Book Club Resources

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month-long series all about book clubs. One thing I do want to emphasize is there’s no one way to do a book club – if you want to have your book club chat for 5 minutes about the cover of your book, and then proceed to drink wine and socialize, well, if everyone is happy with that then go for it! If you want to have an article club instead of a book club, you aren’t alone – that’s what my friend Bernadette does. Be flexible, figure out what sort of a group you want it to be, and have fun with it.

To conclude Booked: Reading Together, I’m sharing a compiled list of resources to help with your book club. Many of them will look familiar – I’ve already mentioned some in previous posts in the series, but I’m combining them here to make them easy to find for future reference. And a heads-up: if you’ve missed a post in this series, check out the archives.

Booked {Reading Together} | Book Club Resources

General Sites about Book Clubs

Discussion Questions

Book Club for Kids

Book Club Food

Finding Books

Reference Books

These will often include suggested titles as well

More about My Book Club

Reading is Social at Simply Sarah

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: Northwood
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: In a Sunburned Country
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads: The Ice Master

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Book Club FAQs

Since beginning the series I’ve gotten some questions via email, and want to address the most common ones:

Booked {Reading Together} | Book Club FAQs

What if I hate being told what to read

I hear you. I’m a total mood reader, and it’s not always easy for me to want to read something just because it’s “assigned” for that month.

However, I’ve found the benefits of being involved in a book club vastly outweigh the drawbacks of scheduled titles.

That’s why it’s so crucial you find a book club that’s the right fit for you. If you want literary fiction, don’t join a group that focuses on beach reads. Yes, I think there’s value in stretching your reading boundaries, but there’s stretching, and then there’s being completely mis-matched.

If you’re looking at a book club, find out what sorts of books they read, and how they select them. Are most of the books they’ve read in the past and are planning to read in the future ones you’re excited to read? That may be a good fit for you.

Can’t find a good fit? Consider starting your own book club, and then you can guide the selections to suit your reading style. 🙂

Do I have to join a book club?

Not at all – I’m completely pro-book club, but if the idea of one holds no appeal to you, then just keep reading on your own!

I’m really uncertain about committing to a book club

Look around for one that doesn’t require a firm commitment, at least initially. Many community-sponsored ones (such as at the library or YMCA) will allow you to attend on an as-interested basis: no ongoing commitment required!

You absolutely want to find the right book club before you “settle down” with it. Having a great book club experience is so dependent on fit; not just of the books themselves (although that is paramount!) but also that the meeting times, other personalities, discussion style and environment all work for you. If the seemingly perfect book club takes place at a time you can never attend, it’s not the perfect book club! Keep looking, because the rewards are worth it.

I’d love to find a book club, but I don’t have time to read

Reading time is always an issue, but I feel quite strongly that if reading is a priority for you, you find the time for it. Even if you’re limited to reading in snippets throughout the day, small segments of time do add up. Audio books are also a great option if you have limited sit-down-and-read time.

For what it’s worth, most of my book club’s members are moms, with anywhere from 1 to soon-to-be-5 children. Many of us homeschool. Some work full time, and others work part time . None of us are exactly overloaded with free time, but we all prioritize reading. It is possible to read, even after having children.

Since I’m already on my soapbox, I’ll just stay up here and say that if you are a parent, I think it’s even more important for you to model reading in front of your children. Of course read to them, but also let them see you reading. I want all three of my children to love reading, and I absolutely believe that one of the best ways to make that happen is to emphasize books in our family. Reading to kids, reading by kids, reading by adults – all of it.

Any other questions related to book club? Let me know, and I’ll try and address them in a future post.

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: Captured By Love
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Teasing Secrets from the Dead
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Ambulance Girl

Book Club Extras – Bookish Outings, Crafts, Gifts, and More

While not necessary, it can be fun to add on some extras to your book club.

Booked Having Fun Bookish Extras

Outings

retreatThe view out the window at our retreat location – it’s so restful!

These can work especially well if you’ve become friends with fellow book club members. They can be as simple as attending a nearby book signing or author appearance, watching the movie adaptation of a book you’ve read, or going to an area book festival. If you’ve got the time and inclination, you could do a literary road trip or visit to a bookish destination.

