Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

18 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 book covers lessons in chemistry by bonnie garmus then the sentence by louise erdrich then the personal librarian by marie benedict then klara and the sun by kazuo ishiguro then to paradise by hanya yanagihara
Doubleday / Harper / Berkley / Vintage / RANDOM HOUSE US / Getty

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.

Alas, sometimes you need to wait many months or even years for the most popular ones to be reprinted in that format, but the books on this list — all great reads offering interesting themes for group discussion — were released in paperback within the past 12 months or so. A few (including The Lincoln Highway and To Paradise) came out just in the past few weeks.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership

Join AARP for $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine

Join Now

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

This huge book club favorite and major bestseller — still! — 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. Apple TV+ is adapting it for a 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.

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. 



30% off a 1-year subscription

See more Entertainment offers >

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 AI and 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.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

This heartrending 2021 novel by the British crime writer is centered on a terrible accident in a small California town that led to the death of a child and a prison sentence for a teenager. The story is about the fallout 30 years later that’s shouldered by a tough little 13-year-old named Duchess Day Radley and her younger brother, who are being raised (sort of) by their troubled single mother.  

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134


Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

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 note that 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.

8 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.

City on Fire by Don Winslow. The highly praised first book in Winslow’s epic crime trilogy featuring mobster Danny Ryan (the second, City of Dreamscomes out this spring).

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. The massive bestseller and must-read book of 2020 about race in America finally came out in paperback last month.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner. Last year’s big beach read, set on Cape Cod and out in paperback on April 3. (Also consider her wonderful 2019 novel, Mrs. Everything.)

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

And coming soon: The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s blockbuster bestseller, out in paperback on May 9.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?