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Recommended Book Club Books

Looking for some suggestions for your book club? Here are some titles that are perfect to get a discussion going in your group....

Did You Ever Have a Family? by Bill Clegg

Review from Goodreads

The stunning debut is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy. On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Elegant and heartrending, and one of the most accomplished fiction debuts of the year, Did You Ever Have a Family is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family—the ones we are born with and the ones we create.

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The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Review from Goodreads

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world?

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel.

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Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover

Review from Goodreads

A mother who invented her past, a father who was often absent, a son who wondered if this could really be his family. Richard Glover’s favourite dinner party game is called ‘Who’s Got the Weirdest Parents?’. It’s a game he always thinks he’ll win. There was his mother, a deluded snob, who made up large swathes of her past and who ran away with Richard’s English teacher, a Tolkien devotee, nudist and stuffed-toy collector. There was his father, a distant alcoholic, who ran through a gamut of wives, yachts and failed dreams. And there was Richard himself, a confused teenager, vulnerable to strange men, trying to find a family he could belong to. As he eventually accepted, the only way to make sense of the present was to go back to the past – but beware of what you might find there. Truth can leave wounds – even if they are only flesh wounds.

Part poignant family memoir, part rollicking venture into a 1970s Australia, this is a book for anyone who’s wondered if their family is the oddest one on the planet. The answer: ‘No’. There is always something stranger out there.

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Review from Goodreads

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

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H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Review from Goodreads

When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer, Helen had never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk, but in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

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The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

Review from Goodreads

Rachel Caine is a zoologist working in Nez Perce, Idaho, as part of a wolf recovery project. She spends her days, and often nights, tracking the every move of a wild wolf pack—their size, their behavior, their howl patterns. It is a fairly solitary existence, but Rachel is content.

When she receives a call from the wealthy and mysterious Earl of Annerdale, who is interested in reintroducing the grey wolf to Northern England, Rachel agrees to a meeting. She is certain she wants no part of this project, but the Earl's estate is close to the village where Rachel grew up, and where her aging mother now lives in a care facility. It has been far too long since Rachel has gone home, and so she returns to face the ghosts of her past.

The Wolf Border is a breathtaking story about the frontier of the human spirit, from one of the most celebrated young writers working today.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Review from Goodreads

Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation.

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

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Rush Oh! By Shirley Barrett

Review from Goodreads

An impassioned, charming, and hilarious debut novel about a young woman's coming-of-age, during one of the harshest whaling seasons in history. When the eldest daughter of a whaling family in New South Wales sets out to write about the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells reveals itself to be far larger than she ever expected. As her family struggles to survive, and as she attempts to navigate sibling rivalries and all-consuming first love, nineteen-year-old Mary will soon discover a shocking side to these men who hunt the seas, and the truth of her own place among them. Swinging from Mary's own hopes and disappointments to the challenges that have beset her family's whaling operation, RUSH OH! is also a celebration of an extraordinary episode in history, when man and beast formed a unique, heart-warming allegiance.

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A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler

Review from Goodreads

For many years Anne Tyler has been an excellent observer of human idiosyncrasies, human frailties and in particular of families, good and bad. Tyler has the remarkable gift of laying bare the ordinariness of family life and thereby turning it into something extraordinary. Scratch beneath the surface and most families are dysfunctional and this is what Tyler evokes time and time again with mesmerizing power.

In this novel we are introduced to the Whitshanks, mother Abby and father Red with their four grown children, at least grown at the beginning of the novel. Like most families, they do not always get along, they have secrets from each other and one doesn't quite want to fit into the family mould.

Brimming with the luminous insight, humor, and compassion that are Anne Tyler's hallmarks, this capacious novel takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A worthy winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Doerr has written a moving lyrical account of 2 teenagers coming of age on opposite sides of the conflict of World War 2.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Aust.)

Australian writer Liane Moriarty is quickly developing a reputation for writing whip smart page turners set in suburban Australia. Big little lies is no exception, this page turner exposes the secrets, lies and betrayals of 3 women . Watch out for the HBO adaptation staring Nicole Kidman and Reece Witherspoon.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Aust.)

