Communities connect on a literary level
Book groups are enjoying a renaissance.
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.
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.
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.