Best Book Club Books

Finding a good book can be a challenge. With busy personal and professional lives, there's just no time to waste on books that are just okay. And if you are in a book club and have to read the month’s selection, then there's even more pressure for the book to be good. With seven years of book club meetings under my belt, there are a few standout books I'd recommend. 

Here are a few of my favorite book club books: 

Zorro by Isabel Allende

Amazon summary: A child of two worlds—the son of an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner and a Shoshone warrior woman—young Diego de la Vega cannot silently bear the brutal injustices visited upon the helpless in late-eighteenth-century California. And so a great hero is born—skilled in athleticism and dazzling swordplay, his persona formed between the Old World and the New—the legend known as Zorro.

Why this book? This novel gives life to the legend of Zorro. While I'd only seen the movie with Antonio Banderas, this book does a great job of looking at what California was like in the 1700s. It's a fascinating journey that keeps you interested till the end.

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

Amazon Summary: After the death of their parents, twins Alexander and Selene and younger brother Ptolemy are in a dangerous position, left to the mercy of their father's greatest rival, Octavian Caesar. However, Caesar does not kill them as expected, but takes the trio to Rome to be paraded as part of his triumphant return and to demonstrate his solidified power. As the twins adapt to life in Rome in the inner circle of Caesar's family, they grow into adulthood ensconced in a web of secrecy, intrigue and constant danger.

Why this book? Nobody does historical fiction about ancient Egypt and Rome quite like Michele Moran. I've reread this book several times, it's just that delicious. The story begins with the assault on Cleopatra and her family in Egypt, and follows her daughter as she is brought to Rome. Politics, intrigue and love converge in this book. It’s well paced and it's just fascinating to get a glimpse of what life is like in Ancient Rome.

When you are done with this book you can stick with this author to explore the worlds of Nefertiti and Madame Tussaud.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Amazon Summary: Set in Somersetshire and Bath, the novel revolves around the lives and love affair of Sir Walter Elliot, his daughters Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, and various in-laws, friends, suitors, and other characters. At the center of the novel is Anne's thwarted romance with Captain Frederick Wentworth, a navy man Anne met and fell in love with when she was 19. At the time, Wentworth was deemed an unsuitable match and Anne was forced to break off the relationship. Eight years later, however, they meet again.

Why this book? I'm not sure why Persuasion doesn't get as much hype as Austen’s other books because it's definitely a standout in my mind. I don't think I had ever read it prior to joining the Jane Austen book club (which was one of the first things I did when I moved to Sacramento seven years ago). But once I read it, it became an instant favorite. I find it much more relatable than some of Austen’s other books. Let's face it, young women in the 19th century England didn't have a lot of options or control over their own futures. So turning down multiple marriage offers kind of makes Anne Elliot a badass. This book was ahead of its time and it makes you fall in love with Austen all over again.

The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy

Summary from Amazon:  In the Irish town of  Schancarrig, the young people carve their initials--and  those of their loves-into the copper beech tree in  front of the schoolhouse. But not even Father  Gunn, the parish priest, who knows most of what goes  on behind Shancarrig's closed doors, or Dr. Jims,  the village doctor, who knows all the rest, realizes that not everything in the placid village is  what it seems.

Why this book? Binchy’s books immerse you into the lives of everyday people in small Irish towns. They don't follow a traditional story arc, rather they give you an inside glimpse into the lives of many people, each with their unique histories, personalities and paths. Those paths intersect in surprising ways, ways that will make you laugh and sometimes cry. They are beautifully done and are almost always a hit with the group.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Amazon Summary: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . .Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.

Why this book? What’s not to like about a cyborg fairy-tale? Meyer does a fantastic job taking the story of Cinderella and placing it in a  modern, technologically advanced world with lots of challenges for the central characters. This book kicks off a four-part series; with each sequential book features another fairy-tale-esque figure.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Amazon Summary:Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Why this book? Short, funny and centered around a young woman who wants an authentic Austen-like experience, Austenland is a must read for book clubs. Especially those book clubs founded on the books of Austen herself. And if you can’t be bothered to read the book, at least see the movie featuring Keri Russell and Jennifer Coolidge.