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10 LONG BRIGHT RIVER Book Club Questions

Long Bright River by Liz Moore has been a popular pick with readers since it first released in 2020, even landing on Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2020 list! If your book club has decided to pick up this book, then we’ve got you covered with a Long Bright River book club questions, summary, and a reading guide to help your club have a great discussion!

Long Bright River Summary

Taking its inspiration from the very real and ongoing opioid epidemic, Long Bright River follows two sisters, Mickey and Kacey. They live and work in the same neighborhood, but in very different roles. Mickey is a detective with the Philadelphia Police Department, and she patrols Kensington, a neighborhood that has bee impacted by drugs and opioids. Kacey is a known user and prostitute who lives on the streets in Kensington, and although the two sisters are estranged, Mickey does her best to keep tabs on her sister when she can. Everything changes when a killer begins targeting women in the neighborhood, and Kacey disappears without a trace. Terrified that her sister could be the next victim, Mickey throws herself into the case, determined to unmask the killer and find her sister. The novel explores the complexities of family history, drugs, and the impact of crime on a community in this fascinating and well-written thriller.

Themes: Sisterhood, family history, class, addiction

Long Bright River Book Club Questions:

  1. Kacey and Mickey are sisters who end up in very different lives as adults. How are they similar? What decisions or events impacted them to diverge in such extreme ways?
  2. Kensington is a rich setting that is as interesting as any of the characters in the book. What did you think of the setting? What stood out to you about it? How does each characters’ relationship to Kensington influence the story or its telling?
  3. One of the major themes of this book is class. Discuss how class is presented in the book, and how each of the characters is affected by class–the class they were born into, the class they strive for, or the class they find themselves in as adults.
  4. Addiction plays a major role in this novel, and many of the characters struggle with addiction to drugs in the past and present. How does the author present addiction in the characters? How all the characters all, to a certain extent, affected by addiction even if they themselves are not addicted to something? What other dark impulses or addictions are present throughout the text? 
  5. Discuss who (or what) served as turning points in Mickey’s life. What characters have served as mentors to Mickey, and what experiences (or lack of opportunities) have led her to her current path? Would her life look different without the mentors and experiences she has?
  6. In many ways, Mickey was forced to be a mother to Kacey at a young age, after the death of their own mother. To what extent does Mickey feel responsible for Kacey’s decisions as an adult? How does she wish to make amends or avoid past mistakes?
  7. Although Kensington suffers from the opioid epidemic, in what ways are the residents a community? What does this community have to offer that might be positive? What are the downsides in this community, aside from the obvious presence of drugs and the murders? What elements of this community do you see reflected in your own communities?
  8. Were you surprised by the direction that the mysteries took? Were you able to anticipate any of the reveals or twists? If so, did that affect your enjoyment of the novel?
  9. Which elements did you find most compelling about this novel? Would you read another book by Liz Moore? Why or why not?
  10. What did you learn, if anything, about the opioid crisis? Did this novel add a human component to your understanding of addiction and the crisis?

For more reading, viewing, and discussion, consider checking out this New York Magazine about the best nonfiction about the opioid crisis. Your book club might also want to watch The Pharmacist on Netflix, an excellent documentary about the start of the opioid crisis in the U.S.

Want more book club suggestions? Check out our best recommended reading for book clubs in 2021. And if you want more great book recommendations, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as book club recommendations–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Bibliologist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers in the mail in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

His Only Wife Book Club Questions

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie was a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine book club pick, plus a New York Times Notable Pick, which means it’s gotten a lot of great buzz! If your book club is planning on picking it up anytime soon, we’ve got you covered with a book summary, themes, and His Only Wife book club questions to help your meeting run smoothly!

His Only Wife Summary

Set in Ghana, this book is about Afi Tekple, a young seamstress from a small town who works hard to make ends meet. Her mother has convinced her to marry a man that she knows of but doesn’t truly know: Elikem, a wealthy businessman who is in love with another, a woman considered an inappropriate match for him. Afi goes along with the marriage in order to make her mother happy and secure her future, but she’s quickly moved from her small town to the capitol city, where life is very different and Afi is dissatisfied with her new situation. Is this all there is to marriage and life, or can she perhaps find happiness on her own terms?

