Top Book Club Books for Winter 2019

by Heather Caliendo
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Now that we’re in the new year, book clubs are picking back up again! And the big question is always: what to read next?

There’s so many great books that will publish this year so I put together a list of the hottest reads coming out by season. For instance, this article is covering books published this winter 2019 (January and February). By the way, each of these will eventually have book club questions so be sure to check back to the site for those questions!

Alright, let’s do this.

Books to read in winter 2019

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is receiving fantastic reviews. Fresh of the huge hit of their previous book, The Wife Between Us, the duo is back with their latest psychological thriller. Of all the genres, thrillers can be complicated in the sense that some are done very well and others not so much. Honestly, out of all the reading experiences, a dud thriller is one of the biggest letdowns. So when there is a well-written thriller, it’s for sure a must-read. Here’s the synopsis:

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

The book is out now! Get yourself a copy here.

Historical fiction book club lovers need to add The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict to your reading list! If you haven’t embraced historical fiction yet, I highly recommend giving it a try. The stories are engaging, the history is interesting and the female protagonists strive to make a name for themselves and not be held back by society’s expectations  of women. The Only Woman in the Room is based on the true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication. Here’s the synopsis:

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich’s plans while at her husband’s side, understanding more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she knew a few secrets about the enemy. She had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis…if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.

Get yourself a copy here.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker is the latest in the sci-fi/dystopian genre, which has picked up steam in the past couple of years. This one is about an ordinary town is transformed by a mysterious illness that triggers perpetual sleep. Here’s the synopsis:

One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.

Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Written in luminous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking and beautiful novel, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life—if only we are awakened to them.

Get yourself a copy here.

If your book club is looking for a straight-up mystery, She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge is a solid choice. I received an advanced reader copy of it from the publisher and the novel reminded me of a Dateline episode (which is a good thing!). It’s the first of a new series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens. Here’s the synopsis:

The story is about a teen girl, Aurora, who goes missing after a night of partying in 1983. Thirty years later, the discovery of her body reopens a cold case and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving it. Back in 1983, Jonah was a young cop in the small town, he had known the teenagers—including Aurora—personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’ investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead.

Book club questions can be found here. Get yourself a copy here.

This title + cover = fantastic! American Pop by Snowden Wright is about the Forsters, founders of the world’s first major soft-drink company—against the backdrop of more than a century of American cultural history. Family sagas are always great discussion books as readers can compare and contrast to their own families. Of all the genres, people seem the most opinionated about the ones centered around a family. Here’s the synopsis:

Moving from Mississippi to Paris to New York and back again, a saga of family, ambition, passion, and tragedy that brings to life one unforgettable Southern dynasty—the Forsters, founders of the world’s first major soft-drink company—against the backdrop of more than a century of American cultural history.

The child of immigrants, Houghton Forster has always wanted more—from his time as a young boy in Mississippi, working twelve-hour days at his father’s drugstore; to the moment he first laid eyes on his future wife, Annabelle Teague, a true Southern belle of aristocratic lineage; to his invention of the delicious fizzy drink that would transform him from tiller boy into the founder of an empire, the Panola Cola Company, and entice a youthful, enterprising nation entering a hopeful new age.

Now the heads of a preeminent American family spoken about in the same breath as the Hearsts and the Rockefellers, Houghton and Annabelle raise their four children with the expectation they’ll one day become world leaders. The burden of greatness falls early on eldest son Montgomery, a handsome and successful politician who has never recovered from the horrors and heartbreak of the Great War. His younger siblings Ramsey and Lance, known as the “infernal twins,” are rivals not only in wit and beauty, but in their utter carelessness with the lives and hearts of others. Their brother Harold, as gentle and caring as the twins can be cruel, is slowed by a mental disability—and later generations seem equally plagued by misfortune, forcing Houghton to seriously consider who should control the company after he’s gone.

An irresistible tour de force of original storytelling, American Pop blends fact and fiction, the mundane and the mythical, and utilizes techniques of historical reportage to capture how, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s words, “families are always rising and falling in America,” and to explore the many ways in which nostalgia can manipulate cultural memory—and the stories we choose to tell about ourselves.

Get yourself a copy here.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is another family saga to add to your list. This one explores the lives of four siblings. Here’s the synopsis:

“The greatest works of poetry, what makes each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them.”

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love.

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

Get yourself a copy here.

If your book club is looking for a spy read, try American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson. This novel is said to combine the espionage novels of John le Carré with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Here’s the synopsis:

It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. Her career has stalled out, she’s overlooked for every high-profile squad, and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Sankara is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she’s being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent.

In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.

Inspired by true events—Thomas Sankara is known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”—American Spy knits together a gripping spy thriller, a heartbreaking family drama, and a passionate romance. This is a face of the Cold War you’ve never seen before, and it introduces a powerful new literary voice.

Get yourself a copy here.

Another historical fiction your book club must read is The Age of Light by Whitney Schraer. I adored this book (review and book club questions will post soon). Here’s the synopsis:

A captivating debut novel by Whitney Scharer, The Age of Light tells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse. “I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever.
Lee’s journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it’s possible to reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so.

Told in interweaving timelines, this sensuous, richly detailed novel brings Lee Miller-a brilliant and pioneering artist-out of the shadows of a man’s legacy and into the light.

Get yourself a copy here.

Another thriller to add to your radar is The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. This is said to be a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Here’s the synopsis:

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

Get yourself a copy here.

The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann is a serious read about family loyalties, teenage friendships and the fickleness of memory. Here’s the synopsis:

At twenty-four, Katie Gregory feels like life is looking up: she’s snagged a great job in New York City and is falling for a captivating artist—and memories of her traumatic past are finally fading. Katie’s life fell apart almost a decade earlier, during an idyllic summer at her family’s cabin on Eagle Lake when her best friend accused her father of sexual assault. Throughout his trial and imprisonment, Katie insisted on his innocence, dodging reporters and clinging to memories of the man she adores.

Now he’s getting out. Yet when Katie returns to the shuttered lakeside cabin, details of that fateful night resurface: the chill of the lake, the heat of first love, the terrible sting of jealousy. And as old memories collide with new realities, they call into question everything she thinks she knows about family, friends, and, ultimately, herself. Now, Katie’s choices will be put to the test with life-altering consequences.

Get yourself a copy here.

If you love The Alice Network (which I did), you must add Kate Quinn’s The Huntress to your list. It’s a historical fiction novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America. Here’s the synopsis:

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.

Get yourself a copy here.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted read, I have good news for you! The bestselling author Sophie Kinsella is back with I Owe You One. Her romantic comedy books are always full of heart and laughs, just what you want in that genre. Here’s the synopsis:

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?

It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

Get yourself a copy here.

Happy reading!

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