Our top picks for book clubs this month
For book clubs who get excited to discover great debut authors…
The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham
Vincent Tran has returned after two years in juvie, and his childhood friend Sonny Vuong looks on from a distance at this boy she once knew so intimately, now an intriguing stranger. The two are unexpectedly drawn back together by a series of strange events – a drunk grandma, a secret porn stash – and find that, at sixteen, the future is full of possibilities that stretch beyond the confines of their poverty-stricken pocket of western Sydney.
This Australian debut was described by our reviewer as ‘a wise and moving depiction of the infinite possibility that exists most desperately in the hearts of teenagers searching for themselves in a world that demands to define them.’ Read their full review here.
For book clubs keen to discuss creativity, freedom and privilege…
Indelicacy by Amina Cain
Vivian is a cleaning woman at an art museum who nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained.
Our reviewer said that Indelicacy is ‘written with an elegance that might remind the reader of the classics of the late nineteenth century in its careful rendering of narrative, and its austere prose.’ Read their full review here.
For book clubs that appreciate vivid, atmospheric writing…
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Nine-year-old Jai watches too many reality cop shows, thinks he’s smarter than his friend Pari, and considers himself to be a better boss than Faiz. When a boy at school goes missing, Jai decides to use his crime-solving skills to find him. With Pari and Faiz by his side, Jai ventures into some of the most dangerous parts of the sprawling Indian city – the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But kids continue to vanish, and the trio must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.
Our reviewer described this debut novel by award-winning Keralan journalist Anappara as truly brilliant. Read their full reviewhere.
For book clubs who want a high-stakes, self-aware literary thriller…
Sweetness and Light by Liam Pieper
Connor, an Australian expat living in India, spends his time running low-stakes scams on tourists in a sleepy beachside town. Sasha, an American in search of spiritual guidance, heads to an isolated ashram in the hope of mending a broken heart. When one of Connor’s grifts goes horribly wrong, it sets in motion a chain of events that brings the two lost souls together. As they try to navigate a world of gangsters, gurus and secret agendas, they begin to realise that within the ashram’s utopian community, something is deeply, deeply wrong.
Our reviewer highly recommended this unsettling, atmospheric novel. Read their full review here.
For book clubs that admire sprawling portraits of a community…
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Thomas is the night watchman at the first factory to open near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a prominent Chippewa Council member, trying to understand a new bill that is soon to be put before Congress, a bill that threatens the rights of Native Americans. Patrice works at the factory, earning barely enough to support her mother and brother, let alone her alcoholic father who sometimes returns home. But Patrice needs every penny to get if she’s ever going to get to Minnesota to find her missing sister Vera. Multi-award winning author Louise Erdrich weaves together a story of past and future generations, of preservation and progress.
Our reviewer confidently named this novel as one of the year’s best. You can read their full review here.
For book clubs that need a slim and thought-provoking read…
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
When Kim Jiyoung starts exhibiting bizarre behaviours, her husband takes her to a psychiatrist. What follows is a succinct account of Jiyoung’s life, from birth to elementary school, from the office to her days at home caring for a small baby. Throughout, she comes up against persistent sexism. Riveting, original and uncompromising, this South Korean sensation (it sold over a million copies in its home territory) tells the life story of a young woman born at the end of the twentieth century, and raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all.
Our reviewer predicts that this slim novel will leave a bitter aftertaste. You can read their full review here.
For book clubs who revel in fresh and experimental writing…
Blueberries by Ellena Savage
Blueberries could be described as a collection of essays, the closest term available for a book that resists classification; a blend of personal essay, polemic, prose poetry, true-crime journalism and confession that considers a fragmented life, reflecting on what it means to be a woman, a body, an artist. It is both a memoir and an interrogation of memoir, that works to answer the question: What kind of body makes a memoir?
Our reviewer highly praised this work as ‘fervently experiential, candid and original.’ You can read their full review here.
For book clubs seeking conversation about meaning and happiness…
She I Dare Not Name by Donna Ward
This is a frank, funny and deeply intimate reflection on the life of a woman who stands on the threshold between two millennia. Both manifesto and confession, this memoir explores the meaning and purpose Donna Ward discovered in a life lived entirely without a partner and children. Donna uncovers the challenge of living with more solitude than anticipated and what it is like to walk the road through midlife and beyond alone. She I Dare Not Name shows how reading saved this spinster’s life, and how friends and writing and walking brought a contentment and sense of achievement she never thought possible.