My book club has an annual retreat, although the location we go to isn’t particularly bookish. We talk books and read though, so it still has a very literary-focus. We’ve daydreamed about going to New York or even overseas some year, and wouldn’t that be a fabulous book club trek?

Crafts & Decorations

bookish craftA bookish craft my book club did one year as part of the young readers meeting – making bookmarks!

Not my forte at all, so I’ll direct you to some inspirational possibilities.

A roundup of bookish crafts.

A lovely pinboard of bookish crafts.

Christmas-themed bookish craft projects.

A pinboard filled with bookish decor (many of these pins are also of bookish crafts. The line is thin between crafts and decor at times).

Gifts

bookish necklace
A beautiful bookish necklace that was a giveaway one book club. I didn’t win it unfortunately. 😉

A couple of years ago I shared a list of bookish gift ideas, and last year I shared last-minute gift ideas.

Additional sites with fun bookish gifts include:

Uncommon Goods

Book Lover Gifts

And Book Riot pulled together their own gift guide in 2013.

Stay tuned as I’m working on an updated bookish gift guide that I’ll be sharing soon!

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: The Last Season
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: The Girls of Atomic City
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Quiet

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Thank you to Sarah Ronk for the craft and necklace photos included in this post!

Online Book Clubs

There seem to be lots of online book clubs – just Google “online book club” and you’ll see a slew of results.

Today I want to share about two opportunities for next year if you’re interested in joining in with an online group. I’d love if you’d consider joining me in one or the other of them (or even both!)

Booked Online Book Clubs

Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club

This is a joint project with Jessica of Quirky Bookworm. Every month will be themed, and we’ll have assigned books, including a picture book, elementary book, and young adult book connected to that theme. If you’ve got little kids, read them the picture book! If you’ve got older kids, you can pick which book is right for them. Or read them both if that fits. If you’ve got no kids, well you’re more than welcome to join in anyway – reading whichever book from the set you like.

We’re also going to have different bloggers as cohosts each month, helping to facilitate the discussions through a Facebook group we’ll be establishing. Not interested in joining in on Facebook? We’ll also have a monthly linkup through our blogs, where you can share about the book (if you blog), or add your thoughts in the comments.

Additional details will be coming soon, once we get them finalized.

The Deliberate Reader Book Club

I’m also going to be running a second book club next year, featuring a mix of fiction and nonfiction (no children’s or young adult titles in this group). I’m still finalizing the titles for it, so stay tuned for the first title announcement. (I’ll give you a hint though: If you’ve read my suggestions for fiction and nonfiction you’ll probably recognize many of the books – I’m trying to pick all new-to-me books, and and I’m using those lists as my starting point.

This will also have a discussion component through Facebook – I’d love to have it all on the blog, but don’t know of a way to make it as convenient as a closed Facebook group. Don’t do Facebook? There will be monthly posts on the book, so if you’d like to link up a blog post or share your thoughts in the comments there I’d love to hear them!

If you’d be interested in helping to facilitate one of the books for this, please let me know – I’d love to get some extra voices involved for varying perspectives.

Stay tuned for more details on both of these opportunities!

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: Essential Oils Update
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Bittersweet
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Baby Catcher

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Bookish Special Events: How We Do It

No need to fall into a rut of the same sorts of bookish meeting each time – there are many ways to branch out and plan special events that still lend themselves to fabulous discussions. Here are some of the annual events that my book club has – it ends up so that every two or three months is a “special” meeting, and that keeps us from getting overwhelmed with preparations and plans for those special dates, but also gives us things to look forward to frequently.

Booked Special Events

Thank you to Sarah Ronk for the photos included in this post!

Tea Party

This works especially well if you pick a book that ties into this type of event. Books set in England, Jane Austen works, or quiet novels all fit well. We generally meet at a member’s house, and then serve two or three varieties of tea, as well as tea-friendly refreshments. One year we even had a teacup exchange, for those who wished to participate in it. Last year’s title was The Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway, and in previous year’s we’ve had The Secret Keeper: A NovelThe Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton and The Good Earth. (Read more about our tea parties).

tea party

Summer Picnic

The book has rarely been connected to the event, but it’s still been fun to have one evening where we meet at a park and have a pitch-in/pot luck meal. Last year’s pick for this event was Seabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand, and previous years titles have included The Professor and the MadmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester and Les Misérables. (Read more about our picnics).

summer picnic

Younger Readers Meeting

Once a year we pick a book we can read with our children and all discuss it. This year for the first time we’re going to combine it with the picnic – that may or may not continue in the future. The children in our group skew young, so we go for children’s literature, not young adult titles, although this might change in the future as our young readers grow up. Last year’s pick for this event was HeidiHeidi by Johanna Spyri, which ended up being hard to discuss as everyone had read different translations, and it made a huge difference in the questions and answers at those ages! Previous picks have included The Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)
.

