I recently answered questions for BookJourney, who is featuring book clubs in a Q and A at her blog. I’ve been in my current book club for 11 years now and they’re a great group so it was fun to think about how my group works…and why it does. It also reminded me that I put together a little book club primer for people who wanted to start a book club, but weren’t sure how to get going. I thought I’d share it here with you.
Some thoughts for book clubs…
Book clubs work best if everyone is on the same page…so if you have two or three members who just want to get out of the house, never read the book, are more interested in talking about the last movie they saw than the book – maybe they’re in the wrong group…or maybe you are. So once you have a group of like-minded readers, you’re good to go.
The keys to a successful book club are:
- Having a venue conducive to talking
- Having a designated leader or system for discussing the book.
- Choosing a great book- which doesn’t necessarily mean reading War and Peace
There are all sorts of ways to choose books for your book club and you have to find a way that works the best for your group. One piece of advice I have heard from other clubs, though, is to choose a book that is unknown to you- that is, if it’s your pick don’t choose your favourite book of all time because there are bound to be hurt feelings when someone in your group doesn’t like it.
Some of the ways to choose a book include:
Everyone come to the first meeting of the year with a couple of choices and put all of the choices into a hat and pick randomly. The group can decide out of all the picks what they want to read.
Everyone gets one pick per year. That person is then responsible for hosting the meeting (whatever that means for your book club). In our group it means the person who chose the book hosts at their house, provides the nibblies (or, as is often the case in our group a three course meal!) and leads the discussion.
Leading the discussion can take many forms…and again, there’s many ways to do it depending on your group. We have 11 really chatty women so the leader has to be a bit of a tyrant in order for everyone to have the opportunity to speak. Usually she’s prepared with a list of questions…but we’ve also done it other ways, for example, inviting everyone to make up their own question about the book, putting the questions in a dish and allowing everyone to answer one question and then, if anyone wants to add thoughts, they can.
Vigorous discussion comes from well-thought out questions and a little bit of planning on the part of the hostess. The questions need not necessarily be related to the book, either. Or at least not directly.
Here are my questions for the novel The Myth of You and Me – which was my choice, only mediocre, imho, but we had a great chat about it.
1. When Ruth and Cameron start to pack Oliver’s things up Cameron remarks: “It’s astonishing what a single life accumulates. These things we endow with a certain life- the possibilty that we might use them, the memory we attach to them- and then, when we die, they become just things again.”
What things do you save and what meaning do they have for you? Do you ever purge? What is something you own that is likely meaningless without the weight of your attached memory.
2. When we finally discover what ended the friendship- what is your reaction? How does it change your feelings about Cameron and Sonia? Is it enough of a reason to sever the ties between them?
3. While Cameron searches for Sonia she meets Suzette again and remarks: “All at once it strikes me that as well as I know Sonia, I only know one version of her- that all you know of a life are the places where it touches your own.” Do you think it’s true that we offer people different versions of ourselves? Why? Who has the clearest picture of you?
4. Oliver’s second letter to Cameron reveals the truth about his life and his story and, for me at least, offers the book’s most important lesson. Why do you think he waits to tell Cameron the story of Billie, the story of his life?
5. If you could track down one person from your past who would it be and why?
How do you choose your next book?
The Internet makes it easy to do research…but how do you find titles?
Some great blogs:
(generally if you find a blog you like, it’s easy to follow that person’s links to other similar blogs- trust me, there’s a HUGE network out there)
There’s a whole raft of book communities
Fantastic Fiction – info on over 300,000 books!
There are also lots of useful sites if you are looking for ways to keep your book club thriving…try this one:
I am always happy to talk bookclubs…and answer questions if you have them!
(Originally posted August 3, 2009)