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The Most Popular Book Club Historical Fiction of 2023

Most Popular Book Club Historical Fiction of 2023

Historical fiction is often a well-loved genre for book clubs. It allows members to learn more about a particular time and place at their leisure while enjoying the twists and turns of a good story and sharing it with others.

We've already published the results of our most recent annual survey showing the Top 10 book club books of 2023, but how did historical novels fare? Below are the works of fiction set in past eras that book club members took the most pleasure in discussing.

The Most Popular Historical Fiction for Book Clubs in 2023 (with Pub Year)

  Book % of Respondents
1 Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (2022) 18.6%
2 Horse by Geraldine Brooks (2022) 12.9%
3 The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (2023) 7.8%
4 West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (2021) 5.5%
5 The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (2023) 5.1%
6 Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See (2023) 3.4%
7 The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (2021) 3.0%
8 The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (2021) 3.0%
9 Trust by Hernan Diaz (2022) 2.0%
10 The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell (2022) 1.4%

The above information is based on a February 2024 survey of BookBrowse email subscribers. Only subscribers were eligible to take part so as to prevent the ratings being skewed by enthusiastic fan bases. Respondents were asked to name up to three favorites that they discussed in a book group setting in 2023; 3268 votes were cast.

The popularity of historical fiction is already evident by its presence in our general Top 10. Six of the ten, led by Lessons in Chemistry from Bonnie Garmus and Horse from Geraldine Brooks, are historical novels, leaving room for four more favorites. Filling the 7th and 8th place spots in a tie are Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray's The Personal Librarian, the story of Belle da Costa Greene, who hid her identity as a Black woman while working as J.P. Morgan's librarian in the early 20th century, and Amor Towles' The Lincoln Highway, which follows a spontaneous series of road trip adventures undertaken by a pair of brothers in the 1950s. These two titles also made our overall Top 10 of 2022, taking the #4 and #2 spots respectively.

Trust by Hernan Diaz, coming in at #9, is a metafictional feast of a novel featuring four accounts of a wealthy couple living in 1920s New York. Along with The Personal Librarian and Towles' novel, this work gives readers a unique glimpse into American history, and provides food for thought on the nature of truth and perspective.

Maggie O'Farrell's The Marriage Portrait, sliding in at #10, sweeps us away in another direction entirely. Set in 16th-century Italy, it relates a high-tension, alternate version of the story of the real Lucrezia de' Medici, daughter of a Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which she attempts to foil her husband's plans to murder her.

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The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2023

The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2023

What were the most popular book club books in 2023? The results are in! Read on to see the titles our subscribers enjoyed discussing most with their book groups over the past year.

The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2023 (with Pub Year)

  Book % of Respondents
1 Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (2022) 18.6%
2 Horse by Geraldine Brooks (2022) 12.9%
3 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022) 11.2%
4 Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt (2022) 8.6%
5 The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (2023) 7.8%
6 West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (2021) 5.5%
7 The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (2023) 5.1%
8 Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (2023) 4.6%
9 Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (2023) 3.7%
10 Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See (2023) 3.4%

The above information is based on a February 2024 survey of BookBrowse email subscribers. Only subscribers were eligible to take part so as to prevent the ratings being skewed by enthusiastic fan bases. Respondents were asked to name up to three favorites that they discussed in a book group setting in 2023; 3268 votes were cast.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus not only retains its #1 spot on the list from the previous year but claims an even larger percentage of the votes (up to 18.6% from 13.9%). That's not especially surprising, as this debut novel, a humorous and charming but substantial story exploring aspects of 1960s misogyny, was voted a BookBrowse Best Book of the Year in 2022 and is well established as a book club and reader favorite.

Interestingly, the two other books in our Top 10 of 2022 that have kept a place in the rankings are both historical novels featuring animals. Horse by Geraldine Brooks, centered on 19th-century thoroughbred racing, climbs up a spot (from #3 to #2), while West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, based on the true story of two famous giraffes during the Depression era, holds steady at #6. Horse was our 2022 Award Winner in the Fiction category, and West With Giraffes was the subject of a 2023 BookBrowse Book Club discussion.

Also of note: 9 out of the Top 10 books were only available in hardcover last year, (the other was a dual release of paperback and hardcover), proving that book clubs aren't waiting to discuss books in paperback.

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Book Club Buzz: All Our 2023 Discussions

All our 2023 discussions

Looking for some lively book banter? Whether you're hunting for possible book club picks or just curious about others' thoughts on a recent title, BookBrowse Book Club discussions are the perfect resource for tuning in to readers' opinions, feelings and observations.

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The Best Novels for Book Clubs in 2024

10 Novels for Book Clubs to Read in 2024

For book clubs who read contemporary fiction, it can feel impossible to choose between the many acclaimed and anticipated works making an appearance every year. But not to worry, we have you covered with top-notch suggestions for your club in 2024! Our list of recommendations features new books from established favorites like Barbara Kingsolver, Lydia Millet and Lynda Rutledge, along with noteworthy debuts from emerging authors such as Costanza Casati, Alice Winn and Parini Shroff.

All of these books are recently or soon-to-be published in paperback, many are accompanied by reading guides, and all that are currently available have been recommended by either our professional reviewers or multiple readers in our First Impressions program, some of whose comments you can read below. Plus, we're hosting our own online discussions for the first three titles and would love for you to join us!

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The Best Nonfiction for Book Clubs in 2024

6 Nonfiction Books for Book Clubs in 2024
Looking for nonfiction to read with your book club in the coming year? It can be tricky to track down quality nonfiction that has real discussion potential, so we've created this list to give your group a head start on your picks for 2024.

Our selections include two books portraying lesser-explored elements of World War II from unique angles, an engaging story of sisters separated by the Chinese Civil War, an eye-opening account of women fighting discrimination at MIT, an intimate and socially conscious portrait of George Floyd, and the dramatic telling of a North Carolina community's battle for justice against a multinational corporation.

All of these titles will be available in paperback during the first half of 2024; some have full discussion guides available; for those that don't, we recommend our 36 Book Club Discussion Topics for Any Book. We hope these books spark fruitful conversations!

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14 Books on the Questions and Contemplations of Mid-Life

14 books contemplating mid-life

It can be difficult to decide what middle age is, much less what books on the subject should cover. Depending on who you ask, mid-life may begin as early as 35 and end as late as 65. And experiences of the period vary widely based on many factors; for example, whether or not a person has (or wants to have) children, where they are professionally or in life. But when it comes to books about those in middle age, the particular topics that emerge often have to do with aging itself and a growing understanding of the limits of human existence. In accordance with the concept of the mid-life crisis, it's in middle age that many begin to grapple with the question of whether it's "too late" — to be a parent, to excel in one's chosen career path, to make significant changes to one's personal life. Middle age can also be a time of reflecting on the past, of questioning, from a more mature perspective, the choices one made long ago, and the current cycles and habits those decisions have established. All of this makes for philosophically rich considerations that many authors turn into literary gold, as evidenced by this list we've compiled of recent books about people in middle age.

Topics covered include mental health, infertility, illness, love in mid-life, how one's personal decisions impact others, the search for meaning, the everyday realities of marriage, the legitimacy of choosing a childless or unmarried life, and many others. All of the books come recommended by our reviewers and some have reading guides provided by the publisher to help build fulfilling book club discussions. Whether you fall into the middle-age range yourself or are somewhere on either side of it, we hope you enjoy these selections.

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