I have been getting a few questions like this one wondering about the best books we’ve read in my book club.

I love that you have done book reviews from time to time because it motivates me to find time to read in my busy life. Some of my friends and I are talking about starting a book club. Could you provide us with a top-ten “must read for book club” list? (Ones you particularly enjoyed, as well as ones that lend themselves to great discussion.) Thanks!

First of all, let me say that there’s nothing like a book club.

The beauty of being part of a book club

When Dave and I moved to D.C. shortly after we got married a friend and I started one. I’ve been in one ever since. It’s so important to me because I’m not the type that will soak in the tub at night and read. Or sit down and read during the day.

No. I’m the type that will wait until the last three days and cram in that book every second I get…at the dentist, at the gym, at a stoplight while rushing a carpool somewhere, etc. BUT, I get the book read because I have a deadline and I love it.

I love to be taken into such a different world as I read. I love to be transported into a girl’s mind as she struggles as to whether she should keep having her life turned upside-down being the never-ending “donor” to her terminally ill sister (My Sister’s Keeper), or to be swept away to medieval times and wonder in awe about the bravery of one woman in Pope Joan…or to think about ancient China, and the customs of the time when women had to bind their feet in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Oh, and to be able to root for a the main character in an amazing story of triumph and resilience as she overcomes all kinds of obstacles including homelessness and a dysfunctional family in The Glass Castle.

Books take me to “places” I’ve never been and make me think about things outside my little realm of changing diapers and dusting blinds and hugging my kids to smithereens. Which is all good, but I want so much to be open to the bigger world…to see outside my little bubble here at home. I want my kids to see that too.

I love to savor those last few pages of a book that I love. For really good books I will plan out a time to soak in the ending. No reading the end of those books while listening to my kids’ piano lessons or in snippets while dealing with kids fighting in the back seat on a road trip. The surroundings have to be perfect for that.

I love for my kids to see me reading. They love it too. When I’m in crunch time for book club they always want to know what’s going on in my book. I love explaining things to them, and telling them the story. And then each time they see me reading after I start the story, they want to hear an update on what’s happening next.

East of Eden was probably one that they loved hearing about the most. A lot of times when they see me cramming they’ll pull out their books too and come sit by me, and we’ll have a little impromptu “Read-A-Thon.”

I have somehow found myself in three book clubs right now. The one I’ve been in since we moved here six years ago, a ward one, and a Mother/Daughter one. Elle and I have had such a fun time in the mother/daughter one (it just started a couple months ago). We’ve read most of the two books so far together. One will read and the other will do the reader’s hair. Usually I’m the one who gets to read while Elle experiments putting my hair up in all kinds of different hairstyles. I love it.

My favorite “book club discussion” books

screenshots of some of my favorite book club discussion books

I wrote a book review about a couple recent favorites, but here’s a quick list of books that have created great book club discussions in addition to the ones listed above:

My all-time favorite book is The Good Earth. It’s an incredible story that takes me into another world and teaches the joy and confidence that hard work brings.

Cold Sassy Tree — I think this one might be my second favorite. Maybe just because of the thought process it made me get into all about the power of telling stories. Ok, and for the writing too. All those “boy howdies” and adventurous shenanigans pulled me right in.

Pope Joan — I mentioned this one above, but there’s nothing like a great historical fiction book about a strong woman. Loved this one so much!

The Thirteenth Tale — This was one we read a long time ago that made for a really good discussion. It’s a really good mystery one. Details are a little hazy so I hope there’s no questionable parts I’m forgetting about.

Unbroken — I wrote much more about this one in that link above, but I think everyone should read this book. Great for discussion and understanding the history around World War II. I have written more about this one in another post.

East of Eden — This one’s long but really one of my very favorite books about the generations of families and their struggles and triumphs. Loved our discussion about this one too.

The Red Tent — This one sure made me think a lot about the Bible…made stories come to life (I’ve heard of some people who were offended by it…you definitely can’t take it too literally, but I went back and read the Bible with a new light).

The Book ThiefOh I loved that one. One of the most beautifully written books I’ve read. It’s based in Nazi Germany and is about a girl who learns to prize and protect books.

