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17 Fantastic Book Club Reads Now in Paperback

Your group will love these winners from Kristin Hannah, Kazuo Ishiguro and more

spinner image from left to right the sentence by louise erdrich then master slave husband wife by ilyon woo then the storyteller by david grohl then age of vice by deepti kapoor then to paradise by hanya yanagihara
Harper Perennial / Simon & Schuster / Dey Street Books / Riverhead Books / Vintage / Getty Images

Many book clubs prefer to wait for a book to come out in paperback before selecting it for a group read. Paperbacks are less expensive than hardcovers and more portable, and by the time they are released, the book is often easier to find in libraries.

Well, good news: These 17 great reads — many former or current bestsellers — are now out in paperback.

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Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor

Publishers Weekly described Age of Vice as “Succession meets The Godfather but set in India” — a pithy if insufficient summary of this action-packed 2023 page-turner that explores issues of class, power and morality. The complex saga begins with a tragic traffic accident in New Delhi, then shifts back in time to detail how the lives of the three main characters become entangled. There’s reporter Neda (Kapoor also worked as a New Delhi journalist); wealthy, tortured Sunny, heir to his father’s corrupt business empire; and Ajay, Sunny’s quiet, exceptional servant.

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo

Woo tells the true story of William and Ellen Craft, who fled two different enslavers in Macon, Georgia, and traveled nearly a thousand miles to freedom in Philadelphia. Author Woo describes how they hid in plain sight, with light-skinned Ellen dressed as a wealthy Southern disabled man and William as her servant. They succeeded, though their pursuers kept pushing them farther north.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

O’Farrell proved her mastery of the historical fiction genre with 2020’s Hamnet, a fictionalized story about Shakespeare’s family and winner of the National Book Critics Award for Fiction. Her newer (2022) novel is just as transporting. It’s set in 16th-century Italy, where the young duchess Lucrezia de Medici is wed to the mercurial ruler of another region for political purposes. It’s soon clear the marriage won’t end well. Like Hamnet, it’s richly detailed and totally absorbing.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

“Though I have never been one to collect ‘stuff,’ I do collect moments,” writes the Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front man, 55, in the introduction to his entertaining 2021 memoir that’s a must for rock-fan book clubbers. Here Grohl details the many moments that led a punk-loving kid in the Virginia suburbs (with a “Wonder Bread existence”) to his current status as a rock elder statesman with 16 Grammys under his belt — with all the ups and downs in between, including heading out on tour for the first time at 18 and his heartbreak over Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide.

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

This huge book club favorite and major bestseller was released last spring, and just came out in paperback this month. It’s a charming, funny debut about Elizabeth Zott, a chemist in 1960s California who becomes the host of a cooking show and ends up teaching viewers about far more than how to bake a cake. Among other issues, it explores sexism in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s now an Apple TV+ series starring and produced by Brie Larson.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Another 2021 hit, this novel is based on the real-life story of Belle da Costa Greene, a light-skinned Black woman (her father was the first Black man to graduate from Harvard) who was hired by J.P. Morgan in 1905 to serve as his personal librarian, which she did for some 40 years. Born Belle Marion Greener, she hid her Black identity while becoming a powerful figure in the New York art and book world. Al Roker’s production company reportedly has optioned the book for a potential series.

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The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

The 2021 bestseller by the author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility is about two brothers in 1950s America who embark on a cross-country road trip from their Nebraska home to find their mother — though the journey takes quite the detour. It was one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year. Your book club will need to commit to a long read, however: It’s 600 pages. 

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

This, the best-selling hardcover novel of 2021 — just out in paperback on March 14 — is by the ever-popular author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone (among a few dozen others). It’s set partly in 1921, jumping to drought-plagued 1930s Texas, where a mother has to make difficult choices to allow her family to survive. Newsweek called it “brutally beautiful.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The 2021 bestseller is the first novel by Ishiguro (the literary superstar who authored, among others, 1989’s The Remains of the Day) since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. The lovely, albeit somewhat dystopian, story is about a robot doll — an “artificial friend” — named Klara, who becomes a sickly, lonely young girl’s companion. At a time when chatbots are filling our daily newsfeeds, it explores themes about identity and technology’s ability (or lack of it) to mimic and elicit human emotions.

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

A weighty, brilliant and, yes, dark novel from the author of 2015’s A Little Life, her latest is a deeply complex (in terms of plot and structure) exploration of tragic love, suffering and hope. It consists of three stories set in different time periods and altered realities, with overlapping characters, many of whom are gay men. I loved it, though it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. Upon its January 2022 release, Slate called it a “disappointment,” while The Guardian declared it “a masterpiece for our times.” But without a doubt, it’s a talker.

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

In 2021’s Crossroads (the start of a trilogy dubbed “A Key to All Mythologies”), Franzen features a dysfunctional (of course!) family in suburban Chicago during the tumultuous Vietnam War era. Mired in unspoken interpersonal tensions, the characters — including the disrespected patriarch, pastor Russ Hildebrandt — and their moral quandaries are presented with authenticity and depth by the author of The Corrections and Freedom.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Tookie, a Native American woman in Minneapolis with a troubled past, is working at an independent bookstore focused on Native authors when she’s visited by the ghost of a white woman named Flora. She and the other main characters are also figuratively haunted by mistakes from the past and their ancestries. That’s this 2021 novel’s unusual premise, which works in the skilled hands of Erdrich, winner of the National Book Award for The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize for The Night Watchman.

5 more paperback releases of note

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. The author of Station Eleven offers a mind-bending, totally absorbing story involving time travel — from 1912 to 500 years in the future.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan. A winner from the author of A Visit From the Goon Squad that explores complex themes with a wide cast of characters, including a tech entrepreneur who’s developed a way for people to access every memory they’ve ever had.  

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. The best-selling memoir is centered around Zauner’s relationship with her late Korean mother, who communicated her love through food.

French Braid by Anne Tyler. Classic Tyler, with warmth, humor, wisdom and a Baltimore family at its center.

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay. A chilling thriller by the horror master.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 31, 2023. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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