15 best book club books to read in 2023

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By Sanne Vliegenthart

Belonging to a book club can be a great source of joy and community for any book lover. But actually choosing which books to read next in your book club? That’s not always so easy.

To make things simpler for you, I’ve compiled my recommendations of the best books for book clubs to read and discuss in 2023.

These include the best new books, some of the best book club books of all time, and other bestselling and award-winning books from the last few years.

For each recommendation, I’ve listed a few discussion points for book clubs and what you can expect from reading it.

Read on, enjoy the suggestions, and ponder: which book will you choose to read next in your book club?

The best book club books for 2023 that you’ll love reading and discussing

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (2023)

tom lake
Find the book on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookshop.org
  • What is it about? A woman recounts her time as an actor (and brief love story with a famous actor) to her daughters while picking cherries on a farm in Michigan in 2021.
  • Choose it to discuss: Motherhood, fame, life before children, and your experiences of 2021.
  • Books like Tom Lake: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Tom Lake is a real gem of a book, full to the brim with summer vibes and beautiful reflections on life, love, and motherhood.

It’s my Book of the Month for August in the Tolstoy Therapy Book Club and (at least in my eyes) one of the best new book club reads for 2023.

The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand (2023)

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  • What is it about? A seemingly perfect food blogger who is suffering from the sudden loss of her husband finds comfort in reuniting with her best friends.
  • Choose it to discuss: Friendship, loss, and the power of community.
  • Books like The Five-Star Weekend: The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand, plus more on this list

Summer beach reads don’t get much better than this. I adored reading The Five-Star Weekend – it’s both pure escapism and a perfect laid-back easy read for book clubs to read and bond over.

This 2023 bestseller will get your reading group thinking about the best friends from each stage of your life, and maybe even inspire you to plan your own Five-Star Weekend.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022)

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  • What is it about? Two nerdy kids meet in a hospital, bond over video games, and years later start their own game company. This brings them money and fame, but also tragedy.
  • Choose it to discuss: Friendship, grief, and creative work.
  • Books like Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, plus more on this list

I’ve recommended Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow to so many people. It’s one of the most wonderfully creative and gripping books I’ve read in a long time.

It’s also a book I wanted to discuss with everyone, so I think it’d be a perfect book for book clubs this year.

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo (2022)

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  • What is it about? A memoir of reckoning and healing by acclaimed journalist Stephanie Foo, investigating the little-understood science behind complex PTSD and how it has shaped her life.
  • Choose it to discuss: Mental health, trauma, and experiences with therapy.
  • Books like What My Bones Know: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

What My Bones Know is a deeply personal book about the hold of the past over the present, the mind over the body, and one woman’s ability to reclaim agency from her trauma.

In this non-fiction book for book clubs, Stephanie Foo interviews scientists and tries a variety of innovative therapies, investigates the effects of immigrant trauma on her California hometown, and uncovers family secrets to learn how trauma can be inherited through generations.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (2021)

The Island of Missing Trees
Find the book on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookshop.org
  • What is it about? Two teenagers from opposite sides of a divided land fall in love at a tavern. Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada Kazantzakis has never visited the island where her parents were born. But she does have one connection to the land of her ancestors: a fig tree.
  • Choose it to discuss: Parenting, mental health, love across borders, and conflict.
  • Books like The Island of Missing Trees: The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Island of Missing Trees must be the first book I’ve ever read that features the perspective of a fig tree, and it’s just so delicately and thoughtfully crafted.

Opening in 1974 on the island of Cyprus, read this book for proof of how human emotion surpasses all borders.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (2023)

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  • What is it about? This long-awaited novel about love, faith, and medicine is set against the historical progress of India from 1900 through to the 1970s.
  • Choose it to discuss: How things change and stay the same between generations, motherhood, loss, and different types of love
  • Books like The Covenant of Water: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

From Oprah to The New York Times, this book has been recommended everywhere. At over 700 pages long, The Covenant of Water is the longest book on this list, and it’s absolutely not always easygoing.

But it’s truly a remarkable book, especially if your book club loves historical fiction and multi-generational stories.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (2008)

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  • What is it about? Two best friends, Tully and Kate, as they grow up in 70s suburbia.
  • Choose it to discuss: Friendship that lasts decades, being a teen, and how to stick together through whatever life throws at you.
  • Books like Firefly Lane: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The inspiration for the new hit Netflix showFirefly Lane follows the friendship of Tully and Kate. While Kate is plain and unpopular, Tully is beautiful and easily makes friends – but her mother’s abandonment pushes her to seek the approval of everybody she meets.

As their friendship is tested over the following decades, what keeps these women together is the magic they found on Firefly Lane in 1974.

