Stuck on what to read next? These resources may help


Utah author Ally Condie’s new book, “The Unwedding,” was actress Reese Witherspoon’s June book club pick, and get this: It’s a mystery that starts at a resort wedding gone horribly awry. I plan to read it since I’m a big mystery fan.

I’ll admit that I haven’t read many book club selections from Witherspoon or NBC “Today” show co-host Jenna Bush Hager. However, I did read one of Witherspoon’s picks, Ann Patchett’s “Tom Lake,” and Bush Hager’s recommendation of “The Waters,” by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Of course, both have a Michigan connection. “Tom Lake” is a 2024 Michigan Notable Book.

Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey, whose book club has been running for nearly three decades, highlighted David Wroblewski’s “Familiaris” as her most recent pick. The novel is a look back at the origin story of the family detailed in another book by the author, “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” which was a Winfrey book club selection in 2008. I’ll have to go back and read that book, about a mute boy and some amazing dogs.

I’ve read quite a few of Winfrey’s selections, including one I couldn’t finish, Barbara Kingsolver’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Demon Copperhead,” which was inspired by Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield.” I’ve also read “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy; “Middlesex,” by Detroit native Jeffrey Eugenides; “Let Us Descend,” by Jesmyn Ward, a University of Michigan graduate who has won two National Book Awards; and “A Million Little Pieces,” by James Frey, which I knew was fake from the start.

Witherspoon likes thrillers and brainy mysteries, like her young-adult selection “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” by Michigan-based Indigenous author Angeline Boulley; “Daisy Jones & the Six,” by Taylor Jenkins Reid; and Susan Orlean’s masterpiece “The Library Book.” Witherspoon was also one of the first to find Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which spent years on The New York Times’ best-seller list and made a multi-millionaire of its author.

All three book clubs focus on women authors, which makes sense since women make up the majority of the clubs and are consistently great writers.

I’m often asked for ideas about what to read. I usually just tell people to browse, whether it’s online or at a library or bookstore. My suggestion is to do it in person. Stand in front of a display of books and see what grabs your interest. Grab a book off the shelf and read the blurb on the jacket. The bottom line is to read what you like, but every now and then, try reaching outside your comfort zone or even reaching back in time and reading a book that was popular 100 years ago.

Many people are getting book suggestions online at sites like Goodreads, but another option is to check out tables promoting book clubs at local bookstores and find out what those groups are reading. Bookstores are also a good source of information on how to join local book clubs.

You can’t go wrong with befriending a librarian. They’re walking, talking references for books to read. While you’re at the library, peruse The New York Times’ weekly best-seller list. It measures book sales across the United States, but I will warn that it pushes a herd concept.

You can also take a look at the annual Michigan Notable Books list, which features 20 books per year that were either written by a Michigan author or are about a Michigan topic or location. It’s a broad list that covers fiction, nonfiction and children’s books, and there are often options with controversial topics or subject matter. Full disclosure, I’m a member of the selection committee.

I’m also a big fan of watching what other people are reading at beaches, in parks and on breaks from work. For instance, one of my former co-workers at the East Lansing Towne Courier in the mid-’70s got me reading British mysteries and thrillers, which I still enjoy today. Some of my favorites are by Ruth Ware, who’s one of the many writers picking up the mantle of the late Agatha Christie.


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