I recommend these titles for book group discussions, and for the enjoyment of solitary readers as well

November 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm (Book clubs, books, Historical fiction, Mystery fiction)

This is a revised and updated version of a post I did last year.


The Ghost at the Table – Suzanne Berne
The House on Fortune Street – Margot Livesey
The Promise of Happiness, Other People’s Money, and To Heaven By Water – Justin Cartwright
Intuition – Allegra Goodman
The Photograph – Penelope Lively
Prospero’s Daughter – Elizabeth Nunez
Digging To America – Anne Tyler
The Emperor’s Children – Claire Messud
The Other Side of YouSalley Vickers
Elephanta Suite – Paul Theroux
On Chesil Beach, Saturday, Enduring Love – Ian McEwan
Trauma – Patrick McGrath
Cleaver – Tim Parks
The Northern Clemency – Philip Hensher
The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
The Human Stain, Everyman – Philip Roth
Hotel Du Lac – Anita Brookner
By the Lake – John McGahern
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
Love and Summer – William Trevor
Unfinished Desires – Gail Godwin
The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
State of Wonder and Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Historical fiction

Land of Marvels – Barry Unsworth
The Shooting Party – Isabel Colegate
The Fall of Troy and The Lambs of London – Peter Ackroyd
Arthur & George – Julian Barnes
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
An Imperfect Lens – Anne Roiphe

Short story collections

It’s Beginning To Hurt – James Lasdun
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It – Maile Meloy
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin
Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro
Cheating at Canasta – William Trevor
Unaccustomed Earth and Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories – Joan Silber
Little Black Book of Stories – A.S. Byatt
My Father’s Tears – John Updike
Walk the Blue Fields – Claire Keegan


The Professor’s House – Willa Cather
Lady Audley’s Secret – Elizabeth Braddon
The House in Paris – Elizabeth Bowen
Washington Square – Henry James
The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald
The Kreutzer Sonata, Family Happiness, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Tolstoy

Henry James, by John Singer Sargent

Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy

Mystery and Suspense

The Coffin Trail – Martin Edwards
The Indian BrideBlack Seconds, and Water’s Edge – Karin Fossum
Monsieur Monde Vanishes – Georges Simenon
The Ghost – Robert Harris
Blue Heaven – C.J. Box
Suffer the Little Children, A Sea of Troubles, Girl of His Dreams – Donna Leon
Careful Use of Compliments and novels in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – Alexander McCall Smith
Price of Malice – Archer Mayor
The Armand Gamache series – Louise Penny
Minotaur and  The Birthday Present – Barbara Vine
Seven Lies – James Lasdun
Once a Biker – Peter Turnbull
Water Like a Stone – Deborah Crombie
Christine Falls – Benjamin Black
The Tinderbox – Jo Bannister
Raven Black and White NightsAnn Cleeves
What the Dead KnowLaura Lippman
On Beulah Height, and other Dalziel & Pascoe novels – Reginald Hill
The Pure in Heart – Susan Hill
The Godwulf Manuscript and The ProfessionalRobert B. Parker
The Remains of an Altar and Midwinter of the Spirit– Phil Rickman
The Chameleon’s Shadow – Minette Walters
The Way Some People Die and The Zebra-Striped Hearse – Ross MacDonald
Simisola, and Judgement in Stone– Ruth Rendell
The Accomplice – Elizabeth Ironside
The Suspect – L.R. Wright
Finding Nouf – Zoe Ferraris
Bleeding Heart Square and The Anatomy of Ghosts – Andrew Taylor
Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith
The Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg  Larsson
The Cold Dish – Craig Johnson
The Laughing Policeman – Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Hit Parade and Hit and Run – Lawrence Block
Thunder Bay – William Kent Krueger
The Demon of Dakar – Kjell Eriksson
Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair – Josephine Tey
The Maltese FalconDashiell Hammett
The Keeper of Lost Causes – Jussi Adler-Olsen
(Also see the post entitled “Great Classic Mysteries To Read and Enjoy.”)


The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft – Ulirch Boser
The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography – Graham Robb
American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau – Susan Cheever
City of Falling Angels – John Berendt
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War – Nathaniel Philbrick
Archie & Amelie: love and madness in the Gilded Age – Donna Lucey
Monsters: Mary Shelley & the Curse of Frankenstein – Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan
The Girls Who Went Away: the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade – Ann Fessler
Uncommon Arrangements: seven portraits of married life in London literary circles, 1910-1939 – Katie Roiphe
Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: madness, murder, and the collision of cultures in the Arctic, 1913 – McKay Jenkins
A Venetian Affair and Lucia: a Venetian life in the age of Napoleon – Andrea Di Robilant
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: a shocking murder and the undoing of a great Victorian detective – Kate Summerscale
Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
The Age of Wonder:  how the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science – Richard Holmes
Parallel Lives: five Victorian marriages – Phyllis Rose
The Art of Time in Fiction: as long as it takes – Joan Silber
May and Amy: a true story of family, forbidden love, and the secret lives of May Gaskell, her daughter Amy, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones – Josceline Dimbleby
The Last Duel: a true story of crime, scandal, and trial by combat in medieval France – Eric Jager
Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face—and What to Do About It – Richard S. Tedlow
Nothing To Be Frightened Of – Julian Barnes
Destiny of the Republic – Candice Millard
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris – David McCullough


If you live locally and are in a book club, you might want to stop by one of the Howard County Library System’s branches and pick up their newly updated list of suggested titles for book clubs. Click here for book club tips, FAQ’s, and other useful information concerning how the library can help your group.


Carol and Pauline, both members of the Usual Suspects, do a great job of keeping in frequent e-mail contact with members between meetings. This practice is great for promoting and maintaining cohesion within the group.


If you scroll down “Categories” on the right, you’ll see “Book clubs.” There, you will find posts in which I describe a variety of book discussions in which I’ve participated in the past several years.


  1. Elizabeth said,

    Thank you so much for compiling this list, Roberta! I am going to link to it on my “things that inspire me” blog.

    By the way, we chatted thru your blog comments a few months back. I live in Kentucky and love mysteries and books in general.

    You are so well read and I love reading your blog and getting book ideas 🙂


    • Roberta Rood said,

      This so gracious of you, Elizabeth! Books to the Ceiling is a labor of love – emphasis on labor!! – but on love, too; especially where books are concerned.

  2. Elizabeth said,

    Believe your love for books and your blog shows thru 🙂

    I work in an academic library which is probably a good thing, for if I worked in a public library, I would probably overwhelm myself with all the books I would come across in a given day that I would want to read.

    Here is my inspirations blog if you are interested:


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