The best book club reads…..on parenting

I keep finding myself ending reviews with the words “this would be a really good book club choice”. So I have decided to start a new series of posts about books which are a good starting point for a discussion.

This week I’m going to concentrate on books which raise parenting issues. These books may appeal slightly more to woman who have had children, but I’m sure everyone will enjoy the books and be able to bring their own opinions to the table.

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult

Issues Raised
Should another child be brought into the world to save an older sibling’s life? Is the happiness of one child worth sacrificing to improve the life of another? Who has the ownership of a child’s body parts?


Easy to read, and gripping all the way through.


It has been around a while, so many people might have already read it. The film has just been released, so they might have seen that too!

We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver

Issues Raised

Are children born bad, or is a naughty child a result of poor parenting? Is the parent at fault if a teenager commits a crime? The cause of high school shootings.


Well written and thought provoking.


It is a bit long.


The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

Issues Raised

Are children born bad? Is it right to concentrate on the ‘bad’ child at the expense of the other siblings.


Short book.


Slightly dated.


The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

Issues Raised

Is slapping ever justifiable? Who is responsible for disciplining a child?


Gives a male view of the world. Controversial and thought provoking. This will start a debate!

Has not been released in all countries yet.

Is a bit long.

Contains graphic sex and abusive language.


The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

Issues Raised

Difficult mother – daughter relationships. Cultural identity.


Easy to read.


I can’t think of any!


Can you think of any more great books to start a discussion on parenting?

Have you read any of these for a book club? Did they go down well?


Coming soon – The best book club reads … on old age.

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  1. Sandy says:

    I love this! Since I will be joining a book club after all of my travels, I know at some point I will have to pick a book for the group. Just keep ’em coming! Surely I have read a few books that would fit into your category, but at this time of the morning, by brain can’t think of any. I still want to read “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, but it isn’t for sale on my Kindle (I got a nice chunky gift certificate for Amazon for my birthday from my parents). I’ll be tracking it down at some point!

    1. Jackie says:

      I hope you manage to track down a copy soon – it really is good. I look forward to hearing reports back from your book club – hopefully you’ll be able to tell us which books work really well, and which ones don’t.

  2. Violet says:

    I LOVEd My Sister’s Keeper. I’m waiting for the movie to release here. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult raises very similar issues that We Need to Talk about Kevin does. Great selections.

    1. Jackie says:

      I loved all of the books above. I’m looking forward to seeing My Sister’s Keeper too, although I have heard they changed the ending.

      I haven’t read Nineteen Minutes yet, or In The Last Hour I Believed by Wally Lamb – all three deal with the issue of teenage shooters, but I think all are a bit lengthy for all but the most dedicated of book clubs. I wanted to include one though, as they all raise important issues.

  3. Beth F says:

    I loved Joy Luck Club. One of the principal themes, I thought, was that we can never really know our parents and what their lives were like before they had us. I haven’t read any of the others.

    1. Jackie says:

      You’re right – It has been a long time since I read The Joy Luck Club. It is amazing how much of a life your parents led before they had you. There is so much you don’t know.

  4. Claire says:

    I really loved how We Need to Talk About Kevin dealed with the sometimes ambivalence towards motherhood.

    Amy Tan uses the theme of mother and daughter relationships a lot in her novels; I really enjoyed The Kitchen God’s Wife for that alone.

    I don’t recall reading anything parenting related for any book groups over the years but I’ve never been in a group with any parents in it.

    1. Jackie says:

      I love all of Amy Tan’s books (except Saving Fish from Drowning) all deal with the mother – daughter relationshop to some extent, but I could only pick one! I’m pleased to hear you like Amy Tan too!

  5. Verity says:

    I like the idea of books according to theme…

    As you know, I’m a big fan of Persephone titles, and some of those would fit the bill, such as Alas Poor Lady is about a family of girls, who are mainly stifled by their parents, and end up in ruined circumstances after their parents die.

    BTW – I’m not a parent, and doubt I’ll ever be one, but I’ve often enjoyed reading parenting manuals and things from the library!

    I look forward to your post on old age, I’ll get my thinking cap on in advance for those titles!

    1. Jackie says:

      If you could try to think about some happy books about old age that would be great – all the ones I’ve got so far are very depressing!

      I’m looking forward to trying a Peresphone title soon. If I ever need to know anything about them then I’ll let you know!

