35 of the best book club books featured

35 of the Best Book Club Books You’ll Read This Year

How do you choose your book club books? At IBR, we think it's time for you to go indie! This all-indie reading list features romance books, mysteries, literary fiction, and more.

35 of the Best Book Club Books You’ll Read This Year

by Toni Woodruff & the IBR Staff

35 of the best book club books

How do you pick which books to read for your book club?

Every book club is different. When you Google “book club books,” you’re hit with a ton of options. Buzzworthy new releases. Popular “it” books of the season. Literary fiction, romance, mystery, the list goes on. While they may be wide-ranging, they all have on goal in common: to get your members talking.

Are you looking for something new for your next book club meeting?

Sometimes the best way to have a conversation is to broaden the conversation with unexpected book club books. That’s where indies come in!

Indie presses and indie authors publish amazing books for book clubs every year, but you may not hear about them. They don’t have the same marketing opportunities (budget especially). When you go into your local bookstore, you’re seeing mostly the books from the same five publishers or their imprints.

So let’s step outside the big five business model, shall we?

For your next book club meeting, read indie!

Support an indie author by having everyone in your book club buy a copy or request it from your library. Because these indie authors aren’t usually inundated with Good Morning America requests, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance you could have a Zoom meeting with the author too, if that’s your thing.

It’s important to pick a well-balanced reading diet for your book club books. Because of this, I’ve separated this post into my 5 favorite genres to read in with book clubs: Romance, literary fiction, nonfiction, mystery thrillers, and historical fiction. Pick one, pick multiple, pick them all. You’ll have a plethora of book club questions to discuss with this all-indie book list.

Now introducing: the best book club books you’ll read this year!

romance books

1. These Wicked Deeds

These Wicked Deeds by Sophia Luxe is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The spicy one

Author: Sophia Luxe

Genre: Romance / Billionaire

ISBN: 9798394839719

Print Length: 285

I can think of no better place to start than the sexiest book on this list. I don’t know you and your group, but I know mine. And we LOVE the sexy ones. There’s something so fun about being able to talk about stuff like this in person. This romance will go over well with those who liked 50 Shades: a rich guy who gets kinky.

In her STARRED review, IBR’s Melissa Suggitt calls it, “A wickedly sensual and tantalizing tale of danger, destruction, domination, and desire.”

2. Mid-Flight

The one that feels real

Author: Lisa Wilkes

Genre: Science Fiction / Romance

ISBN: 9781487436506

Print Length: 286 pages

Publisher: Extasy Books

Looking for something with a ton of great discussion topics AND a realistic romance?

Mid-Flight is set in the near future, shortly after a meteor landed and brought a dangerous pathogen. The president is going power-crazy and catering to antidote-resistant citizens, and it’s all enraging.

In her STARRED review, Andrea Marks-Joseph says, “These are difficult topics, but Wilkes handles them with grace and wisdom, and a visceral, true understanding of human nature.

“And the romance is top notch! Lexi and Jason’s relationship is one of my all-time favorites. It doesn’t feel made up for pure daydream fiction (though I am a huge fan of that type of love story, too!), but instead reads like a real, living romance. They feel like a couple I know and would love taking down the establishment with.” 

3. Lady August

The steamy Regency one

Author: Becky Michaels

Genre: Historical / Romance

Print Length: 310 pages

ISBN: 9781735140131

Are you & your members still swooning over Bridgerton season one? Lady August brings back all the sexy feels you missed in season two (🙄).

“[Becky Michaels] throws August and Brooks into the titillating misunderstandings and blunders of first love, taking us on a ride of many ups and downs. Michaels knows why we’ve come, and she doesn’t disappoint.” – Madeline Barbush, Independent Book Review

4. The Sweet Shrub Inn

The sweet one

Author: Hilah Roscoe

Genre: Romance / Southern

ISBN: 9781639882045

Print Length: 312 pages

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

The Sweet Shrub Inn is the kind of story every Hallmark fan could get into,” starts Alexandria Ducksworth’s glowing review of this charming small-town romance.

Our female lead returns home, takes over her father’s inn, and who shows up? Her old crush! A sweet Southern setting, a wholesome romance: “Readers who follow Debbie Macomber and Susan Mallery should get to know Hilah Roscoe.”

5. Native Love Jams

The foodie one

Author: Tashia Hart

Genre: Romance / Multicultural

ISBN: 9781735345307

Print Length: 155 pages

This short enemies-to-lovers romance is great for groups who like talking about love and pairing their discussion with food. Lighthearted, spicy, AND sweet! It’s a delectable treat that takes place around a first Indigenous Food Days festival.