Themes: Marriage, independence, happiness on one’s own terms, defying tradition

His Only Wife Book Club Questions

  1. What did you think of the fate of Afi and Elikem’s marriage from the beginning, when Elikem couldn’t even be bothered to show up for the wedding? Would you have gone through with the wedding if you were in Afi’s shoes?
  2. Could you marry someone you didn’t love for the financial security of your family? Discuss Afi’s motivations, and the motivations of her mother and Aunty. Do you think that Afi might have married Eli if not for this external pressure? Discuss the influence of money and class on Afi’s decision.
  3. Discuss how Afi interacts with her new husband. What do you think it says about their relationship? What do you think it says about Afi that she wants to please her husband, who seems to have little interest in pleasing her? 
  4. Why do you think Eli went along with this marriage with Afi? What do you think he might have expected from her, or from this relationship? Does he get what he wants? What do you think Eli believes are his duties to his new wife? Does he fulfill these duties?
  5. When Afi moves into a fine home in Accra, does she seem satisfied by the financial status of her life? Does she view it as worth having to put up with an absent husband? 
  6. Discuss how the various characters view marriage and the expectations that come with being a “good” wife. How do they differ, and how are they similar? How does Afi come to shape her own views on marriage?
  7. Discuss how Afi learns of Eli’s girlfriend, the woman that his family disapproves of. Why do you think she is told lies about her, and how do her feelings about this other woman evolve over the course of the novel?
  8. Although Eli is married to Afi, in what ways do we understand that Afi isn’t his main priority? Does Afi see this at first? How does she react when she realizes that she may be his only wife, but not the only woman in his life?
  9. What do you think was the first moment in which Afi chose to rebel–against the other characters, but also in the expectations set out for her?
  10. How does Eli’s behavior towards Afi shift toward the end of the book? Do you think this shift has an impact on Afi’s decision at the end?
  11. What did you think of the ending and Afi’s choice? Were you happy? Disappointed? Surprised? Do you think Afi will be happy with her decision?
  12. Would you read another book by Peace Adzo Medie? Why or why not? What books would you recommend to readers who enjoyed His Only Wife?

Want more great book club recommendations? Check out our recommendations for the best book club picks of 2021! And if you want to stay up to date on the best, most engaging fiction that’s great for book club discussions, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as book picks for book clubs–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Bibliologist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers in the mail in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was one of the most popular books of 2020, read and beloved by countless readers, including Barack Obama! It was also a 2021 Women’s Prize finalist and the perfect pick for book clubs everywhere. If your book club has chosen it for their next pick, we’ve got your The Vanishing Half summary, reading guide, and book club discussion questions to ensure your next meeting goes smoothly!

The Vanishing Half Summary

Stella and Desiree Vignes are inseparable twins who grow up in 1960’s Louisiana in a small town reserved for light-skinned Black residents. They dream of life beyond their town and the painful past of their father’s lynching, and it seems like they might actually get it when they run away to New Orleans together. But there, Stella begins to pass as white, and then moves to California where she has a husband and daughter and refrains from telling them the truth about her past. Meanwhile, Desiree has a daughter of her own who can’t even dream of passing, and she eventually relocates with her back to the hometown th twins were so eager to leave behind. This novel moves through the decades in the second half of the twentieth century to tell a stirring story of identity, race, and family throughout generations and across the U.S.

Themes: Identity, race, family, belonging, truth, reconciliation

How to Set Up Your Meeting Discussion

It’s best to have someone come prepared with questions to help get the conversation going, and to help keep the conversation on track if it lags. Start out the conversation with an icebreaker question, or with an easy question to help get the conversation rolling, and be sure to be inclusive of every member’s input! 

The Vanishing Half Discussion Questions

Icebreaker question: Have you read the 1929 classic Passing by Nella Larsen? If so, in what ways do you see that this novel is similar to Passing?

Stella and Desiree are so close as children–did you see their separation as inevitable, or something that could’ve been prevented? When did you first notice the rift between them? What do you think caused it?

Why does Mallard represent so much pain for the twins? Discuss how injustice and secrecy affect the sisters as young girls, and how that carries over to their adult lives.

How much do you think we are influenced by our nurturing and our nature? How about our environment? What outside forces shaped Stella and Desiree?

Why do you think that Desiree returns to Mallard? How does her impression of her hometown evolve now that she’s an adult and a mother?

Compare and contrast Kennedy and Jude, the twins’ daughters. How do their differences highlight the role privilege plays in a person’s life? How are their lives similar? How do their relationships with their respective mothers differ?

Discuss the idea of performance. How is identity a performance for the characters? Which characters perform, and which characters refuse to perform? How are their lives different as a result?

How does Stella’s relationship with her neighbor Loretta reveal her character, both to the reader and to herself? Do you think that Stella is afraid of becoming too close to Loretta, and what it could reveal about herself? Do you think Loretta suspects anything about Stella?