Dinner Party

Once a year we have a fancier evening, with a sit-down dinner (most meetings are finger-foods only). Last year was the most elaborate ever, as we discussed Garlic and SapphiresGarlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. Day 31 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction Reads, and had a menu based on the recipes in the book. The main coarse was roasted lamb, and it was fabulous, as everyone else brought something to complete the meal. Earlier this month was our latest dinner party, and we had a simpler plan – soup and salad, as we discussed Northanger AbbeyNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen. If you want to tie the book into the menu, look into food memoirs – they’ve worked beautifully for us in the past. Bread and Wine and A Homemade Life are both excellent choices, as was Garlic and SapphiresGarlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. Plan for a longer meeting if you want to have enough time to actually discuss the book, as well as enjoy your meal. (Read more about our dinner parties).

dinner party book ideas

Christmas Party

We always close out the year with a Christmas party, and select a book that’s quick and easy (it’s a busy month, with not as much reading time for most of us). We also try to select one that we won’t need as much time to discuss – we spend more time socializing at this meeting than usual. We’ve done gift exchanges in the past – wrapping a favorite non-book-club-book, and writing a few phrases to describe it on the wrapping. People then pick the book that sounds the most intriguing, without knowing what they’re actually selecting. Last year we read Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (a great pick for this event), and this year we’ll be reading 84, Charing Cross Road for our Christmas party meeting, and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of it! (Read more about our Christmas parties).

Christmas party

Retreat

The highlight of our book club year is probably our annual retreat. We rent a house for the weekend and spend the time reading, chatting, cooking, eating, and relaxing. Babies are welcome, but no older children, and it ends up being a wonderfully rejuvenating time. It also makes for a great opportunity to discuss the books we want to read next year, without cutting into regular meeting time.

The last two years we’ve read a book flight for our retreats, and we’re planning a variation on that for next year. This year the theme was “New York,” and we read The Great BridgeThe Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough, Rules of CivilityRules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles, and When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

book flight

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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

Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Wired for Story
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: The Tipping Point

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

60 Great Kid Lit Titles for Your Grown-Up Book Club

The heart of a great book club is great discussion books. Not sure about including children’s and young adult books in your book club selections? Give it a try – they can provide a lot of depth, and are generally quicker reads, which may help balance your yearly reading calendar.

If you’re looking for a juvenile title for your book club that will provide plenty of material for discussion, here are 60 possibilities. And if you need still more ideas, many of the authors mentioned below have additional titles that would make fantastic discussion books. Don’t forget to see what else they’ve written!

Be aware however, that simply because these are considered “juvenile” titles doesn’t mean they are all aimed at children. Many of the ones listed below are young adult books, with challenging themes and mature content, so keep that in mind when you are deciding if they’re an appropriate fit for your book club.

A heads-up! I haven’t read all of these, but I’ve compiled the list based on my own reading, and thanks to recommendations from trusted resources, particularly Amy from Stack Worthy. Titles I’ve read are marked with an (*)

Booked {Reading Together} | 60 Kid Lit Books for Your Grown-Up Book Club

Contemporary* Novels

  1. * Tangerine by Edward Bloor
  2. Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
  3. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  4. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg
  5. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  7. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
  8. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  9. A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
  10. Schooled by Gordon Korman
  11. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  12. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Historical Novels

  1. * Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  2. * Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  3. * Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  4. * Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm
  5. * Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  6. * After the Dancing Days by Margaret Rostkowski
  7. * The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
  8. * Never Fall Down: A Novel by Patricia McCormick
  9. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  10. The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
  11. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  12. Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Dystopian

  1. * The Giver by Lois Lowry
  2. * Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  3. * The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
  4. * Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  5. * Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl
  6. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
  7. The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli
  8. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  9. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  10. Sabriel by Garth Nix
  11. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  12. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

