I’m a sucker for book clubs. I’ve always loved to discuss books and literature with fellow readers. But having graduated college, I no longer have classmates who are obligated to talk and participate in classroom discussions, and most of my reading friends have scattered across the country. So, of course, it is a priority for me as I’m preparing to move to New York this year. Yes, that’s right. Your girl found herself a book club before she found herself an apartment.

In fairness, this book club is made of girls who are all moving to New York, so you know we have great literary taste, and we come bearing so many book recommendations. So here are some you might consider adding to your own book club:

1. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Cover of "People We Meet on Vacation" by Emily Henry
[Image description: Cover of “People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry]

The first time I saw this book, I picked it up, read the back cover, and put it back down. It was intriguing, but I wasn’t sure yet. It wasn’t until later that week, when the rest of my book club was raving over it, that I realized I made a mistake. Back to the bookstore, I went. 

Emily Henry, the author of Beach Read, brings back funny and witty banter in People We Meet on Vacation. Two former friends, Poppy and Alex, reunite in Palm Springs for a trip that pushes them to re-examine their friendship. Yes, there are tropes galore: “opposites attract,” “best friends to lovers,” “there is only one bed,” and “slow burn” romance. But a trope done well? *chef’s kiss* So if you’re a fan of Love, Rosie (because who doesn’t love Sam Claflin in the movie? And what is it with characters named Alex in romance books?) then you’ll probably enjoy People We Meet on Vacation. It’s a breath of relaxation and one of the easiest, fastest reads I’ve had this year.

Get it here and support local bookstores!

2. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

Cover of "The Anthropocene Reviewed" by John Green
[Image description: Cover of “The Anthropocene Reviewed” by John Green]

If you remember John Green for The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and Turtles All The Way Down, you might also think of his work as 2010 Tumblr-core. His work is not entirely without its faults, but the backlash around his books is due to some misinterpretation and a lot of over-romanticization in film and TV adaptations. But I’ve always enjoyed his and Hank Green’s YouTube channel and books because they never talked down to their young audiences. 

So I was very excited to pick up The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on A Human Centered Planet, John Green’s first nonfiction book. I’ve not yet finished it but so far, it’s exactly what I’ve hoped for: essays of thoughtfulness, exploration, and introspection. If we trust in the idea that Lady Bird suggests, that attention is a type of love, then The Anthropocene Reviewed is a love story through and through. 

Get it here and support local bookstores!

3. Dune by Frank Herbert

Cover of "Dune" by Frank Herbert.
[Image description: Cover of “Dune” by Frank Herbert.]

You know that I love Dune. In fact, I’ve written about Dune and I’ll probably find a reason to write about it some more. But it’s been easier to convince my book club to pick up this sci-fi classic with the upcoming film adaptation in October. It also helps that Timothee Chalamet is playing the main character of Paul Atreides, so we’re all going to watch it, obviously. But we also know the dangerous truth of adaptations: The book is more often better than the movie. 

What J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is for fantasy, Frank Herbert’s Dune is for science fiction. Paul Atreides’ family is betrayed after moving to a dangerous desert planet, and he undergoes the burden of being the imperfect “Kwisatz Haderach,” a messianic chosen one – albeit one with ambiguous morals and seriously questionable decisions. The worldbuilding of Dune is fascinating and cinematic, with deeply resonant themes of environmentalism, politics, and humanity. 

Get it here and support local bookstores!

4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Cover of "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens.
[Image description: Cover of “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.]

I’ll admit it, book clubs are partly an excuse for me to keep buying more books and catching up with all the ones I had to put down and say “I already have books at home.” While Delia Owens’ novel came out in 2018, I’ve only recently been able to catch up with this courtroom mystery book and, in the past year of social distancing and loneliness, Where the Crawdads Sing is surprisingly appropriate. 

I’ve heard a few different thoughts on this book, so I was interested to get into it. Kya, a recluse in the wilderness who survives in the face of abandonment, is accused of murder when the popular boy, Chase Andrews, is found murdered. Where the Crawdads Sing delves into relationships and connections, including their absence or destructive nature. Although I sometimes struggled to enjoy the characters, I will always appreciate a good nature writer and Delia Owens is exactly that, through and through, with vibrant and stunning scenes of the North Carolina marches. The courtroom scenes are also well written, but the twist ending also came as a surprise, one that split opinions and led to good conversation – and isn’t that every book club’s favorite thing? 

Get it here and support local bookstores!

5. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Cover of "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb.
[Image description: Cover of “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by Lori Gottlieb.]

Here at The Tempest, we write a lot about the importance of mental health and self-care. These are big topics that deserve care and thought. So of course, I was fascinated when I was recommended this book in our reading club. I’ll also admit, I’ve often wondered: Are there therapists for our therapists? As I learn in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Beyond, it turns out they do, in fact, exist.

Lori Gottlieb, a therapist herself, writes this nonfiction novel examining her own mental health and interweaving the stories of her clients.  She undergoes a devastating relationship breakup and begins seeing a therapist herself as she reflects on her life and grief. She connects the process of storytelling with therapy and medical care, and it’s a fascinating look into the healthcare process. 

Get it here and support local bookstores!

6. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Cover of "The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett
[Image description: Cover of “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett]

I am not joking when I say that I have seen this book in the window of every bookstore display this past year. I’ve always been cautious about bookstore displays. I imagine that most books are put on the main displays for their covers rather than their content. But it turns out The Vanishing Half doesn’t just have a beautiful book cover and it has earned its spot in bookstore windows for good reason. 

The Vanishing Half (we reviewed it here) is the story of two Black sisters, Desiree and Stella, who are “white-passing” and eventually leave their hometown. As a historical fiction piece, it explores complex familial ties between romantic relationships, cousins, sisters, and descendants. It covers race, LGBTQIA+ issues, class, motherhood, and identity. Brit Bennett tackles so many topics in a single book, that it can feel overwhelming – but in a way that feels intentional and well crafted. 

Get it here and support local bookstores!

7. The Second Season by Emily Adrian

Cover of "The Second Season" by Emily Adrian.
[Image description: Cover of “The Second Season” by Emily Adrian.]

Wow, Emily-s are getting a lot of attention on this booklist, aren’t they? But it’s worth it. The Second Season is about  Ruth Devon, a sports broadcaster balancing motherhood and a career. It grapples with relationships, family, and personal ambition, giving an honest look at the challenge women at the top of their game face. In fact, you don’t even have to believe me. You can find out from my fellow Tempest editor Natalia who wrote a review on The Second Season.

I could talk forever about how much I love books and how wonderful it is to have people to talk about these books with. So if you’re also interested in finding yourself a book club, The Second Season happens to be the August book of the month for The Tempest’s own book club! 

You can read the first chapter of The Second Season here, courtesy of The Tempest. Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

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  • Helena Ong is a freelance writer and journalist from San Francisco, California. In the past, she's worked at San Francisco Public Press, World Policy Journal, and NBC4 Los Angeles. She graduated from Pomona College, where she served as Production Editor for her college newspaper, The Student Life.


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