Inspired by a true story, this meticulously researched debut novel follows the final days of a young women accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

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Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

A sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

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Euphoria by Lily King

Set in Papua New Guinea, Euphoria is a novel of three young, gifted anthropologists of the 1930’s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives. Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead.

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Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice. A memoir from a real life Atticus Finch fighting death row cases in America’s South.

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Lost and Found by Brooke Davis (Aust.)

Millie Bird, seven years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her curly hair. Her struggling mother, grieving the death of Millie’s father, leaves her in the big ladies’ underwear department of a local store and never returns. And thus begins this wonderfully, quirky debut novel.

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Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

A captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

A provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest--a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love. Recommended for readers who enjoyed The signature of all things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

A beautifully written tale of what remains after a global pandemic that wipes out most of human civilisation. Crossing between literary fiction and science fiction it is a haunting reflection on the human need for art and culture.

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Still Alice by Lisa Genova

An accomplished professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease learns that her worth is comprised of more than her ability to remember. Now a major motion starring Julianne Moore.

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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Similar in structure to Mitchell’s critically acclaimed Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is a genre bending conjurer of interconnected tales pivoting around a central character Holly Sykes. Each chapter/novella is narrated from the perspective of an intersecting character, with settings ranging from England in the 80s to the apocalyptic future. A brilliantly inventive book.

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The Eye of the Sheep by Sofia Laguna (Aust.)

Meet Jimmy Flick. He's not like other kids - he's both too fast and too slow. He sees too much, and too little. Jimmy's mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. Told from the mesmerising point of view and in the inimitable voice of Jimmy, this is an extraordinary novel about a poor family who is struggling to cope with a different and difficult child.

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The Girl of the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cosy suburban homes. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The biggest thriller since Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train is a top notch psychological thriller that is compulsively readable and emotionally immersive.

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The Golden Age by Joan London (Aust.)

A gorgeously written evocation of a 1950s children's polio rehabilitation centre in Perth, The Golden Age has a lot to say about love, family, independence and coming to terms with the hand life deals you.

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery in America’s south.

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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Aust.)

Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half day’s boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife Isabel decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple’s reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom - whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I begins to waver.

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Aust.)

Winner of the 2014 Booker Prize, Flanagan moves deftly from a Japanese POW camp to present-day Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo Evans and his fellow prisoners to that of the Japanese guards, this savagely beautiful novel tells a story of the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

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The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (Aust.)

At age 75, Ruth is a widower, who lives alone in a remote beach home until one day a mysterious caretaker named Frida shows up to help around the house. But can Frida be trusted? Ruth's mind isn't what it once was, but she suspects her new friend isn't all that she seems. The Night Guest is an impressive debut - a tender novel about old age and a psychological meditation on isolation.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Aust.)

Genetics professor Don Tillman’s ordered, predictable life is thrown into chaos when love enters the equation in this immensely enjoyable novel. Never good with social cues, Don explains his difficulty empathizing with others, which he forthrightly says is a defining symptom of the autism spectrum, as a result of his brain simply being wired differently. Full of heart and humour, Simsion’s debut novel about a fussy, socially-challenged man’s search for the perfect wife is smart, breezy, quirky, and fun.

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The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all the insatiably curious Alma Whittaker, daughter of a scrappy botanical baron, spends most of her life confined to her family estate in Philadelphia, yearning for a life of greater passion and liberty. She channels her desires into botany, thrilling to the miniature universe of moss in the forests surrounding her house, developing a new taxonomy that becomes a theory encompassing all living things, parallel to Darwin’s. When she finally turns herself loose on the world, it’s to claim her place in a lineage of explorers. An earthy, elegant, deeply sensual novel of daring breadth and imagination, The Signature of All Things gives us the cosmos in the life of one woman, in her worlds within worlds.

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This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Aust.)

As involving, heart-rending and unsettling a read as you could possibly find, a true-life account of three deaths and a trial that leaves you with a profound sense of unease as its drama unfolds, and disturbing questions about how we judge guilt and innocence.

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Us by David Nicholls

From the best selling author of One Day, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Jay Fowler

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion … she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence. Karen Joy Fowler weaves her most accomplished work to date—a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

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