The best book club books to discuss and debate

Discover our edit of the best book club books, guaranteed to spark thoughts and opinions from everyone around the table. 

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when choosing a new book for yourself, let alone for a book club; the added challenge of trying to appease a wide range of tastes can make it a real headache. That's why we've collected our favourite book club reads, including both new releases and literary masterpieces, all of which provide multiple angles for group discussion and healthy (or not!) debate. 


by Sarah May

Book cover for Becky

Determined to get away from her dead-end hometown, Becky Sharp sets out to make a place for herself in high society and reach the top of the career ladder – no matter who she has to step on to get there. Following a very modern heroine through 90s tabloid era London, Becky charts the rise and fall of Sarah May's titular protagonist as she rises through the ranks at Mercury newspaper. Scoop after scoop, Becky's downfall looms as she becomes more and more involved in every scandal the newspaper publishes. Inspired by the classic Vanity Fair, Becky Sharp is a morally grey character to provide plenty of food for thought. 


by Hernan Diaz

Book cover for Trust

Winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Trust is undoubtedly one of the novels of the year. Everyone in 1920s New York knows of Benjamin and Helen Rask, the Wall Street tycoon and the daughter of bohemian aristocrats. They live in a sphere of untold wealth, but what is the true cost of their fortune? This mystery sits at the heart of a bestselling novel that all of New York has read. But, like all stories, there are different perspectives. Hernan Diaz tracks these narratives across a century and documents the truth-bending power of money, with provocative revelations at each turn.

The Maiden

by Kate Foster

Book cover for The Maiden

The Maiden is a remarkable story with a feminist revisionist twist, giving a voice to women otherwise silenced by history. Edinburgh, 1679: Lady Christian is charged with the murder of her lover, James Forrester. News of her imprisonment and subsequent trial is splashed across the broadsides, with headlines that leave little room for doubt: Adulteress. Whore. Murderess. Only a year before, Lady Christian was newly married, leading a life of privilege and respectability. So, what led her to risk everything for an affair? And does that make her guilty of murder? 

Once a Monster

by Robert Dinsdale

Book cover for Once a Monster

Victorian London is brought to life as Robert Dinsdale expertly blends historical writing with ancient myth. Ten-year-old orphan Nell belongs to a crew of mudlarks who work a stretch of the Thames. She spends her days searching for treasure in the mud in order to appease her master, Benjamin Murdstone. That is until she finds a body on the shore – a seven-foot matted creature with horns. As she ventures closer the figure draws breath and Nell is forced to make a decision which will change her life forever. This imaginative retelling of the Minotaur transcends genre, making it the perfect book club read. 

The Centre

by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

Book cover for The Centre

This is the ultimate book with twists to get everyone talking. Anisa spends her days writing subtitles for Bollywood films in her London flat, longing to be a translator of literature. Her boyfriend, Adam, on the other hand, has an extraordinary aptitude for language - or so Anisa thinks. After learning to speak Urdu practically overnight, Adam reveals his secret - the Centre: an elite programme that guarantees fluency in any language in just ten days. But when Anisa enrols and is quickly seduced by all that it's made possible, she soon realizes the disturbing, hidden cost of its services.

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

by Maddie Mortimer

Book cover for Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Something is on the move in Lia's body: something shape-shifting, gleeful and malevolent. And it's spreading... When a sudden diagnosis changes Lia's world, the gap between her past and her present starts to crumble. Secrets awake within her, and the outer landscape blends with that within. And Lia and her family must face the most difficult of questions: how do you die with style, when you're just not ready to go? Utterly heart-breaking yet darkly funny, Maddie Mortimer’s debut is a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a celebration of desire, forgiveness, and the darkness within us all.

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

by Lizzie Pook

Book cover for Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

It's 1886, and the Brightwell family has just arrived at Bannin Bay in Western Australia after a long sea voyage from England. Ten-year-old Eliza has been promised bright pearls, shells like soup plates and good fortunes in a new land. Ten years later, and Eliza's father Charles Brightwell is the most successful pearler on the bay. When he goes missing from his boat at sea, rumours of mutiny and murder swirl across the bay. But Eliza refuses to believe that her father is dead and, in a town mired in corruption, she sets out to find the truth.


by Julia May Jonas

Book cover for Vladimir

A bold, razor-sharp and timely debut, Julia May Jonas' Vladimir takes us deep into the emotional conflict between the strictures of morality and the impulses of the heart. The book's unnamed narrator: a popular English professor whose husband is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. When the narrator then becomes infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their relationship comes close to capsizing. An edgy and assured literary debut, mapping the personal and political battlefields of our current moment.

