One of the best parts about reading is sharing the joy of books with others. And there’s no better way to share your love of books than to start a book club!
Earlier this year, my best friends and I started a virtual club, and it’s been so much fun digging into the themes, characters, and motifs of a book together. I love seeing multiple perspectives on the same text, and it always makes my experience with a book more meaningful and interesting.
So if YOU would like to join me in my quest for creating more book clubs, here are some excellent reads to start with—and I’ve even thrown in some guides to kick off your discussion!
by Samira Ahmed
Set in the near-future United States where Muslim citizens are forced into internment camps, Layla and her family must fight for freedom against their camp’s Director and his guards. Samira’s sophomore novel is heart-racing and emotional, and also tackles Islamophobia, the role of social media in activism, and what happens when we’re complicit with silence. These topics aren’t always easy to talk about—but we need to. Hopefully, this book makes it easier for you.
by L. C. Rosen
When Jack, an unapologetically sexually active queer teen, starts an online sex and dating column, he begins receiving creepy, threatening love letters attempting to curb his sexuality. JACK is thoroughly entertaining, but it also asks thoughtful questions about toxic straight culture and queer fetishization, which are topics I don’t usually see discussed in YA books. Queer and straight folks alike will have plenty of things to talk about with this fantastic book!
Jo and Kurl are partnered in English class in a weekly pen pal letter writing assignment: They don’t expect to develop a deep friendship, and certainly don’t expect to fall in love. But with bullying, homophobia, and devastating secrets threatening their realtionship, Jo and Kurl will struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their love. If you like romance with a side of Walt Whitman literary references and metaphorical meaning, try We Contain Multitudes for your next book club!
Dove is an ideal daughter, perfectly content to follow the path her parents have laid out for her. Except when it comes to Booker, the sweet boy with a troubled past that she’s falling hard for…whom she knows her parents will never approve of. When Dove’s estranged aunt returns home and old family secrets come to light, Dove’s world will turn upside down. Brandy writes sweet, thoughtful contemporary novels that feature black girls tackling love, family, and selfhood. If you haven’t read any of her books, definitely start with BIRDIE!
by Monica Hesse
In 1944, Margot and Haruko’s lives are uprooted all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan. When they meet in a family internment camp for those accused of colluding with the enemy, they find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone—even themselves? If historical fiction is your jam, try The War Outside! I love WWII novels that cover underrepresented topics, and Monica Hesse’s research and compelling narrative make this an excellent book club pick.
Leigh Chen Sanders is sure of one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Determined to find answers, Leigh follows the bird to Taiwan where she meets her maternal grandparents for the first time. Alternating between the past and the present, reality and magic, Emily X.R. Pan’s debut novel is a stunning portrait of family, art, grief, and love. Emily’s entrancing narrative is full of meaning and heart that will blow the minds of all your book club guests (and also make them shed a tear or two).
Danny’s home for the summer after the most anticlimactic year of her life. She’s failing pre-med at Harvard, left mid-semester to enter treatment for an eating disorder, and is slowly losing all the underpinnings of her identity. Danny wants to find a new sense of self that feels right, but will her self-destructive tendencies get in the way of healing? Fans of Jesse Andrews and Robyn Schneider, and dark, witty comedies will hardcore relate to Danny as she learns how to deal with growing up and the overwhelming uncertainty of the future.