While it’s always helpful if you can find reading guides for the precise title your book club is reading, sometimes they’re not available. At times like those, it can be useful to have general questions that work for almost any book. These can be used as is, or they can provide a starting point to create your own for specific titles.
- For the person(s) who chose the book: why did you select it?
- Is this a new-to-you author or not?
- What are your thoughts on the cover? Do you think it represents the book well?
- Rate the book on a scale of 1 – 10
- Why was it titled the way it was? Can you think of an alternative title?
- Consider the opening and closing lines/paragraphs and how they set (or don’t) the mood for the book.
- Which format did you use? (print, ebook, audio) How did that experience impact the story?
- If you listened to the book, how was the narrator? Would you recommend it as an audio book?
- What were the major strengths and weaknesses of the book?
- What surprised you about the book?
- What emotional reactions did it promote (what mood does the author set)?
- Is the author’s background reflected in the book?
- Is the book easy to follow or challenging?
- In what ways do the events and characters reveal the author’s values or world view? Did the story make you question any of your own beliefs?
- What’s the overall message the author is trying to convey?
- Does the book discuss broader social issues?
- Why do you think the author opened the book the way they did? Is it effective in catching the reader’s attention and interest?
Questions about the Characters
- Do you find the narrator(s) and other characters likeable? Believable? Trustworthy?
- Do you relate to any of the characters? Do they remind you of anyone you know (real or fictional)?
- Who are your favorite secondary characters?
- Do the characters grow or remain static? If they’re static, are they good examples of their type?
- If the characters change, what events trigger those changes?
- How do you think the main character is similar or different from the author?
- Does the author give the characters freedom of choice, or are their actions fated?
- How would the story have changed if characters had taken different actions than what they did?
Questions about the Setting
- How are the place and time period in which the book was written reflected in the text?
- How would the book have changed if it were written now?
- Did the setting enhance or detract from the story?
- How authentic is the setting (not just the era and location, but also the culture)?
Questions about the Writing
- How does the point of view affect the story? Would it be significantly different if it was told from a different point of view?
- How is the pacing – is it quick or slow? Does it remain steady throughout the book or change? Does it fit the scope and style of the book? Do any sections drag, or are any rushed?
- Is there anything unusual about the author’s style?
- Does the author use any narrative devices like flashbacks in telling the story? If so, how did that impact your enjoyment of the story – do you think it was an effective choice? How else could they have structured the story?
- Does the author emphasize characterizations, plot, language or style?
- What themes does the author emphasize throughout the novel?
- Does the author use symbolism in the story?
Questions about the Plotting
- What are the central conflicts in the book? Do you find the way that they are resolved believable?
- Is the plot predictable? Are any of the side plots distracting, or more appealing than the main plot?
- Did the plot have a satisfying resolution?
- Did you like the ending, or would you change it?
- Does the story rely on a major or minor coincidence? Was it believable and did it work for you?
- Was the story plausible overall?
Questions for Nonfiction
- What was the purpose of this book (for example: to inform, to entertain, to inspire)? Did the book succeed at its purpose? If not, why?
- Did you know anything about this person (or subject) prior to reading this book?
- If you had any preconceived opinions about the topic, what were they and and did they change after reading the book?
- If the book addressed an issue or problem, did the author cover all sides of the topic fairly and completely, or was the book written to promote a particular agenda?
- After reading the book, has your interest been piqued about the subject matter? Do you want to learn more about it?
- How does the author draw the reader in and keep them engaged in the text?
- Was the book accessible for general audiences?
- Did the author explain unfamiliar terms and concepts? Do you feel like you had a good grasp of the subject being discussed?
- Was the language neutral, or slanted toward a particular “side” being addressed?
Questions for Memoirs
- How much did you know about the author before reading the memoir? What did you think of them?
- Why do you think the author wanted to share his or her story?
- If you were already familiar with the author, has the book changed your view of them?
- What’s the overall mood of the book?
- How does the author express their story? (humor, anger, etc.)
- How did you respond to the author’s “voice”?
- Was there anything especially surprising about the author’s story?
- Did you ever feel that the author wasn’t being completely honest?
- Were there any parts of the book where you would have liked more information?
- Did the book remind you of any other memoirs or biographies you’ve read?
- What did you particularly like or dislike about the book?
- Is the author someone you would want to know?
- What’s the author’s most admirable trait? Is there any way in which you wish you resembled the author?
- Was there a lesson for modern readers could be taken away from the author’s life?
- Is this book typical of the genre?
- In what subgenre would the book fit?
- Would you recommend the book to readers who don’t typically like this genre?
Questions for Science Fiction or Fantasy
- How good is the world building in the book?
- Is it believable?
- Would you like to live in or visit the book’s setting?
- Does it remind you of other real or fictional places?
Questions for Mysteries
- Does the author use plot twists and red herrings? Are they effective? Was the mystery aspect predictable, or were you surprised?
- Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography about her dislike of mysteries having a romantic subplot. Do you agree or disagree with her views? Did this book have an element of romance? If so, do you feel the love aspect enhanced or detracted from the story?
- Were characters motivations believable?
- If a mystery is well-written the reader should suspect a number of characters throughout the story. Which characters did you think committed the crime? Did you guess the culprit before the end?
- What questions are you left with asking after finishing the book?
- Where could the story go after the book ends? What is the future of these characters’ lives? What would our lives be like if we lived in this story?
- If you’ve read other works by this author, how do they compare?
- Will you look for additional titles by this author?
- Is the book part of a series? If it’s the first in a series, are you interested in reading additional titles? If it’s later in the series, how has reading them in order – or not – affected your enjoyment of the book?
- If there isn’t already one, would you like a sequel or series?
- What do you think happens after the book ends?
- Who do you think the ideal reader is for the book? Who would you recommend it to?
- Are you glad you read this book?
- Would you recommend it to someone else?
Thinking Beyond the Book
- What topics does the book make you want to explore further?
- How does this book compare to other books you’ve read?
- Does the book remind you of any other books? Movies?
- Is there a film adaptation of this book? If so, what is emphasized or minimized in the film version? How does the movie compare to the book?
- If there isn’t a film adaptation of the book, do you think it would make a good movie? Who would you pick to direct it and star in it?
This is part of the Booked: Reading Together series. Throughout October, I’m writing all about book clubs.
Check out the archives in case you missed a post.
Previously on The Deliberate Reader
One year ago: Two More Christmas Ebooks
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Loving the Little Years
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads: Stiff