Friday, October 21, 2011

National Reading Group Month! Part V

I am all out of lists you think, so what else am I going to post about for NRGM? Well, I am not out of lists! The National WNBA every years has a challenging task of getting members to commit to reading 25 books in a few months, and reviewing and rating them. From these books, the Great Group Reads are picked. And here's the list:

2011 Selections

The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb
Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Dance Lessons by Áine Greaney
Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo
The Good Sister by Drusilla Campbell
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
If You Knew Then What I Know Now by Ryan Van Meter
The Memory Palace: A Memoir by Mira Bartók
My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson
To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal
Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

And next month I am leading a WNBA event which is both a book club discussion (we are reading Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber) and also a discussion of book clubs. Here are some of the discussion points I've written up, and I'd love your feedback. Do you have questions I don't address here? Do you disagree with any of my answers? Do you have additional answers to these potential problems?

  • Why start a book club?
    When you finish an amazing book, do you want to tell someone all about it? Or when you read a frustrating book, do you want to rehash the annoyances and see if others agree with you, or can point out good points that you missed? A Reading Group is the ideal setting for these discussions.

  • How do we get members?
    If you know 2-3 people who’d like to start a group with you, that is fairly small. If everyone can bring just one friend, 6-8 is a great number for discussion. You can also list your club on Goodreads, Meetup, or with your local library if you are open to strangers. And tell your local bookstore.

  • Many members don’t finish the books
    Is your book club assigning many very long books? And are you giving members enough prior notice to read them? It’s best to pick 2-3 books ahead, if you don’t do your whole calendar at once. If so, ask if it’s okay to spoil the ending, don’t just assume you can’t discuss it. Some people are okay with spoilers and some know they will never get around to finishing. Then try some novellas or short stories. You don’t have to choose—and read—an entire short story collection. You can pick just 2-3 stories to discuss. If the same culprits can’t manage the short stories and continue to not finish the books, then just spoil away! It’s not fair for them to hold you hostage.

  • No one has much to discuss.
    Try picking books with Discussion Questions included to start the conversation. Some books have the questions online instead of printed in them.

  • I hate the books some members pick.
    Having each member responsible for picking one book selection may seem like a good idea, but picking good discussable books is not everyone’s strong suit. Instead, having members make suggestions and then voting on the books, is much more egalitarian. Plus, you don’t have to always like the books! See my post about how to turn complaints into discussion questions.

  • It’s too expensive for me.
    Is your book club meeting over dinner at nice restaurants? Not everyone can afford that. Consider hosting in members’ homes and either serving snack foods or going potluck. If you’d prefer to meet elsewhere, try instead a coffee shop, tea shop, or bakery, or your local library or bookstore. Also most book clubs try to stick to paperback books. If you get your list together early, then the library is also a good option, or sharing copies.

  • Frequently only a couple of members show up.
    Maybe the date and time you’ve originally chosen just doesn’t work anymore. Have members vote and see if a different time would improve attendance. Also keep in mind it is a big commitment, and it can help to give members a few months’ off, such as around the holidays or in the summer. Those times when you have 2 months or more between meetings are a great time to pick a larger book.

  • We get off topic so easily!
    It’s good to have a leader to corral people back around but the only true solution to this problem is commitment by the members to stick to the book. You can start off the meeting with more personal discussions and then state when the book discussion is going to begin, which can help.

1 comment:

Booksnyc said...

I am so excited to see Dance Lessons on there - I read it earlier this year and thought it was great! It's pubbed by a small press so it doesn't get a lot of exposure - maybe this will bring it to more people's attention.