6. Pearls on a String

The heartwarming one

Author: Jane Merling

Genre: Historical / Romance

ISBN: 9781778088780

Print Length: 266 pages

Publisher: BayMar Press

Voted as the best book she read in 2022, IBR reviewer Tomi Alo calls Pearls on a String, “a sweet and exciting historical fiction filled with love, strength, courage, tragedy, and humor.” It features a romance, but it also does a great job of immersing us in the progressive 1980s and talking about family.

7. The Song of the Fae

The fantasy one

Author: E.H. Jahr

Genre: Fantasy / Romance

ISBN: 9781952897313

Print Length: 278 pages

It really is important to keep your book club members on their toes. That’s why I like switching up genres and expanding horizons. One way to do that? With “a sizzling love story with a shocking secret” in a fantasy world! – Lisa Parker Hayreh, Independent Book Review

What’s the key to a great book club meeting? Ask the best book club questions!

literary fiction books

8. The Deeper The Water The Uglier the Fish

“The best one I’ve ever read.”

Author: Katya Apekina

Genre: Literary / Family Fiction

ISBN: 9781937512750

Print Length: 353 pages

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Literary fiction books are the ones that show you the world and make you think. From small intimate stories to wide-sweeping global ones, they offer excellent fodder for book club conversations. And what better place to start than this absolute STUNNER?

“I have never read a book better than The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish. My head was in a tizzy from the fast-paced, snippet style of storytelling and the whirlwind of a story surrounding a manipulative father and the sisters and mother wrapped up in his toxic magnetic field.” – Joe Walters, Independent Book Review

9. You’ll Be Fine

The drama one

Author: Jen Michalski

Genre: Contemporary / LGBTQ

ISBN: 9781648903106

Print Length: 344 pages

Publisher: NineStar Press

Family stories make for such great talk! There are so many opportunities for group members to step into the shoes of the characters and live a different life for a while. This “gay dramedy” is “amusing and heartwarming, and while the characters might be failures, their redeeming qualities shine bright and loud.  The reader leaves the novel loving them all, and genuinely wishing the best for them.” – Alexandra Barbush, Independent Book Review 

10. Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun

The hot-topic one

Author: Jeff Chon

Genre: Literary / Political

ISBN: 9781952386022

Print Length: 258 pages

Publisher: Sagging Meniscus Press

Is your group ready to talk about gun violence in America? You’ve got options, but none quite as mindbending as this one. It tackles conspiracy theories, masculinity, the news cycle, and it does it with humor and rapid-fire storytelling. If your group is political and down to talk about the 2016 election (again), take a chance on this hauntingly real fever-dream of a story. More from our STARRED REVIEW.

11. I Will Die in a Foreign Land

I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The one about Ukraine & Russia

Author: Kalani Pickhart

Genre: Literary / War

ISBN: 9781953387301

Print Length: 320 pages

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

When people gather, they talk about what’s going on in their lives, in the world, on the news, and the internet. But the news can only cover so much. Immerse yourself in this “raw and emotional” novel about the Ukraine-Russia conflict in 2014, and you’ll have fodder for conversation about the impacts of today.

“Pickhart does what the media couldn’t: she puts names and faces to the stories of violent conflict.  She reminds the reader that every journalist who disappeared is your friend who loudly states their opinion, that every mother is a woman with a backstory of love and life and pain before she moved into her new role.” – Alexandra Barbush, Independent Book Review

12. What Storm, What Thunder

The one with the beautiful prose

Author: Myriam J.A. Chancy

Genre: Literary / Natural Disaster

Print Length: 336 pages

ISBN: 9781953534385

Publisher: Tin House Books

Call me a nerd, but I’m an absolute sucker for beautiful sentences. And this one has it in droves! If your group also loves the little intricacies of storytelling, What Storm, What Thunder is an awesome choice. It’s about a very real (& recent) earthquake in Haiti, and IBR founder Joe Walters chose it as one of the best books he read in 2021.

13. Mothers of Pine Way

The gossipy one

Author: Corrine Ardoin

Genre: Contemporary / Small Town

Print Length: 230 pages

ISBN: 9781684336838

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

“Reading Corrine Ardoin’s work is like peering inside a box that’s been locked and hidden away: both curious and hesitant to learn what it might disclose.”

Book clubs and small town fiction go well together. There’s something so real in talking about the lives of more than one person. In this case, it’s a collection of mothers.

In this review, Samantha Hui says, “Sometimes feeling engagingly invasive, this novel is about gossip and family history told in the style of gossip and family history. Corrine Ardoin’s storytelling displays a complicated love for small towns, one that has us leaning in, anxious to hear more.”

14. Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go

Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go by Cleo Qian is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The one about the modern world

Author: Cleo Qian

Genre: Short Stories / Asian & Asian American

ISBN: 9781953534927

Print Length: 256 pages

Publisher: Tin House Books

Cleo Qian is a scintillating new voice in modern fiction. Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go breaks through the digital void with surrealism and supernatural karaoke machines to spark an abundance of book club conversations that center around our world and its intriguing protagonists.

15. No God Like the Mother

The one about womanhood

Author: Kesha Ajọsẹ-Fisher

Genre: Short Stories / Black & African American

ISBN: 9781942436553

Print Length: 168 pages

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

No God Like the Mother by Kesha Ajọsẹ-Fisher is a story collection that explores pivotal moments in the lives of women and girls. Though the settings and details of the stories vary widely, from naive young girls in Nigeria to grieving mothers in Portland, each one functions as a glimpse of the defining moment of a person’s life story.

In all, No God Like the Mother is a quietly devastating and frank look at the interplay between hope and grief that is experienced by someone whose body can produce life. It is also about the way others throughout the world have historically reacted to that ability with fear, desire, shame, or a combination of those and more.

-Erica Ball, Independent Book Review (STARRED)

16. Peach Pit

The unsavory one

Editors: Molly Llewellyn & Kristel Buckley

Genre: Short Stories / Women

ISBN: 9781942436553

Print Length: 168 pages

Publisher: Dzanc Books

This short story anthology is about badass women doing badass things, and it offers a number of great conversations about being a woman in the world, from a variety of perspectives. You’ll be hard-pressed to find book club members who didn’t have a strong visceral reaction to multiple stories.

Hey, wait! Have you seen our list of great book club gifts yet?

Nonfiction books header

17. The Unfurling Frond

The one about becoming

Author: Rebecca Beardsall

Genre: Memoir

ISBN: 9781639889556

Print Length: 254 pages

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Sometimes real-life stories require some inventive structuring. The Unfurling Frond is “composed of essays, vignettes, poems, photographs, and other experimental forms. It explores a central theme of seeking (for someone, something, somewhere)…”

In her STARRED review, Erin Britton says, “Rich in love for both people and place, The Unfurling Frond is an insightful exploration of the self, with Beardsall elucidating both the formation of her own self and the impacts she has had on the selves of others. Whether describing major events or minor details, she does so with verse and insight, ultimately forming a memoir of unusual format and exceptional impact.”

18. The Reluctant RV Wife

The Reluctant RV Wife by Gerri Almand is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The traveling one

Author: Gerri Almand

Genre: Memoir / Travel

ISBN: 9781620061473

Print Length: 244 pages

Publisher: Brown Posey Press (Sunbury Press)

Get ready to hit the road with laughter and a charming wife for two years of reluctant RV travel. Gerri Almand’s excited husband has been looking forward to spending their retirement on the road, while she’d rather tend to her garden at home. And yet…

I love this book club book for the humor and relatable nature alone. I dare you to get out of this book club meeting without laughing at your own spouses and feeling inspired to travel more.

19. Unsinkable

Unsinkable by Alan Corcoran is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The inspirational one

Author: Alan Corcoran

ISBN: 9781838365028

Print Length: 316 pages

Sometimes we need a reminder that we can do amazing things. After losing his father to cancer, Alan Corcoran raises money for charity by swimming the length of Ireland. Unsinkable is a funny, inspirational, and uplifting book club book for anyone struggling with grief or just looking for a pick-me-up after reading a few sad stories in a row.

20. Forgiveness

The loving one

Author: M. Lori Torok

Genre: Self-Help / Spirituality

Print Length: 274 pages

ISBN: 9798988105701

I love talking about stories in book clubs, but I love intermixing self-help and practical nonfiction even more. What’s more relatable than the topic of forgiveness? I haven’t yet met a person who is always willing to forgive. Get talking about real issues and real solutions with M. Lori Torok’s Forgiveness.

“It can take years to heal and grow from their emotional & spiritual wounds. Forgiveness is one of those books that put newfound knowledge and strategies to the test with exercises. With action, the real healing process begins.” – Alexandria Ducksworth, Independent Book Review

21. Wife | Daughter | Self

The artful one

Author: Beth Kephart

Genre: Essays / Women

Print Length: 274 pages

ISBN: 9781942436447

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

I flew through this artful memoir in a matter of days. Kephart uses such lovely language and is precise and evocative when she talks about the various stages of womanhood. Chosen as one of our Impressive Indie Press Books of 2021!

