Starting a book club last year was one of the best decisions I have ever made. In the past six months, the Cle Ladies Book Club has read six really diverse books – all written by women – and had incredible discussions at each gathering. Part of it is because the books chosen make for thought-provoking conversation. Still, mainly it is because it is a group of intelligent, contemplative women who always have something valuable to say. Not to mention that they all love to read, which means it is always a joy to hear what they are currently devouring.
At first, I was curious about what was their favorite book of 2019; then I wondered what they were most excited to read in 2020. And then, because it isn’t all about new books, I was interested in what book they would like to re-read. So, I asked them! Each lady has a different preferred genre, so be prepared – this post is full of fantastic recommendations (I have only read one book on this list!). Hopefully, it gives you a couple more ideas for how to occupy yourself on a winter’s night! Here are a whole load of book recommendations from my book club ladies:
Favorite Book I Read In 2019: I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers. Sarah and Beth started the Pantsuit Politics podcast five years ago with, in their words, “the goal of listening to each other first and talking politics second.” They are brilliant, and their book is brilliant. I read it three times last year.
Book I’d Like To Reread: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. You may not think a 900-page book about a group of rough, morally suspect ranchers is what you need to read…but it is. Larry McMurtry’s writing is so good that you are sucked right into that cattle drive. It’s a great story.
Book I’m Eager To Read In 2020: The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. Erik Larson is far and away, my favorite nonfiction author. His Devil in the White City is one of my all-time favorite books. His books are so heavily researched and so well written that I forget I’m reading nonfiction. This new book is about Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister. Larson is delightful in person, making me hope he has a book tour stop in Cleveland!
Favorite Book I Read In 2019: In The Dream House by Maria Machado. There are so many great books I got through this year, but somehow, this one left the biggest mark. It brings forward something new, both in its prose and overall message. It’s part memoir, part-poetry, part-stream of consciousness, and it talks about an issue some of us don’t think or know about enough when it comes to queer folks.
Book I’d Like To Reread: Chasing The Scream: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection by Johann Hari. This is one of my favorite journalistic/research-based non-fiction books EVER. It’s full of eye-opening research about the drug war and opioid epidemic in the U.S., and the writer weaves it into a fascinating storyline with in-depth, real-person interviews that make the book sometimes feel like fiction. I want to re-read it because it’s very dense and very long, so there’s definitely things I missed or went over my head. But also it’s just that fascinating.
Book I’m Eager To Read In 2020: The Pisces by Melissa Broder. I’m definitely trying to read more fiction this year because it’s just the best form of escapism to plunge yourself into a fantastic story. I’ve heard great things about The Pisces, and it was recommended to me on Amazon based on the fact that I liked Fleabag, sooooo, I’m curious to see what it’s all about!
Favorite Book I Read In 2019: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I loved this book for how creatively Benjamin revealed each of the character’s responses to their mortality. Plus, I read it right before going to San Francisco for a short trip, and I loved how she made SF like an additional character. I’m not very knowledgeable about the AIDS crisis, and it so eye-opening and engaging to read about it through one of the character’s stories. It also read like a series of short stories or essays/memoirs, which are genres I enjoy.
Book I’d Like To Reread: Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur. I initially picked this up because Shakur was a part of the Black Panthers who are seen as huge influencers on modern activism. When I read it before, I wasn’t able to process it with anyone, but a friend is currently reading it, so I’m looking forward to re-reading it with her and hearing someone else’s’ thoughts.
Book I’m Eager To Read In 2020: So many good things are coming out this year that it’s hard to narrow down! Probably Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland. This is book #2 in a series that I started back in 2017, and well, who wouldn’t want to read about women fighting racists and zombies?!? Plus, amongst the fighting, it finds a way to explore racism, classism, and sexism.
+ Read Olivia’s “Week of Outfits” feature here!
Favorite Book I Read In 2019: The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. People have asked me before what this book is about, and I’ve replied, “the planet.” And I’m not kidding. The scope truly is that large, covering topics ranging from the impact of colonialism on the environment to the Napoleonic wars to Muir Woods, Siberia, Goethe, and Walden Pond. Also, climate change, Simon Bolivar, Thomas Jefferson, and more – all covered through the lens of one, very busy man’s life, Alexander Von Humboldt. This book is very long but worth the time. Andrea Wulf is one kickass historical writer.
Book I’d Like To Reread: The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. I read this book almost 15 years ago, and only remember fragments of the plot, but there’s one scene in particular that a few months ago resurfaced in my mind. I keep thinking about it…it’s gotten under my skin somehow. I love it when that happens! I need to go back and revisit this story this year.
Book I’m Eager To Read In 2020: The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. I read this author’s first book, Freshwater, recently, and it freaked me the hell out in the best possible way. This is a writer with something unique to say, and I can’t wait to read more. Coming in August 2020!
Favorite Book I Read In 2019: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book really resonated with me as a portion of it takes place in the mid-’90s in Las Vegas, which is when I lived there and was in high school. The mood…the darkness and debauchery… captivated me as it rang very true to my experience. The New York timeline (with its vivid descriptions of the art world’s underbelly plus the addiction and loneliness he experienced) was also captivating.
Book I’d Like To Reread: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. If you ask what is my favorite book ever, this is it. I’ve read it four or five times and, every time I do, I take something else away from it. If you are into audiobooks, I HIGHLY recommend this one with narration by John Malkovich. Probably the best audiobook ever.
Book I’m Eager To Read In 2020: Broad Strokes by Bridget Quinn. One of my goals this year is to learn more about female artists (and not just the mainstream ones). Super excited to read this book!
Favorite Book I Read In 2019: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins or The Circle by Dave Eggers. I had such a difficult time choosing a favorite book for the year. I tend to enjoy mysteries since they suck you in. However, I have also really tried branching out to other genres, which is why I love being in a book club! It forces me to read books I wouldn’t usually pick out myself.
Book I’d Like To Reread: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I have been re-reading this book every few years for years. Every time I look at it and have to try to remember what happens in the story, I decide it must be time for a re-read.
Book I’m Eager To Read In 2020: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. I love The Handmaid’s Tale. I have read the book and watched the TV series on Hulu and am addicted! I am very excited to see what’s next for Gilead.
+ If you want to start a book club, here is how!
+ The books that changed my BFFS’ lives