world, where he was born, where he ate, slept, played, and learned. 

But Ma couldn’t keep him safe in there forever as his curiosity and her desperation both grew. 

What’s in it for you: A shocking, riveting tale of unconquerable love in gut-wrenching circumstances.

17. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The government is taken over by the oppressive Republic of Creed after the President and most of Congress are murdered in a staged terrorist attack.

Now a handmaid serving the mysterious Commander and his wife, Offred reminisces about a time when she had a job and lived happily with her husband and daughter, a time when she had her own name.

Despite the danger, she soon learns the intimate secrets of her oppressors, risking everything in hopes of ending this oppression. 

What’s in it for you: One of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time.

18. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Wealth, privilege, a handsome fiancé waiting for her in Baltimore, Avery Stafford’s life seems perfect. 

However, when she decides to help her US senator father through a health crisis and political attack, she meets May Crandall, an enigmatic old woman who leaves her deeply shaken.

Curious, Avery decides to learn more about May’s life, a journey that will reveal a secret that may lead to utter destruction… or redemption.  

What’s in it for you: A heartbreaking, poignant novel inspired by a true story. 

19. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After her mother dies suddenly from cancer, her family breaks apart, and her marriage crumbles, twenty-six-year-old Cheryl Strayed thinks she has lost it all.

Lost and with nothing to lose, she impulsively decides to walk eleven-hundred miles to the west coast of America – completely alone.

She had no idea what she was getting herself into, no experience of long-distance hiking. But she had hope, of piecing together her life through this journey. 

Her account portrays the mental and physical agonies of her extraordinary journey – the madness and terror of it all, and how it ultimately healed her.  

What’s in it for you: A raw, compelling, and brutal memoir of survival, grief, and redemption. 

20. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

As a boy, Louis Zamperini was an unruly delinquent. As a teenager, he directs his energy into running, discovering an extraordinary talent that carries him to the Berlin Olympics.

But when the Second World War starts, he becomes an airman, plunging into a journey that leads to a doomed flight in 1943.

Against all odds, Zamperini manages to survive when his Army Air Forces bomber crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Ahead of him lies unending miles of open ocean, ruthless sharks, thirst and starvation, enemies, and insurmountable obstacles.

Pushed to the precarious edge of endurance, Zamperini must combat desperation with ingenuity; pain and suffering with resolve, hope, and humor; and brutality with unrelenting rebellion. 

His victory or tragic end would be determined by the quickly diminishing strength of his will.

What’s in it for you: An unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

21. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

In 1922, deemed an unrepentant aristocrat, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel, the Metropol.

A man of great wit and education, Rostov is now stuck in an attic room while some of the most turbulent years in Russian history unfold just outside the hotel’s doors.

Unexpectedly, though, his confinement ushers him into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

What’s in it for you: A beautifully transporting novel. 

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