Tag Team Book Grouping

No, I don’t mean dividing into pairs and throwing down in the middle of the reading circle, although that might be entertaining. She body slams Updike! A folding chair across the back for your egregious interruptions! Jane Austen crashes down from the top rope with pride AND prejudice!

Let’s see if I can bring this back together.

The tagging to which I refer is not that done by weary wrestlers, but the kind often done on social networking web sites. It’s simply describing the essence of something, as you see it, with a few concise terms. On the web, it’s a way of collaboratively identifying core elements of something like a movie or book, and then through the magic of databasing using these tags to group objects that have similarities, some obvious, others less expected.

Tagging can also make a fine exercise to break the ice in your book group, encourage equal participation, identify issues for discussion, and quickly dissect varying views of shared reading. Here’s how it can work:tagging

Before any other discussion of your book, give each reader a small pad of post-it notes. Ask them to make tags reflecting the key elements of the book, the qualities that make it distinctive, or the style in which it is written, one tag per note. Ask them not to share what they are writing until everyone makes at least seven or eight tags. Encourage everyone to make tags that are nouns, adjectives, and verbs. When everyone is finished, pass around a poster board, and have each person read their tags aloud as they distribute them on the board, grouping like tags together.

Your tags will create a picture of what your readers find worthy of discussion. Make sure you spend some time in the meeting discussing the tags that came up frequently, but also explore some of the unusual tag choices. When tags contrast, ask those who wrote them to explain their thinking.

At the end of the meeting, return to the list of tags. Choose some of the most prominent choices and brainstorm other books and authors (or even films) that could be given the same tag.

If this doesn’t work, you can grow your hair out, hit the tanning bed, and apply body oil. But no choke holds when the facilitator is looking!

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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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