With a quarter-million reading groups currently active, it seems that more people than ever before are thinking and talking about books. Because one of the biggest challenges faced by a book club is deciding what to read, BookPage is happy to launch a monthly column spotlighting new paperback titles we feel would make great reading group selections. This new column will also list resources for book club members, including web sites, links to publishers and guides to help you choose the right titles for your group. If your club is just getting started, visit the Vintage Books Reading Group Center. An excellent resource for book clubs, the site offers a newsletter and mailing list, as well as online reading group guides to more than 70 titles.

The following is our list of this month's book club recommendations. From historical novel to contemporary memoir, these books are sure to generate spirited discussion among your circle of readers.

Girl With a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier

A novel that explores the mystery behind Vermeer's famous painting, blending fact and fiction into a radiant coming-of-age novel. Full of rich period detail, Chevalier's book is set in 17th century Delft, where a young girl named Griet goes to work as a maid in the home of the great painter. Griet soon attracts the attention of Vermeer himself, causing tension among the master's family which includes his fickle wife and her strong-willed mother. Scandal and deception quickly follow in this complex and sensuous look at an artist and his muse. A reading group guide is available online.

Corelli's Mandolin
by Louis De Bernières

This lush novel, set on the Greek island of Cephallonia during World War II, tells the story of a beautiful young woman named Pelagia and the two men competing for her affections: Mandras, a kind-hearted fisherman transformed into a cold-blooded guerilla by war, and the enchanting, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, an officer in the Italian garrison on the island. With this ambitious book, De Bernières proves himself the heir of Dickens and Tolstoy. Grand in scope, full of passion and betrayal, this historical novel is the basis for a new movie from John Madden, director of Shakespeare in Love. A reading group guide is available online and in print.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers

At once touching and hilarious, this is the true account of the death of the author's parents and the life that ensues for him and his eight-year-old brother, whom he must care for on his own. A literary sensation, this innovative memoir pushes the boundaries of narrative as it poignantly recounts the college-age Eggers' adaptation to life without his family. For this paperback edition, the author has expanded his best-selling memoir, writing 15,000 more words, including a new appendix. A reading group guide is available online.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
by Helen Fielding

"Don't be fooled into thinking you're too high-browed for this sort of fun," BookPage advised in a review of the hardcover edition. Picking up a month after the last diary left off, Fielding's new book is another wry, witty look at the life of Bridget. No longer a "Singleton," she is involved with wealthy attorney Mark Darcy and adapting to life with a live-in. Readers of Fielding's last book will love this sequel, which includes appearances by Bridget's pals Jude and Shaz, as well as her parents. Who cares if it doesn't have a reader's guide? Fielding's irresistible book will make lively reading for any group.

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