Com­mu­ni­ties con­nect on a literary level

Book groups are en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

Mem­bers read a com­mon ti­tle in their own time and then meet up once a month to talk about it.

Here are a few things to think about if a book group sounds like some­thing your com­mu­nity might ben­e­fit from.

OPIN­IONS WELCOME

Make sure there isn’t al­ready one es­tab­lished in your area. And don’t be wor­ried about per­fect strangers com­ing to­gether un­der one roof – book groups tend to work best when mem­bers aren’t too chummy to be­gin with, al­low­ing for more ob­jec­tive ideas and opin­ions to fil­ter through your con­ver­sa­tions.

WHERE WILL YOU MEET?

Will your venue be your lounge or some­where more neu­tral like a cafe or the li­brary? Many book­stores are also open to host­ing evenings. When will you sched­ule it and how fre­quently? Monthly catch-ups are are more likely to cater for read­ers. How many peo­ple? Fewer than six and it gets awk­ward if lots of peo­ple are away. More than 10 and you’ll start to see mini dis­cus­sions in­stead of one uni­fied group.

SET THE TONE

The at­mos­phere you cre­ate de­ter­mines the peo­ple who’ll at­tend. Is your book group go­ing to be se­ri­ous and aca­demic, or more of a re­lax­ing hang-out time for mums? The books you choose can of­ten de­fine the en­vi­ron­ment your book group en­cour­ages.

STRETCH YOUR MIND

A group isn’t just about read­ing a book and throw­ing opin­ions around like con­fetti; take this op­por­tu­nity to study books that mean some­thing and stretch your mind. Bal­ance the group’s thoughts with crit­i­cal re­views from main­stream publi­ca­tions (ask a li­brar­ian how to find these or do your own online re­search). If you’re not sure what ti­tles to choose, con­sider those that have won the Pulitzer Prize or New Zealand Post Book Awards. Think about who’ll choose the books too – you or the group? Democ­racy is a good way to go. Talk to your lo­cal book­store about make good dis­cus­sion starters.

KEEP IT CON­STRUC­TIVE

There’ll al­ways be ‘that per­son’ who dom­i­nates and thinks their opin­ions are bet­ter than ev­ery­one else’s, so do your best to con­trol the con­ver­sa­tion and keep it con­struc­tive. Ask open-ended ques­tions that stim­u­late dis­cus­sion and de­bate. If a group mem­ber doesn’t want to share their opin­ions, con­sider invit­ing them to read im­por­tant parts of the book out loud in­stead.

START TALK ROLLING

Book group dis­cus­sions of­ten re­volve around lan­guage, nar­ra­tive voice, char­ac­ter and plot de­vel­op­ment, mood and set­ting. A good way to get started is to sim­ply go around the room and ask ev­ery­one what they thought of the book. If con­ver­sa­tion gets too off-track you can al­ways rein it back in. You may also opt to fol­low an in­de­pen­dent tem­plate rather than man­age the con­ver­sa­tion your­self – ask your li­brary or lo­cal book­store for ad­vice or find one online.

BE HAPPY

Make sure ev­ery­one is happy with how the group went be­fore you close. Al­low con­struc­tive feed­back, anony­mously if need be. Book in your next meet­ing be­fore ev­ery­one leaves and as­sign home­work for the fol­low­ing month. Use your Neigh­bourly group page to mo­ti­vate and con­nect with mem­bers through­out the month. Keep them en­gaged and they’re more likely to come back.

Get a book group to­gether and con­nect with your neigh­bours on a literary level, like this mother/daugh­ter club.

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