The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2023

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

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 not available in paperback last year, (the other was a dual release of paperback and hardcover), proving that book clubs aren’t waiting to discuss books in paperback.

Although Top 10 lists make for interesting reading, it’s important to remember that there are book groups for every possible reading interest, and even among what might be considered typical groups, reading mostly literary fiction with forays into genre fiction and nonfiction, there are so many exceptional books to choose from that this Top 10 list represent only the very tip of the iceberg. In fact, the list of favorite titles is so wide and varied that only 14 books were named by at least 2% of respondents—and more than 1,300 different titles were named overall!

The remaining titles that got at least 2% of votes are (in order of ratings):

Scroll down to explore the Top 10 in more detail!


Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel
by Bonnie Garmus

Hardcover Apr 2022. 400 pages
Published by Doubleday

Bonnie Garmus’s debut, Lessons in Chemistry, introduces readers to an exceptional woman struggling to succeed in a male-dominated field. Garmus sets her novel in the days before the Equal Rights Amendment and the #MeToo movement, when most men — and many women as well — believed that any woman who dared to enter a traditional men’s profession was either “a lightweight or a gold digger,” in the author’s words. One might assume the novel is a dark, weighty exploration of the sexual discrimination rampant during the 1950s and early 1960s. Amazingly, it’s really not; although the book’s substance depends largely on this theme, its overall tone is positive and affirming. (Kim Kovacs) 

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Horse: A Novel
by Geraldine Brooks

Paperback Jan 2024. 464 pages
Published by Penguin Books

Winner of the 2022 BookBrowse Fiction Award

Geraldine Brooks creates a powerful backstory for 19th-century thoroughbred racehorse Lexington, weaving a rich tapestry of historical and current-day narratives that aptly reflect how the legacy of slavery still ripples through America. The historic underpinnings of the work are as spellbinding as the characters. Whether Brooks is chronicling the history of thoroughbred racing, exploring the impact of the Civil War on African American jockeys, or detailing the nuances of American equestrian art, it is all equally engrossing. (Jane McCormack) 

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Demon Copperhead

Demon Copperhead: A Novel
by Barbara Kingsolver

Paperback May 7, 2024. 560 pages
Published by Harper Perennial

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Demon Copperhead is a captivating coming-of-age tale set in rural Virginia. The novel is a contemporary retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, spanning the late 1990s to the present day. Kingsolver achieves the impossible, creating a narrative that stands up to its source material and, by some measures, may even surpass it. Although Kingsolver incorporates many clever nods to the original, readers need not be familiar with David Copperfield to fully appreciate Demon Copperhead. Those who do know the Dickens novel, though, will likely get a kick out of how Kingsolver adapts the plot to a new time, place and set of social circumstances. (Kim Kovacs) 

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Remarkably Bright Creatures

Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel
by Shelby Van Pelt

Hardcover May 2022. 368 pages
Published by Ecco

Winner of the 2022 BookBrowse Debut Award

Septuagenarian Tova Sullivan has lived in Sowell Bay since childhood, in the home her father built by hand after immigrating from Sweden. She began cleaning the aquarium at night following her husband’s passing, five years before the story opens, to keep busy. One night she discovers Marcellus stuck in a tangle of electrical cables and rescues him, and an unlikely friendship ensues. The book combines realism with the supernatural; certainly an octopus capable of intervening in human affairs is an unlikely beast. But while Marcellus’s actions are critical to the plot’s ultimate resolution, it’s the novel’s underlying themes of grief, loneliness and change that propel it along. (Kim Kovacs) 

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The Covenant of Water

The Covenant of Water
by Abraham Verghese

Hardcover May 2023. 736 pages
Published by Grove Press

Winner of the 2023 BookBrowse Fiction Award

Along the Malabar Coast of South India in 1900, a 12-year-old girl grieving her father’s death sets off to a rambling estate called Parambil to marry a man almost 30 years her senior. As the years go by and she bears a child, her stepson JoJo calls her Big Ammachi (“Big Little Mother”), and the name sticks. She becomes the matriarch and mainstay of a family with a peculiar affliction, one she refers to as the “Condition.” Verghese sustains this massive story with numerous enigmatic and vividly drawn characters. However, running like a riptide beneath the waters of the Malabar Coast, the Condition strikes the family in new, unbidden and heartbreaking ways. It will reach a crescendo with Mariamma, Big Ammachi’s granddaughter, who becomes a neurosurgeon to unlock the secrets of this affliction, only to face the secrets “that can bind them together or bring them to their knees when revealed.” (Peggy Kurkowski) 

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West with Giraffes

West with Giraffes: A Novel
by Lynda Rutledge

Feb 2021. 372 pages
Published by Lake Union Publishing

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.

It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. 

Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.

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The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store: A Novel
by James McBride

Hardcover Aug 2023. 400 pages
Published by Riverhead Books

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride takes place in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, primarily within the confines of a real-life settlement called Chicken Hill, during the racially contentious 1930s. Chicken Hill’s population was largely Jewish and Black, and included Irish, Italian, and Greek immigrants. It was a place where all types of people, united by impoverished circumstances, “pretty much got along,” as McBride explains in an interview with NPR, which inspired him to recreate the congenial relationships between his characters. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store shows readers that it is possible to connect with people who are radically different from you without relinquishing the things unique to your own experience. Love bursts from the pages of McBride’s novel, shining its golden light on the miracles we can accomplish as a community. (Abby Edgecumbe) 

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Hello Beautiful

Hello Beautiful: A Novel
by Ann Napolitano

Hardcover Mar 2023. 400 pages
Published by The Dial Press

Ann Napolitano’s much-anticipated Hello Beautiful pulls the reader into a warm, loving familial atmosphere in what has been described as an homage to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Sweeping and vast, it follows the Padavano family from the 1980s up until 2008, cataloging their attempts to grow, change, forgive and find love within the bounds of their very tight-knit group. Each character has virtues: Sylvie, the bookworm romantic with her head screwed on straight; Julia, the planner obsessed with finding and fixing all flaws; Cecelia, the sentimental artist; and Emeline, the nurturing caregiver. Yet, most importantly, they have major flaws. They run from challenges. They hurt easily and hold grudges. They are emotional, they are thrown into irrational decisions seemingly at a whim. They have egos and tempers. But at the forefront of all the conflict is the desire for forgiveness: to receive it, and to dole it out. That, and the desire for love. (Abby Edgecumbe) 

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Tom Lake

Tom Lake: A Novel
by Ann Patchett

Hardcover Aug 2023. 320 pages
Published by Harper

Lara and her husband own a cherry orchard in Michigan, and the book takes place during the harvest of the summer month, for which her three grown daughters are onsite to help. It’s the middle of the pandemic, so there isn’t much else to do, and they beg Lara to tell them the story of how she came to date heartthrob actor Peter Duke when she was younger. Rather than crafting shimmering passages that call attention to her skill, Patchett’s gift is to make herself disappear so we can better connect with the characters. The events of Lara’s life flow perfectly together, which makes it exciting when we learn how she goes from swimming with a movie star to owning a cherry orchard with a husband and kids. Also, that’s really how life is: we never know if a single moment will turn out to be important or not, or when we’ll see someone for the last time, or how what we will come to learn about them in future will change how we see the past. (Erin Lyndal Martin) 

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Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women: A Novel
by Lisa See

Hardcover Jun 2023. 368 pages
Published by Scribner

According to Confucius, “an educated woman is a worthless woman,” but Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet haunted by death, separations, and loneliness—is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a captivating story of women helping other women. It is also a triumphant reimagining of the life of a woman who was remarkable in the Ming dynasty and would be considered remarkable today.

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