Book Club Recommendations: The Most Popular Reads of 2008 from the Editors of Reading Group Guides

There's a great website called Reading Group Guides and every year, their editors are kind enough to collate the most popular reads among their hundreds of member book clubs. Below are the results for 2008. (Note that these titles, while popular in 2008, can be from any year — a list of just "new in 2008" titles is coming soon.)

Also, we're publishing this list without any book descriptions. Rather than tell you about the book, we thought it would be interesting for you to tell us why you (or your book club) found the book so "discussable." So, if know one of these books, email us at with your take on the book. Who knows? Your words might just end up published below. ;-)


The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

Shannon Rigney Keane from I'm thinking... says:

Even though the main character of the book is only eleven years old, I think this book is best suited for high schoolers. Liesel Meminger, the book thief of the title, lives with foster parents in Nazi Germany, where they hide a young Jewish man in their basement. The books that Liesel steals, and eventually learns to read, become a metaphor for connection and love. This poetic book is full of mysteries, and will truly startle you with its beauty, humor, and truths. It's a rich and layered read, and one that would be well-suited to discussion in a class or book club.


Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

Tammy Rice from Dalton, GA says:

I finished this last night and I cried like a baby (and books rarely generate that reaction from me). While it's geared to a toward a “tween” audience, I would recommend this to anyone.

Its ending is haunting: “And that’s the end of the story about Bruno and his family. Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.”

And yet, I thought, it does.


The Five People You Meet in Heaven

by Mitch Albom

Miss Hannah says:

This is a book about how we make a difference, even when we're not looking; about how other ordinary people we never met make a difference in our lives. Just a little girl, half guessed through the smoke and the fire of war, a child with no name, no face, not even an outline. Or maybe a boy running across the street, gone again in less than a second. They can and do change lives. Beautifully written, this version of Heaven has very little to do with religion, and very much to do with who we are inside, that person unknown often even to ourselves. Atheist that I am, I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it to anyone who has a few hours to consider the impact they have in the world around them.


The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

L. Rivetz from Ocala, FL says:

A great book and without saying a single word about the plot, I'll recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the meaning of the word 'dignity'.


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith

Bridget McKenna from Seattle WA says:

This book and the series that follows features Precious Ramotswe, a middle-aged lady of traditional values, and owner of the first female-operated detective agency in Botswana. Anyone who loves Africa, or even the idea of Africa, should rush out and buy these. They’re quite cozy, which is not really my usual style, but the masterful combination of simplicity, innocence, wisdom, and quiet humor won me over. I open each new volume with happy anticipation, knowing the experience will reward me on many levels.


The Glass Castle

by Jeannette Walls

Tina Nole says:

This is a common story of tragic poverty and crazy parents... but I think it's the way Walls tells it with such non-judgmental innocence that I like.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

by Lisa See

Shannon Turlington from Books Worth Reading says:

This novel is an unflinching, sometimes brutal portrayal of life for women in 19th century China. It's also the story of a friendship between women that must have been very rare in such a time. The novel depicts the mysterious ritual of foot-binding and the little-known tradition of women's "secret writing," called nu shu, and so opens the hidden world of these women. Yet despite all the restrictions on their lives — and despite their human flaws — these women survived and created intimate lifelong relationships with one another. Clearly, there's more than enough fodder for any book club to discuss and debate.


My Sister's Keeper

by Jodi Picoult

Stefanie says:

Anna was conceived as a bone marrow donor for her older sister who has leukemia. After countless medical procedures with plans for her to donate one of her kidneys, Anna has had enough and sues her parents for medical emancipation. As you can imagine, there are all kinds of moral implications at play in this story.


The Friday Night Knitting Club

by Kate Jacobs

Denise says:

Because this book had received rave reviews and was on the best sellers list for quite some time, I was delighted when I could finally set aside time to read it. The characters are well-developed and each has his or her own story that is interesting — not because the individual character is particularly compelling, but rather because their lives are much like those of anyone you might already know.

Although I very much enjoyed the book, I was disturbed by the unexpected, abrupt manner in which the book ended, particularly since this is not the first book that I've read by this author. That said, this element of surprise, even if it's unpleasant and rather abrupt, may be exactly what makes the book so appealing to some.


A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

Mustafa Abubaker from Atlantia, Georgia says:

Following up to the critically acclaimed debut The Kite Runner, Hosseini paints a heart-wrenching portrait of the choices we have to make and asks the reader if they are willing to give up what they love for who they love. It's an excellent novel that deals with the facets of life that add color to our world.


Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

Renee R. from Aiken, SC says:

I'd always wanted to be in the circus growing up. Reading this book made me feel like I was a part of the carnival life when such a life was perhaps the most difficult. This story made me fall in love with the circus all over again. This is a beautiful story with characters so well-developed, I found myself cheering out loud at every calamity that befalls the villain.


The Space Between Us

by Thrity Umrigar

Jacqueline Larson from Maple Grove, MN says:

I read "The Space Between Us" because someone in book club recommended it to us. I was reluctant at first — I don't know why. Anyway, I was quickly drawn in by the characters, and fascinated with the vivid images of India. The story of an upper-class woman and her "help" trying to understand each other is riveting and kept me glued to the book until the last page. Now I'm on a bit of an India kick, reading "The Toss of a Lemon" by Padma Viswanathan.


The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Anne Charnock says:

Atwood insists on categorizing The Handmaid's Tale as speculative fiction as opposed to science fiction since she feels no technological breakthroughs are needed to make this story a reality. This book is a landmark in feminist dystopian literature and tackles the issue of religious fascism. However, I felt The Handmaid's Tale required a greater suspension of disbelief than other dystopian stories in this list. Nevertheless, Atwood raises a spectre that sticks in the mind.


The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

Lois says:

This book was one of the most touching love stories I have ever read. You're swallowed, tossed around through time, and continually mindful of the impossibility and paradox of their love, but you hope for the best. Make sure you have a big box of tissues for this one, it will leave you in both smiles and tears.


A Fine Balance

by Rohinton Mistry

Chrisbookarama from Canada says:

This is an incredibly sad yet touching book. It's difficult to read the terrible things that happen to the characters. However, the characters, who are mostly strangers to each other, care for one another during hard times. It's a must-read.