Rebecca — I know this is an old one but we had such a fun book club succession about it right around spooky Halloween 🙂 I really love how Daphne du Maurier writes.

Jane Eyre — Gotta love this classic, especially when your maiden name is Eyre.

These is my Words — Great book…it was hyped up a little too much by some others who read it so I wasn’t completely over-the-moon about it, but I think it may be my book club’s very favorite. Great story of life on the American plains.

The Help — Loved this one. Loved the movie too. But loved the book even more.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — One of my ALL-TIME favorites. Not only is it an incredible story, but those well-developed characters taught me so much about parenting.

Other posts about books:

Please send other suggestions. I love good book recommendations.

Similar Posts


  1. Shawni, you are SO inspiring. Each time I read your posts I am amazed. I honestly don’t know where you find the time to do it ALL! You are so balanced! This is such a great idea… to be in a book club and force yourself to read so that all the other things in life don’t get in the way. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. i’m not a reader, never have been. never enjoyed it, always read really slow and got made fun of in school. it was embarrasing. i’ve always wanted to want to read. i know so many people who love it and when i hear them talk about these books that they love and i wish that i could love them too. today, you have made me wish that i was a reader. 🙂

  3. I am a reader. I have loved it ALL my life. Wish I was in a book club. Maybe I should start one!

    PS… I have made a list of all the books you listed and am going to read them, one by one!

  4. I love books 🙂 I read the Thirteenth Tale a few months ago. I had a hard time putting it down, even though there were a couple of parts that grossed me out enough to slam the book shut while my spine shuddered! Anyway, enjoy! i love the idea of a mother/daughter book club 🙂

  5. I am so excited to be in book club with you! I just got the book to and now that the primary activity is over, and my sharing time month is passed I am going to start it!! I loved each of the books you mentioned. I’m so glad I get to hear your inspiring thoughts at book club!

  6. Great post! I feel a lot of the same things (although I belong to 2 book clubs and never make it because I have other meetings… urgh) Anyway…I want your list. Looks like we’ve read a lot of the same books but I’m always up for another good read. I have East of Eden sitting on my floor just waiting to be picked up!

  7. This makes me homesick for my bookclub. I joined it almost 30 years ago and loved it so. The gals still are going strong but I’m out of the pictre for now. Glad you find such joy in it.

  8. You make me laugh… I am the same way. I am cramming Eat, Pray, Love right now for my book club.
    I love that you and Elle are in one together and read to each other. I can barley manage one book club. How do you do three?
    PS…hope you don’t mind I stuck your blog link on my blog.

  9. I too am in a book club that I haven’t been very dedicated to so you have inspired me to take the time and actually go. I love it when I do and love to read.
    I LOVE that you and Elle are in a book club. I can’t wait to do that with my Ellie when she gets a bit older. My mom has been encouraging me to do that. I will have to get your book list when we are ready to start that.
    You ARE amazing…I love that you spend your time wisely and well. Your kids are learning so much from things you never have to say!

  10. Shawni I am impressed! I think reading is so important. I dont know where you find the time to read for 3 book clubs. Your amazing! I am interested in the one you do with Elle that is such a great idea.

  11. I love reading your blog.
    If it’s ok… and I’m not going to crown your book club, I think I’ll take you up on the offer! I bought the book today on Amazon – it will be here on Tuesday! I can’t wait to start reading it!!!

  12. I love reading to and there is nothing better then a good book club. 3 book clubs how do you stay on top of it? I am just happy when I’ve completed my book for the month.

  13. Funny that I’ve read every one of those books you listed (except for the last) in my book clubs.

    However, I have a problem with books. The second I get it in my home it SCREAMS my name until I finish it. I try to limit myself…..for my children’s sake.

    In my heaven there will be piles and piles of books stacked near cozy couches and limitless mounds of European chocolate for nibbling.

  14. I have been a part of a cooking club since I got married 7 years ago. I love it. I love to cook though! I have yet to go to a book club because I really never LOVED reading. When I do read though, my house goes straight to pot! I don’t function until it’s finished. I do however, have a few vacations coming up where books will be neccessary, so thanks for a few suggestions.

