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Our 2023 Favorite Book Survey Winners Are…

Thank you to all of the great readers who filled out our 2023 Favorite Books survey!

Every year, Reading Group Choices surveys book groups and readers to compile our annual list of Favorite Books. And every year we randomly choose winners who receive a gift certificate to their local independent bookstore, copies of our 2023 annual guide, and a literary tote!

Meet our 2023 favorite books survey winners below (and sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss the chance to take our 2024 survey!).

Carolyn Merritt Hill County Retreat Book Club
San Antonio, Texas

Our book club was started in 2008 when our over 55 neighborhood opened. Carolyn Merritt spearheaded our small group. She has since passed away, and we have honored her by naming the book club after her. We have since grown into a fairly large group—most months we have 20-30 attendees.

We meet once a month, with a different member leading the discussion each time. It is totally up to the leader to decide if we use reading guides. On a yearly basis, we vote on the books for the year based on books members nominate. Most of the books are fiction, but this year we are reading a biography and a classic as well.

In December we have a Holiday Brunch and donate books and other items to our charity, SAMM Ministries.

Advice for Book Lovers: Enjoy reading books outside your comfort zone!

Recent Favorites: The Last Flight by Julie Clark, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Independent Bookseller: Half-Price Books in San Antonio, Texas

Brandeis National Committee Banned Book Group
Hollis, New Hampshire

The Brandeis National Committee (BNC) Banned Book Group started meeting on Zoom during the pandemic and we are composed of members of the BNC from all over the country. I love book groups, and during Covid I thought a book group with people all over the country would be a fun way to connect. I tried just offering a light, fun mystery novel as a book to get the group started but there was little response. When I decided to offer Maus, a banned book, and make that the theme of the group, I got a very large response. We have been meeting online monthly since then.

We discuss books that have been banned or books written about banning books. The group has about 50 members signed up who receive our monthly announcements. There is a core group of attendees who come every month and there are some people who come once in a while. There is a certain connection between those who see each other every month. It is also nice that there are others who feel free to come and go and do not feel locked in.

We like to read a variety of books, including novels, mysteries, nonfiction, new books, and classics. We also have read young adult and middle grade books, because those books are being banned every day. Our conversations always involve talking about why the book is banned and why it should not be banned. Members also like to inform the group about new book bans in their home states. It is interesting because we have members joining from everywhere from Florida to Arizona and even Texas, along with many from Massachusetts and California.

We use the Reading Group Choices guides and other sources that continue to update the Banned Book list by the ALA. I use the internet to keep abreast of the news and what books are being banned each year while also looking back at the historical lists to bring older books back to the forefront.

We have not held any special events, but I would like to invite authors to join our discussions about banned books. It would be great to host a banned author as well as an author who is not banned but speaks out about banning. Additionally, a librarian would be a good guest to discuss what happens in a library when a book is banned, especially in a school library.

Advice for Book Lovers: Invite a large group of people to join and be welcoming to new members. We have found over time that circumstances change in people’s lives and people move on. We don’t want our group to end, so including anyone who is interested in reading and discussing with us is great. I also think keeping the conversation friendly and setting ground rules that everyone gets to speak and everyone’s opinion matters makes for a great discussion.

Recent Favorites: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, and Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.

Independent Bookseller: Balin Books in Nashua, NH

Colfax Library Book Club
St. John, Washington

Our club started as a library-sponsored book group that moved to Zoom during COVID isolation. We are now back to an in-person group. We normally meet on the last Monday of the month at 5:30 in the Colfax Library. The adult librarian starts us off with some general questions and follows with questions specific to the book. These are times when the discussion follows its own direction depending on the experiences of the members. We have a core group of five or six members, plus additional people drawn by the title or friends of regular members.

The thing that makes this group so special is our wide range of ages, interests, and education. We are all very respectful of others’ opinions and are willing to jump into a variety of genres. About half of our members listen to audiobooks.

We start with reading guides and find it very useful that the RGC database includes older titles, since we generally read books that are at least six months old.

We work hard to pull from different genres, including nonfiction, young adult, and a variety of fiction. We try to set the titles two months in advance so the library can borrow hard copies or purchase audiobooks. This also helps with program promotion.

Our December meeting is often a luncheon or coffee at a local restaurant, where we discuss our individual reading for the year and make some general plans for the next six months. Our August meeting is often a picnic where the book discussed is specifically chosen because it might be interested to spouses.

Advice for Book Lovers: Find a leader that can gently balance participation by all members.

Recent Favorites: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Independent Bookseller: BookPeople of Moscow in Pullman, WA

Did you know? We also feature a Spotlight Book Group every month. Read about our past groups, and apply to become our next!