Themes for June

Here are ten ideas for your book group to try as themes for its meeting next month:

1. JUNE BIRTHDAYS

If your group is ready for a round of biographies, try subjects with June birthdays. Readers might select books, for instance, about Frank Lloyd Wright, Helen Keller, Andrew Jackson, Martha Washington, Henry VIII, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Alan Ginsberg, Cole Porter, Jacques Cousteau, W. B. Yeats, Errol Flynn, Jean-Paul Sartre, or John Dillinger in June.

2. READING QUEENS

Britain’s two longest-reigning monarchs were both coronated in June: Victoria came to the throne on June 20th and Elizabeth II took the crown on the 2nd. With books as diverse as Gillian Gill’s We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals; Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader; Robert Hardman’s A Year with the Queen; or even A. E. Moorat’s Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter to choose from, readers of all stripes can find something fun.

3. GLBT AWARENESS AND BOOK MONTH

To raise your group’s awareness, try books with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender themes. How about Christopher Isherwood’s A Serious Man, Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America, a novel by the recently deceased E. Lynn Harris, Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, or Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet?

4. SHORT STORIES

Summer months can be tough on book group attendance and readership, so why not cut your attendees some slack? Book groups don’t take on short stories often enough anyway, and even your hardiest travelers, your biggest sun worshipers should be able to squeeze reading one or two into their schedules.

5. GEORGE ORWELL

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on June 8th in 1949, but if you’d rather read something less familiar–say Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia, or his marvelous Essays–you have a good excuse for that as well: Orwell’s birthday was the 25th of June.

6. BEST FRIENDS DAY

The day to commemorate your best bud is June 8th. Try bringing Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, Jane Austen’s Emma, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, or Lorna Landvik’s Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.

7. RACE UNITY DAY

This commemorative day falls on the 2nd Sunday of the month: June 13th this year. Celebrate it by picking books with a multicultural cast of characters this month.

8. JOYCE CAROL OATES

She’s prolific, her work is diverse, but she’s still under-read. Perhaps its because her shelf of over seventy books is daunting to the uninitiated. She was born on June 16th, 1938. If you’re new to Oates, try Them; Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart; Blonde; or High Lonesome: Stories 1966-2006.

9. GREAT OUTDOORS MONTH–INTERNATIONAL PICNIC DAY

June has the best weather of the year in many locations. Enjoy it with a barbecue, picnic, or other outdoor meeting on June 18th. Or celebrate the great outdoors the entire month by picking books with lots of outdoor action.

10. FATHER’S DAY

You didn’t think I’d forget the dads did you? Father’s Day is June 20th this year, and this is the centennial of its first celebration in the United States. Revisit some of fiction’s great fathers with works like To Kill a Mockingbird; Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool or The Risk Pool; Kent Haruf’s Plainsong; Leif Enger’s Peace like a River; or Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.

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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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