keep rescheduling to meet people’s schedules and you’ll have people attend
who won’t read the book.
Set a meeting day and time and stick to it. A good meeting schedule is
once a month to once every six weeks. The person who selects the current
pick can also select the location—if the group doesn’t have a fixed spot.
Reading groups tend to meet in libraries, a member’s home or coffee shops.
Discussion of the book should last anywhere from 45 minutes to two
hours. Every group needs to decide on a schedule that works best for them.
The group should also designate a specific time for socializing, including a
snack or even a full meal, either before or after talk of the book. The schedule will help to keep the discussion on track.
Choosing a book can be the most difficult part of running a reading club.
The members of most reading groups share a love of reading, but chances
are they don’t love reading the same kinds of books. Some groups have
members take turns selecting a title, some throw suggestions in a hat and
draw a title at random.
If you’re looking for suggestions, The Reading Group Handbook by
Rachel W. Jacobsohn (Hyperion, 1998) suggests hundreds of books, from
Pulitzer Prize winners to historical fiction and banned books.
Now that your group has a book selection, what do you talk about?
Characters, plot, emotional response and author’s purpose are all good
subjects for a discussion. Talking About Books: A Step-by-Step Guide for
Participating in a Book Discussion Group by Marcia Fineman, Ph.D.
(Talking About Books, 1997), includes questions to generate discussions.
A major obstacle for people
who want to join a book group is finding a group that meets at a time and
place that suits their schedule. If you
find yourself in a similar situation,
consider joining an online reading
group. Instead of sharing ideas with
people who may only be coming from
across town, you can share thoughts
and opinions with people from across
the country or across the world.
One place to begin looking for
an online book club is the Book
Browser Web site at www.Book-Clubs-
Resource.com. Choose “Online Book
Clubs” and then browse the list of
clubs organized by the format of the
discussion they use.
You will see nearly a dozen online
reading groups, along with additional
resources for having a successful reading group.—SEP
For additional inspiration, turn to the online reading guides published by
Vintage Books (
www.randomhouse.com) and Penguin Putnam Inc.
www.penguinputnam.com), among others. The Web site www.Reading
GroupGuides.com has nearly 2,000 reading guides posted online and searchable by title, author and subject. Guides often provide summaries along with
a list of discussion questions.
The reading guides may also include biographical information about and
interviews with the author. Use library resources such as Current Biography
and Something About the Author for additional information. Check with
bookstores or the public library to find out which authors are speaking in
For added depth in a book discussion, members can conduct background research, prepare a dinner related to the book or plan a field trip to
either the book’s setting or the author’s hometown.
With determination and a dash of creativity, you and your group members will be flexing your cerebral muscles in no time.—Stephanie E. Ponder