      1. Verity says:

        Two more potential books about parenting:
        Carol Shields – Unless
        Sophie Dahl – Playing with the grownups.

        I had lots of fun last night staring at my bookshelves and thinking of old age books that would be fun to discuss. I came up with three:
        Elizabeth Taylor – Mrs Palfrey at the Claremount (the story of a woman living out her days in a “hotel” which caters for long term elderly residents) – it’s not 100% jolly but a really good read. And it explores the issue of interaction with young people. The film is pants BTW. (And on a similar theme, although not one of my choices would be At the Jerusalem by Paul Bailey).
        Diana Athill – Somewhere towards the end – an autobiographical exploration of what it means to be old – think it won the Costa biography award? Certainly shortlisted for something in the Costas.
        Deric Longden – Lost for words. I love his books and this is his partial biography of his mother and also his autobiography of how he dealt with her decline. it is definitely funny as well as sad.

        Hope this helps! I enjoyed thinking about that – it helped me out of my doldrums!

        1. Jackie says:

          Thank you so much for all the suggestions! I’ll add them to my next book club post!

  6. I’m not in a book club, but have heard really good things about Kevin and hope to get to it soon.

    1. Jackie says:

      I didn’t read Kevin as part of a book group, but I wish I had – there is so much to discuss in that book! I hope you like it.

  7. Heather T. says:

    Great idea for a post series! I’ll watch out for more of your book club ideas! Thanks!

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m pleased that you like the idea – I hope I can continue to find enough books for each genre!

  8. claire says:

    Jackie, this is a wonderful idea! I’ll be looking forward to this series of posts. I’m another Amy Tan fan, I loved The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife most, of all her books. Her explorations on the mother-daughter theme is almost unparalleled.

    1. Jackie says:

      I can’t think of a better mother-daughter study in a book at the moment. She is amazing!

  9. A negative for the Joy Luck Club is that a lot of people have seen the movie. In fact, I actually like the movie better (I just wrote a whole post on movies that are better than the book and this was one of them!)

    1. Jackie says:

      Really? I found it quite hard to find a copy of the DVD in the UK, so I don’t think many people here will have seen it. I know she is very popular in the US though, so I can see that would be the case.

  10. Shannon says:

    This is such a great idea; I’m looking forward to more of this series!

    Of the above, I’ve only read My Sister’s Keeper a few years ago, and it definitely suits the book club format. My boyfriend and some of his family read it around the same time I did, so we talked about it, even though it wasn’t really a book club.

    1. Jackie says:

      I talked about it with a lot of people that hadn’t even read the book! I think that just shows what a great talking point My Sister’s Keeper is.

  11. DebD says:

    This was such a great idea. I’ve enjoyed the comments just as much as your post, Jackie.


    1. Jackie says:

      I agree – the comments are great! It is one of the things I love most about blogging – everyone is so helpful – always giving great book recommendations!

  12. cbjames says:

    I’m very interested in The Slap. I haven’t seen it at my local shop yet and my own book club only reads books in softcover editions.

    So I will have to wait a while.

    1. Jackie says:

      As far as I know The Slap is only published in Australia/New Zealand at the moment. I’m sure it will be published everywhere else soon.

  13. Matthew says:

    I am writing the Jodi Picoult and Lionel Shriver books down since I have never read these authors. The Joy Luck Club, which I just finished, will for sure spark many discussions in a book club. The language is simple, and also blending a bit of “Chinglish” on the mothers’ narratives. I love it and at times it wets my eyes.

    1. Jackie says:

      I really love Amy Tan, but it has been a long time since I read her books. I’m pleased that you enjoyed it, and will be interested to hear what you think of the other two books if you get round to reading them.

  14. Samantha says:

    I think you’ve just answered my earlier question about The Slap being a good book club pick!

    1. Jackie says:

      Yes – The Slap would be a great book club pick as long as it is a very tolerant group. There is A LOT to offend people with in this book, so be very careful about introducing it. If you do think it will be OK then I’m sure this book will generate more discussion than any other book – there is so much to talk about!

  15. Jenners says:

    Excellent post! I read most of these and I pretty much agree with your pluses and minuses. Great choices. I love “We Need To Talk About Kevin.” Very thought-provoking!

    I hope to see more posts along these lines … even though I’m not in a book club. Would be fun to just to read related books on one topic!

    1. Jackie says:

      There will be more! If you have any good ideas for topics – just let me know!

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