Do You Know About NoveList?

Book group leaders who have access through their libraries to the superb reading resource database NoveList are probably already familiar with the book discussion guides it offers.  Those who don’t know about NoveList should check with their libraries to find out if the library makes it available and if they can view it (there is an annual subscription fee charged to the library).

The discussion guides, like others of their kind, provide information about the author, a summary of the work, and suggestions for further reading, but the most valuable aspect is a collection of questions, with lengthy and thought-provoking responses, which delve into the most complex issues examined in the books.  I recently referred to the discussion guide for Myla Goldberg’s Bee Season (which my group discussed last week) and was greatly impressed by the useful information it contained.  The guide was developed by Nathan Anderson, who at the time he wrote it — January, 2002 — was a doctoral student in English literature at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Here is the prefatory passage that introduces the Questions section, which I find to be an extremely thoughtful and philosophical approach to the endeavor of book discussion preparation, one well worth remembering: “While answers are provided, there is no presumption that you have been given the last word.  Readers bring their own personalities to the books that they are examining.  What is obvious and compelling to one reader may be invisible to the next.  The questions that have been selected provide one reasonable access to the text; the answers are intended to give you examples of what a reflective reader might think.  The variety of possible answers is one of the reasons we find book discussions such a rewarding activity.”

Amen!

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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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