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Reading Groups - Tips from Your Colleagues

Reading groups share tips and creative ideas from their experience on how to keep discussions lively, fun, and interesting.

Thanks to all for your thoughts and contributions! 

“We had a hosted a local professor, an English professor, talk about The Paris Wife, and then on his life in Paris, his domestic and personal life, his literary circle of friends, and we also read Moveable Feast by Hemingway. We topped with virgin drinks featured on the author's website. You can read it on my blog in Oct. You can visit my blog to read it.”

Susan, The Beach Babes Book Brigade, Little River, SC

“One month during the year we try to read an ethnic book. Then we locate recipes from this region and prepare them in our church's kitchen. As we are eating, we discuss the book. We have great fellowship with this meal!”

Cindy, St. Paul's U.C.C. Book Group, Blandon, PA

“We've been reading together for six lovely years. Once a year we do a book/movie pairing - we read a book, and on our meeting day, we hold it at a member's home and rent the DVD to watch while lunching - then we discuss book & movie and how they compare. Makes for an interesting change of pace. A couple we've done are I Am David and The Memory Keeper's Daughter.”

Michelle, The Book Ends, Sun City Center, FL

"Our best discussions come from books that generate feelings of loving the book to hating the book. If everyone loves the book discussions go nowhere. One example is Miss Timmons School for Girls and Swamplandia."

Ann, Deep River Library Book Talk, Chester, CT

"We created a facebook page for our bookclub. It is a convenient way to keep each other informed of upcoming book club meetings and we also post all kids of things related to books. It's a lot of fun and keeps us connected in between our monthly meetings."

Christine, Booktini, Taunton, MA

"I have tried to make our book club lively each month. This month, I was lucky enough, since I am a book blogger, to receive books for our club. She also agreed to speak to us on Skype. The book is a memoir, and I was able to find references all over the Internet, of different traditions on youtube. This made it interactive while reading for me, and our group. I made references where to use the links and what page. This may be the wave to the future."

Susan, 38th Ave. Diva Readers, Little River, SC

"All our book club members provide the names of a couple of books they would like to read and we vote by ballot every April for the Fall and Spring semesters. At the end of each semester, we meet for lunch and each member brings a wrapped book for a white elephant book exchange. Every one walks away with a gently used or new book. We love the end of semesters."

Maria, Viking Book Club, Corpus Christi, TX

"We try to personalize our readings in some way ... for example, if a food is mentioned in a book (such as caramel cake in The Help), that is our refreshment ... we marked off the actual room including furnishing in Room ... provided pictures of the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ... it all started with our visit to the oldest house in St. Augustine, Fl, when we read Maria ... suspect it will be music for Vivaldi's Angels."

Judith, Summerhouse Snowbird Book Club, Old Lyme, CT

“One of our members always selects pictures from magazines to represent the characters of the book on which she is leading the discussion. This makes it interesting to see how close to what we all felt the character may have looked like. It is always a lively discussion when she is our leader.”

Shirley, Bon Air Book Club, North Chesterfield, VA

“Although we usually always read the same book, we recently had two months of 'choose your own.' In honor of Charles Dickens' birthday, we all read one of his. We were not all fans of his writing. However, for Edith Wharton's birthday celebration last month, almost everyone read something different. We all loved the books we read, and talked about recurring themes in them. It was a great discussion!”

Barbara, Sturdy Shoes Book Group, Memphis, TN

“I run 3 book clubs and always include each of the following: 1 debut, 1 Classic, 1 non-fiction, 1 YA. The patrons love it and it broadens our reading.”

Marika, Seasoned Readers, Commerce Township, MI

“I recently took over as facilitator of a longtime book club here at our library. It has been difficult finding titles for them since they read everything from biographies to romance. I started compiling a list of titles based on what other groups in my area read and any ARCs that have come across my desk that I just loved. I also try to pitch books that may be made into movies. They always enjoy seeing their characters come to life.”

Monica, Monday Morning Readers, San Antonio, TX

“We read one banned book each year - usually in October for "Banned Books Month". We have discussed not only the book, but why we think it might have been banned. We've had some insightful discussions!”