When Desiree becomes a fingerprint analyst, we see how identity and identification are often conflated and contrasted. What do you think the differences are between these two concepts?

What did you think of Jude and Kennedy’s relationship? 

What did you think of the twins’ eventual reunion? How have the years apart changed them?

Let’s talk about honesty and truthfulness in relationships. Which romantic couples were the most honest with each other? How does the idea of honesty and truth telling affect each relationship?

Each sister made different choices hoping to improve their lives or make things easier in some way. But ultimately, who do you believe had an “easier” life? Or does it all shake out pretty evenly when all is said and done?

Discuss the significance of the title. Who or what really is the vanishing half?

Want more book club book recommendations for your next meeting? Check out our best book club books of 2021!

And if you want more recommendations, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as books like The Vanishing Half–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

How to Run a Book Club

The only thing better than reading great books is talking about great books, and that’s why book clubs are the best. If you’ve looked around your communities and not found a book club that you can join, then why not start your own? You don’t need any prior experience, and the only prerequisites are a love of books, and maybe some organizational skills! In this article, we’ll walk you through all of the considerations and expectations of how to run a book club!

How to Start a Book Club

Decide who’s invited to your new club. Is it a group of your friends? Coworkers? Neighbors? Is your club open to the public, or do you want to keep it invitation-only? If you aren’t sure, you can get the input of some inaugural members to decide what’s best for your group. You can always change your mind or revisit this topic as your book club grows, but it’s good to establish some boundaries and a foundation upfront.

Pick the focus of your book club. Are you reading YA books? Are you genre-specific? Is the goal to read books that aren’t usually picked for popular book clubs, or to read books on a broad theme, such as books set outside of the U.S.? This focus will be your guide for choosing books and maybe even determining new members, so it’s wise to come up with a guiding principle early on. Again, this can evolve as you grow, but it’s important to come up with some parameters so everyone has a sense of what to expect.

Decide how often you’ll meet. Once a month seems like the most common meeting frequency for most book clubs, but it’s always great to check with your members and see what will work for them. You might also want to decide upfront if you’ll skip a month (like December, when the end of the year holidays make everyone’s schedules busy) or maybe a month in the summer, when people might be on vacation.

Pick your time and place. You’ll want to pick a day and time that is convenient to most members, and to ensure success it’s wise to keep the day and time the same from month to month. Next, decide where you’ll meet up! Are you meeting solely online, or in-person? If online, decide on which platform you will use and make sure everyone is familiar with it. If in person, decide on a location. Can someone host you all in their home? Do members want to take turns hosting people? Or rather, will you choose a more public location like a library, bookstore, restaurant, community center, or bar? Think about what restrictions you might find run into in the public spaces–do you need to reserve the space? Is there a limit to how many people can attend? Is it a good environment for conversation? Does the location make anyone uncomfortable or discourage people from participating (some members might not feel comfortable meeting in a bar, for example)? All of these are important considerations.

Name your club. It’s not necessary, but it can be a fun way to distinguish your group and help get the word out–if that’s what you want!

If you want to use an app to help your book club stay organized, check out our guide to the best book club apps on the market!

How to Get Books For a Book Club

Sourcing books is a very important consideration for every book club, and it’s best to err on the side of being sensitive to your members’ limitations when acquiring new books. It might feel awkward talking about what people can afford, but it’s good to have that discussion upfront with members, and encourage people to be honest about what they can manage. Is your club going to steer clear from expensive, brand-new hardcovers? Will you agree to stick to paperbacks under a certain price point? Will it be enough to agree to pick only books that are easily accessible through your library or the inter-library loan program?

You may also come up with book sourcing solutions such as checking out what book club kits are available at your local library (book club sets of 8-20 copies of the same book that can be checked out to your club), or exploring programs such as Book of the Month’s Book Clubs program, where your book club can buy discounted Book of the Month picks collectively. If you need help coming up with book club selections, check out our list of 2021 book club recommendations!

How to Set Book Club Rules and Expectations

Setting rules and expectations is perhaps the most challenging part of book club, but it’s necessary to ensure you have a smooth reading and discussion experience! Here are some things to consider:

How do you choose books? Does each member get a turn at picking the book? Do you come up with a list of picks and then have members vote? What sort of vetting is required for putting forth book suggestions (i.e. does someone need to have read and recommended it, or does it need to have favorable trade reviews?) and how do you define what book fits your club? Do you pick books month to month, or will you pick out a few months’ worth of picks ahead of time, to give people a chance to prepare? And finally, do you have a page limit? While that 600-page tome may look great, maybe it’s not the best pick for members who don’t have as much time to read during the month.