    So funny you met my sister! Wish I would have been in town to have met you too! Oh, and I love your little Grace’s smile! That last post about her school musical looked like it came straight out of a movie! So adorable!

  15. I’ve only been in a book club for a year or less. If you haven’t read it, let me recommend The Boy In the Striped Pajamas by John Boyle. It’s a quick read but intense! Just my type.

  16. Pope Joan? One of my favorites! We have actually read all four of those books you mentioned at the beginning of your post. They made me cry! I love being immersed in a good book and just letting myself be swept away by a wonderful story. And book club night is just therapeutic. I look forward to it all month!

  17. I LOVE books. I have so many around the house and far too many boxes in the basement I just don’t have room for at the moment. I’ll have to check out your recent reads. It’s great to explore new options. There’s nothing like getting swept away in fantastic tales. Plus, what a great example it is for our kids to see us reading. It’s wonderful when they take off on their own and find pleasure in the written page as well.

  18. you MUST read a tree grows in Brooklyn Shawn. it is my favorite book. you will love it. I can lend you a copy when I come see you next week, if you want 🙂 love you

  19. I also loved Cold Sassy Tree and The Glass Castle, definitely two of my favorites. I just finished Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and it was really good. It was a cute book with some great messages, and one that I will be reading again!

  20. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…" Rebecca is still my favorite book of all-time and Unbroken was my favorite read from last year. Excellent choices!

  21. Thanks for the book list, I'm ready to read again. I will be seeing your parents this weekend,as they will speak at the Museum of the San Rafael. I have always admired your parents and their parenting advice. I linked to your blog a while ago and I enjoy your enthusiasm.

  22. Hi! Haven't commented before but I read your blog often. Thanks for sharing…you are humorous and real! The combination is delightful. You will love "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn". One of my favorites. And "Rebecca" I have always loved. I read it when I was 14. Thanks again for sharing.

  23. The Hiding Place by Corrie TenBoom is a must read…if everyone's okay with sadness. "Uprising" by Margaret Haddix was excellent.
    My former book group loved young adult fiction…these were great…The Westing Game, Way Down Deep, and Ella Minnow Pea.

  24. You have some great picks on here! I loved Unbroken, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is great too. I am a sucker for classics, so my favorite book of all time is The Great Gatbsy. Such beautiful writing. But my very close second favorite took me into Contemporary lit. Peace Like a River by Lief Enger is by far one of the most beautiful stories every written. Every word is gorgeous and it is the story of a family – through and through. It is appropriate for Max and Elle too. I taught it to 11th and 12th graders. Amazing.

  25. How about a guy’s opinion? These are a few of my favorites and not in any particular order. Some of them are older, but I think they are classics.

    “My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok is my favorite of his books (they are all worth a look) – a great look into modern American Jewish culture.

    “Three Weeks With My Brother” by Nicholas Sparks – this is NOT A Novel, it’s a memoir and very engaging. I read it and then we listened to it as a family on a trip to Yellowstone and our teenagers and my wife were all fully enrapt in the story. A look at family life, with all of its complexity, challenges and love.

    “Mornings On Horseback” by David McCullough – the story of Teddy Roosevelt, and how he was brought up. As a parent, I found this book so encouraging and helpful. And I would recommend all of McCullough’s books – great histories and biographies.

    Great reads with children: “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”, “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Alchemist” . . .

    “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan – a justification for eating real, healthy food.
    “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin – the story of how Abe Lincoln brought his rivals together into a team to save the nation!

  26. Hi Shawni!

    This is Lindsay, your cousin Sam's wife. Thanks for doing a post about books! I've had to read about ten books every three weeks for my MFA program, so I started a blog about books for those who need suggestions for both their kids and themselves:


    I love to promote great books for all ages! Check it out if you need ideas, particularly for books for kids!

  27. A few other books:

    I LOVED…
    The Solitaire Mystery: A Novel About Family and Destiny

    Left to Tell (is good and heart wrenching)

    Ella Minnow Pea (it's easy, but cute & fun)

    PS How did you do the cute little book covers with amazon link on your sidebar?

