By November 21, 2009 1 Comments Read More →

Yuk Yuk Yuk

Rebecca’s entry on book chats is timely for me as our most recent mystery and crime fiction book discussion changed its normal format for this month.

Normally, we all read the same book and operate as a typical one group, one book, discussion.  This month we changed two aspects of our normal procedure.

First, we decided to abandon the angst ridden, theme oriented, dramas that the group normally picks to read.  These challenging titles are great for a discussion but often pit the reader’s emotion against their natural inclination to be happy.  This month we made a choice to read humorous novels of murder and mayhem so that my book discussion participants could laugh at death.  While I believe that humorous mysteries have their place in the world of entertainment, I have always said that they do not sustain a night’s worth of discussion for a book group.

That led to choice number two.  Instead of everyone reading the same book, I allowed each member of the group to choose their own title to read.  Our discussion format for the night became a brief introduction by me about the role of humor in crime fiction followed by book reports by each of the members within which they were asked to spend a little time on author, title (very little on the plot, please), and series information.  I asked the person to concentrate on the tone of the book, or why it was humorous to read. 

Perhaps you are way ahead of me on this one but most of the folks spent too much time relating the plot and very little time about talking about the book’s appeal.  This should not surprise reader’s advisory librarians.  My role as the moderator then became not to ask questions but instead to prod a presenter to talk about the tone. 

We also took a survey during the night by asking each person what they thought was the number one appeal of the book.  The vote was:

Characters, 9

Setting, 2

Plot, 2

Tone, 2

Does it seem odd to you that on a night we read humorous mysteries the humor only garnered two votes for the main appeal factor?  Not to me as I believe the people read crime fiction because of character first and all other concerns are secondary.  I guess this night I was proved right. 

P.S.:  Want to know what I read this night?  I took advantage of the night to finally read the second book in the Alexander McCall Smith series about Precious Ramotswe, Tears of the Giraffe.  The first book in the series was a delight.  The second book has the same tone–a pleasing rhythm that maintains a witty voice for the characters.  On its own, this book could work as a book discussion title.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

1 Comment on "Yuk Yuk Yuk"

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  1. hwdragoness@yahoo.com' Holley says:

    My book group works this way all the time and believe me, I feel your pain. My group has been meeting monthly now for almost two years and are just now REALLY getting the hang of a booktalk. Before this group, it never occurred to me that someone might not know how to do one. I guess the comfort of distance keeps me from remembering my pre-librarian days 🙂

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