Themes for November Book Groups

Here are ten themes that your book group might consider exploring in November:

1. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

This year commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election to the presidency on November 6th, 1860. Try James M. MacPherson’s Abraham Lincoln: A Presidential Life, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, or Gore Vidal’s historical novel Lincoln. You should probably pass on Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. If books on Lincoln don’t punch your ticket, you might commemorate the 50th anniversary of JFK’s election or the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s instead.

2. NATIVE-AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Try writers of Native American heritage to honor this commemorative month. Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and William Least Heat-Moon are among my favorites.

3. AMERICAN EDUCATION WEEK

How about remembering teachers with your meeting this month? You might bring books that a particular teacher used to inspire you or read books about teachers like Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, Joseph Lash’s Helen and Teacher: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy, Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren, or Esmé Raji Codell’s Educating Esmé.

4. VETERANS DAY

War is a big theme, and many classic and contemporary selections explore it successfully. If you’d like to focus on veterans specifically, try Maxine Hong Kingston’s collection of survivor stories Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, Michael Sofarelli’s Letters on the Wall: Offerings and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Thomas Childers’ Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation’s Troubled Homecoming from World War II, or Dave King’s novel The Ha-Ha.

5. AMERICA RECYCLES DAY

If your group has been meeting for a long time, celebrate this November 15th holiday by “recycling” some of your selections from previous years. If your group is newer, try “recycling” in the sense of passing along some books from your collection to other readers.

6. AVIATION MONTH

There are book choices to fit this theme beyond the obvious category of thrillers. Consider Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand, and Stars or Southern Mail, Beryl Markham’s classic aviation memoir West with the Night or Mary Lovell’s biography of Markham, Straight on Till Morning. Or perhaps you would prefer Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, A. Scott Berg’s biography Lindbergh, Ernest K. Gann’s Fate is the Hunter, or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

7. ADOPTION DAY

It’s celebrated on November 20th. In nonfiction, you might try The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler, Baby We Were Meant for Each Other by NPR’s Scott Simon, or Neely Tucker’s Love in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir. In fiction, consider Ann Hood’s The Red Thread, Anne Tyler’s Digging to America, or Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone.

8. LEO TOLSTOY/RICHARD WRIGHT ANNIVERSARIES

November 20th is the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy’s death in 1910, and the 28th is the 50th anniversary of Wright’s death in 1960. Their books are evergreen. This would be a good month to try one you haven’t read yet or to revisit an old favorite.

9. THANKSGIVING

You’ll find out more about your book group friends if each person brings one book that they are thankful for to book group this month. If that doesn’t work for you, have each person bring a book that they think is a real turkey and roast it nicely for the rest of the group.

10. NOVEMBER BIRTHDAYS

If your taste runs to biographies, you might celebrate famous November birthdays by reading those of Daniel Boone, Burt Lancaster, Marie Antoinette, Walter Cronkite, Will Rogers, Laura Bush, Paul Simon, Carl Sagan, Marie Curie, George Patton, Gene Kelly, Neil Young, Margaret Mitchell, Robert Louis Stevenson, Prince Charles, Martin Scorsese, Jodie Foster, Billy the Kid, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, Caroline Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, or Charles Schulz.

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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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