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Book Group Themes for December

Here’s the final entry in my year-long series of thematic ideas for book groups:

1. GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The Dickens classic celebrates 150 years since its serial publication began in 1860. You won’t regret another visit with Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, Magwitch and the rest.

2. ANTARCTICA

OK, I’m a year early on this one. December 14th will be the 99th anniversary of the day that Roald Amundsen made it to the South Pole. It’s a great story, and the stories of the failed expeditions of Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott are even better. For Shackleton’s tale, try The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander, Jennifer Armstrong’s YA work Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, or Shackleton’s own account South. For the story of Amundsen and Scott, consider Ranulph Fiennes’ Race to the Pole, Roland Huntford’s The Last Place on Earth, Diana Preston’s A First Rate Tragedy: Roberet Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole or Amundsen and Scott’s own accounts.

3. JANE AUSTEN

On December 16th, you can have a birthday party for Jane. She’s 235 this year, but she holds up well for her age. Books by, about, or continuing (albeit usually badly) Austen are plentiful and would make a fine theme for the month.

4. HOLIDAY READING

I’ve aired my disgruntled feelings about Christmas books in prior posts on this site, but some of you will insist on indulging the Christmas theme anyway. If you do so, you might try some of my favorite Christmas reads, posted previously here.

5. DECEMBER BIRTHDAYS

How about a round of biographies? December’s birthday children include Walt Disney, Ira Gershwin, Emily Dickinson, Ludwig van Beethoven, Tiger Woods, Woody Allen, Kirk Douglas, Jim Morrison, Sammy Davis Jr., Melvil Dewey, Frank Sinatra, Mary Todd Lincoln, Humphrey Bogart, Nostradamus, Keith Richards, Diane Sawyer, Andrew Jackson, Mary Tyler Moore, and Rudyard Kipling.

6. GIFT EXCHANGE: BOOK GROUP STYLE

Try this: ask each of your readers to bring two books from their personal shelves that they wish someone else would read. Put the titles on the table, draw names, and then choose a book each from the pile. Come back next month with a report on the books in question.

7. BEST OF THE YEAR LISTS

The best-of-the-year lists and awards will arrive in rapid order over the next few months (Amazon got the ball rolling earlier this week). My fingers ache at the thought of compiling my annual best-of-the-best list, but the work starts this weekend. Why not have each reader pick something from the lists and review it for the group?

8. OTHER END OF THE YEAR ROUNDUPS

As an alternative, you might have each reader share the best book that they read outside of the book group in 2010. Or put out a ballot of the books that your group read in 2010 and conduct a vote for your favorite title of the year.

9. READING RESOLUTIONS

If you prefer to look ahead instead of back, ask each of your readers to identify and share three reading resolutions for the upcoming year. These could be changes in reading habits, particular books that you will attempt, old favorites that you will revisit, or new genres, subjects, or formats that you will attempt.

10. PARTY!

OK, December meetings are tough, and finding time to read in this crowded month is not easy. You could just go with the flow: invite loved ones, break out extra food, and have a Christmas party. Just make sure that you announce the January selection extra early, so that your readers can get a head start on a book for that month.

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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).

1 Comment on "Book Group Themes for December"

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  1. This will be the second year my two book groups will get together for what is billed as a “joint book group gathering”. We eat cookies, drink eggnog or cider, and talk about books we’ve enjoyed reading this year. So, it’s basically a party, but chatting about books, too. We’ve had regular book discussions in December before, at their request, but turnout is always quite low.

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