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In the vast universe of literature, there’s always that unbeaten path that holds treasures just waiting to be discovered. Some books, though not always in the spotlight, have the power to transport, transform, and transcend. These aren’t just reads; they’re experiences. From enthralling tales set in distant lands to contemporary narratives that resonate deeply, this list promises a literary journey like no other.
Whether you’re a seasoned book club veteran or a newcomer searching for something out of the ordinary, these 18 unique reads, spanning from fiction to fantasy, are bound to spark lively discussions, evoke powerful emotions, and perhaps even become your new favorites.
Book Club Reading List
“The Travelling Cat Chronicles,” celebrated globally as an international sensation, enchants readers with its heartfelt narrative. Using poignant prose, the novel introduces us to Nana, a cat with a lucky kinked tail, and Satoru, his owner. They set out across Japan’s diverse landscapes to reconnect with Satoru’s old friends, but Nana quickly intuits a deeper purpose. As they journey together, they uncover lessons about bravery, gratitude, loyalty, and the profound bonds of love.
“The Eight Mountains” by Paolo Cognetti is a lyrical exploration of the enduring bond between two men, Pietro and Bruno, set against the rugged backdrop of the Italian Alps. As the narrative unfolds, Cognetti masterfully delves into their contrasting upbringings—Pietro, a city boy from Milan, and Bruno, a cowherd from the mountains—and their shared love for the alpine wilderness. This evocative novel beautifully captures the profound relationship between humans and nature, as well as the intricate ties of friendship and the quest for one’s place in the world.
“The Map of Salt and Stars” weaves the tales of two young girls, living 800 years apart, into a mesmerizing narrative of exploration and belonging. Nour, a Syrian-American girl, is forced to flee contemporary Syria after her father’s death due to the escalating conflict. As her family journeys through the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety, her story intertwines with that of Rawiya, a 12th-century girl who disguises herself as a boy to apprentice with a famed mapmaker.
“Conjure Women” dives deep into the heart of the American South, painting a rich tapestry that spans the eras before and after the Civil War. At the center of this evocative novel are three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a healer and midwife; her daughter, Rue, who inherits her mother’s mysterious gifts; and Varina, the master’s daughter. As the world around them shifts with war and its aftermath, secrets, and intertwined destinies come to light.
In “Long Gone, Come Home,” Birdie Jennings yearns for more than her humdrum life in small-town Kentucky. Her world is upended by the charming Jimmy Walker, but his sudden disappearance leaves her adrift. Forced back to her hometown and then propelled to Cincinnati after witnessing a murder, Birdie navigates the city’s vibrant jazz scene and its challenges, discovering her resilience as she strives to rebuild her life amidst lurking shadows from the past.
In the chaotic streets of New Delhi, a devastating accident involving a Mercedes leaves five people dead and unveils a world of dark secrets. As the tale weaves through modern India, the lives of Ajay, a diligent servant; Sunny, an ambitious heir; and Neda, a probing journalist, collide in a volatile mix of greed, lust, and betrayal. This intoxicating blend of crime thriller and intricate family drama explores the intoxicating pull of power and the steep price of ambition in a society marked by both privilege and deceit.
In the heart of East Texas, racial tensions simmer, and when two bodies—a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman—are discovered in quick succession along the bayou, Texas Ranger Darren Mathews becomes deeply involved. As he navigates long-held resentments, prejudices, and a web of intertwined relationships in the tiny town of Lark, Mathews must confront his own demons and the dangerous secrets that lie beneath the surface.
In the scenic Orvieto, Emily and Chess reunite for a getaway at Villa Aestas, once the 1974 summer retreat for rock star Noel Gordon and the site of musician Pierce Sheldon’s mysterious murder. Delving into the villa’s enigmatic past, Emily discovers links between iconic artworks from that era and the sinister events of the summer. As she unravels secrets from decades ago, tensions rise with Chess, hinting at present dangers and suggesting that the villa might once again be stained with tragedy.
In Abby Geni’s “The Lightkeepers,” a nature photographer, Miranda, embarks on a year-long residency in the untamed Farallon Islands, documenting its wildlife and rough terrains. However, her journey transforms from mere observation to a deep dive into human nature when one of the biologists is found dead. Amidst the isolating backdrop of rocky shores and formidable seas, Miranda finds herself amidst mysteries and confrontations, as the boundaries between the natural world and human treachery blur.
In “The Book of Delights,” Ross Gay offers a genre-defying collection of essays that capture his daily meditations on life’s small wonders. Over the course of a challenging year, Gay commits to penning these lyrical essays, spotlighting the often-overlooked moments of joy, laughter, and human connection. Through his keen observations, readers are invited to witness the world’s delights and embrace the practice of finding beauty in the everyday.
In “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating,” Elisabeth Tova Bailey delivers a moving reflection on nature and healing. Bedridden due to a debilitating illness, Bailey finds solace in observing a wild snail that takes residence on her nightstand. Through detailed and intimate observations, she marvels at its subtle, intricate life, drawing profound parallels to human existence and the wonders of the natural world, even in our quietest moments.
“She Would Be King” weaves a tale of magical realism and historical fiction, set against the backdrop of the early formation of Liberia. Wayétu Moore introduces us to three unforgettable characters: Gbessa, exiled from her village due to accusations of witchcraft; June Dey, born on a plantation in Virginia with otherworldly strength; and Norman Aragon, the child of a Maroon and a British colonizer in Jamaica, who can become invisible. Their unique abilities lead them to each other, and together, they confront external forces while forging a new nation.
In “The Windfall,” Diksha Basu delves into the lives of the Jha family, who suddenly come into a large sum of money, prompting them to move from their modest housing complex in East Delhi to the affluent suburbs. As they navigate the complexities and comic absurdities of their newfound wealth, the Jhas grapple with societal expectations, family dynamics, and the challenge of keeping up appearances in a world where everyone is watching.
In “The Space Between Worlds,” Micaiah Johnson presents a universe where multiverse travel is possible, but one can only visit worlds where their counterpart is already dead. Cara, valuable for her rarity with most of her alternate selves deceased, traverses different Earths, collecting invaluable data. However, as she encounters a version of her world that’s eerily familiar, she confronts unsettling truths about herself and the fractured societies around her.
Set in the pre-Columbian-inspired world of the Meridian, Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Black Sun” weaves the tales of a vengeful outcast with celestial powers, a ship captain hiding a secret, and a priestess facing political upheaval. As the winter solstice approaches, their fates intertwine, culminating in an event that could reshape the entire continent.
Having a list of captivating books is just the beginning of a thrilling literary journey. Once you’ve found those titles that pique your curiosity, the next step is gathering a group of fellow book lovers to share in the adventure. If you’re wondering how to bring together a community passionate about reading, or if you’re keen to start your own book club and dive into these tales as a group, check out my comprehensive guide on how to start a book club.