Home > Books & Things > Eternal Favourites for Book Clubs

Eternal Favourites for Book Clubs

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Book Clubs Reading Groups Reading Clubs

A book club is not only dependent on the participation of its members but also on the strength of its reading list. So choosing the right books for your reading group is crucial. Naturally, this will be dictated partly by the tastes of the members, especially if there is any leaning towards a particular genre. Nevertheless, there are certain titles that become book club favourites again and again, in several reading groups across the country.

What makes a book club favourite?

People’s tastes in books understandably vary and reading is a very subjective experience, therefore it can be difficult to come to a consensus on the “best books of all time.” From the point of view of book clubs however, there are certain characteristics that define the ‘best’ reading club books. These are books that are interesting to a wide range of readers, are easily available, ideally not too long and – most importantly, spark a lot of discussion.

Since discussion meetings are at the heart of every book club, a novel that is easy to discuss and generates a lot of discussion is a top pick. It’s important to remember that not everyone has to love the book – in fact, if opinions are divided, so much the better! A book that polarises a group will generate much livelier discussion than one which everyone loves and agrees on. A controversial book with no middle ground is ideal – everyone will either hate or love it and will have something to say about it. If members really liked – or disliked – the characters, setting, themes, style of writing or voice, they can raise this in the discussions while using examples from the book to support or explain their views. In fact, many a book club member has admitted having an enjoyable discussion about a book they absolutely loathed!

Another good type of book would be one so rich with different layers that different members would get different things from the book. This again will keep everyone engaged in conversation during meetings as members discover other aspects to the book they had not seen, through their fellow reading group member’s eyes, thus giving everyone lots of food for thought.

All-time favourites

If you are just starting out and are unsure what titles to put on your reading group’s book list – or you are looking for new additions to the existing list – you could do worse than to check out some “all-time book club favourites”. Where do you find these? Well, there no one definitive list but there are many sources which provide good shorlists of the top recommendations by and for book clubs. The Amazon website, for example, has a section devoted to book clubs which not only lists new releases and popular picks but even suggestions for other related titles based on a book you like, as well as lists of ‘best books’ grouped by theme.

Your local library can be another great source of book club favourites. Libraries often feature “top 10” lists on display or may have notice boards providing this sort of information. If in doubt, a quick look through the classics may give you inspiration – after all, they are known as “classics” for a reason. Their stories, characters and writing have stood the test of time and a wide readership. In fact, in a recent poll of 125 of the world’s most celebrated writers for their individual Top 10 lists, the final list derived from all their choices combined was strongly dominated by ‘classics’:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  • The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

A similar exercise could be done in a book club by asking each member to come up with their Top 10 list and then creating a group list which combined the common elements of all the members’ lists. This would not only be a diplomatic method but would also hopefully provide variety as it makes the most of the members’ diverse tastes and experience.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Sid
    Re: Reading Crime and Mystery
    Dear All, I hope that you are well. Just wondered please if you might take a look at one of my latest novels, now available on…
    17 April 2021
  • Rache
    Re: Book Clubs at Work
    I have just started a book group for people with Mental health problems. We are currently expecting participants to buy their own Books but as…
    24 March 2021
  • Akito da Dancer
    Re: The Top Ten Famous Authors
    20 November 2020
  • Rona
    Re: Ten Tips for a Successful Book Club
    Does anyone here who would like to donate books in the Philippines? please let me know
    10 October 2020
  • Carol
    Re: Book Club Rules and Standards
    I need advise please. Is the below statement correct, the lady that runs our BC says it is. But l can find no where that proves…
    30 July 2020
  • igor
    Re: The Top Ten Famous Authors
    This list is so anglo centric as to be laughable. The remarks that accompany their names are less than informative; consider Ayn…
    26 July 2020
  • kennyJ
    Re: Book Clubs for Teenagers
    Hi, I am also looking for a online virtual book club, which my son can participate (like zoom etc), is there any out there?
    11 July 2020
  • Someone
    Re: The Top Ten Famous Authors
    Is this suitable for children? - I don’t think so . . .
    30 June 2020
  • Percy Fan (Duh)
    Re: The Top Ten Famous Authors
    Hold on a sec! Where on earth is RICK RIORDON !!???? Have no one here has read his books? Percy Jackson? Magnus Chase? Carter? woah…
    24 June 2020
  • Ajay Kumar
    Re: The Top Ten Famous Authors
    Hi i have done so many Television Shows and films i have articles of news. Can anyone help me to wrote article on wikipedia
    13 May 2020