Entertainment Books Coronavirus reading: The ideal books to begin your self-isolating book club
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Coronavirus reading: The ideal books to begin your self-isolating book club

The ideal start to your self-isolation book club.
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“Do you have any suggestions what my book club should  read next?”

It’s one of the most frequently-asked questions we hear in the bookshop. And although we might be tempted to take the easy option and put a bestseller in their hands, it is important booksellers give this request the thoughtfulness it deserves.

A “really good read” does not maketh the ideal book club book. But a novel that has layered characters, clear themes, provokes debate, takes readers out of their comfort zone, and displays terrific writing certainly will create vigorous discussion.

One day soon we will write a list of some of the proven book club hits of the past five  years. For now, here are three new ones we think might soon become word-of-mouth favourites:

American Dirt

Jeanine Cummins

Sections of America’s literati flew into a collective rage when Oprah Winfrey declared a few weeks ago that  “everything about this book was so extraordinary. It’s suspenseful, the language is beautiful, and the story really opened my heart”.

The anguish was led by Latino writers who felt Cummins’ American background did not qualify her to write a novel about a Mexican mother and son’s flight to the US border in search of a new life.

Claims of cultural appropriation grew louder, and have continued even after Oprah hosted a TV discussion between the author and a handful of her critics. We urge your book club to read it and then you be the judges.

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell

 This much-awaited work by Irish-born writer Maggie O’Farrell arrived in our shop on Thursday, and although our doors are temporarily closed, we feel certain our internet and phone orders will run hot when the word gets around that Maggie’s back. O’Farrell has a big following in Australia; The Hand That First Held Mine (2010) and Instructions For A Heatwave (2013) remain popular among local book clubs. In this new novel, she presents a fictional account of how William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet came into being. Fans of historic fiction will especially enjoy this one.

Sheerwater

Leah Swann

Just as Lionel Shriver’s 2003 bestseller We Need To Talk About Kevin made for uncomfortable reading and provocative book club chat, Sheerwater will take readers to some dark and murky places.

Betterreading.com.au describes this book as “an extraordinary literary debut; the writing is beautifully evocative and the intertwining narratives of the main characters seamless’’.

Ava’s plan to start a new life in seaside Victoria after escaping an abusive marriage is crushed when the children disappear.

This is a devastating story, and an important mirror on the contemporary world in which we live. Book clubs particularly enjoy those kinds of challenges.

 Corrie Perkin is a Melbourne journalist and bookseller whose Hawksburn shop is still open via mybookshop.com.au. My Bookshop is  also taking book orders on 03 9824 2990