September Themes for Book Groups

Here are ten themes that you might use in an upcoming September meeting:

1. ROCK AND ROLL

September 2nd is the 15th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Read along by reading the biography of a rock star or a novel with rock and roll themes like Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments or Tom Perotta’s The Wishbones. Add more fun by proposing your own candidates for inclusion in the hall. Or if rock isn’t your cup  of tea, September is also Jazz Month, Classical Music Month, and Southern Gospel Month.

2. BACK TO SCHOOL

Although schools may start earlier where you live, I think of September as the month where the new school year gets into full swing. Read  a novel from a school setting like Kingsley Amis’s classic Lucky Jim, Richard Russo’s hysterical Straight Man, or Francine Prose’s The Blue Angel. Nonfiction fans might like Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren. Or take your group back to school by finding out what their reading in a local high school and giving it a whirl. Another good school-related theme is to re-read a book that you read in your school days and give it a second opinion.

3. LABOR DAY

This year it falls on September 6th. Take your book club to work by picking novels with occupational settings. If work just makes you feel frustrated, try Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End or Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief for satirical looks at the modern office.

4. WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT  MONTH

Here’s a good commemorative month for book groups. Biographies or historical fiction featuring famous women aren’t difficult to find.

5. THE BLITZ

The 7th is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the worst period of the Blitz in WWII: 50 consecutive night of bombing in London. Books that refer to the Blitz are as diverse as Peter Stansky’s The First Day of the Blitz: September 7, 1940 to Connie Willis’s science fiction humor classic To Say Nothing of the Dog  to Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress or Sarah Waters’s  The Night Watch .

6. CALIFORNIA

It became a state 160 years ago on September 10th. Try works of California history (Kevin Starr is highly recommended), works by California authors (how about John Steinbeck or Sinclair Lewis), or novels set in the Golden State.

7. DARWIN

The 175th anniversary of his arrival in the Galapagos islands on The Beagle is September 15th. There are many good nonfiction choices about Darwin, his voyage, or evolution. Fiction readers might enjoy John Darnton’s The Darwin Conspiracy.

8. TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY

It’s September 19th, and ye know ye want to. You could read fiction or nonfiction about pirates or perhaps Rabbit, Run; “R” is for Ricochet; Ragtime; or Revolutionary Road: “RRRR” maties. (I apologize)

9. BANNED BOOKS WEEK

It runs from September 25th to October 2nd this year. Lists of books that have been banned recently and other support materials can be found at http://www.ala.org/bbooks

10. SEPTEMBER BIRTHDAYS

How about biographies about September birthday children such as Peter Sellers, D. H. Lawrence, George Jones, Agatha Christie, Lauren Bacall, B. B. King, Hank Williams, Sophia Loren, Upton Sinclair, Ray Charles, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jim Henson, Sam Adams, Confucius, Truman Capote, and Lance Armstrong.

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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).

3 Comments on "September Themes for Book Groups"

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  1. atodd@phpl.info' Alex says:

    I love these, though I wish they came out earlier. The book clubs at our library choose their titles for the year at one time, so I’m saving these suggestions for future use. But I think they also make great ideas for book displays around the library. Unfortunately many libraries need to plan their displays more than 2-3 weeks in advance so we’re unable to take advantage of these solid ideas until next year.

  2. atodd@phpl.info' Alex says:

    And on another tangent, you forgot one of the biggest September events – Banned Books Week. (OK it spills over into October this year 9/25-Oct/2).

    This is a great theme to incorporate into book clubs. My club does a complete reversal every September – instead of everyone reading the same book, members read a book that from our banned book list (or any title they want, really, we don’t want to tell them what to read!).

    At our discussion, we go around the group and each member gives a synopsis of their book and why it may have been banned/challenged.

    My folks look forward to September’s club each year. It’s a nice change of pace for them and they genuinely seem to appreciate the value of banned books.

    • Neil Hollands says:

      Banned books is number nine on the list Alex! But thanks for the feedback. I’ll try to get the list of themes out a little earlier.

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