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Book Group Research, Part 4: Associated Content

In the first three posts in this series, I looked at how to research author information, reviews, and publisher and book seller content, then use these resources in your book group. These basics of book research, however, are just the most obvious resources. A creative book grouper can find dozens of other items to enhance discussion. 

Neal Wyatt has promoted the use of “reading maps”  in readers’ advisory circles. A reading map is simply a collection of associated content gathered to help a reader find out more about the places, people, things, and concepts touched on in the book. Through this information, readers enhance their appreciation of the book and draw connections to related works. Consider reading this article about reading maps or check out online examples like these, these, or these.  We do something similar at Williamsburg Regional Library with “gab bags,” bags that book groups can check out with enough copies in the bag for all their members. In addition to the book, we provide a binder of associated content. With a little forethought and research, you can assemble your own collections of associated content. Here, for instance, are 15 kinds of items you might track down and bring to group:

  1. Maps of real-world locations used prominently in the book, or, if the book includes a map, a blow-up of the map you can put on the wall during discussion.
  2. Pictures of the author and real people the author uses as characters. Pictures of characters as portrayed in film or in the work of artists.
  3. Alternate covers from different editions of the book.
  4. Quotes from the book or about the book printed in a large font that can be passed around or posted on a wall.
  5. A list of events that happened in the year the book was published or the year the book was set.
  6. A list of the prices of different consumer goods in the year the book was published or set.
  7. Lists of bestsellers or books that won literary awards in the year the book appeared.
  8. Biographies of real people mentioned or used as characters in the book.
  9. Antiques from the era in which the book was set or items featured in the book: tools, musical instruments, and items of clothing, for instance.
  10. Basic articles about philosophical ideas, historical events, or other concepts mentioned in the book.
  11. Articles describing the practice and challenge of activities in which the characters engage. Examples of the materials used in these activities.
  12. Articles describing historical details about the challenges of life in the time and place where the book is set.
  13. Short lists of books with similar themes or subjects.
  14. Copies of recipes for foods featured in the book. Cook some of the food.
  15. Small puzzles like word searches or crosswords (you’lll have to create these) with answers taken from the book to use as an icebreaking activity.

If you have other ideas for associated content that can be brought to book group, please post them in the comments.



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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