Book smart?
February 15, 2007 7:30 PM   Subscribe

I'll be leading a book club discussion soon. And while I've read and commented upon a number of books, I've never been part of a book club. I'm looking for some dos and don'ts from experienced Mefites about how to structure the discussion, handle introductions, quiet the dominant, etc. What, other than a good book, makes for a great book club experience (that the moderator can control)?
posted by B-squared to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Think of 1 or 2 questions to start the conversation, like "Did you find Adam believeable" or "I thought Nature was a strong theme - were there other themes you saw?" Try to listen and be a good moderator. if someboy gets overlooked, try to ask them what they thought.

My book group is overstructured and is much more fun when there is wine.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 PM on February 15, 2007

Not trying to be in control much at all is a good start. Having a couple of questions available to jump start discussion is good but it shouldn't be a round of questions that everyone answers briefly in turn. Pulling people who aren't participating in the conversation is also good, but unless someone is completely out of control, shutting people who are into the conversation up isn't productive.

Another point -- decide early in the process how your club feels about people who haven't finished the book. Some clubs are pretty casual about it, and as long as you've started it, you're welcome to join. That's more inclusive and less stuffy, but it can lead to frustrating conversations when someone needs to be filled in one basic plot elements, especially if the book has a heavy ending. If your club is more about the social experience of getting together with other people and the book is an excuse, you'll probably prefer to go lighter. If your club is all about the books, you'll probably want to ask people who haven't finished the book to skip those meetings.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:04 PM on February 15, 2007

previous question close to this, with a couple of very useful answers
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:30 PM on February 15, 2007

We've found that lots of alcohol + good food = successful book club meeting. But we're pretty casual.

The host (who is also the person who picked the book) generally finds a "Reader's Guide" or some other questions to start out the conversation, and it flows from there. Some conversations keep flowing, and some are halting, depending on the book, the people at the meeting, etc. It's really about what the people in the group want it to be. If you want it to be structured and formal, then keep it that way. If you want it to me more casual (and to digress into non-book-related conversation at some point), allow it.
posted by elquien at 9:04 PM on February 15, 2007

Reader's guides are very helpful. I teach a basic writing class and we use literary analysis as our subject. Whenever I get stuck for a discussion starter I often as for first gut reactions. Like or dislike? Why? That always gets things rolling.

Another helpful tactic has been asking how anyone relates to the protagonist, or any major event in the story. I usually get several good discussions out of that.

Good luck!

PS - What book are you reading?
posted by FilmJulie at 10:33 PM on February 15, 2007

Get a big membership - you need a cast of at least 12 - 15 people coming along, especially if you're in a big city. That way you'll have the come every time people (maybe 4 or 5) and a rotating group of others who make it along every couple of months. I had a small, very structured group where if one person couldn't make it, it sort of put a crimp in the whole group. Plus, I often didn't finish the books as I wasn't too interested in a lot of them, and hence felt guilty when I showed up. The group died in short order.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:18 AM on February 16, 2007

These are good suggestions so far. A number of the people involved in the club are under 21 (it's a college program designed to let faculty and students interact more casually), so while I might like the wine, not everyone can partake.

We're reading Absurdistan. It's funny, political, young and off-beat. I'd recommend it.
posted by B-squared at 2:12 PM on February 16, 2007

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