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Join the Club

Novels Centered Around Clubs and Groups

The literary premise of a themed or activity-based club is a surprisingly diverse sub-genre. Modern classics such as The Joy Luck Club and Fight Club not only became critically and commercially popular books but also gained popularity for their film adaptations. The plot device of “the club” can bring a diverse group of individuals together. It not only impacts their daily lives but also allows the reader to learn about each character and their backstory. “The club” allows the reader to get to know each member of the ensemble cast rather than only the main protagonist (aka usually the person who starts the group). This list brings together literary classics and cultural gems with a few beach reads thrown in for good measure. If this list inspires you to start your own club or just try a new genre"join the club" and enjoy a good read.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This novel aptly shows how individual character's complex life stories can be expressed with equal weight. When June's mother, who started the Joy Luck Club, passes away, June takes her place. Through this intimate interaction, June learns more about her own mother as well as the other elderly women at the table. June (Jing-Mei) hears the life stories of her adopted aunts as they play mahjong together every week. These women, though all Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, never knew each other until they all attended the same Baptist church in America. The club brings them together and forms a lifelong bond between the women that they later pass on by helping the daughter of their deceased friend. Through the stories of their own difficult pasts, these women connect with their own daughters as well as with June. 

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Some say club, others say anarchist cult that makes body fat soap. Either way, no other club on this list is as notorious. Fight Club remains a counter-culture classic for good reason. Just like the group in the book, people remain loyal to the first rule of Fight Club. "Don't talk about Fight Club..."

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Books about book clubs can sometimes be tedious. The Jane Austen Book Club is a novel about a novel—just like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. We soon learn that the members of the book club mirror the exact characters in the discussions they choose to lead. The character of Jocelyn is classically "Emma," while Prudie takes for granted the love she has and comes to regret it, just like in Persuasion. This is a book all about relationships, whether romantic, familial or friendships. It's a fun book with likeable characters and is definitely worth a look.

First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith
The book’s tagline: “Don’t Get Even, Get Everything,” perfectly describes the group of friends that gets together in this novel. While these women first band together because of the unreliable men in their lives, they eventually come together for a greater purpose and help other women. The First Wives Club holds up 25 years after it was published.

The Blackbirds by Eric Jerome Dickey
The Blackbirds is a story of four best friends and the modern lives they lead. Successful, college-educated women, the “Blackbirds,” as they call themselves, are lifelong friends—though not without secrets. This book is as intriguing as it is sexy. The four friends go down their own paths and follow desires they can’t always share with their “almost-sisters." This group is one of the few on this list where we see the characters’ bond start to fall apart rather than being brought together.  

The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner by Andrea Smith
The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner tells the story of a small-town South Carolina church group. The women in this group gain strength from the support they give each other. Set in the 1950s, it tells relatable stories of struggles that God-fearing church women face and the secrets they keep. When we meet this club they have already been brought together by longtime ties. This is a touching, sometimes sad story about strong African-American women in the South and their bond.

Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Spawning read-alikes and knitting cozy mysteries, the club in this novel remains relevant as knitting regains popularity in the present day. The characters in this novel all meet at a Manhattan knitting shop with the excuse to meet other knitters and see what everyone is working on. As the reader gets to know the women in the group, it is revealed that each knitter is looking for more in life. Together they deal with unplanned pregnancy, illness and more. This novel brings together a diverse group of characters and real-life issues. The Friday Night Knitting Club spawned two sequels, but the original is best.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s classic memoir/literary inside look describes the ultimate club of the 1920s. The literary set of 1920s expats in Paris included Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, among others. Based on Hemingway’s notes and published after his death, the memoir reads like a novel and tells stories and antidotes about some of the most famous writers and poets of the 20th century. This loosely based community of American expats and others attended the same parties, ate at the same cafes, and generally moved within their close-knit circle. A Moveable Feast uses the metaphor of Christian holidays without set dates to describe the fact there is no wrong time to visit Paris and get lost there. This book proves that the best club is the one you wish you could join yourself.