Introducing OutreachNC’s 2020 Book Club

Last year, we read 10 books (some fiction, some non-fiction) and wrote honestly and with our hands-to-our-hearts about how we felt. We loved some (Our Souls at Night and The Light of the World) and struggled with others, but we were grateful to have books to read, stories to keep us company and new characters to sit beside on long nights and with coffee in our earliest mornings. Here is our list for ONC’s 2020 Book Club, full of highly-praised novels, a collection of essays and a how-to guide for a midlife (or any-time) crisis. We’re game. We hope you’ll join us, as you did last year, in reading, exploring, ranting and raving. We do love a good rant. 

ONC’s 2020 Book Club Picks are……

February – Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) 

People have been raving about Eleanor Oliphant for months. It seems everywhere we go, someone has read this novel and says, “It’s funny, witty, sarcastic and a little heartbreaking.” How could we not be intrigued? Honeyman’s heroine is apparently stern, sarcastic, judgmental but ultimately incredibly lovable, and we look forward to learning her story and jumping into her neatly-organized life. 

March – Gilead (Marilynne Robinson) 

Gilead is one of those novels people discuss in hushed voices at serious dinner parties. It’s a letter from a preacher to his son, a living legacy of Reverend Ames’s life and family story, and we hear it involves two of our favorite subjects: forgiveness and redemption. 

April – Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Lori Gottlieb)

Gottlieb’s book’s full title is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Sign us up. We, as readers, apparently go ‘behind the scenes’ of a therapist’s world, going inside the worlds of her patients and, ultimately, the questions about life Gottlieb struggles with herself. It’s described as ‘disarmingly funny’ and ‘revolutionary in its candor.’ Sounds like exactly the type of self-helpery we love. 

May – The Throwback Special (Chris Bachelder) 

Bachelder’s National Book Award Finalist is also a winner of The Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humor. George Saunders, one of our all-time favorite authors, says, “Chris Bachelder is a witty, compassionate troublemaker, and we need more like him.” Sold. The novel is a story of twenty-two men who come together every fall to reenact what ESPN dubbed ‘the most shocking play in NFL history: the ‘Throwback Special.’ We’re excited to read a novel about men coming together and learning about each other, themselves and how we all connect in order to continue living.  

June – It All Comes Back to You (Beth Duke) 

Duke’s story is the southern story of two women, with chapters alternating between Veronica “Ronni” Johnson, a nurse and aspiring writer, and Violet, who lives in an assisted living facility and has a story of her own. When Violet dies, she leaves Ronni a generous bequest with one condition: Ronni must write a novel about Violet’s life within one year. There are apparently secrets that shake things up, which is how all the best page-turning stories end up. We’re game! 

July – I Miss You When I Blink: Essays (Mary Laura Philpott)

Acclaimed essayist and bookseller, Philpott creates a memoir-in-essays of what happened when, after successfully checking all the right boxes in her life, she embarks on a reinvention. After doing everything ‘right,’ Pilpott finds herself feeling decidedly ‘wrong’ and goes in search of the proverbial why. We’re told this book will inspire us to navigate our own identity crises and understand the power of small changes rather than burning it all down (which we are sometimes prone to doing). 

August – Women Rowing North (Mary Pipher)

Let’s just get down to brass tacks here: New York Times Bestseller. USA Today Bestseller. Los Angeles Times Bestseller. Publishers Weekly Bestseller. From the author of Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher writes what is described as a guide to ‘wisdom, authenticity, and bliss’ for women as we age. Um….yes, please. 

September – Evie Drake Starts Over (Linda Holmes) 

People magazine describes Evie Drake Starts Over as, “Everything a romantic comedy should be: witty, relatable, and a little complicated.” How can we say no? It also takes place in a sleepy seaside town in Maine, involves a recently widowed Evie (who is overcome with grief) and a Major League pitcher from New York City. This novel is already oozing charm. We think September is the perfect month to embark on a little love story that will fill us up before winter sets in. 

October – The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Nicholas Carr) 

More than once, we’ve wondered: is the Internet doing us more harm than good? Does the positive outweigh the negative? Are we rotting our brains, disconnecting in an attempt to connect and doomed to a future of multi-tasking, skimming and living within the shallows for decades to come? We’re hoping Carr’s examination of the subject will answer these questions or at least shed some light on the discussion. 

November – The Alice Network (Kate Quinn) 

Quinn’s novel is heralded by many including NPR, Bookbub and a slew of summer reading lists. Reese Witherspoon picked it for her Book Club Summer Reading Pick. Set in the ‘chaotic aftermath of World War II,’ Quinn tells the story of a female spy and an American socialite, brought together in an unlikely story of courage and redemption. Over here at the ONC cottage, we have a thing for both courage and redemption, and we think this is an excellent pick to end 2020 and jumpstart the holiday season. 

We love sharing books with everyone and anyone who’s got a review, comment, thought, critique or favorite quote to send along. Feel free to write to us at and let us know your thoughts on what we’re reading – the good, the bad and the over-the-moon.