Young Adult Fiction (highly recommended for both teens or adults)
The Alison Rules by Catherine Clark, a contemporary drama set in high school, will give you plenty to talk about - Alison's secrets, Laurie's newspaper column Kuz Why?, and especially the shocking climax.
Read my review of The Alison Rules.
Looking for Alaska by John Green - A teenage boy goes to boarding school in search of The Great Perhaps - something that will interest him, inspire him, make things better. With a male protagonist and a male author, guys will be drawn to the book as well as girls. Make sure to talk about Famous Last Words.
Check out my acrostic soundtrack for Looking for Alaska.
Body Bags by Christopher Golden - Kick off your mystery book club with this thriller, which revolves around a college freshman who becomes a pathology assistant. In other words, she helps with autopsies and gets caught up in cases dealing with murder and serial killers. Great recommendation for fans of CSI, Rizzoli & Isles, Bones, and similar procedural crime dramas. Body Bags is actually the first in a mystery series called Body of Evidence. There are ten books total, so, if you wanted, you could keep the series going and make the second book, Thief of Hearts, your next pick! Learn more about the Body of Evidence book series.
Lyrical Writing/Magical Realism
Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn - for fans of Twilight or Once Upon a Time, but with more edge. Think more along the lines of books by Holly Black or Francesca Lia Block: lyrical writing, contemporary but with some fantasy elements, and a killer ending. This one will keep you guessing - what is real and what is not? - and those questions will fuel a great discussion.
Learn more about Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn.
For Reluctant Teen Readers and/or For a Group With Both Genders
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan - Boy meets girl, boy asks girl to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes, boy and girl have a very interesting, whirlwind night in the city. A very quick read and a very popular one - for good reason! The narrator goes back and forth between Nick and Norah, so this is a great pick for a teen group with a good mix of both genders. This bestseller was made into a film, so you can talk about the movie versus the book: what stayed the same, what you wished they hadn't changed, which changes you liked, etc.
Read my review of the book and view my playlist for the book.
Try F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous novel, The Great Gatsby. Talk about how this book was written about the time period the author was living in, as opposed to historical fiction, when authors write about times gone by. (It's one of my favorite books. Ever.) You can make your meeting a book-and-a-movie night: discuss the book, then watch one of the many Gatsby film adaptations, then discuss the movie. () Also, it's on the required reading list at many schools, so if you're a teen who likes classics and/or ill-fated romance, why not get a headstart?
Find out why I dig The Great Gatsby.
Things To Consider
In general, you can go a couple different routes. Pick something that you liked yourself and would genuinely recommend to others... or pick something you've always wanted to read and/or heard good things about... or wander through your bookstore or library and pick something that jumps off of the shelves at you and demands to be read! It's okay to pick something you didn't like, too, because that can make the conversation more interesting, more heated, and because someone else might totally love that book. No matter what you pick, have fun and good luck with your group!
If you would like additional recommendations, please leave a comment below with the average age of your group (adults, teens, kids), your favorite genre(s), and any other details you'd like to share.
This article was originally published in SparkLife/SparkNotes. I revised it and updated it in 2012.