How do you plan on running meetings? It’s important to know your group–are you the type that wants to chat and socialize beforehand? Do you have a guideline on letting yourselves chat about non-book stuff before diving into the discussion? Do you need a discussion leader? How do you decide who will lead the discussion, and will you take turns?

How do you plan on staying on topic? It’s easy for anyone to get distracted or fall down the rabbit hole of off-topic discussions, so make a plan to stay on topic! That might include having a prepared set of discussion questions ahead of time (make sure to decide whose responsibility that will be beforehand!) or maybe a code word for when you all need to get back on topic. 

Book Club Meeting Ideas to Get Started

If you’re still nervous about starting a book club, don’t be! You can start a club with as few as two people, and then build out from there. Here are a few suggestions for getting started:

Pair your meeting space or meeting snacks with your book! Did you read a book set in Thailand? Maybe you want to meet up at your local Thai restaurant and discuss the book over some authentic food. 

Host a book-to-movie watch party! Did you read a book that has a recent adaptation on film? Plan to go see the movie as a group, or have someone host a watch party, and then follow it up with a discussion of the book and movie!

Make it memorable with food! Did you read a book that is heavy on food descriptions, or did you choose a cookbook? If your members are adept in the kitchen, host a potluck meeting where everyone brings a dish to pass from the book, and feast as you discuss!

Go on an outing that is inspired from the book! Does a character in your book receive a tarot reading? Book a tarot session for your group, and then follow it up with a discussion! Read The Henna Artist? Hire a henna artist for your discussion. Did you pick The Lager Queen of Minnesota as your pick? Plan an outing to a local brewery and try a flight of craft beers over your discussion. This way, you make your book club meeting a cultural experience!

Invite the author! Did you know that many authors are up for joining book club discussions virtually? Check their websites to see if they’re available for Skype or Zoom book club sessions and invite an author you love to discuss their newest work!

How to Come Up With Book Club Discussion Questions

Coming up with book club discussion questions doesn’t have to be intimidating, but we understand why people might feel a little overwhelmed! While it’s true that once people get talking, the conversation tends to flow, it’s nice to come up with some questions to get you started, or to help when the conversation is dragging. Here are some tips and tricks!

Come up with an ice-breaker question! This can be anything that’s related to the book, but perhaps not directly about the book. For example, if you read a book about a road trip across the U.S., you might ask everyone what their ultimate road trip snack is. This is a fun way to get everyone comfortable with sharing, and get the conversation rolling!

Start out with “easy” questions. These can be questions that are easily applied to each book you read, such as “What did you think of the main character?” and “Which character did you relate to the most?” You might also ask people what their favorite lines in the book were, and what they thought of the ending.

Look up discussion guides online. Many publishers will write discussion guides for the books they put out, and then print them in the back of the book or put them online. Some other groups also share their discussion questions, and here at TBR we have also provided discussion questions (and activities or snack ideas) for many popular books! Check out our Born a Crime discussion guideEducated discussion guide, and The Silent Patient discussion guide.

How to Find Great Book Club Pick Recommendations

If you’re a book person, we doubt that you’ll have any trouble finding great recommendations. But what makes a great book club pick? We advise picking books that fit within your theme and focus, are readily available to members, and have a wide appeal to many different types of readers. Still need help deciding? Here are a few lists to get you started!

The Best Funny Book Club Picks

Great Short Book Club Picks

Mystery Recommendations for Book Clubs

The Best Literary Book Club Recommendations

The Best YA Book Club Recommendations

In need of more great book recommendations? Sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read.

Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as book recommendations for your book club’s theme or genre–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

5 of the Best Book Club Apps

The pandemic has been hard on us all, but book clubs especially have been searching high and low for ways to stay connected and stay organized, even when we can’t meet in person. Whether you’re looking for some virtual book clubs for new bookish connection or just want a tool that all your book club members can use to stay organized from afar, you’ll want the best book club apps on your phones and tablets! 

1. Reese’s Book Club

If you want to join a virtual book club and feel connected with other readers, then download the exclusive app for Reese’s Book Club! You can create an account, and mark which Reese picks you’ve already read, and learn about past and upcoming Reese picks! You’ll be able to explore why Reese loves a book, access exclusive author content, and connect with other readers on forums and for live virtual events! There are even quick and easy buy links, so you can add to your library easily. It’s a great way to discover new books and feel connected with a wide community of readers online.

