We don’t know about you, but our ideal summer book club plans involving basking in the sun, drinking cold rosé, and talking about our favorite new books. Join us, and kick off the season with one of these moving and unforgettable books.
If your book club isn’t already familiar with Roxane Gay (a bad feminist, Ina Garten fan, and brilliant essayist), this is a good place to start. Hunger is Gay’s memoir, an intimate and honest look at a her body: the way it is consumed by society, the control she took of it after a traumatic assault as a child, the balance she’s still finding with it today. Her experiences are both unique and universal, and even those who can’t relate personally to her tales will find themselves enraged at a society that polices women into smaller and smaller boxes. It’s raw, heartbreaking, and earnest. You won’t forget this book.
Most people think of cruises as a relaxing way to get away from their day-to-day lives, but in this thriller, a cruise vacation is anything but. The families of Liv and Nora board their cruise, excited at the prospect of enjoying good food and sunshine. But soon, things take a terrible turn. While ashore at one of the cruise ship’s stops in Central America, all four children go missing. This sends the parents into turmoil, and the children are forced to work together to get back to the families they love. Pro tip: If you’re going on a cruise anytime soon, you might want to pick a different book.
In this collection of linked stories, Catherynne M. Valente explores the common literary trope of fridging—harming or killing a female character to give agency or character development to her male counterpart. In a dark corner of the underworld, the Hell Hath Club meets. These “very beautiful and very well-read and very angry” women gather together to share the stories of how they died. Their lives were the price paid for a superhero’s growth. Each character is original, but comic book fans are sure to recognize the heroines who inspired them, such as Gwen Stacy. Book clubs eager for a feminist discussion of how female character are often treated as plot devices will find a lot to unpack here, and an obsession with comic books isn’t necessary to appreciate these powerful, fierce, and unforgettable characters.
Author Souad Mekhennet (who readers may know from her work for The Washington Post) takes readers to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa where she writes about jihadis and what drives them. The author herself is Muslim but was born and raised in Germany, and provides fascinating insight into the two cultures she knows so intimately. In a starred review, Kirkus wrote, “Little in this distressing, revealing book portends hope for bridge building, but Mekhennet provides an eye-opening picture.” This thought-provoking memoir will keep your book club up chatting late into the night.
Kit and Laura live in fear, every moment of every day. They’ve changed their names, moved, and keep inside as often as they can. The only exception to their low-profile, no-travel rules is expeditions to witness eclipses. The two share narration, slowly revealing to the reader the details of the night that would change their lives forever. They witnessed a rape and sent a man to prison. But their good deed had unimaginable consequences and twists that the reader will never see coming. If your club is looking for a taut psychological thriller, pick up Erin Kelly’s latest.
If your book club has already read and discussed Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but is dying to read something in a similar vein, then Gather the Daughters is the perfect book to pick for next month’s meeting. In it, readers will meet four young girls living on an island off the coast of the United States. There, they lead an isolated existence where they know that once they hit puberty, they will be married off and expected to start bearing children. The girls begin to hatch various plans to avoid this fate, and the reader will root for them on every page.
Book clubs who love interconnected stories will not want to miss out on Jodi Lynn Anderson’s latest, a tale that skillfully weaves a hint of sci-fi with historical fiction. The novel begins in the year 2065. Adri is preparing to leave Kansas and move to Mars, but her packing is put on hold when she finds the diary of a girl who lived in her home over 100 years ago. The diary connects Adri with two other women: Catherine and Lenore. Catherine lives in Oklahoma in 1943, and is captivated by a traveling professor who claims to possess the secret of immortality. Lenore lives in 1919 and is planning on leaving England to find a friend in America, in the hopes of putting memories of the war behind her. Readers will be pinned to their seats, turning pages until they find out the surprising ways that these three lives intersect.
Does your book club love comic books? Does it dabble in metafiction? If so, look no further than Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborgs, which is sure to be a unique but memorable choice. Two main storylines inhabit this novel: one concerns two friends living in Ohio, and the other takes place between several superheroes shooting the breeze about what it all means. This book changes gears quickly, and will keep readers on the edges of their seats as they zoom back and forth between our world and the realm of superheroes. Tell your book club to fasten their seatbelts: They’re in for a wild ride.