Vikki, Jan's Book Club, Seward, NE

“Our liveliest meetings are when we have "dinner & a movie" meetings. Whenever we read a book that has been made into a movie, we read the book first, and then we gather for a potluck dinner to discuss the book and watch the movie. It is always fun to discuss how the movie differed from the book, and which scenes were most powerful in each. We usually walk away with a couple of new recipes too, which is a nice added bonus!

Sarah, Literary Ladies, Cincinnati, OH

“Our group is entering its 10th year. Every August we ask one of our "kids" to choose our book and lead the discussion. I use quotations, because our young folks become "ours" by love and by birth! We've read some stunning books because of their choices, including The Eyre Affair, The Ugly American, On The Couch, Jitterbug Perfume, essays by Hunter S. Thompson, and Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix.”

Marion, Cape Goddesses Book Group, Stamford, CT

“Our best discussions are over historical fiction & fictionalized biography. Our group spans a wide range of ages, nationalities and backgrounds, and we love to compare our own lives to the 'book people.'”

Mary, Book Bites, Clinton, NJ

“A glass of wine, a slice of pizza and a salad – and our lively members are off and running. We choose one member to run the meeting. That member downloads questions from the Internet as our jumping-off point. From those questions, the conversation steers itself toward characters, events and how we interacted with the book. We love our book club meetings.”

Maureen, 247 Scholars, Staten Island, NY

“We split our discussion time and social time by meeting at work to discuss the book, and then those who want to go out to eat can socialize.”

Laurie, So Many Books, Montclair, NJ

“Always trying to find the next big read.”

Teresa, Neighborhood Book Club, Kansas City, MO

“Our best discussions are over historical fiction & fictionalized biography. Our group spans a wide range of ages, nationalities & backgrounds and we love to compare our own lives to the 'book people'”

Mary, The Book Bites, Clinton, NJ

“Our group usually discusses an author's works instead of a particular book. Each person reads a different book and then talks about it. We often discover the author has a recurring agenda or theme. We do occasionally read the same book for a change.”

Rachel, Book Discussion Group, Vicksburg, MI

“We each present 2-3 suggestions for next year's books at our April meeting. Then we vote by ballot to choose one for each month of the following year. That way everyone has a say. We also pass around an envelope at each meeting for members to contribute $1 or more, if they wish, & at the end of the year, we choose a charity to donate the total amount to.”

Jacqueline, Literary Ladies, Hilton Head Island, SC

“A glass of wine, a slice of pizza and a salad-and our lively members are off and running. We choose one member to run the meeting. That member downloads questions from the Internet as our jumping off point. From those questions, the conversation steers itself toward characters, events and how we interacted with the book. We love our book club meetings.”

Maureen, 247 Scholars, Brooklyn, NY

“One of our members is a founder of SharedPen.com, a website that allows authors to self-publish e-books. Because of this, we have been able to read a number of books written by our members or by members’ family members. Everyone wanted to read these unpublished books, but printing them numerous times was not practical. Now we are able to download the books and read them on any platform we like. The club gave constructive criticism to the books, and now revised versions are selling well through the website as paperback and ebooks. We fill so close to this books that when they make a top list we all celebrate. The books: Xtabentum: A Novel of Yucatan by Rosy Hugener with Carl Hugener and A Colony of Eves by Larry Kaplan (Title that he changed after our book club rejected The Extinction Gene Name).”

Monica, Royal Melbourne Book Club, Long Grove, IL

“Our group of 10 women all work (or used to work)at the same elementary school. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Originally we met at houses in rotation, but this was difficult for some members and they were considering dropping out. When we were reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan we thought it would be fun to have our meeting at a Chinese restaurant and that started a whole new trend for us. Now no one has to be hostess, so everyone can participate. We meet on Monday evenings at 6 pm, so local restaurants are never crowded and actually love having us come. We have a few stand-bys—the local Italian bistro, a middle-eastern place, and sometimes we try to locate a restaurant that really fits the theme. When we read The Kitchen Boy—set in Russia, we traveled to a Russian restaurant and tasted some of the foods from the book. What works well for us is to socialize until everyone arrives and the waiter takes our orders, and then while we await the food, we begin the discussion. This continues while we eat. Since we are all at a big round or long table, discussion is promoted better than when we sat in someone's living room.”