Classics, Modern Classics, and Future Classics

  1. * The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  2. * The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  3. * The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  4. * Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  5. * Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  6. * When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  7. * The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  8. * Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
  9. * Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
  10. * A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
  11. * Hatchet by Gary Paulson
  12. Watership Down by Richard Adams

Nonfiction – Memoirs, Biographies, and Narrative History

  1. * Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz
  2. * Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-li Jiang
  3. * The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig
  4. * The Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy
  5. Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy by Rhoda Blumberg
  6. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
  7. Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  8. Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers
  9. Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
  10. I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch
  11. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
  12. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: What the Kids are Reading (in October 2014)
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Maman’s Homesick Pie
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Me, Myself, and Bob

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Hosting an Author at Your Book Club

Many authors are willing (even eager!) to come talk to your book club about their novel. What are some things to consider when hosting an author?
Booked {Reading Together} |  Hosting an Author

Prepare ahead of time for the author’s visit. Often a preliminary meeting to discuss the book is helpful, and lets you save questions and discussion that can only take place with the author for during their visit.

Read the book! Even if you generally might allow members to attend without having finished the book, when the author is there it’s respectful for everyone in attendance to have read the book.

Give the author the option to share in any refreshments you offer, but don’t assume that they will want to share a meal with you. They may, but they may prefer not to. Let them decide.

Offer an honorarium. You want to make sure and cover their travel expenses at the very least. If you’re meeting at a restaurant or coffee shop, pay for their meal or drinks (if they have anything).

Be flexible for meeting times and dates. Even if you usually meet at a particular time or day of the week, being willing to adjust your meeting time may allow the author to attend more easily.

Be open to alternatives to in-person visits. Live chats via Skype or Google Hangouts can work well, or a call via speakerphone.

Ensure you have a facilitator who is prepared to lead the discussion and keep things focused. (Whether or not you actually call the person a facilitator, make sure someone is ready to speak up!)

Treat it as a special meeting, and don’t conduct regular book club business while the author is there – save that for other times.

Give extra promotion to this meeting – you want to try and get as many of your members to attend as possible.

Go beyond basic questions – ask things you can only discover from the author (take advantage of them being there!)

Watch the clock – don’t go over the end time you told the author.

How to Find Authors to Visit Your Book Club

AdWeek has a spreadsheet with a list of authors available to travel, do video chats or phone calls. Readers Circle also has a list of authors who will do phone chats.

Checking for local writers’ associations is also a good way to discover authors who will visit your book club – here’s an example for New Hampshire. You may find these linked from your state library, or Google around using various search options, as they go by different names in different states.

Finally, keep an eye on your nearby libraries, as they may host local authors who might also be willing to come talk to your book club.

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: Fall of a Philanderer
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Two for the Road

Book Club Basics: Food

Food, and the options for it

Book club can be a way to turn reading into a more social experience, and adding food to the mix strengthens that social connection. It can be as simple as cheese and crackers, or it can be an elaborate meal, but either way it can be a valuable addition to your meetings.

Booked {Reading Together} | Book Club Food

Connecting the Menu to the Book

Many books seem to lend themselves to having a food connection, and in that case you may want to try and tie the two together explicitly.

Pinterest is fabulous for this sort of thing: search for the book title and you may find some great pins. Or, simply doing a Google search for the book title plus book club menu turns up lots of ideas.

No clear ideas based on the book itself? Think about its setting, and if that prompts ideas. Jane Austen novels cry out for a tea-party theme (as mentioned yesterday). A story set in Spain might inspire you to try a tapas evening, etc.

Resources

There are even books available that provide recipes or complete menus tied to particular books. The Book Club CookbookThe Book Club Cookbook: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, The Book Lover’s CookbookThe Book Lover's Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature, and the Passages That Feature Them by Shaundra Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen, and Recipe for a Book ClubRecipe for a Book Club: A Monthly Guide for Hosting Your Own Reading Group by Rose Storey and Mary O'Hare are all full of ideas for your book club – from simple snacks to complete meals.

A final idea for selected classic novels: check out the website Alison’s Wonderland Recipes. I love her creative takes on literature-inspired menus – see this sample one for The Wizard of Oz.