22. The Comfort of Crows

The Comfrot of Crows by Margaret Renkl is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The nature one

Author: Margaret Renkl

Genre: Essays / Nature

Print Length: 288 pages

ISBN: 9781954118461

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

If you haven’t read Margaret Renkl’s nature writing yet, don’t even read the rest of this description. Buy this book!

I was blown away by Late Migrations, one of her previous indie bestsellers. She tells intimate, engaging little stories (often only a couple pages long) about the nature around her and us in such poetic, personal ways. My favorite parts about that book surrounded the wildlife in her backyard (especially birds!), so imagine my excitement when I first saw this cover & subtitle.

Her brother even does the art & illustrations, so there’s another topic of conversation right there: how incredible is this brother-sister duo!?

Give your members an activity with this book! Tell them to sit outside to read it. (In the right season of course!) Reading this would be an excellent way for all of you to develop a deeper connection with the world around you together.

23. Dreaming in Chinese

The one about resilience

Author: William Tsung

Genre: Asian & Asian American / Prison

Print Length: 248 pages

ISBN: 9798987452707

For those book clubs drawn to conversations about social justice, Dreaming in Chinese is a real conversation starter. There is a LOT to talk about with this book.

Read about a Taiwanese prison and “challenge [your] understanding of fair punishment [in a ] corrupt system that benefits from prisoners’ forced labor… It’s a condemnation of a system designed to see and even benefit from under-resourced people failing.” – Samantha Hui, Independent Book Review (STARRED)  

24. Laugh Cry Rewind

The funny, sad one

Author: Judy Haveson

Genre: Memoir / Family Life

Print Length: 298 pages

ISBN: 9798986624914

Break out the tissues! This one’s a heartbreaker. But it’s also overflowing with love, humor, and family. The author loses her sister to cancer at just 19, and you feel every bit of the emotion of the loss, but surprisingly, the author leans more toward uplifting than miserable. It’s fascinating to see Haveson’s ability to tell a sad story with such poignant care.

“I haven’t read a memoir that explores existence in quite the same way as this one… The Havesons are the type of people who would be inspiring simply by being themselves.” – Joelene Pynnonen, Independent Book Review 

mystery and thriller books

25. What Happens In…

The sexy one

Author: Steffanie Moyers

Genre: Thriller / Serial Killer

Print Length: 274 pages

ISBN: 9798433557956

Not all sexy books belong in the romance section!

This white-hot thriller is on the trail of a serial killer in seedy Las Vegas. It features multiple lust-interests, an abundance of hot sex scenes, and so many thrills. Get ready to blush and feel goosebumps in that order, because What Happens In… is “one of the best books I have read in a while.” – Jaylynn Korrell, Independent Book Review

26. Like & Subscribe for Murder

Like and Subscribe for Murder by Elle Kleos is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The one on vacation

Author: Elle Kleos

Genre: Detective Fiction / LGBTQ+

Print Length: 356 pages

ISBN: 9798422173631

Andrea Marks-Joseph, in her Best Books of 2022 round-up, says, “Imagine HBO’s The White Lotus as more focused on the murder, just as horny but way more queer, heavier on the ‘eat the rich’ energy, and depicting actual solidarity with its local hotel staff…Elle Kleos nails the absurdity of wealth and the traditions of the rich, alongside the ridiculously serious business of an influencer’s lifestyle.”

Take a trip to a beautiful location with a book club book like this one. And maybe watch White Lotus as a companion piece (I vote season two!).

27. With One Stone

The debut one

Author: Mark Jenkins

Genre: Thriller / Psychological

Print Length: 324 pages

ISBN: 9798391809234

Nina Travers was once a bestselling author of psychological thrillers. Now she finds herself living in one. When her competitors start succumbing to “accidental” deaths, Nina begins to worry that she is to blame…or that she is next.

Lindsay Crandall of IBR calls this, “A fantastic debut…[Jenkins’] attention to detail is remarkable.” There are so many secrets to unfold in this book that your members’ heads will be spinning by the time they get to your house.

28. Echo from a Bayou

The what-would-you-do one

Author: J. Luke Bennecke

Genre: Thriller / Paranormal

Print Length: 418 pages

ISBN: 9780965771559

I love putting my book club members in the shoes of the protagonist! And this one is a little paranormal, super fun, and amazingly paced. It’s not every day you get a second chance to live AND a first chance to catch the person who killed you.

In her STARRED review, Joelene Pynnonen calls it, “Thoroughly entertaining! Murder, mayhem, adventure, and another chance at stolen love. Echo From a Bayou starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. There are a number of unanswered questions introduced right from the outset, and from there, the pages just breeze by.”

