You know the joke – your book club is actually a drinking club, where there’s more chitchat about the kids over a nice glass of wine than actual discussion about the book you’ve all just read (or not read).                                               

There are a couple of sure discussion-blockers for any book club – if everyone loved the book, the discussion tends not to take off. A little controversy is a great thing.

And, if the book was good but didn’t stir questions – ethical, political or otherwise – book club chat can quickly grind to a halt to be replaced by good old gossip and small talk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But if stirring a rousing discussion on the merits of the writing, the depth of the storytelling or the point of view of the author is something you strive for in your club, here are a few guaranteed conversation-starters.


Undone by John Colapinto

Taboos and boundaries breached and the nature of guilt, blame and responsibility – that sounds like a book club fire starter, right? Colapinto’s novel examines many layers of treachery in almost-everyday life. A successful author is contacted by a daughter he didn’t know he had. It’s a trap that will destroy him, but not for the obvious reasons. She betrays him, but did he betray her as well?


On Immunity by Eula Biss

Feeling brave? Bring the debate that has dominated the news cycle in 2015 to your book club. Love it or hate it, Eula Biss’s bold, fascinating look at the metaphors and myths surrounding vaccinations will get you thinking and talking.


The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? An endlessly interesting read that is basically one big talking point.



Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

With characters that are forced into ethically ambiguous scenarios—Big Little Lies is bound to generate some spirited discussion. In fact, the publisher even released a “Questions and Topics for Discussion” page to accompany the novel.


I’m Coming by Selma Lønning Aarø and Kari Dickson

For friends that aren’t afraid to get a little saucy. I’m Coming is a delectable comedy about society’s expectations of women and women’s expectations of themselves. Aarø writes deftly about sexuality, identity, and the media’s portrayal of what constitutes “normal.”


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You explores the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.