The Lamplighters

by Emma Stonex

Book cover for The Lamplighters

A BBC Radio 2 Book Club recommendation and a Sunday Times bestseller, The Lamplighters is a mystery, a love story and a ghost story all at once. Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week. What happened to the three men, out on the tower? Twenty years later, the women they left behind have been driven apart by the tragedy. Still struggling to move on, Helen, Jenny and Michelle are approached by a writer who wants to know their side of the story. But by confronting the past, dark fears and hidden truths begin to surface. Inspired by real events, Emma Stonex weaves a suspenseful mystery with an unforgettable story of love and grief.

The Cat Who Saved Books

by Sosuke Natsukawa

Book cover for The Cat Who Saved Books

The Cat Who Saved Books follows Rintaro as he struggles to keep his grandfather's tiny secondhand bookshop open after his death. When it appears that there's no choice but to close the shop, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks for Rintaro's help. Only a true book lover like Rintaro is suitable to join Tiger on his mission. Together, this strange duo will go on three adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned or mistreated them. A heart-warming story about courage and caring for others, Sosuke Natsukawa's tale will resonate with anyone who appreciates the power of books. 

The Attic Child

by Lola Jaye

Book cover for The Attic Child

It's 1907, and twelve-year-old Celestine spends nearly all his time locked in an attic in a big house overlooking the sea. He dreams of his family in Africa, though as the years pass he begins to forget what his mother looks like, and what his real name is. Decades later, and Lowra is a young orphan  born to privilege and wealth. Finding herself banished to the same attic, she finds some curious artefacts under the floorboards. It is a strange comfort to her to realise she was not the first child to be imprisoned here . . .

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Book club questions and conversation starters for The Attic Child

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She Who Became The Sun

by Shelley Parker-Chan

Book cover for She Who Became The Sun

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream?

The Prince of the Skies

by Antonio Iturbe

Book cover for The Prince of the Skies

From the bestselling author of The Librarian of Auschwitz comes an incredible novel based on the real life of Antoine de Saint Exupéry and his mysterious death. Together with friends Jean and Henri, Antoine pioneered new mail routes across the globe and changed aviation forever. At the same time, Antoine began work on The Little Prince, a children's story that would go on to reach millions of readers around the world – despite the looming shadow of war. Bound to move every one of your book club readers, The Prince of the Skies is a tale of love and companionship, war and heroism, and the power of the written word. 

Circus of Wonders

by Elizabeth Macneal

Book cover for Circus of Wonders

Set in a glittering circus in the pleasure gardens of Victorian London, Circus of Wonders is a story of fame, power and secret love. 1866: Nell lives in a coastal village in England, cast out by the community because of the birthmarks that cover her skin. When she is sold by her father to Jasper Jupiter's Circus of Wonders, despite the pain of betrayal, Nell finds friendship with the other performers. Soon enough, she wonders if joining the circus was the best thing that ever happened to her. Then she falls in love with Jasper's brother Toby  – will her love for Toby survive the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain

Set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s, Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize-winning debut is a heartbreaking story which lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty and the limits of love. Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things, but when her husband abandons her she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town with her three children, and descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help Agnes long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself. Shuggie is different, and he is picked on by the local children and condemned by adults. But he believes that if he tries his hardest he can escape this hopeless place.

The Miniaturist

by Jessie Burton

Book cover for The Miniaturist

It's an autumn day in 1686 in Amsterdam, and eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a splendid house in the finest part of the city. She has come to marry esteemed trader Johannes Brandt, but instead his sharp-tongued sister opens the door. When she encounters Johannes he presents her with an amazing wedding gift: a cabinet representing their home. It is furnished by an enigmatic miniaturist, whose creations not only mirror but begin to predict the increasing peril they find themselves in . . .

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Book Club questions for Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist

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The Office of Historical Corrections

by Danielle Evans

Book cover for The Office of Historical Corrections

In The Office of Historical Corrections, Black and multi-racial characters experience the universal perils of lust, love and grief – all while Danielle explores the way in which history haunts us, personally and collectively, provoking analysis of the real truths of American history. A short story collection guaranteed to stimulate debate for any book club, discover the extraordinary ways Danielle Evans provides vital observations on modern life that dissect twisted attitudes about race, culture, history and truth.

