New releases are fun, there’s no doubt about it. But there’s also something satisfying about returning to older (or “backlist” in publishing lingo) books that came out years ago. In this series, Bookish curates the best book club picks from a given year. Check out these outstanding backlist book club recs from the year 2009. We bet your club will love this blast from the past.
Abraham Verghese’s novel takes readers into the lives of twin brothers Marion and Shiva Stone who are born in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. From the very beginning, the boys form a strong bond that is only strengthened by their mother’s death and their father’s absence. The relationship fractures when both brothers spar over a love interest, and Marion journeys to America to begin his medical career. It won’t be long before his brother and father reenter the picture, and the results will keep you hanging on Verghese’s every word. Your book club will love discussing this resonant novel about family ties and medicine.
For clubs who love discussing novels featuring a large cast of characters, Let the Great World Spin is a fantastic book to pick up. The central event in the novel is Philippe Petit’s real life tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in New York City in 1974. Readers will meet a monk, sex workers, and artists, among other vibrant characters all living in the city around the time of Petit’s feat. Colum McCann’s novel will transport you and your book club peers to the Big Apple in the 1970s, and we know it’s a trip you won’t soon forget.
This book of linked short stories was released to critical acclaim in 2009, and it’s easy to see why. These eight tales are set in Pakistan, where the characters come from a range of socioeconomic classes and experiences and are grappling with the realities of living in a country undergoing many changes. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly raved: “An elegant stylist with a light touch, Mueenuddin invites the reader to a richly human, wondrous experience.” Don’t miss out on this one!
Sure, you’ve read Gone Girl, and your book club loved dissecting the twisty and beloved psychological thriller. But have you read Dark Places? If not, you and your book club are in for a treat. This novel takes readers to Kinnakee, Kansas where a young girl named Libby Day has survived a horrific violent crime that claimed the lives of her sisters and mother. Libby has always said that her brother, Ben, was responsible, but group known as the Kill Club thinks she’s wrong and urges her to investigate. If you’re feeling especially ambitious and like discussing how books translate to the big screen, you and your club can also check out the movie adaptation.
Graphic memoirs make excellent book club picks, because they give you even more to discuss: You and your friends can talk about the story, sure, but you can also dig into your impressions of the artwork. In Stitches, David Small writes about learning he had cancer at the age of 14 and unknowingly getting a surgery that left him unable to speak. Troublingly, the cancer may have been the result of radiation treatments that Small’s father gave him as a child. Here, Small writes about his family dynamics surrounding his illness and his eventual decision to leave home as a minor.
Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2009, and we’re confident that any book club that’s into historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy it. This novel is set in 1520s England and provides a fictional version of Thomas Cromwell’s life including his relationship with Henry VIII. If your book club loves reading about Tudor-era England and missed out on Wolf Hall a decade ago, it’s time to fix that!