2. Book Club by BookMovement

The Book Club app is the ultimate organizational tool for your new or established book club! Once all members download the app, you can use it to create your own group, organize your meeting times and locations, manage RSVP’s, keep track of your book club’s library and save your picks for future consideration on your personal bookshelf, and even vote on your upcoming book picks! You can also rate and review books, discover what other book clubs are reading, and even manage purchasing titles within the app. It’s an app that will make you wonder how you even book clubbed without it! The only thing it doesn’t come with is the drinks and snacks!

3. BookClubz

Like Book Club, BookClubz is another great book club management tool that lets you manage membership of your club, and participate in multiple clubs at the same time. The app also offers polls for possible meeting times, sets up calendars and manages invites and RSVPs, and lets you vote on books in app–no more arguing over the next month’s book pick! You can also easily browse for books, find what others are reading, and share messages to your club. It looks as though some of the functionalities are slightly different than Book Club, so it might be worth checking out both apps to see which one your club prefers!

4. Meetup

Meetup obviously isn’t one of those book club apps that’s exclusively for book groups, but it’s a useful tool if you’re looking for more great clubs to join, literary events to attend, or want to share your book club with your community and find new members! You can search for book club meetings both near toy geographically, or find book clubs and bookish events and meet ups that have gone virtual! 

5. Book of the Month

You might know Book of the Month as the monthly subscription service for book picks, but did you know that you can also use the Book Clubs extension of Book of the Month for your club? Set up your group, give it a name, and then invite all of your members to create a Book of the Month account and join your club. Then, the leader officially submits book picks and everyone is billed individually for their book. You can ship the books to one location (i.e. your leader’s house or meeting spot for easy pick up) or ship them to each member’s house. The Book of the Month app makes it easy to stay connected to your account and picks, and the Clubs feature allows your club to save money and be on the same page. This is a great option for those groups who want to make picking and acquiring new titles super easy.

Find the best book club recommendations

Want more great book club resources? We’ve got you covered!

Want more book club recommendations? Sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read.

Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as book club picks tailored to your book club’s interests–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

THE GIVER OF STARS Book Club Questions

Ever since Jojo Moyes rose to prominence with her novel Me Before You, her books have been favorites among book clubs everywhere. Now her latest novel, The Giver of Stars, is out and it’s the perfect book club pick because it combines history, literacy, and the lives of five unique women in an exciting way. If your book club had picked this book for their meeting, we’ve got a summary and The Giver of Stars discussion questions to help get your meeting off to a great start!

The Giver of Stars Summary

The Giver of Stars follows Alice Wright, a young woman who wants more than her stuffy British life promises, and so she marries an American and heads across the ocean to start her new life. But she doesn’t expect to land in small town Kentucky, where her father-in-law rules the family with an iron fist. Desperately needing an outlet, Alice answers the call for a new initiative started by Eleanor Roosevelt to deliver library books to the poorest, most remote regions of the U.S., and joins the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky.

It’s not long before Alice makes friends with Margery, their fearless and independent leader, and they’re joined by three other women. The five makeshift librarians work hard to deliver books and offer news of the world to hard-to-reach citizens, changing  lives and shaping their own fates along the way.

Reading Guide

Before you read, you might consider looking up Eleanor Roosevelt’s initiate and learning more about it. NPR’st Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky is a great place to start. If your book club hasn’t read a book set in the Depression before, consider perusing a few articles about the Depression for some background knowledge about the social and economic context of the story.

Once you’ve read the book, appoint a bookclub facilitator to bring some questions to get the conversation rolling, and who will help keep members on topic. Don’t feel like you have to stick to the list of questions perfectly–book clubs are the best when conversation flows, so see the questions as a guide!

The Giver of Stars Book Club Questions

  1. Discuss Alice’s motivations for marrying Bennet. Do you think she truly knew what she was getting herself into by marrying him and moving to America?
  2. Discuss the issues of access to literacy during this time period. How did censorship and access differ for different people across gender, race, and class?
  3. What did you think of Alice, Margery, and the women who worked as librarians? Why did they choose this admittedly tough job? How did their motivations change or evolve?
  4. Did you have a favorite character among the women? Who do you think you’re most like? Who do you think you’re the least like? Is there anyone you didn’t like? Why not?
  5. One of the central themes of this book is that knowledge is power. How did you see that play out in this book? Discuss the connection between knowledge, accessibility, and upward mobility.
  6. Discuss the various relationships between the women and the men in their lives. How does Margery manage to have a relationship where she and her partner regard each other as equals in a world where women were expected to subjugate themselves to men? How have things changed since then, and how are they still the same?
  7. Was there ever a moment in your life where your path was shaped by a library or librarian, or a particular book or discovery of a certain type of knowledge?
  8. Discuss the setting–do you think you could have lived in rural Kentucky in the 1930’s? Why does Alice eventually seem to thrive there?
  9. Did you enjoy the historical setting? Did you learn anything about this time period and this place that surprised you?
  10. What are some of the biggest takeaways from this book? Would you recommend it to others?