  28. Another question for a future Friday Q&A: Is your community mostly LDS? Do your children have any non-LDS friends? Do you have any non-LDS family members? If so, how do you teach your children to interact with those non-LDS classmates / family? If not, how are you exposing them to people of other faiths? I ask because one of the things I love about reading your blog is how church and life seem to intersect so well- and I have found that to be the case with many LDS friends – they truly socialize and participate in the church throughout the week. Whereas, for many, church is just on Sunday and does not seep into the "rest" of the world. However, the flip side of that is that the LDS communities can sometimes seem very insular to those outside the faith. What are your thoughts, and how to do you maintain a balance?

  29. ooohh i just went to amaazon and ordered a bunch of those and for a couple of dollors.. bargain!!

    here are some that i loved

    The book thief
    Poisonwood bible
    sarah's key
    the forgotton garden
    i just started ' a thousand white women' looks like a good one 🙂

    i love getting all these new book ideas!

  30. Some of my favorites (not mentioned):
    -My Name is Asher Lev by Chiam Potok
    -Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
    this is probably the best fictional book I have ever come upon
    -Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

    I have more but this list goes on and on. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is fantastic!

    Happy reading 🙂

  31. Read Crime and Punishment!!! I know it's considered something to read for high school lit class or whatever, but my husband and I read it and couldn't stop talking about it. 🙂 🙂 Another good one to read is called The Giver. It won the Newberry Medal back in the '90s. I read it "for fun" and have re-read it several times…Excellent "thinking" book. 🙂

  32. Great book ideas! I have a question for you: You obviously inspire many women and mothers. I have seen some things on the web that people have obviously take your idea and changed it a little bit. Are you ok with people using your ideas (things for kids, decorating, mission statements, etc)?

  33. I love The Glass Castle too. Have you read the other book written by her? Can't remember the name of it right now. I LOVE A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It's been one of my favorites for a LONG time. I am reading The Mermaid Chair right now and it's wonderful too.

  34. I love "A tree grows in Brooklyn".
    The one I'm reading right now which I've heard so many great reviews on is "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom. It is non-fiction which makes it all that more meaningful. A man's former university professor is dying and shares his last words of wisdom with him on Tuesday's. It's very good for teenagers too (my younger sister had to read it for school). Anyway, I have most of the pages marked because it's so beautiful.

  35. Stumbled on your blog a few days ago and love it! Such a good mix of family traditions, decorating, and everyday life! Great book list, some that I have read and love and some that I will add to my list! Thanks for sharing :). P.S. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is on my top 5 list – read it for sure!

  36. I'll join with others in my praise of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn". I love all the suggestions here. I need to get a pen and paper and make a list. If you enjoy "The Giver", you should also read "Gathering Blue" by the same author. "The Graveyard Book" (newberry award) is awesome too. All the suggestions here are good. Yay!

  37. So funny because I'm currently reading 'These is my words' and I do like it very much.

    I believe I have read all of the books you've suggested and liked all of them. I'm particularly fond of Unbroken and Rebecca.

    You'll love 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'. I've read it twice (I rarely do that) because it was so fabulous.

  38. I also loved The Book Thief. Here are a few wonderful books I didn't see mentioned in your comments…
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows — abolutely lovely!
    Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Little Heathens (I don't recall the author) a wonderful memoir of a childhood during the depression.

  39. Glass Castle is one of my favorite books! A teacher I was close to years ago recommended I read it, and it inspired me so much, having come from a similar background. Right now, however, I'm currently most of the way through East of Eden and LOVING it!

  40. My recommendation is "The Ladies Auxiliary" by Tova Mirvis. It's about a close knit orthodox Jewish group in Memphis and the precarious relationship between the ladies and their teenage daughters. It's warm, enchanting, and funny. I loved the many similarities between the jewish ladies and LDS relief society sisters. It also lends itself to a great book club discussion!

  41. My favorite book of all time is Resurrection by Tolstoy. It is very thought provoking and a beautiful story of repentance. My husband just read Unbroken, at your recommendation and loved it. I started Cutting for Stone, but found it a little too graphic and had a few questionable parts.

