Read­ers de­cry book club frus­tra­tions

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Movies - Amy Dick­in­son Read­ers can send email to [email protected]­dick­in­son.com or let­ters to “Ask Amy” P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY, 13068.

Dear Read­ers: I’ve stepped away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks to work on a new writ­ing project. I hope you en­joy these edited “best of ” col­umns in my ab­sence. To­day’s column topic: Book clubs.

Dear Amy: In my book group, we try to keep our dis­cus­sions fo­cused by fol­low­ing the read­ing group guides or ques­tions pro­vided by the pub­lisher. Nev­er­the­less, one of our mem­bers never fails to mo­nop­o­lize the dis­cus­sion, and her com­ments are mostly off the mark or anec­do­tal. One of our mem­bers plans to call her out in front of the group at our next dis­cus­sion, and I am for some other ap­proach to avoid em­bar­rass­ing her.

Is there a good way to keep peo­ple on the topic and to avoid long­winded per­sonal tes­ti­mo­ni­als when dis­cussing our books? — Mary

Dear Mary: I ran your ques­tion past a few peo­ple who have been in long­stand­ing book groups, and the con­sen­sus is that your group should spend some time at your next meet­ing re­stat­ing and re­fresh­ing your goals — lit­er­ary and oth­er­wise.

It’s all about the fit in any so­cial group, and if your group is more se­ri­ous and lit­er­ary, then you should all agree that your fo­cus will be pointed to­ward the lit­er­a­ture and away from per­sonal sto­ries or di­gres­sions.

The per­son who leads the next meet­ing should start by ask­ing mem­bers to state their ob­jec­tives, and the group should de­cide on very ba­sic ground rules. One per­son who can di­rect the con­ver­sa­tion, should mod­er­ate each meet­ing. If this one mem­ber can’t ad­just to the style of the group, she should be en­cour­aged (pri­vately) to find an­other group.

As the au­thor of a book mak­ing the rounds of book groups, I’ll weigh in and say that, al­though one per­son dom­i­nat­ing a con­ver­sa­tion is never ac­cept­able, a group of peo­ple open­ing up a box of wine and stray­ing from the pro­vided ques­tions is ex­actly what I had in mind as I was writ­ing my mem­oir. (May, 2009)

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