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Mercies

A Richard & Judy Book Club 2021 pick and a BBC Radio 2 Book Club read for 2020, this evocative novel was inspired by the real Vardø storm and the subsequent witch hunt. When a catastrophic storm wipes out almost the entirety of the male population of the island, the women who are left, still grieving for their men, are forced to fend for themselves. Eighteen months later, the sinister new commissioner, Absolom Cornet, arrives with his young wife Ursa. Ursa sees independent women for the first time in her life and finds herself drawn to Maren, the young woman who helps her navigate life in this harsh new world. 


by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for Room

Now a major film as well as a Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, Room is a profoundly affecting book for all types of reader. Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing. Jack is excited about turning five. He lives with his Ma in a small room, with a skylight and a door that is always locked. His only friends are Ma, and the cartoon characters he sees on TV. Then one day, Ma admits there is a world outside. Narrated in Jack's voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. 

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Book Club questions to inspire debate for Emma Donoghue's Room

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Dear Mrs Bird

by AJ Pearce

Book cover for Dear Mrs Bird

As bombs fall on 1940s London, Emmy dreams of assisting the war effort as a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, after a misunderstanding over a job advert, Emmy instead ends up as a typist for formidable agony aunt, Henrietta Bird. But Mrs Bird won’t answer letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, so what can Emmy do but try to help these desperate women herself? A Richard & Judy Book Club Pick and Sunday Times bestseller, Dear Mrs Bird is a sweet and uplifting wartime tale of bravery, friendship and love. 

What Strange Paradise

by Omar El Akkad

Book cover for What Strange Paradise

More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too-many passengers, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands of Vänna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers and don’t speak a common language, Vänna determines to do whatever it takes to save him.

The Sin Eater

by Megan Campisi

Book cover for The Sin Eater

Set in a thinly disguised sixteenth-century England, Megan Campisi’s debut novel is a wonderfully woven tale of treason and treachery, women and power. When fourteen-year-old May is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread she is sentenced to become a Sin Eater, a devastating sentence that will see her shunned by society and exiled to the edge of town. For a Sin Eater hears the confessions of the dying and eats their sins as a funeral rite, and is believed to be stained by these sins. When May is called to hear the deathbed confessions of two of the Queen’s courtiers, she hears whispers of a terrible rumour that her newfound invisibility allows her to investigate.

Sixteen Horses

by Greg Buchanan

Book cover for Sixteen Horses

Near the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, local police detective Alec Nichols discovers sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. After forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen travels to the scene, the investigators soon uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in the community – disappearances, arson and mutilations. In the dark days that follow, the town slips into panic and paranoia. This story of enduring guilt, trauma and punishment will keep your book club readers gripped until the last page.

People Like Her

by Ellery Lloyd

Book cover for People Like Her

Another Richard & Judy Book Club Pick, this smart debut thriller from husband-and-wife writing team Ellery Lloyd takes a compelling look at the dark side of social media and influencer culture. Emmy Jackson is better known to her online fans as Instagram sensation Mamabare, famous for telling it like it is when it comes to modern parenthood. But not everything you see online can be believed, and someone out there knows the truth about Emmy and intends to make her pay . . . 

Emily Noble's Disgrace

by Mary Paulson-Ellis

Book cover for Emily Noble's Disgrace

After trauma cleaner Essie Pound makes a gruesome discovery in an abandoned Edinburgh boarding house, she quickly meets a young policewoman, Emily Noble, who has her own hidden reasons for solving the case. As the duo journey deep into the heart of a forgotten family, fragmented memories of their own traumatic histories are thrown up by the investigation – something Emily has spent a lifetime attempting to bury, and Essie a lifetime trying to lay bare. Introduce a Scottish crime-thriller like no other to your book club with the third novel from Mary Paulson-Ellis, bestselling author of The Other Mrs Walker.

The Axeman's Jazz

by Ray Celestin

Book cover for The Axeman's Jazz

In the jazz-filled, mob-ruled streets of 1910s New Orleans, a ruthless serial killer called the Axeman stalks the city, demanding that people must play jazz or risk becoming his next victim. Three individuals set out to catch and unmask him, each for their own reasons. Detective Michael Talbot heads up the official investigation, but is left struggling for leads and battling his own grave secret. Former detective Luca d'Andrea, now working for the mafia, just as much need to solve the case as the authorities. And Ida, a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency and dreaming of a better life – until she stumbles across a clue that leads her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, into terrible danger . . .