I’ve lost count of the number of great things to come out of my time with my friend Jessi at the Front Room Studio, but one of them is my book club.
I started hosting a monthly book club because we had the space, the time, and the desire to talk books with fellow readers. No longer being in a school building meant I wasn’t sharing YA books with students or talking about our current reads at department meetings. For years, I’ve shared book reviews online in one form or another, but I wanted to talk about books with people face-to-face.
Enter: a book club
Eventually, we closed the Front Room Studio, but the book club just moved. We met at the library. We met on Zoom. We met at a local coffee shop. We finally made our way to a nearby Mexican restaurant and that’s where we’ve been for over a year. Chips and salsa and books, what more could you want?
I used to share our book club lists and invite anyone local to join us. I’d post them on my blog and share them on social media. We’ve settled into a constant small group and aren’t looking to grow or add people now, but people have still expressed interest in our lists. As a reader who will never not listen to a book recommendation even if I have shelves of unread books waiting to be read at home, I love to see what other people are reading. I even know of a few people who aren’t local who love to read along with our lists, just because it’s fun.
Maybe that’s you. Or maybe not, go ahead and move along. For those interested, I’m sharing our past and present book club lists here.
A few things before we get into the lists:
– I’ve evolved in my creation of these lists. The first one (2018) was just a random collection of books Jessi and I had on our shelves that we wanted to read. I learned that wasn’t the best way to compile a list.
– I’ve become intentional about including BIPOC authors and worked to include storylines a little less mainstream.
– Because I do this for work, I’m aware of which months are dedicated to celebrating certain people groups (May is Asian American Heritage Month, November is Native American Heritage Month, etc.). I’ve tried to select titles to honor those months when I can.
– Last year (?) I began asking fellow book club members for suggestions as well. It took some of the pressure off me, especially when a book didn’t go over well. Now every November, everyone brings at least one book suggestion for next year. Because we are all book lovers, everyone typically bring 3-5 books, and I’m tasked with narrowing it down. This is a job I love. (People suggest books they haven’t read or ones they’ve read and loved—there’s no rules.)
– In December, we each bring a wrapped book for a little gift exchange, and I share the reading list for the following year. As we sat around the table last month, we decided that 2023 would be a year of romance and mystery fiction. We’ve never declared a theme or goal like that, but 2022 seemed to be filled with heavier non-fiction and we’d like a reset. You’ll see that reflected in the 2023 list.
– I’m sharing our complete lists with no commentary on the books. Some of them we liked. Some of them we did not. Some of them we disagreed on. Some of us (all of us) have skipped a book once or twice. Occasionally you just have to show up to book club for the chips and salsa. Life happens and sometimes a book does not. No one cares, even though we will do a little bit of book shaming to kick off the meeting just for funsies. We don’t all have the same religious or political affiliations, so that leads to interesting and thoughtful conversations. If you’re looking to start a book club, I highly recommend people outside your immediate circle.
Okay, I think that’s it. Please enjoy these book club lists. Steal them and use them for your own club. Pick and choose a few that sound interesting. Read along at home with our current one and tell me what you think when I post the review on Instagram. Do whatever your little heart desires. I just hope you’re reading books, good books that stretch your heart and mind and world.
(I was going to link all of these to my Amazon store, but the amount of work that would take for, maybe, $3 of income is just not worth it. Obviously. You buy them from your favorite bookseller. Good luck.)
January: Educated by Tara Westover
February: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
March: Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
April: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
May: The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
June: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
July: $2 a Day by Kathryn Edin & Luke Shaefer
August: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
September: Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs
October: Shopgirl by Steve Martin
November: Shrill by Lindy West
December: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
January: Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image by Hillary L. McBride
February: Wilder Girls by Rory Power
March: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
April: Boy Toy by Barry Lygo
May: Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan
June: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
July: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
August: Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
September: Rabbit by Patricia Williams
October: Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand
November: Gather the Daughters by Jennie M
December: Anxious People by Frederick Backman
January: Lake Life by David James
February: Kindred by Octavio Butler
March: The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
April: The Lowland by Jhumpa L
May: Blessed Monsters by Emily A. Duncan
June: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
July: Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley Ford
August: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark L
September: Washington Black by Esi E
October: American Fire by Monica
November: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
December: The Inexplicable… by Benjamine A
January: Naked by David Sedaris
February: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
March: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
April: Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans
May: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
June: The Push by Ashley Audrain
July: The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
August: What Is a Girl Worth? by Rachel Denhollander
September: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
October: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
November: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
December: The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel
And here’s what we’re reading next year.
January: Start With Hello by Shannan Martin
February: Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney
March: We Should Hang Out Sometime by John Sundquist
April: All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
May: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
June: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
July: Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
August: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
September: This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
October: The Resting Place by Camilla Sten
November: Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
December: Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
I’m confident you can find your next good read from this list. If you want my opinion on most of the past selections, you can find them on Instagram: @themarygrahamreads.