Reading lists

Kit De Waal’s top 5 book club picks

The author of The Trick to Time selects some of her favourite book club reads to inspire summer reading.

When All Is Said

When All is Said by Anne Griffin

The themes in this book are ones that provoke the best discussion:  regret, loss, ambition and jealousy. The book (which has such a great title) is the story of a man sitting at a bar making five toasts to five people in his life. With each toast comes a flashback about the role they played in his life. It’s sad and wise and makes you want to grab the people you love and make sure they know how you feel about them. I would strongly recommend it to a book club who are looking for something easy to read that packs a great punch.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

He’s such a great storyteller and this book about David’s life is told scene by hilarious scene, poking fun at his Greek family, at his weird brothers and sisters but mostly at himself, a gay boy with a lisp trying to learn the guitar, trying to avoid his father’s love of jazz, trying to negotiate sadistic teachers. I have literally cried with laughter at so many passages and I read it again and again if I’m feeling miserable.

The Kiss

The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison

What a book, what a memoir. Kathryn Harrison was estranged from her father and met up with him as a young woman and fell in love with him. It’s shocking and terribly sad. It’s not difficult to understand how it happened and obviously it left the author traumatised and depressed. It’s a very brave woman that can put this down on paper. If you want to be taken out of your comfort zone try this. I guarantee you will be talking about the themes in this book long after you’ve finished it.

Leonard and Hungry Paul

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession

This lovely, gentle story is a celebration of ordinary lives, of people who have nothing remarkable to talk about, nothing unusual or heartbreaking to report but just live quietly and happily doing the things they love. It shouldn’t work. All fiction is about drama and difficult things but this book manages to make us interested in two young men who are happy in their own skin, whose friendship sustains them and who nevertheless care deeply about life. Full of love and wisdom.

It's Gone Dark Over Bill's Mother's

It's Gone Dark Over Bill's Mother's by Lisa Blower

This is a short story collection, always good for a Book Club because it’s easy to read and you can get through it quickly if time is tight. Lisa Blower has captured the voice and life of working class people so beautifully and is the natural heir to Arnold Bennett, both of them coming from Stoke-on-Trent.  She gets under the skin of the working man, the aspirational university student, the grieving woman, job loss and prostitution. It sounds grim. It’s not. It’s funny, wise and tender.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more