Love. What topic could possibly generate more discussion in your book club than that?
With that simple premise I asked some of the most prolific book bloggers I know to share their picks for the most romantic titles your book club would enjoy. I'm happy to say the result is quite a diverse list — there are a number of (dare I say it?) lovely titles I'm confident that your club hasn't read.
by Craig Thompson
Books about first love aren't hard to find, but I've never encountered one like this. This 600-page memoir in graphic novel form is heart-breakingly true. Thompson's book is the best that a story can be — the details and authenticity bring his world alive, while the universal ideas about growing up, yearning, and love will take the reader on a nostalgic journey back to her own first, transformative, love. And while I've never read this title in the context of a book club, bringing up memories of your first significant love should provide more than enough fodder for discussion.
by Robin Maxwell
"The funny thing about O, Juliet is that I knew how the story was going to end (O happy dagger!); and I still couldn't put this book down. I liked that this story had the traditional passion between Romeo and Juliet, and yet there was also the good versus bad element. I definitely was intrigued by the story (and the suspense), and I really enjoyed the character of Juliet and how Ms. Maxwell developed her. O, Juliet would make a fabulous book club selection in my opinion. Since the book is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet there are many things to compare and contrast between the two works. In addition, some other topics you might consider are true love, family obligations, parent/child relationships, friendship, and betrayal.
by Alex Prud'Homme, Julia Child
Just about everyone in the world has at least heard of Julia Child, the famous "French Chef," though I'll bet that there are a lot of things about Julia that you don't know. This book is an exploration of love — how she came to fall in love with French cooking, her love of learning, and the amazing love between Julia and her husband, Paul. Adventurous book groups could make her recipes for their meeting, but all book groups will find fodder for discussion in Julia's passion and drive, her commitment to her work, and her successful marriage. Why can't more people be like Julia?
by Dodie Smith
This young adult title tells the story of two sisters who live with their family in a crumbling castle in the English countryside. They survive on the dwindling royalties of a best-selling book their father wrote years ago, but times are tight now. When two American men inherit their grandfather's estate down the road, one of the sisters sees the possibility of love while the other sees a way out of their genteel poverty. All of the characters grow and change in complex ways throughout the book though the narrative focuses on the younger sister maturing into adulthood. We read this in our mother-daughter book club when our daughters were 13 and discussed the changing role of women in society, love and marriage, money, children and their parents, moral and ethical decisions, what part religion plays in our lives and more. The book is so well-written that when we talked about our favorite scenes in the book all twelve of us named a difference scene. I think that's amazing depth for one book. Finally, adult book clubs should enjoy it just as much, if not more, than mother-daughter book clubs.
by Philippa Gregory, Anya Seton
You've heard of The Other Boleyn Girl, but chances are you've never heard of author Anya Seton. Seton's historical romances are well-researched, exquisitely told stories. Katherine, first published in the mid-1950s, is the story of two people who fall truly, deeply in love, even though they shouldn't. Seton writes of a love that is imperfect and inopportune, but worth protecting no matter the cost. Although no one gets beheaded, your book club will still find itself breathless at the end, and eager to discuss all the complexities — adultery, obligation, loyalty, even murder — of this real historical romance.
by Elizabeth Gaskell, edited by Pam Morris
My book club has been going strong for about six years now, and Wives and Daughters was one of our most favorite reads. It has so many different relationships to explore. Of course, there's the obvious between Mr. Gibson and his new wife and Mr. Gibson and his daughter. But then there's also the friction between Molly and her new stepmother and Molly and her stepsister, Cynthia. But the part where love comes in is the complicated relationship between Cynthia and Roger, and Molly and Roger. It's a perfect book for Valentines Day reading!
by Alain De Botton
Alain de Botton's The Romantic Movement, a philosophical yet light-hearted analysis of a modern, urban love affair from start to finish, is a perfect Valentine's Day read. de Botton's smart, witty writing, complete with diagrams, equations, and short (but accessible) detours into philosophy, make The Romantic Movement an unforgettable novel about the ups and downs that relationships take. I could read this one over and over again.
by Douglas Carlton Abrams
It is the late 16th century in Seville, Spain when we meet Don Juan de Marco. We learn of his childhood living in a convent, his training as a swordsman and spy, and his love of beautiful women. And we see this legendary seducer fall in love himself. Although a bit flowery at times, this book provides amazing descriptions of life in the 1500s and also explores whether true love and passion can last a lifetime, giving book groups much to discuss.
by Erica Bauermeister
On Monday nights, Lillian teaches a cooking class at her restaurant. Eight students make their way to class, coming through the side gate and following the golden glow to the kitchen in back, where they will learn to cook from a woman who knows how to inspire her students to create food from the heart and from their memories rather than from a recipe. Reminiscent of Garden Spells and Like Water for Chocolate, there is a bit of magical realism to the book — but just a touch — not overdone at all. Bauermeister’s vividly detailed descriptions of food leave your mouth watering and put you right into Lillian’s kitchen. The writing is richly textured, lush and sensual — really quite beautiful. Themes for discussion in book groups could include long term relationships, dating, the role of food in families and in courtship, what essential ingredients are needed for love, romance, marriage, happiness. A lovely debut novel that felt like it was written by a wise old soul, foodies and romantics alike will enjoy this story.
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