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15 books by women to get your book club talking

By Kobo • September 05, 2020The Bookish Life

Few things can stall a book club like a book nobody enjoyed -- or read!

Getting together to admit you didn’t finish the book or don’t have anything to say about it can feel like a waste of time, and it makes picking the next book and scheduling the next meeting that much harder.

In this list you’ll find sure-fire crowd-pleasers, all written by women -- ready to be enjoyed and discussed by any reader.

Canadian readers can access all of these eBooks by subscribing to Kobo Plus Read. Start your FREE 30-day trial.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Helen Watt and Ester Velasquez are brilliant women connected across three centuries by a cache of mysterious documents. Who is the mysterious Aleph, supposedly a blind rabbi, who employed Ester to take dictation as a plague bore down on them? Part historical fiction, part modern-day detective story, Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink has something for every reader.

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His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Afi, a hard-working young woman living in a small town in Ghana, suddenly has to answer a marriage proposal from a wealthy businessman she doesn’t know. The promise of comfort and opportunity is hard to resist, but who is this man, and what can Afi expect of a marriage that starts this way? This is a book that begs to be discussed in “would you or wouldn’t you?” terms with friends.

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The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon

Lulu, a 10-year-old girl, finds a mysterious note on the kitchen table the same day her mother goes missing on the Fraser River. She buries the note in the woods and says nothing to anyone, until forty years later when she discovers that she’s not the only one in town who hid something that day. The Very Marrow of Our Bones is a literary detective story with a big heart.

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No Good Asking by Fran Kimmel

The Nyland family is falling apart. Ellie and Eric can’t seem to make things work with each other and their sons, and every day just brings more heartache and disappointment. The last thing they need is to take in a stranger to care for, but when they discover the domestic situation across the road that drives a young girl to wander outside in the cold, they do the compassionate thing and offer her shelter. As they pass the Christmas season with their young ward to keep them company, they gain a new perspective on the meaning of family.

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Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie

Through a series of vignettes, we follow the story of a pair of American academics making their way in London through a series of romantic entanglements. Alison Lurie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the perfect pick for any book club that struggles to find a balance between books for the head and books for the heart.

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An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is widely respected as an public thinker on gender, race, and the politics of bodies. But this book proves she deserves credit as a novelist as well. Mireille Duval Jameson lives a charmed life in America, afforded by the wealth of her Haitian father. On her annual visit to the family estate, Mireille steps outside the gated grounds and is taken hostage by a brutal gang that holds her for ransom. With its breakneck pace and depictions of brutal violence, it’s not for everyone, but there’s a lot to talk about for a book club that makes it through.

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The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

104-year-old Ona is visited every Saturday by a boy sent to help her around the house. He earns her trust and eventually she tells him things she’s never spoken of -- until one Saturday morning he fails to show up. And his father comes instead. Ona realizes that life lessons keep coming no matter how old you get, and readers realize how many feelings they can feel at once while quietly weeping onto their eReaders.

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Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Hidden in Gil’s library of thousands of books are letters written to him from his wife, who disappeared after writing the last one. Where did she go? Why did she leave? And can their daughter Flora unravel the mystery?

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Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Wanda Schultz set out to find her wayward boyfriend, but when fate brings her to the mansion of Margaret Hughes, she finds an unlikely kindred spirit instead. This is a story of a surprising female friendship born from pain and sustained by sympathy shared between the two main characters.

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The Street by Ann Petry

If Lutie Johnson wasn’t spending so much time working so hard she might take a moment to pray for something to go right. It’s the 1940s, Harlem, and Lutie’s been left alone to raise her 8-year-old son at a time when single parenting is rare and even more difficult than it is today. As she struggles to pursue the American dream, she’s met by racism and sexism at every turn. The Street’s themes of social injustice and American mythology offer a lot of fodder for discussion.

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The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman

Gustine is a teenage girl selling her body in the streets of cholera-plagued 19th century London to earn enough to raise her baby boy. When offered employment in a medical school, she jumps at it, even if the job does involve procuring human corpses for dissection. Stomach-churning scenes abound in this vividly-imagined historical novel.

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Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk

Nobel Prize-winner Olga Tokarczuk’s briefest novel available in an English translation packs a lot into its modest page count. As she tells the troubled story of Poland in the 20th century, she calls upon magical realism to describe fantastical things, all the while employing bare, stark prose. With its short, punchy chapters, the book is far more readable than most descriptions of it would suggest, and it’s easy to talk about from a variety of perspectives.

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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

When James Witherspoon’s two daughters finally meet as teenagers, only one of them knows they’re sisters. That’s because Witherspoon is a bigamist, with two families: and only one knows about the other. Tayari Jones counts among her fans Judy Blume and Oprah Winfrey, and Jones’ An American Marriage was officially picked as an Oprah’s Book Club title in 2018.

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Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta draws on folktales of Nigeria to create an utterly unique reading experience in Under the Udala Trees. It’s a story of two girls and their forbidden love set against the backdrop of Nigeria’s struggle for independence. As familiar as a tale of star-crossed lovers may sound, in Okparanta’s hands this story becomes something fresh that has to be felt to be believed.

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The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya’s second novel takes its name from a subtweet (a biting remark made in social media that can be read as a slight against someone specific) which breaks a friendship that already strained under an imbalance of fame and fortune. It’s a very compact novel about a particularly contemporary phenomenon, where we can communicate with, insult, and talk past each other with a few words typed into a handheld device.

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