Book clubs name best and worst books

During recent interviews with book club members from across Minnesota, I made a point to ask which books had been most successful in their clubs.

Members tended to name books that appealed to the entire range of reading preferences in their club and that inspired spirited discussion and debate.

These were the top 15 favorite books among Minnesota clubs (listed alphabetically by author):

“March” by Geraldine Brooks

“The Madonnas of Leningrad” by Debra Dean

“The Master Butchers Singing Club” by Louise Erdrich

“Middlesex: A Novel” by Jeffrey Eugenides

“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman

“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” by Mark Haddon

“Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini

“The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver

“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons” by Lorna Landvik

“Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petterson

“Galileo’s Daughter” by Dava Sobel

The most common repeat authors among book clubs were Louise Erdrich, Jhumpa Lahiri, Barbara Kingsolver, Isabelle Allende, Toni Morrison and Amy Tan.

Selections which disappointed often had minimal plot, unsympathetic characters, difficult vocabulary, or were too long to be easily read within a month.

Flops included Marion Zimmer Bradley’s tome, “The Mists of Avalon,” Ken Follett’s historical novel, “The Pillars of the Earth,” Don DeLillo’s signature postmodern work, “White Noise,” and James Redfield’s New Age bestseller, “The Celestine Prophecy.”

Book clubbers, which books have been hits with your club?

Which ones have bombed?

Is there one book you’d call a must-read for all book clubs?

Comments welcome below, or email your thoughts to bookclubclub [at] minnpost [dot] com. Put “best and worst books” in the subject line. We’ll publish a roundup of emailed responses in a week or so.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ann McKinnon on 10/19/2009 - 12:07 pm.

    Because our book club enjoys fiction so much, I’m getting some push-back on Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s “Half the Sky” but OH! what a lot to talk about! The best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls. George Clooney is with me on this.

  2. Submitted by Ann McKinnon on 10/19/2009 - 12:10 pm.

    Because our book club enjoys fiction so much, I’m getting some push-back on “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. But, OH! what a lot to talk about! The best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls. George Clooney is with me on this.

  3. Submitted by Ann McKinnon on 10/19/2009 - 12:11 pm.

    sorry for the double post – missed the autoreply.

  4. Submitted by Judyth Bigelow on 10/22/2009 - 11:07 am.

    Our bookclub meets tonight to discuss Three Cups of Tea which gets my vote as the best non-fiction book I’ve read in years. I encourage readers of all ages, interests, etc…. to put this book high on their lists. A truly insightful look into the world of cultural differences and how we can work toward a graceful and loving world community.

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