29. Witch Window

The snowy one

Author: Phil Bayly

Genre: Murder Mystery

Print Length: 336 pages

ISBN: 9781605716343

We’ve already been to the beach. Why not hit the slopes?

Witch Window is “a gripping mystery set in a stunning Vermont landscape.” Murder mysteries are always a big hit as book club books, and this one keeps shifting focus when you think have the mystery solved. Lindsay Crandall highly recommends Witch Window to any nature-loving mystery enthusiast in her review.

30. Ghosts of You

The inventive one

Author: Cathy Ulrich

Genre: Short Stories / Crime

Print Length: 200 pages

ISBN: 9781733244107

Publisher: Okay Donkey Books

I couldn’t get out of this section without mentioning Ghosts of You! This book flips crime fiction on its head and investigates the murder mystery genre by starting each story in the collection with a variation of, ““The thing about being the murdered [woman] is you set the plot in motion.” The word “woman” here is substituted with the nickname that you might find as the headline on your local newspaper: “The Murdered Lover,” “The Murdered Homecoming Queen,” “The Murdered Detective.” 

But they don’t ever mention the killer! Each story belongs to the murdered woman. It’s about life, not death. And it’s beautiful! In his review, Joe Walters says, “fans of literary fiction and murder mysteries have met their match.”

31. The Living Is Easy

The Living Is Easy by Dorothy West is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The one with the antihero

Author: Dorothy West

Genre: Historical / Black & African American

Print Length: 368 pages

ISBN: 9781936932979

Publisher: Feminist Press

The Living is Easy is an intimate, witty account of a shockingly unlikeable protagonist, Cleo, and her very lovable but victimized family. Cleo is a stunning, egotistical young woman who grew up in the countryside, but is sent to Boston when she is old enough because her mother worries her voraciousness is too much for the countryside. Cleo plots and plans until she can get all her sisters and their children, without their husbands, living under her roof. 

Cleo is a fascinating character study and a gateway to talk about our own shortcomings, privileges, and interactions with the world. She’s an unforgettable antihero in 1940s Boston, and although we don’t have to like her, we still should try to understand her. 

-Rosa Kumar, Independent Book Review

32. 1836: A Year of Escape

The adventurous one

Author: Rose Osterman Kleidon

Genre: Historical Fiction / Family

Print Length: 308 pages

ISBN: 9781632996107

Publisher: River Grove Books (Greenleaf Book Group)

While an entertaining adventure all in its own right, 1836 is also inspired by the author’s very own genealogical research into her own family. Talk about a good excuse to get your ancestry DNA done while reading a damn good book!

“It describes the Kästner family’s travels from Prussia to the Port of New Orleans [and] includes everything you could want in historical fiction—engaging characters, brisk action, compelling drama, and historical facts that are totally integrated into the narrative.” – Kathy L. Brown, Independent Book Review

33. Signed, a Paddy

The Irish one

Author: Lisa Boyle

Genre: Historical / Women’s

ISBN: 9781736607718

Print Length: 410 pages

After surviving the potato famine in Ireland, Rosaleen MacNamara leaves for the United States to start a new life. In addition to utilizing real events and historical figures from the mid-1800s, author Lisa Boyle tells this moving tale in a modern light. 

Having experienced injustice in her own country, she follows her burning desire to make a change; this change, she believes, is in The Land of the Free. But soon, she finds out America has its own injustices, and, after becoming quite close to one woman of color in particular, she decides she has to take action to fight against what she knows to be unjust. 

-Madeline Barbush, Independent Book Review

34. The Boy in the Rain

The English one

Author: Stephanie Cowell

Genre: Historical / LGBTQ

ISBN: 9781646033492

Print Length: 310 pages

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

From the English countryside to a vivid London art world, this historically rich LGBTQ novel tells a captivating story set in the Edwardian era, where homosexual acts get men sent to prison. But Robbie and Anton keep getting closer…

35. Gathering Storm

Gathering Storm by Sherilyn Decter is one of the best book club books you'll read this year

The moonshining one

Author: Sherilyn Decter

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Crime

ISBN: 9781777127718

Print Length: 432 pages

This series is so good! This first book follows an incredible leading lady who, after the death of her moonshine-king husband, takes up the family business by traveling down to Florida to start her own speakeasy.

“This is not just a story of prohibition in America, it’s a story of womanhood and strength. The feeling one is left with when closing A Gathering Storm is one of steely determination and hope. Those who are looking for a female-led historical fiction with a backbone of steel, this book is for you.” – Steph Huddleston, Independent Book Review

Which books have sparked the best discussions for your group? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading Toni Woodruff’s 35 of the Best Book Club Books You’ll Read This Year! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

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