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout (2021)

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  • What is it about? An unshowy, intimate novel-cross-fictional memoir about a successful writer and her relationship with her ex-husband and father of her daughters.
  • Choose it to discuss: How your relationships have shaped your life, human imperfections, love, and loss.
  • Books like Oh William!: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

In Oh William! the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Booker-longlisted bestseller offers an open-hearted and fearlessly honest novel about love, loss, family secrets, and oh-so-common human imperfections.

Now in her 60s and settled into a successful writing career, Strout’s heroine Lucy Barton returns to explore her tender and complex relationship with her first husband, William.

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer (2023)

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  • What is it about? An eye-opening look at life post-abolition as one woman searches the Caribbean for her lost children.
  • Choose it to discuss: Abolition, freedom, the impact of the past, and courage in the face of loss.
  • Books like River Sing Me Home: The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson, Weyward by Emilia Hart

One of the best new historical fiction novels for 2023 and a Good Morning America Book Club pick, River Sing Me Home is a soaring novel of courage and sacrifice that’s inspired by true events.

Set in 1834, you’ll witness the main character Rachel’s journey from the cane fields of Barbados to the forests of British Guiana in the hope of finding the faces of the beloved children she never forgot.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (2021)

A Psalm for the Wild-Built book
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  • What is it about? In a utopian future on a planet named Panga, a non-binary tea monk (who serves tea from their bike-powered wagon) feels completely lost in life. They wander into the wilderness and meet Mosscap, a robot who has some very good questions that they have no clue how to answer. Here’s my summary and review.
  • Choose it to discuss: Gender, sustainability, and the future of our planet.
  • Books like A Psalm for the Wild-Built: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers is at the forefront of hopepunk, or hopeful sci-fi, and crafts soothingly optimistic visions of the future for us to retreat into (and discuss in book clubs).

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a wonderfully feel-good cozy book, and the first short read in Chambers’ Monk & Robot duology.

Piranesi by Susanna Clark (2020)

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  • What is it about? A genre-bending book where nothing is quite what it seems.
  • Choose it to discuss: What on earth happened in this book.
  • Books like Piranesi: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark, Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The winner of The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021, Piranesi is a hypnotic story of a man in a house with infinite rooms, endless corridors, and waves that thunder up staircases.

Beejay Silcox writes for The Times Literary Supplement, “The page-turning thrill of Piranesi is watching him puzzle out what we can already see, and guilelessly wander into danger…”

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)

Pachinko book cover
Find the book on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookshop.org
  • What is it about? An epic of a Korean immigrant family over four generations as they fight for acceptance, freedom, and riches in 20th-century Japan.
  • Choose it to discuss: Family, the choices we make, loss, and the path from poverty to wealth.
  • Books like Pachinko: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Pachinko is one of those remarkable books that manages to encompass such a sheer amount of time, change, and human emotion. I think it’s one of the best book club books of all time – as well as a fantastic book to help you fall back in love with reading.

After you finish reading the book with your book club, there’s an excellent adaptation by Apple TV of Pachinko to enjoy.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (1886)

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  • What is it about? One of the best books ever written about death and the shortness of life. (And a classic that’s not too difficult to read.)
  • Choose it to discuss: Death, coming to terms with mortality, and making the most of life.
  • Books like The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The subject matter is pretty heavy, sure, but The Death of Ivan Ilyich is one of the most accessible places to start with Leo Tolstoy – and a fairly easy classic to read. There’s also plenty to discuss as a book club read.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020)

Find the book on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookshop.org
  • What is it about? Twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
  • Choose it to discuss: How our upbringing affects us, definitions of home, leaving the place you grew up.
  • Books like The Vanishing Half: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Maureen Corrigan shared about this bestseller: “As another melodramatic novelist, Charles Dickens, recognized: If you tell people a wild and compelling enough story, they may just listen to things they’d rather not hear.”

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (2022)

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  • What is it about? A gripping historical fiction novel about the suspicious death of fifteen-year-old Lucrezia di Cosimo de’ Medici, just a year after her marriage.
  • Choose it to discuss: Freedom, captivity, women’s roles, and what really happened.
  • Books like The Marriage Portrait: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Right from the start of The Marriage Portrait, we know that less than a year after fifteen-year-old Lucrezia de’ Medici marries Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, her short life will be over.

The official cause was ‘putrid fever’, but it was rumoured that her husband was really to blame. What follows is a spellbinding book that’s gorgeously crafted, infused with life, and difficult to put down as you explore what (according to Maggie O’Farrell) really happened.

Looking for more good book club books? Head over to my list of the best modern novels of the 21st century for some of the best books ever written to discuss with your group.

For the best new books, I’ve also curated the best new historical fiction, memoirs, and thrillers for 2023.

You can also keep an eye on what I’m reading in The Tolstoy Therapy Book Club for more book club book suggestions. Happy reading!

If you adore books, need a bit of a boost, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, check out The Sanctuary, a seven-day course from Tolstoy Therapy.