By September 7, 2010 3 Comments Read More →

October Themes for Book Groups

Here are ten ideas for your upcoming October book group meetings:


Deutschland hits the trifecta this month: It’s German-American Heritage month, the 20th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany on October 3rd, and the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest. Tell me that doesn’t deserve a little book group love! Break out the strudel, the wurst, or the beer steins and spend the month reading books set in Germany or by authors of German descent. How about Günter Grass, Ursula Hegi, Bernard Schlink, Patrick Süskind, Erich Maria Remarque, W.G. Sebald, or Thomas Mann?


You could celebrate this by talking about genealogy, but that might be a little heavy, especially for your readers who aren’t interested. Instead, why not assign each reader to read and report on a book beloved by a parent or other ancestor?

3. PBS

The Public Broadcasting System started broadcasting on October 7th, 1970. Celebrate the 40th anniversary by having readers do a book/program comparison on any PBS film or series. There is no shortage of adaptations from the Masterpiece programs, and many of the other documentaries or series have a companion book.


It’s sponsored by the National Book Association, so why not read books that have received their august National Book Awards? If your meeting is after October 13th, you can also discuss the newly announced crop of finalists for the 2010 award (and schedule some of those books for later meetings!)


That’s the commemorative holiday scheduled for October 12th. In honor of it, encourage your readers to try a book from a genre or subject matter that they normally avoid. Let’s make some breakthroughs, people!


Speaking of genres that some people fear unreasonably, you could commemorate Magic Week (October 25th-31st) by reading works of fantasy fiction this month. If straight out fantasy is too much for some of your readers, try the literary variety, perhaps Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, John Connoly’s The Book of Lost Things, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children or anything by Alice Hoffman, Franz Kafka, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


Does reading crime fiction help prevent crime or encourage it? I suspect you crime fiction fanatics are secretly deviant, and we’re probably only encouraging you to get in trouble, but at least you’ll have a good time at book group. Just don’t stage your own personal production of And Then There Were No Readers.


How better to raise awareness than to read books in global settings or try world writers in translation? Try, for example, the works of Nuruddin Farah, Dai Sijie, Thrity Umrigar, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Orhan Pamuk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, or Da Chen.


October’s birthday children include Julie Andrews, Jimmy Carter, Mahatma Gandhi, Groucho Marx, Jesse Jackson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lenny Bruce, Paul Simon, Angela Lansbury, Oscar Wilde, Bela Lugosi, Carrie Fisher, Pablo Picasso, Emily Post, Dylan Thomas, Bill Gates, Dan Rather, John Lennon, and Theodore Roosevelt.


Well, of course this is one of the themes… I wouldn’t trick you! Whether your group’s taste runs more to classic ghost stories, Stephen King novels, or the latest splatterpunk, October is the month to try something scary. I recommend Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Mira Grant’s Feed, Daryl Gregory’s Pandemonium, Joe Hill’s Horns, or The Seance by John Harwood.



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 "October Themes for Book Groups"

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  1. It’s also National Reading Group Month! As a public librarian, I am reaching out to area book groups that use the library, and offering to read their October book, and attend their October meeting. My goal is to let them know what the library can offer them, book talk some of my favorite reads, give them tips on how to select books and formulate questions, and get them re-energized and reinvigorated about their group!

    • Neil Hollands says:

      Thanks for noting this Christine! I think you’ve got some great ideas here on how to promote National Reading Group Month. Book group members are such an important part of our library constituency, and we all need to work hard to find ways to make ourselves useful to them.

  2. p.s. Thanks for the great ideas!

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