Discussion Questions, Pt. 4: Setting and Other Frames

In book groups, discussion of settings and other frames can go many ways. A book’s various framing devices can be fascinating sources of information and pathways that connect with other works and other subjects of discussion. If the talk strays too far down those pathways, however, the group may never return to the original book. Even worse, discussion of settings may be fatally attractive to your group’s frustrated raconteurs, providing too-easy departure points for long-winded personal stories that are only interesting if you were there.

Take notice the next time a discussion of setting takes place in your group. If the result is interesting, then great, take note and make discussion of settings a mainstay of future meetings. If the result is distracting, then frame questions about the setting more specifically. Prepare to jump in quickly if the discussion wanders too far from the book. Here are some of the setting questions I’ve found fruitful in my book groups:

  • How important was the setting to this book? Would the same story have worked as well if set in another time period? In another place?
  • What details about the setting does the author get right? What does he or she get wrong?
  • Did the book make you want to visit the place in which it was set? To live there? If you could visit one location described in the book, which would it be?
  • Did the author do a good job of capturing the attitudes of the time period, place, or social classes in which the book was set, or did the characters behave inappropriately?
  • Did the book provide interesting details about any particular occupation, hobby, activity, or other interest area? For those unfamiliar with that area of interest, did the books details make you want to know more, or to get involved? Did those with connections to that occupation or interest, find them accurately portrayed?
  • Compare the book with others that feature similar settings or framing devices. Which capture the details most vividly?
  • Do you frequently read about the setting or frames of this book, or was this a new experience for you? What draws you to or repels you from this setting?
  • Which scene from the book gave you the most vivid picture of the time or place in which it was set?

Next week, I’ll finish this series of posts with a grab bag of other questions that lead to interesting discussion.



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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