A great book isn’t the same thing as a great book club book, even if at first it seems as if it should be.
What makes for a great book club book is that it gives you lots to discuss. Having flawless writing, excellent plotting and perfect characterizations isn’t as important as being thought-provoking (or exasperating).
How do you know if you’ve found a great book club book? It’s one that lingers in your mind after you’ve finished the last page. You keep thinking about the book, and find yourself itching for someone to talk to about it.
Basic Tips for Selecting Discussion Books
- If you’ve set a mission statement for your book club, it may guide your selections.
- In general, pick character-driven or idea-driven books, not plot-driven ones, as they typically offer richer ground for conversation. Plot-driven stories are often the hardest to discuss (this especially applies to mystery, fantasy, or science fiction titles).
- Make sure your selections are available – preferably it’s in print, and preferably it’s also available on audio or from the library for members who prefer those options.
- New releases may not be the best option, unless your members are willing to pay for hardbacks. Books that have been out long enough to be released in paperback are more affordable choices.
- Controversial or polarizing books often spark fabulous discussions, and novels with unclear endings can lead to heated debates – what precisely did happen?
- Think about what movies are coming out, or other special events you may want to connect to your reading choices.
- Book club picks do not have to be limited to fiction – nonfiction books can make for great discussions. Narrative nonfiction and memoirs are both especially good picks for discussions. (More on this later.)
Other Things to Remember When Selecting Books
- Evaluate the length of the books under consideration. One or two long books in a year may be doable, but a chunkster every month may not.
- In addition to balancing the length of books you read over the months, try to balance heavier/harder reads with lighter/easier ones. Alternating genres can help with this as well.
- For nonfiction, pick shorter ones in the 200-300 page range (Team of Rivals is a fabulous book, and would make for great discussion fodder, but at over 800 pages it’s too much for most monthly clubs).
- If you need a quicker read for some months, young adult or children’s books can still offer a lot of depth and discuss-ability, while being shorter and easier to finish. (More on this later.)
- When selecting a series book, choose the first one, unless there is a compelling reason not to.
- Consider seasonal favorites. If you find a particular topic or theme works for you at certain times of year, keep that in mind in the future and repeat it.
Finally, remember to keep a list of the books you’ve read – this will be invaluable in the future as you continue to select books for your group!
In case you missed it, last Friday I shared a list of 72 Novels that would make for fabulous book club choices. In future posts in this series I’ll be sharing suggestions for nonfiction (this Friday) and young adult and children’s titles (next Friday) that would also make for great discussion picks.
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.