How We Do It

When it fits with the book, it’s been fun to try and match the refreshments to the book. While Pinterest can lead you to think this has to be incredibly elaborate, we still keep it quite simple: Parnassus on Wheels led to a wheel of cheese and a round loaf of bread. The Road from Coorain included Tim-Tams along with the rest of the tea. We’ve also had great success making recipes from food memoirs for our book club dinner party, which has added lot to the enjoyment of those books. (More on this later).

Night Circus refreshments

Some questions to consider

Will the host provide the food, or will it be BYOS (bring your own snack)? Is it officially part of hosting duty, or explicitly not the host’s job, limiting their role solely to providing the location?

Perhaps you’ll already be meeting at a location that’s conducive to having food as part of meetings, but there are still things to consider. If you meet at a restaurant or coffee shop, you may want to warn members to arrive a few minutes early if they want to order food, so the discussion can start on time. Or perhaps you want members to get refreshments after the discussion has ended, in which case you should make that clear as well.

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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: Eiffel’s Tower by Jill Jonnes
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: The Flamboya Tree
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: An Innocent, A Broad

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Thank you to Sarah Ronk for the photo included in this post!

Book Club Discussion Questions

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.

Booked {Reading Together} | Book Club Discussion Questions

Introductory Questions

  • 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?

Overview Questions

  • 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?

Genre-Specific Questions

  • 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?

Concluding Questions

  • 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?

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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

Book Club Basics: Discussions

The best part of a fantastic book club is the conversation about the books. What’s the secret to having great conversations? Sure you need great books (as we talked about last week), but you also may need to make some preparations.

Booked {Reading Together} | Discussions

Preparing for Discussion

The meeting’s facilitator needs to be prepared to begin and direct things, such as with background information on the book or author, and with a list of questions to start the conversation. What sort of background information? Start with why the group picked the book – what made it worth reading.

If you’re reading a travel book or one with a strong sense of place, share a map or pictures of the locale. In addition, you may try to read some critics’ reviews of the book to see if they prompt any questions for discussion.

If you’ve had time to plan ahead, one good way to prepare everyone to discuss the book is to ask a pre-reading question: something to consider while they read (a.k.a. “homework”).

Keeping the Conversation Going

As the facilitator, don’t feel compelled to stick to a list of questions you have prepared in advance, if the discussion is flowing in a different direction. Similarly, don’t be so worried about getting through all of your questions that you squelch the discussion. It’s ok if it moves in directions you didn’t expect, but be prepared to circle back to topics that were addressed briefly before the conversation moved away from them, especially if it seemed like some members didn’t have a chance to respond. Also be prepared to redirect the conversation back to the book, if it veers off course into personal chatter.

Ask members to back up their views – if they loved the book, why? If they hated the main character, why? However, try to steer conversations away from absolutes, leaving room for dissenting opinions. Encourage members to expand on others points – this can be an excellent way to get quieter members talking.

If conversation is stalled, play Devil’s Advocate and see if that elicits responses. Another technique that works for most books is to focus on the title and/or opening and closing lines. Even members who were didn’t finish the book can then contribute.

Tips

Remind members that spoilers are allowed – if people haven’t read (or finished) the book, they should be aware that the ending may/will be discussed, and expect to be have the conclusion spoiled.

While the facilitator needs to be ready to get the meeting started, they also need to be prepared to get out of the way once the discussion gets going. It’s not a lecture on the book by one person, it’s a conversation.

Have a few *short* passages flagged to read aloud to illustrate a point or lead into a question.

Avoid simply asking “did you like the book” or other yes and no questions. You want a discussion, which is helped by open-ended questions.

Don’t be dismissive toward’s others opinions, even if you vehemently disagree with them. Bring the conversation back to the book, and use the book to bolster your points of view.

Socialize before or after, not during the discussion.

Wrapping it Up

It can be fun to talk about other books or movies that connect to the discussion title. Is there another book you should read now? Is there a book you should have read instead? Are there movies adaptations, or connected ones that simply bring the setting to life?

If you read a fiction book, is there a nonfiction title you’d recommend as a complement? Or vice versa?

Think about how to end the discussion – do you want to ask everyone for their own rating on the book? Attempt to cast the book if it were made into a movie? Imagine where the story could go after the book ends?

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

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

Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Sounds like Home
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry