Frequently Asked Questions about Book Groups
Why join a book discussion group?
Enjoy stimulating conversations about great books, as well as have fun socializing, reminiscing, and building new friendships. Read something you might not have picked up otherwise. Discuss what you read and learn from other people’s interpretations and reactions.
How many people will we invite?
3-4 is a small discussion, 6-12 is a medium discussion, 18-20 is a large discussion. The size of the discussion group will determine how much time each person will have to share their opinions. Also, a small group can meet in someone’s living room, but a large group may require a larger space to meet.
Who will we invite to our book group?
It’s okay if people don’t know each other socially outside of the group. The group will decide if they are going to be open to new people or if group members are set. In large established groups, a waiting list may be used for interested people wanting to join. People return each meeting for several reasons: relationships are formed, people have a vested interest in coming back for the next book, and people invite friends.
How often will we meet?
Establish a basic meeting schedule so that participants can plan to attend. In a traditional monthly group, participants read the book each month and meet to discuss one time. In a more frequent weekly group, participants ead and discuss a portion of the book each week. With a monthly party group, participants read the book and have a ‘meeting’ that celebrates the themes of the book, including food/drink or meeting location that ties into the setting or plot. With a genre or thematic group, participants may read one of several choices relating to a theme or genre, and meet to discuss all of the books and share experiences.
When will we meet?
Meetings will depend on the members’ availability. If possible, keep these elements flexible until you receive feedback from your new club members about their preferences on location and time. To avoid confusion, it is best not to change settings very often. Once a time is set, stick to it and don’t rearrange around one member’s schedule. It’s okay if not all the members can attend every month because of conflicts. A meeting length of one to two hours usually works well, depending on the group’s general attention span.
Where will our group meet?
In groups of acquaintances, large groups, or groups inviting new members – churches, libraries, bookstores, coffeehouses and restaurants sometime provide public meeting space. In groups of friend, you may meet at a different person’s home each time. You always want a comfortable place where people can face each other while they talk. In a small group, a living room or dining room works well.
How will we choose what to read and discuss?
Some book groups vote on proposed choices, allow group leaders to choose, or rotate through member choices. Consider the accessibility of the book, and check if copies are available to borrow at the library or to purchase at community book stores. If possible, announce upcoming titles several months in advance so that people have time to get the book. Do your homework – use book reviews or websites to help you decide if a book will be discussable. A character-driven book is much easier to discuss than a plot driven book, because you can discuss character motivations, emotions and thoughts instead of only discussing what happened.
Who will lead our book group?
Establish a discussion leader for each meeting. You may be planning to lead the discussion yourself or inviting someone else to lead the discussion. The group may eventually choose a different leader or decide to each take turns.
What if no one talks at the beginning of book group?
Go around the room/table and ask each person to relate something from the book that was particularly resonant for them. Make sure people understand this is a “judgment-free” environment and that all opinions and experiences have equal value. Facilitate communication. If members do not know one another, use nametags and introductions or getting-to-know-you games for the first few sessions. To promote discussion and eye-contact, arrange chairs in a circle.
What if no one talks in the middle of book group?
Continue with questions posed by other sources, your own prepared questions or concerns, or questions raised by participants. Using prepared questions from an outside source makes it easier to tackle controversial or upsetting topics, and easier to remain respectful. Encourage members to bring questions to discuss
How do we wrap things up at the end of book group?
You may want to take a minute or two at the end of the discussion to acknowledge each other’s contribution. Ask each to appreciate one thing they learned from someone else. Introduce the book for the next discussion and remind people when and where you will be meeting.
What if everyone keeps talking, but not about the book?
Make the meetings fun and social. At the beginning of a meeting, include extra time for socializing, but don’t let the whole discussion be socializing – focus on the book. Some groups may want to meet for a coffee drink or a meal first, then start discussing the book at a certain time. The leader should try to redirect off-topic conversations back to the book.
What if some people who attend haven’t read the book or haven’t finished the book?
This is tricky at best, but may happen frequently. Even if people don’t finish the book, they will want to be involved in the group. A successful group will include people of all interest levels and abilities. During discussion, take a moment to fill them in on any plot developments they need to know. Don’t avoid giving away details just because one person didn’t finish the book – that is unfair to the people who completed the reading. Someone who attends a book group without reading the book may find a greater enjoyment of the book from listening to the discussion, but should expect that the group will still “give away the ending.
What if I have another questions about book groups?
Ask a librarian! Call us at 785-580-4400 or e-mail us with your question.
Books about Book Groups
- The Reading Group Handbook: Everything you need to know, from choosing members to leading discussions
Jacobson, Rachel W. 374.22 Jac
- Good Books lately: the one-stop resource for book groups and other greedy readers
Moore, Ellen. 374.22 Moo
- What to Read: the essential guide for reading group members and other book lovers
Pearlman, Mickey 015.73 Pea
- The Reading Group Book: The Complete Guide to Starting and Sustaining a reading group, with annotated lists of 250 titles for provocative discussion
Laskin, David 374.11 Las
- The Mother-Daughter Book Club: how ten busy mothers and daughters came together to talk, laugh, and learn through their love of reading
Dodson, Shireen 372.4162 Dod
- The Book Group Book: a thoughtful guide to forming and enjoying a stimulating book discussion group
Slezak, Ellen 374.22 Boo
- Book Clubs: Women and the uses of reading in everyday life
Long, Elizabeth 028.9 Lon
- Reading Oprah: how Oprah’s book club changed the way America reads
Farr, Cecilia Konchar 813.5409 Far
- Book Lust: recommended reading for every mood, moment, and reason
Pearl, Nancy 011.73 PEA
- Book Sense Best Books: 125 favorite books recommended by independent booksellers
Nichols, Mark 011.73 Boo
- More Book Lust: recommended reading for every mood, moment, and reason
Pearl, Nancy 011.73 Pea
- So Many Books, so Little Time: a year of passionate reading
Nelson, Sara 028.9 Nel
- Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books
Corrigan, Maureen 028.9 COR
- A year of reading : a month-by-month guide to classics and crowd-pleasers for you and your book group
Ellington, H. Elisabeth 011.73 ELL
- Best books for young adults
American Library Association 028.55 BES
- Book crush : for kids and teens : recommended reading for every mood, moment, and interest
Pearl, Nancy 011.62 PEA
General Book Discussion Questions
- Did you like the author’s writing style and organization of the book? Why do you think the author chose to write the book this way?
- Did you find this book uplifting and/or depressing?
- Could the same story have taken place in another time frame or setting? How well did the author do at portraying the setting and/or time period?
- Could you detect any bias or differences in the way the author portrayed the male vs. female characters of the book?
- Do you relate to any of the characters? Which ones? Why? Do you have a favorite or least favorite character? Why?
- How understandable or believable were the motivations of the characters?
- Was the book believable? Why? Did it matter to your enjoyment of the story?
- What is the significance of the title?
- Does this book remind you of any other novels? What makes this book distinctive?
- Is there anything about the book that is controversial?
- Did anything about the book bother or offend you?
- Are the values presented in the book dated? How?
- How did you feel about the ending? Did the author leave any loose ends?
- Would this book make a good movie? Which actors would be good in the roles?