  42. shawni,

    this is totally off topic but it's saturday 😉

    Q: I know you write out list of chores on saturday morning, but i wondered if you have a starting time, and how long does it usually take the kids to do their chores? Also do u have a saturday friend rule?

  43. We have such similar taste! I have read almost your whole list and loved them as well. You will LOVE A Tree Grows in Brooklyn! A recent favorite is The Forgotten Garden.!

  44. I wanted to second The Ladies Auxiliary. It would be an excellent book for discussion. Also, a new book to add is The Runaway Quilt and it's sequel The Lost Quilter. They are fiction but describe how some believe that quilts strung out on clothes lines could have been a sign of a 'safe house' for the underground railroad.

  45. Have you heard of goodreads.com? Are you on there?

    If not, I recommend it. It's a great way to keep track of books you have read, books you want to read and books your friends are reading for free.

    *Yearning for the Living God by Enzio Busche
    (I'm a bit bias because I studied German at BYU, served a great deal of my mission in Dortmund, Germany where Enzio Busche is from, Enzio Busche sealed me and my German husband in the temple and I'm living in Germany now (so I love the German language, country, and people) This book is wonderful! I've read it twice now and LOVE it!

    *Faith Rewarded by Thomas S. Monson (This book is basically President Monson's journal. I'm also a bit bias on this book since President Monson writes about his experiences and the miracles of the saints in former Eastern Germany. I'm currently living in Eastern Germany and love the people here. I've met Germans who were there in Görlitz when President Monson made such a prophetic promise to the German people)

    *The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox

    *Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage (I'm currently reading this book and I LOVE it so much! I've learned so much about the Savior so far. I really want a leather-bound copy of this book since I want to read this book again and again every few years)


    *Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
    (This book is so profound!)

    *Anne of Green Gables (I was named after her…my middle name is Anne….Anne with an "e")

    (I love, love, LOVE Children's picture books!!)

    *The Empty Pot by Demi
    (Beautiful illustrations and the perfect lesson about honest and diligence. I need to buy a copy of this book for my library the next time I'm in the U.S.)

    *The Greatest Treasure by Demi

    *Flotsam by David Wiesner

    *Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

    *I'll Be With You Always" by Joni Eareckson Tada

    *Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Suess

    *The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (GORGEOUS illustrations)

    *People by Peter Spier (Great book on diversity)

    *Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (I think you would like this book since it's about photography)

    *How I Learned Geography by Uri Schulevitz

    *Beach by Elisha Cooper

    *Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

    *Once Upon a Time, the End (Asleep in 60 seconds) by Geoffrey Kloske (Short bedtime stories for kids when you are short on time 😉

    *My Big Little Golden Book about God by Jane Werner Watson

    *Kamishiba Man by Allen Say

    *Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges (True, inspiring story)

    -> and so many more titles 😉

  47. p.p.s If you are looking for a good audio book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett is AMAZING on CD! I LOVE listening to the southern accents/voices. They had different voices for each of the characters 😉

  48. Ok, I don't usually leave comments on your blog but you listed some fantastic books and I wanted to share one with you. This book is seriously one of the best books I've ever read and has made me want to be better in every aspect of my life, it's called, Yearning For the Living God by F. Enzio Busche.

  49. Great list. I'm going to pick up Rebecca and Unbroken. I'll second the recommendations for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Poisonwood Bible, and The Ladies Auxiliary.

  50. Thank you for these. Many of my favorites are on your list, so I need to make sure I add the ones I haven't read to my to-read pile!

    The Good Earth is one that vies for my top favorite, too. I chose it for book club once and nobody liked it! I was so disappointed because I love it so much.

  51. I second the Q&A that KM asked here. These are questions I have wanted to ask for a long time, but never really had the courage to do so for fear of insulting anyone. I am not LDS, but have been a long time follower of your blog and so, so wish we had a church community that was as interactive as yours.

    And another Q&A…. where do you live? I'm not asking specifically (in a creepy way), but it seems you always have beautiful weather and I LOVE the trails you hike. My husband and I are looking to move out west and I'd love to live in such a gorgeous place. (We are currently in Chicago).

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