Close Reading - Book Group Suggestions
November 1, 2016 3:50 PM   Subscribe

What are your suggestions for books for a close reading book group?

In a close reading group, the members read aloud the text of the book paragraph by paragraph, and pause for the option of discussion after each paragraph. It is a slow and deep process, but can be incredibly powerful. In college, I was part of a group that read psychology classics (Freud, Jung, etc.) in this way. I read Judith Butler's Gender Trouble with a close reading group, and found I finally understood it after a number of failed attempts to read it on my own.

I have a group of friends who are interesting in trying this method, but we are looking for the right book to start with. The group is quite diverse in age, gender, race, and educational background. We are looking for a book with wide life application. What book have you read that you think would work well with this process?
posted by hworth to Education (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Pausing to discuss every paragraph sounds excruciating to me (and I was an English major and then a librarian), but I had a great experience in college with discussing Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow chapter by chapter with one of the accompanying annotated reference texts.
posted by MsMolly at 4:47 PM on November 1, 2016

Nabokov's Pale Fire.
Perhaps pause and discuss after each entry in the notes?
There is something in it for every reader.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:23 PM on November 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Are you looking for non-fiction in particular?

Robert Grudin's Time and the Art of Living is organized in small chunks that would be ideal for a group used to reading one paragraph and discussing that in detail.
posted by No-sword at 6:41 PM on November 1, 2016

If you are looking for something contemporary (published in 2016) rather than classic, I think The Argonauts might lend itself really well to this:
Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of “autotheory” offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes the author’s account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.

Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals like Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and childrearing. Nelson’s insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry for this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.
posted by teditrix at 8:01 PM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Argonauts is exactly the kind of book I am looking for. It is the only recent book that I have read that I would use this technique with. (It was my suggestion to the group.) I am looking for more like it that I am not aware of.
posted by hworth at 11:56 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Perhaps Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others?
posted by reren at 2:50 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gilles Châtelet's To Live and Think Like Pigs:
Democracy is not deduced from an optimization of preexisting possibilities but emerges through a wager, infinitely more generous and thus infinitely more risky, on the excellence of the multitude’s virtualities and its ability to distribute them. This wager is linked to the principle of the innocence of the exception: no individual, no lobby, no community, no party possesses the privileged vocation to the exercise of power. Thus there is no democracy without the democratic production of an elite! Democracy is ‘worthwhile’ because it leaves open a chance for this anyone-heroism of which, so far, History has tolerated only the first stammerings.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:10 AM on November 3, 2016

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