Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Care & Feeding of Book Groups - Nancy Pearl

My Thoughts: This session was a great resource for book discussion clubs in libraries. I thought that there were some great ideas discussed concerning the leading of book clubs, dealing with group dynamics, author and book suggestions, and for different types of book clubs. I liked the idea of a thematic mystery book discussion club and a group that talks about what they have read in the past two months. I was also very interested in the sample generic questions that Nancy and the audience mentioned, and I can’t wait to try using them with our book discussion club at my library!

Session Notes:

General: You will never please everyone, and people come to share; sit down & create a list of rules/guidelines; private vs. library book clubs (more diversity at library); can spend some time (15min) to settle in/catch up and then leader gets the club going; what to do with people that don’t read the book and come: it is great that you came (encourage people to come) but we WILL talk about the books ending, best book discussions take place when some liked & disliked the book (when people say that they didn’t come because they didn’t like it, we should encourage them to come anyway!); don’t start your discussion with, “What did you think about the book?” (Ask this question last!), polarizes people between liking and disliking.

Best Practices: 1 per month, use a standard day (3rd Tues of each month), 10-15 people is optimum size (want to avoid less than 5), empower the club (Nancy does not think that the leader has to be the librarian. We can empower attendees by making them the leader(s)).

Purpose of a Book Club: Read & Discover new books and explore things that you may not have thought about when reading it yourself.

Good generic starting questions: What is the meaning of the title? Significance to the story?; What if the author had chosen to tell the story from another character’s perspective?; Which character did you like the best/identify with most? Which character seemed the most real to you, best developed?; What did you think the author wanted us to get from this book?; How would you have rewritten the ending? Ask the group to come to the session with one question about the book that they want answered.

Great Authors & Books for Book Clubs That Were Mentioned: “The Things They Carried”, Tim Obrien; “A Lesson Before Dying”; “Angel of Repose”, Wallace Stegner; “The Dive From Claussen’s Pier”; “A Thread of Grace”, Maria Doria Russell; “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”, Ann Fadiman; “Beloved”, Toni Morrison; “In The Lake of the Woods” Tim Obrien; “The Disapparition of James”, Anne Ursu; “When the Emperor Was Divine”, Julie Ostuka, “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders”, Jennifer Finney Blylan; “Middlesex”, Jeffrey Eugenides; “Feed”, M.T. Anderson; “A Dangerous Friend”, Ward Just; “Persepolis”, Marjane Satrapi; “My Antonia”, Willa Cather; “The Sweet Hereafter”, Russell Bank, “Atonement”, Ian McEwan.

Leader Responsibilities: Deals with group dynamics and keeping the discussion going.
-If person who dominates the conversation: try to sit with them next to you, touch their arm when they start to dominate and politely ask them to let someone else speak/share. Another tip from audience: don’t make eye contact until it is that persons turn to speak.
-Advises changing/rotating leaders and empowering attendees to take turns leading.

Group Dynamics: One person tends to dominate (unknowingly) the conversations; one person needs space to speak (won’t interrupt others, etc…), ask them for their input!; silence is ok – it gives people time to think and respond (they will respond!)

Choosing Books:
-Choose Books that have ambiguous endings
-Best Books are the ones where the author doesn’t tell you everything
-Mini-Themes (Middle East, Africa, etc…)
-Using the label “Classics” can deter people, not necessarily a good label.
-Mystery Book Clubs can be difficult, Sci-Fi offers a lot to talk about

Book Club Themes/Ideas:
-Topical Mystery Booklists (Culinary Mysteries) – People read books from a list/theme and come together to discuss them later.
-Book Review Discussion Club – People read whatever they want for 2 months and then come together to discuss what they have read and liked.
-Some libraries create book club collections (purchase 25 paperbacks and include additional info. Like read-alikes, author interviews, etc…)

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