Debbie, Women Who Read, Prescott, AZ

“We invite our husbands to join us socially several times a year. The men have started their own reading Group and meet for breakfast. In November, we will join them and discuss the same book. In July, we all meet for a picnic at our local Farmer's Market. Many members are out of town in July, so we do not select a book, just meet socially. I would really like to read South of Broad, for our selection in October.”

Melissa, Sonoma Book Buddies, Sonoma, CA

“We had a college professor in to help lead a discussion.  Her topic was to help us understand why a classic becomes a classic.”

Deborah, Eclectic Readers Guild, Hilliard, OH

“Our bookclub takes a break in the summer from our usual once a month meeting and we do a field trip instead.  These have been very successful and well attended. We select a book to read and then take a tour or go to a museum or have a summer party that reflects the theme of the book.  So far we have taken a trip to the Women's Rights Museum a boat trip on the Erie Canal a Mob Tour in Niagara Falls a play at Niagara on the Lake just to mention a few.  This year we are reading "The Women" by T. C. Boyle and will be visiting one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in our area.  We also had an "African Night" with authentic African food and "beverages".  The idea for a summer field trip just seemed to evolve and I think everyone looks forward to them.”

Geraldine, Clarence Bookmarks, Buffalo, NY

“This National Poetry Month found each of us with our favorite poem to share (some even made copies for all).  It was wonderful.  We had everything from a mom bringing her four-year-old daughter's poem to classics to our resident poet's original poem.  We discussed how for some of us were turned us off in school by poetry.  We all thought Billy Collins writes for the common person and has great things to say about the everyday lives we all live.”

Jane, The Original Excelsior Library Book Club, Excelsior, MN

“Our club of eight ladies ranges in age from 30+ to 70+, and it never fails to amaze us on the different insights on the same novel.  We understand that our ages lay great weight to our impressions and opinions but often the 30+ will agree with the older members while the middle members have a different take and vice versa ... in any case we enjoy our differences and are often enlightened by the insight gained during discussion.”

Jan, The Limestone Ladies Book Club, Kingston, Ontario

“We also get together for charity walks—hence the name Bookwalkers.  We like to add fitness and exercise into our social network/circle of friends.”

Colleen, Bookwalkers, Monroe, NY

“I have started making a list of the characters in the books and passing that out along with some discussion starters.  This is very popular and helps the discussion, especially for those who have read the book a few months before the discussion.”

Arden, Under 400, Murrysville, PA

“We usually use an item from the book (for instance a box of Aunt Jemima Pancake mix for Devil in the White City) to designate "speaker power." Whoever is holding the item has the "floor." It works well since we are usually polite with one another.”

Fran, Paige Turners, Brick, NJ

“If a member of the group has recently taken an exciting trip have the group read a book about that location and get the traveller to lead the discussion and share their experience.  For instance, one of our members travelled to Kenya, we read Out of Africa and planned appropriate refreshments.”

Anne, Page Turners, Duluth, GA

“In our December meeting, we have an ornament exchange, and try to bring ornaments related to books read in club in the past year.”

Kay, Don’t Spoil the Ending, Florence, AL

“Read fact, fiction, biography, classics—at least one of each type a year. Certainly broadens your view of writing.”

Dorothy, The Reading Circle, Easton, MD

“We are the GroupWithNoNameYet and we give out GWNNY awards after we vote for our favorate book author and character of the year.”

Toni, GroupWithNoNameYet, New Hartford, CT

”Our last meeting had 19 people (both men and women), and it was suggested that we each come with a question or a quote from the book to discuss.  The items were then put in a large bowl, and different people drew and read them.  This really facilitated the discussion and helped us to stay on track.  We also did take the time to discuss whatever else was on someone's mind. It was a wonderful idea suggested by one of the members.”

