Stalking the Online Reading Guide, Part 2

Last week I highlighted book group support web sites where discussion leaders can find reading guides and discussion questions for their book club selections. Another excellent source for these are the publishers themselves. Most major publishers of literary fiction have figured out that distributing reading guides is a good way for them to increase word-of-mouth and sales for their new titles.

It’s too bad that a wider variety of genre fiction and nonfiction publishers aren’t cluing in to the value of including reading guides as well. Book clubs would love to take on their books in larger numbers with a little encouragement. If a publisher does not have a discussion guide for a book you would like to use, I would suggest that you send them an email request or letter. But I digress…

To locate online discussion questions, either find your book’s publisher and visit their web site or use the magic keywords at Google or your favorite search search engine: Add “reading guide” after the book’s title. I experimented with this method for all of the publishers below, and the discussion guides consistently came up in the top twenty hits.

Because of the consolidation of the publishing industry into huge conglomerates, most of the discussion guides can be found on a few big web sites, but “smaller” publishers like Beacon’s , Hyperion, or Algonquin also have reader guides. I can’t list all of the sites here, but here are some of the larger collections. These sites are also good places to browse when you’re selecting the next book.

HarperCollins has about 800 titles with discussion questions at http://www.harpercollins.com/Readers/readingGroups.aspx. Their imprints include William Morrow, Amistad, Eos, and Avon. The guides can be browsed by interest area. You can also invite their authors to an event, sign up for a monthly newsletter of reading group books, or sign up to get word of author events near you.

Random House, which includes imprints like Bantam, Dell, Knopf, Vintage/Anchor, Crown, and Doubleday, has around 700 guides on their site, http://www.randomhouse.com/rgg. Their list can also be subdivided into particular reading interests.

Penguin, which is also home to Riverhead, Signet, and Daw, has guides for over 600 books collected at http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/readingguides.  Like other sites on this list, they also have newsletters, contests, and advice for starting a group.

Simon & Schuster counts Baen, Atheneum, Downtown, Fireside, Free Press, MTV Books, Scribner, and Atria among their imprints. They have over 500 reading guides and other goodies for book groups at http://www.simonsays.com/content/index.cfm?pid=523081&tab=7.

MacMillan collects nearly 300 reading guides at http://us.macmillan.com/macmillansite/categories/General/Guides/Guides. Their imprints include Picador, St. Martin’s, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Tor/Forge, and Metropolitan Books.

Houghton Mifflin has over 100 reading guides. For fiction, visit http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/readers_guides/fiction.shtml and for nonfiction try http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/readers_guides/nonfiction.shtml.

If none of the publisher sites work, try the NoveList database (assuming your library has access.) Their site includes over 500 discussion guides.

All told, that’s over 3500 reading guides on just a few web sites. Maybe your group will need to meet more often!

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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