The best book club novels with depth and all the feels

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Jo Johnson, by day I work as a clinical psychologist and by night I write psychological suspense. I chose this title because I love belonging to my book group. Over the last twenty years we’ve read the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, the novels that have kept us chatting are the fast-paced novels that have touched our minds, hearts, and souls. The books that made us cry and laugh in equal measure. The books that introduced us to characters so real we spoke of them like friends. I love books that have changed me into a better person for having read them. 

I wrote...

Surviving Her

By Jo Johnson,

Book cover of Surviving Her

What is my book about?

Surviving Her is a fast-paced domestic suspense written by a psychologist.  

Broken by the death of her sister, Keziah is swept off her feet by Claus, a wealthy psychologist. She marries in haste. But her husband’s idiosyncrasies and his locked room are hard to ignore. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Nicky is trying desperately to hold his small world together after his father walks out. He wants to be ‘the man of the house’ but he can’t keep his mum safe from her bad choices. When Kezia ends up in the hospital, her world collides with Nicky’s. The secrets he shares propel Kezia to the scene of two mysterious deaths, both of them linked to her husband…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of My Name Is Leon

Jo Johnson Why did I love this book?

The book is set in the early eighties against the backdrop of the Handsworth riots and the royal wedding. 

Nine-year-old Leon narrates his own story which makes it more heart-wrenching as he doesn’t really know what’s going on. When it’s obvious his mum can’t parent her boys, Leon and Jake are taken into care. 

They go to a foster carer called Maureen who is desperate to keep the brothers together. But, baby Jake is a more attractive adoption prospect. He’s small but more importantly he’s white, whereas Leon’s father is black. So, Jake is taken by a ‘nice’ family to live a ‘nice’ life whilst Leon is abandoned within the care system. 

The story could be just another book following a child into the care system but My Name is Leon is so much more than that because of Leon. Leon is young, Leon is joyful, Leon has hope.

For many reasons, this book will stay in my mind and heart for a long time. 

Perhaps a good choice for Black History month.

By Kit De Waal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Name Is Leon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Taut, emotionally intense, and wholly believable, this beautiful and uplifting debut” (Kirkus Reviews) about a young black boy’s quest to reunite with his beloved white half-brother after they are separated in foster care is a sparkling novel perfect for fans of The Language of Flowers.

Leon loves chocolate bars, Saturday morning cartoons, and his beautiful, golden-haired baby brother. When Jake is born, Leon pokes his head in the crib and says, “I’m your brother. Big brother. My. Name. Is. Leon. I am eight and three quarters. I am a boy.” Jake will play with no one but Leon, and Leon…

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Jo Johnson Why did I love this book?

Eleanor Oliphant is a socially awkward, spiky misfit, an interesting mixture of naïve and worldly wise. She tells us of her comforting but rather odd routines. We see how alcohol is her only friend. He numbs her pain and enables her to function at work.

When we meet Eleanor, she's infatuated with a singer she's never met. As the plot deepens, we come to understand Eleanor Oliphant is not completely fine.

There are some emotionally heavy themes but the author manages to keep the narrative light and witty. Eleanor is a rich and complex character positioned perfectly to tell her story. The book is uplifting and inspiring with an ending that was not unexpected but sufficiently powerful to shock. 

The Joy is in the depth of character. It’s a story of love and friendship against the odds. 

By Gail Honeyman,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

"Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!" -Reese Witherspoon

No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of…

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Jo Johnson Why did I love this book?

When I started this book, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It was a bit slower than I enjoy and I knew it had been translated which often puts me off.

We first meet a grumpy horror of a man who no one would enjoy being friends with. But gradually you come to understand this poor soul has lost the love of his life and the way he behaves is spilling out from his deep inner despair. No one can help him and he wants to join his beloved wife in death.

But gradually, with the help of his neighbours and the reconnection of old friends, he finds a purpose, and from the ashes, a hero emerges whilst we all stand back and applaud.

A beautifully written book that you won’t be able to put down once you get to know this man called Ove. 

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked A Man Called Ove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



There is something about Ove.

At first sight, he is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn't it rare, these days, to find…

Book cover of Still Alice

Jo Johnson Why did I love this book?

Still Alice could be about me, or you which is why it is such an emotional read. Alice is not the frumpy old lady who comes to mind when people speak of dementia. She is fifty and at the height of her career as a lecturer.

Alice tells her own story. You don’t just read, you feel what she feels. The confusion when she first forgets, the hurt and despair when she’s diagnosed, to the sadness of losing her children’s names.

The narrative mirrors her diminishing cognitive capacity – at first, she has the precision of a Psychology Professor but gradually her sentences lose content and places become vague.

It is one of the most accurate but sensitive portrayals of the descending trajectory of dementia. A book that will make you laugh and cry but reconnect you with what and who is important.

By Lisa Genova,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Still Alice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A moving story of a woman with early onset Alzheimer's disease, now a major Academy Award-winning film starring Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart.

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a renowned expert in linguistics, with a successful husband and three grown children. When she begins to grow forgetful and disoriented, she dismisses it for as long as she can until a tragic diagnosis changes her life - and her relationship with her family and the world around her - for ever.

Unable to…

Book cover of Me Before You

Jo Johnson Why did I love this book?

Despite being a few years old, this continues to be my favourite novel of the decade. I even loved the film.

Will Trainer has everything. Wealthy, clever, successful, and handsome. The world is his oyster until it isn’t! In a heartbeat he goes from the bloke everyone admires to the one everyone pities. 

Paralysed from the neck down, Will’s life is over and he’s drowning in self-loathing. However, much money his parents throw at the problem, it’s not going away. He’s trapped in a wheelchair forever. Several nurses leave after days because their patient is so vile.

Then, comes glorious, joyful Lou. From a working-class family, she’s without expectation or privilege but so clever and perceptive. It’s easy to see where the story is going but you can’t help falling in love alongside Lou and Will. There’s no hope but you’ll long for a miracle. And that ending, I have not read anything that competes with the impact of the final pages since... expect to ugly cry! 

By Jojo Moyes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Me Before You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Will needed Lou as much as she needed him, but will her love be enough to save his life?

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps…

You might also like...

A Darling Handyman

By Lark Holiday,

Book cover of A Darling Handyman

Lark Holiday Author Of A Darling Handyman

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Christmas market lover Friend to all croissants

Lark's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

She’s hiding from pain. He’s lost everything but his dog. When fresh air and second chances bring them together, can they rediscover true love?

If you enjoy kind-hearted heroes, small towns, and more humor than heat, you’ll adore this contemporary Alaskan romance! A Darling Handyman is the feel-good first book in the Darling Men series. All books in the series can be read alone and in any order.

A Darling Handyman

By Lark Holiday,

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in brothers, Alzheimer's disease, and neighbourhoods?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about brothers, Alzheimer's disease, and neighbourhoods.

Brothers Explore 106 books about brothers
Alzheimer's Disease Explore 68 books about Alzheimer's disease
Neighbourhoods Explore 26 books about neighbourhoods