Jane, The Excelsior Book Club, Excelsior, MN

“Discussions often get sidetracked to conversations which have nothing to do with the book.  When this happens, somebody, realizing we're off subject, will say one word which means, ‘Let's get back on subject.’  Our chosen word is ‘Loretta.’  When this word is spoken, we all get a little giggle, and get back to our subject without anyone being offended.”

Jolene, Millennium Book Group, Boulder, CO

“We have over 60 members in our group and in any given month, about 30 will attend an afternoon or evening meeting. No more than 15 people can attend a meeting so we are ensured of a good discussion. At the beginning of each year, a group of 6 or 7 people volunteer to be on the Book Selection Committee. Each does some research from websites like yours, and other members' suggestions count very much. Each person comes with a list, and our small group reduces the list to twelve. This is not easy, but we laugh a lot! Then each month, we meet at a different member's house. The host will facilitate the discussion unless she prefers not to, in which case someone else will volunteer. The facilitator is responsible for doing some homework before the meeting, so we talk about the author's life and then she asks some questions, which we generally get from one or more websites. After each meeting, the book club president e-mails minutes to each member so everyone can learn about the book and the future choices.”

Rhonda, Valencia Pointe Women's Book Club, Boynton Beach, FL

“As the hostess, in the room of our home where the meeting will take place, we display one or several objects that "hint" at the book.  For example, when we read Water for Elephants the hostess had a circus tent figurine on her coffee table.  This always gets a good discussion going about the book, even before we get to the questions we have printed up.”

Chris, Innuendo Book Club, New Stanton, PA

“For years we struggled w/the number of consistent attendees. We then realized that their was the 'core group', but very few younger members. We sought out younger women. We were successful. We now have 30+ members with a 50-50 mix of 20-30 year olds & a mix of 40-60 year olds. The younger members bring in a fresh new slant on the books, with a much livelier discussion. Tip: Mix the age groups! Amazing how different our meetings are, as well as attendance.”

Syl, Talega Book Cub, San Clemente, CA

“I feel that 10 members is an ideal size for a book group.  As a leader I read the book the weekend before the meeting to have it fresh in my mind.  I come prepared with questions, but often I listen to where the discussion is going and ask questions that continue the discussion.  If the group becomes loud or unfocused, it is time to ask a different question to get their thoughts going in a different direction.”

Tamera, Southwest Reading Group, Arlington, TX

“We use a format at each meeting. 
"Socialize
Discussion qestions
Next book discussions
Choose next date
Socialize again"We often fundraise for charities and sign up together for walk-a-thons so we plan for those at each meeting.  The charitable aspect of our group is very important to our members."

Colleen, BookWalkers, Monroe, NY

“I maintain a website for our bookclub. (www.bookenders.com)”

Kathy, Bookenders Bookclub, Lees Summit, MO

“We organized the BOOKIES when during lunch one day, two staff members at Lynn University were discussing a book they had just read. One said, "We ought to organize a book club."  That was all it took.  We began meeting the next month and now have just celebrated our third anniversary.  We have 24 members that include everyone from PhD's to hairdressers.  Our meetings usually average about 15 people.  Each person takes a turn at hosting.  As host, they select a book for us to read for the month and then that person conducts the discussion at the following meeting.  We precede the discussion with a dinner based on the book.  We have found that in this manner we read books we normally would not have chosen.  We feel this makes us more well-rounded readers.”

Jo, The BOOKIES, Lake Worth, FL

“Our book group name is The Final Chapter, 9 female members ages 60 - 76, meet monthly except Jan., Feb. as some go south for the winter.  Dec. is dinner out and this year we decided instead of a gift exchange, we'll donate a book to our local library.  July and August we meet at homes of members who have a pool and have a "pool party" discussion.  We read mostly novels, some bios, poems and once - short stories.  We  have wine and snacks during discussion and dessert & coffee after.  Sometimes we have food indigenous to the country or setting of the book.  We have had 4 author chats, which always adds a special touch to our meetings.”

Dot, The Final Chapter, Lock Haven, PA

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