Bonus: If you’ve read other books by Jojo Moyes, would you recommend any to your group? What would you recommend to members who enjoyed this book and are looking for books with similar themes?

If your book club is looking for more great books to read in 2021, we’ve got you covered with our best book club picks of 2021!

And if you need help finding more great books, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as book club picks or books for fans of Jojo Moyes–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

Between the World and Me Book Club Questions

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a National Book Award winner, bestseller, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a tremendous work of nonfiction that addresses the realities and history of being Black in the United States, and the legacy of white supremacy. If your book group has picked up this book for their next meeting, we have some tips and Between the World and Me book club questions for making your discussion run smoothly.

About the Book

Between the World and Me is written in the epistolary style, as a letter to the author’s teenage son. In his extended letter, Coates discusses the history of slavery and racism that have become permanently tangled in American history and values, and he also shares stories of his own youth in Baltimore and the experiences of power and powerlessness that have affected Black Americans. Coates has stated that he was inspired by the work of James Baldwin and a meeting with President Obama during which Coates criticized Obama’s policies regarding racial disparities between Black people and white people in the healthcare system.

How to Plan Your Meeting

Some book groups might find Between the World and Me to be a challenging text, because it draws upon history, literature, and many current events. Before reading, you might want to acquaint yourself with Coates’s work. Read one of his many articles published on The Atlantic, such as The Case for Considering Reparations, or his series of interviews with President Obama. 

When you meet, it might help to appoint a discussion facilitator whose task is to keep the discussion moving and gently redirect if the conversation gets off track. They can have a set number of questions for starting the discussion, but they should encourage other members to ask questions of the group and propose discussion topics, so the conversation flows organically. The facilitator might also consider writing down other recommended texts that come up in the discussion and sharing with the group afterward.

Book Club Bonus: Consider hosting a viewing of the HBO special of Between the World and Me, a performance of the book and its themes with supplementary footage.

Between the World and Me Book Club Questions

  1. What did you think this book would be about, going into it? If you said race, what do you think of Coates’s argument that race comes from racism, not the other way around? Did reading this book influence your perception of race at all? If so, how?
  2. Has anyone in your book group read the work of James Baldwin? If so, do you see parallels between Coates’s writing and Baldwin’s? Why do you think that Coates chose to structure this book as a letter to his son? What does it accomplish?
  3. Discuss the significance of the title. Are you familiar with the poem that it comes from? If not, share or take a moment to read the poem “Between the World and Me” by Richard Wright, and discuss its influence on Coates.
  4. Why do you think Coates means by “the Dream” and the “Dreamers”? In what way are Black citizens cut off from that Dream? 
  5. Discuss the concept of fear, and how it relates to Coates’s message. What does he fear? At what moments in his life does he fear for his own life? How has that fear impacted him, and what common elements tie his moments of fear together?
  6. Consider when this book was written–in 2015, not long after the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. How does this book connect to Black Lives Matter? Do you see Coates and this book as being an important element to the BLM movement?
  7. Although this book can oftentimes feel heavy, and it’s full of warnings to his son about the cruelty of the world, discuss the elements of joy and hope in this book. How is that joy and hope found and how is it experienced?
  8. Discuss the role of books and learning in Coates’s life. How does his perspective differ when it comes to each?
  9. Discuss the message hat Coaates has about Black bodies being sacred and worthy of praise and admiration. Why do you think he focuses so much attention and value on physical bodies?
  10. Do you think Coates leaves his son and the reader with hope for Black Americans and for the state of race relations in the U.S.?

Looking for more great books by Ta-Nehisi Coates? Check out our book club guide to his novel, The Water Dancer.

Are you looking for more great book club picks for your group? We have plenty of recommendations for great book club picks for 2021, plus you can sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read.

Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as nonfiction book club picks–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Bibliologist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

Untamed Book Club Questions

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a memoir about how Doyle, a popular writer and speaker, one day realized that she wasn’t living the life she wanted, and how she found the courage to radically change her life. It’s been a book club favorite (Reese Witherspoon selected it for her Hello Sunshine book club), so if you and your book club haven’t had a chance to read it, now is the perfect moment! We’ve come up with a summary, reading guide, and Untamed book club questions to help kick off your meeting.

