Thursday, May 3, 2007

Nancy Pearl

The care & feeding of Book Groups

Many people ask librarians for assistance with their book groups. Many groups are dysfunctional in one of two areas; group dynamics, and book choice.

Best practices:

Meet once a month

Pick a day – like second Monday of the month and stick to it

10-15 members – if larger then not everyone will have a chance to speak

Don’t have a book group smaller than 5

Remember: A book group is not SCHOOL!

5 “don’ts” and 2 ‘dos” for book groups


1. Select a story-driven books

The best books for discussion are ones where the author does not tell you everything. Need to look for books in which the ending is ambiguous. Or the main character makes a decision that will please many people or infuriate many people. Remember that any book a person hasn’t read is new to them.

2. opt to have meetings without a leader

The responsibility of a book group leader

Not necessarily the librarian

Help people feel empowered

Leader deal with group dynamics

Leader keeps the discussion going

Many may not want to lead because of the research behind the job. It is not necessary to look at reviews- it does not matter what anyone but the group. The leader may look for some information on the author but only where it pertains to the story. Any knowledge should not be announced upon beginning of the meeting. It should flow during the discussion if it fits the discussion. To take some pressure off the leader you can have each member come to the group with one question that they want answered. The possible to rotate leaders works well too. This allows for a different perspective and less responsibility on one person.

A leader or group needs to develop some rules by analyzing what has worked and not worked in the past. A balance must be established.

3. Go around the circle and ask for everyone’s ideas

This may put too much pressure on someone to come up with an educated answer. They won’t speak from their heart.

Reluctant Speakers

Most members can take a couple of moments to find an answer

Some may take much longer to decide what to say

And they may not like to interrupt someone’s when they are talking

Notice the body language when some one wants to speak

Leaning forward, opening their mouth

Call on them when you see this, otherwise they will not make their ideas heard

Those who talk toooooo much

One person dominates the conversation

It is hard fro members of the group to confront that person

Leader sits with dominate person to their right if the leader is right handed

Allow that person to speak once

The next time they speak the leader should stop the person, lets let some one else talk by gently touching their arm.

4. begin with the question “ What did you think of the book?”

It forces people to take sides

Examples of better beginning questions:

What is the significance of the title?

What if the author had chosen to tell it from a different characters point of view?

Which character seemed the most real? Best developed?

What do you think the author wanted us to get from this book?

How would you rewrite the ending?

Members should:



Read books you might not enjoy

What do you do with people who never read the book?

This is not that big of deal

In fact discussion may intrigued them to read the book

What if your members hate the book

Many may not attend the meeting

Yet, the best discussion take place when some enjoy and some dislike the book

Encourage them to come, whether they like it or not

5. Choose books on a month-by month basis

One meeting should be dedicated for choosing all books for the group for six months or a year in advance. You may choose themes. You can choose a variety of fiction and nonfiction. Ex. Iraq or Middle East…Broken Verses, Maps for Lost Lovers, Mineret ( not sure on the spelling of this one), The Long Road Home.


1. Enjoy the experience of reading new books an discussing them

Reasons for being in a book group

To read and discover new books

Have opportunity to explore these books in different ways

2. Recognize the importance of silence

Don’t worry about a small amounts of time (it feels longer than it truly is)

Some one will always answer…(Nancy guaranteed this!)

Realize that these questions are making people think…

You need to give them that time to think

No comments: