Choosing What to Discuss

At the meeting of the Adult Reading Round Table (ARRT) Quarterly Literary Fiction Book Discussion group held this week, leader Debbie Walsh shared the method she uses with her own book group (at the Geneva Public Library) for choosing books to discuss during the coming year.  Every year, in July, the book group suggests titles that fall into five categories:  books by male authors; books by female authors; classics; science fiction novels; and books that have been adapted into movies.

The object is to come up with a list of ten books that will be discussed over the next year (one a month, with time out in December).  Five of those books will be by male authors, and five will be by female authors, with the genders alternating in the final schedule.  And amidst these ten titles will be one classic, one science fiction novel, and one book that has made the transition to the silver screen.  When it comes time to discuss the latter book, the discussion will be followed by a gathering in the home of one of the participants, a few nights later, where the group will watch the film version together and then discuss it.

This creative formula for deciding on the books to be discussed in the future is then repeated at the end of the year, as I stated before, at the July meeting of the group, when there is no book discussion, just a lengthy exploration of potential choices and ultimately a vote on which ones to talk about in the coming months.

Everyone at the ARRT meeting was quite impressed with this unique approach for choosing books for discussion, and I thought it was worth passing along to Book Group Buzz readers.  Perhaps some of you will want to try it with your groups, possibly with some variations, particularly if you prefer other types of novels than the three categories that Debbie’s group wants to include.  You have to admit — it’s a great way to insure a variety of  authorial viewpoints and also to lead readers to a specific genre, at least once a year!



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).

3 Comments on "Choosing What to Discuss"

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  1.' Marilyn L Rice says:

    Why not try a new author. Try ‘Look After Each Other’

  2.' Chris Warren says:

    Depends on the objectives of your group. If it’s just about sharing views and exploring new genres, authors, styles, etc. that are of special interest to your members, then I like your idea. If it’s about helping group members with their own writing as well, then it may be a little restrictive, as there are many other headings that could also be included in the pot.

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulum Swings

  3.' hena says:

    That’s a great way to select books. In our bookclub we do not have any method, someone will just suggest a book and we go along with it, so far it has worked well. I will recommend we try and pick the different genres we all like. Thanks!

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