Summary

Glennon Doyle has always strived to be good: a good mother, partner, friend, and more. But while speaking at a conference, she looked across the room and saw professional soccer player Abby Wambach and thought, “There she is.” While she questioned where this powerful feeling was coming from, Glennon reckoned with what she really wanted out of life. Was her life the result of something she’d created for herself, or was she adhering to the expectations of those around her? Once she found the courage to be honest about what she wanted, she made the bold move to ask her husband for a divorce and began to reshape her life to be with Abby. This memoir is both a stirring account of Glennon realizing what she really wanted out of life, and an inspirational book for women to closely examine their own lives to recognize if they were living according to other people’s expectations, or their own dreams and aspirations.

Themes: reflection, freedom, being caged, trusting your intuition, breaking free, being brave

Before you read: Talk with your book club members! Does your group read nonfiction? Memoir? Is your group familiar with Glennon Doyle? It’s not necessary to have read her previous memoirs in order to enjoy Untamed, but you might enjoy Googling her, and watching a few short interviews with her about her work!

Untamed Book Club Questions

What did you think about the first time that Glennon saw Abby? Have you ever experienced a moment like that in your own life? 

Glennon talks a lot about feeling trapped, and how women in particular tend to be more trapped than men in the social constructs of our lives. Do you agree or disagree with this view? Why do you think this might be?

Discuss what it means to have a “good life.” What do you think is the line between being grateful for all that you have, and recognizing when you’re becoming complacent or you’ve stopped attending to your own needs or happiness?

Glennon says, “When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.” She connects this to Knowing–discuss this concept, and how it might apply in your own lives.

Glennon talks a lot about being an adult, and being a parent. At one point, she says that she became a responsible parent when she stopped trying to be an obedient daughter. If you’re a parent, do you agree with this sentiment?

Glennon claims that women have forgotten the moment when they learned how to please others rather than themselves. Do you agree with this? When did you start thinking about pleasing the wider world rather than following your own heart?

Discuss Glennon’s exploration of friendship in this book. Are your friendships built around obligation and rules? Do they serve you?

One of the things we expect of our girls and women is to be happy all the time, even if we aren’t feeling happy. Where does this pressure come from? How did Glennon learn to deal with it, and let go of that pressure? How did letting go of this expectation result in her being a happier person and better mom?

Aside from being a memoir of Glennon’s experiences, she also writes a lot about what it means to be a woman in today’s society. What did you think of her insights? So you agree with her viewpoints? How successful do you think Glennon is at conveying the experiences of women in society?

Glennon discusses the way we control girls and women can adversely affect boys and men, too. Discuss how men can benefit from feminism, too.

Would you read another memoir by Glennon Doyle? Why or why not?

Did this book inspire you, or offer you any important insight? Discuss your main takeaways.

Need more book club recommendations? We’ve got you covered. And if you want more personailzed picks, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as memoirs for book clubs–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

The Henna Artist Book Club Questions

Is your books club looking for a great historical novel that isn’t set during World War II? How about a book that shows readers a different culture than what they’re used to? The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi definitely fits the bill! It’s a Reese Witherspoon book club pick, and has become a bestseller much loved by book groups! If your book club has picked out this book for your next meeting, never fear–we have a summary and The Henna Artist book club questions to help ensure your meeting run smoothly!

The Henna Artist Book Summary

This novel follows a young woman named Lakshmi who flees an abusive arranged marriage in the 1950s and heads to Jaipur, a vibrant city full of opportunity and promise, but danger too. She makes her living as a henna artist, and it’s not long before her artistic talent makes her one of the most sought-after henna artists in the city. But even though the upper class woman all want to hire her, Lakshmi must be careful navigating their circles, and their gossip. Her carefully constructed independent life is thrown off course with the sudden appearance of Lakshmi’s husband, who brings with him someone who will change Lakshmi’s life forever.

Themes: Independence, freedom of choice, tradition vs. progress, consequences 

The Henna Artist Book Club Questions

Did you know much about Indian culture in the 1950’s prior to reading this book? What did you learn? What surprised you?

Have you seen henna art before? Have you ever had henna painted before? Discuss your perceptions of this art form, and spend some time looking up designs to share with your group!

Do you think that you could be as brave as Lakshmi is in leaving, and finding a whole new life for herself? Where do you think her courage came from? Were there any other options before her, aside from leaving?

At the beginning of the novel, Lakshmi says, “Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.” What does she mean by this? She’s discussing independence from the British, but how do you think her statement applies to her own independence from her husband?

What are some recurring themes that you noticed throughout the book? Independence, and freedom to choose are certainly some of the bigger themes that the author returns to. How does Lakshmi both support and embody the idea of independence and freedom of choice in her life?

