By April 13, 2008 2 Comments Read More →


Did it ever occur to you that book discussions generate more book discussions — of the same book, that is, both before and after the “real” discussion?  I’m willing to bet that most discussion leaders have heard members of their group mention having talked about the book being discussed with family members, friends or co-workers while they were reading the book, before they came to the discussion session.  They also talk to these people after the discussion, when they’re asked, “So how did your discussion go?”  What’s interesting about this phenomenon is that far more people are being drawn into a discussion of a particular book than it would appear, just looking at the number of folks who show up for the scheduled meeting.  The unseen participants may play a role in shaping the opinions of the individual who actually comes to the discussion;  we discussion leaders never really know, for sure.  What is certain is that when we choose a book to discuss, we create interest in that book, far beyond our original intentions.  People who aren’t interested in attending the discussion are nevertheless drawn to reading the book because they interpret a book selected for discussion as a book worth their time as a reader. 

So our efforts at choosing books and developing discussions are more worthwhile than we might at first understand.  Some leaders question the time they find themselves investing in discussion preparation and wonder if it’s really an activity they should continue.  But when you look at the number of people you reach, and the variety of needs and interests that are met by your efforts, the answer seems clear-cut.  The ramifications of spotlighting a particular book and exploring its meaning and significance are indeed many and wondrous.  



About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).


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  1.' Kerrie says:

    I think one of the frustrating parts of generating formal discussions in an online group is that many of your group won’t participate actively at the time. However there can be no doubt that the choices influence their choices for their selection of their next book to read. My problem is that by the time we get to discussing a book, the finer points have often slipped through the mind-mesh, and I’m in trouble particularly if the questions posed are too specific. But it’s people who keep me reading:

  2.' maggie says:

    When I wrote grants for book discussion groups this was my argument. People always discussed the books prior to and after the discussion w/ spouses, sisters, parents, daughters, neighbors, etc.. It was one of my qualitative/quantitative questions: How many people did you discuss books with outside of the discussion? 🙂

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