India in the 1950’s was going through major changes, not just due to their independence from the British, but culturally, too. In what ways do you see the struggle between tradition and new ideas play out in this novel? Which characters are more traditional, and which ones are more modern? How does the caste system affect these changes?

Discuss Lakshmi’s clients. How do they differ, and how are they similar? Are they more or less independent than Lakshmi?

Discuss Lakshmi’s relationship with her sister Radha. Why is it contentious? Who do you think is at fault for that contention? What allows them to finally start to heal?

Do you think that Lakshmi’s drive for freedom led her to making good choices throughout the book? Discuss her decisions and her goals, and what she might have done differently.

Joshi uses proverbs throughout the book to make various points–did any of them stand out to you? Which were your favorites?

Have you read any other books set in historical India? Are there any that you would recommend, to help understand historical context?

Would you read another book by Alka Joshi? Why or why not?

Book Club Bonus: If you are able to, hire a henna artist to come to your book club so you can see the art form up close! The book also includes Malik’s recipe for Batti Balls, which might be fun to make together or ahead of time and serve to the group! As a nod to the sachets that Lakshmi would peddle, we also recommend researching various teas and finding an Eastern healing blend to serve during your discussion.

Want more book club recommendations? Here are some of the best books from 2020 we recommend, and some great literary book club recommendations! And if you want even more great books, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as historical book club books–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

14 A Gentleman in Moscow Book Club Questions

A Gentleman in Moscow has been a bestseller and book club favorite for the last couple of years, so now is a great time for your book club to see what all the hype is about! We’ve put together a guide for your next meeting that include A Gentleman in Moscow summary, discussion questions, and a list of themes to help your conversation run smoothly!

A Gentleman in Moscow Summary

In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is brought before a Bolshevik tribunal for a poem he wrote years earlier while at university. It’s a tumultuous time to be nobility in Russia, but he narrowly escapes execution or being sent to Siberia and instead is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol hotel, right next to the Kremlin. He’s unable to leave for decades, living in much reduced circumstances as the world turns around him, but the Count discovers just how resilient the human spirit can prove to be.

Themes: Finding a sense of purpose, friendship and community, living in the moment

A Gentleman in Moscow Book Club Questions

  1. What is your perception of the Count in the beginning of the novel? How does your perception of him change throughout the book, and as the years pass?
  2. Do you think that the Count’s sentence was a lucky break, or a worse kind of punishment? Why do you think he stayed in Moscow rather than leave like some of his family members? How does living in the Metropol shape his view of his country as the years progress?
  3. How does the Count deal with his sentence emotionally and intellectually? What events or people help him learn to accept it? How does his perspective (and his character) change? In what ways does he hold on to his title as a gentleman?
  4. How does the Count find purpose in his new life? Who helps him find that purpose?
  5. This novel covers a wide expanse of time within a single character’s lifetime. How does the author convey the passage of time, and do you think it is successful? What periods in the Count’s life did you enjoy reading about the most?
  6. How does the Count view the revolutions that occur in his country throughout the course of the novel? How does his perspective differ from those held by other characters in the book?
  7. Discuss the women in this novel, and the Count’s relationship with each of them. How do they influence his perspective on the outside world, and his own search for meaning?
  8. What did you think of the author’s use of humor in this book? Is it successful, and does it make you more sympathetic to the Count? Who would you consider the narrator of this book, and the source of much of the humor found in the text?
  9. What are some of your favorite parts or vignettes in the novel? How does Towles use these scenes to help bring to life the community that lives in the Metropol?
  10. Have you seen the movie Casablanca? Discuss the parallels between the movie and the plot. Why do you think it is the Count’s favorite film?
  11. Consider the reason why the Count was imprisoned in the first place, and then consider Russia as we know it today. What parallels or conclusions can we draw, if any?
  12. How might the Count’s life been different if he’s left Russia in the beginning? Do you think he lived a full and fulfilling life   by staying in the Metropol?
  13. Have you read the author’s first novel, Rules of Civility? Would you read it, or another book by the author? Why or why not?
  14. What books could you recommend to people who liked A Gentleman in Moscow?

Sips and Treats

Because of the title of this novel, it seems like it would be a missed opportunity not to serve Moscow mules at your meeting! (Although we’ll be the first to admit that the origin of the Moscow Mule has nothing to do with the city, so this would be a drink you’d serve purely for the puns.) For treats, we recommend these Russian tea cakes.

Want more great book club suggestions? Sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations! TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that send you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as books like A Gentleman in Moscow–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!