What’s the best way to lead a discussion of a short story collection?

One of my groups just finished discussing Ellen Klage’s Portable Childhoods (thanks for the awesome suggestion Neil!).  This group happens to be extremely informal, often spending just a few minutes on the books we read and then spending the rest of the time just chatting about anything and everything.  Mostly the participants just like getting reading suggestions and trying out books they might not have picked up otherwise.

But it got me to thinking, how do more formal groups handle short story collections?  Hard to believe I’ve never done one before, despite being involved in leading book groups for the last dozen years or so!

Does your group discuss each individual story?  Do you just chat and  find out which stories people liked or disliked?  Our group had a few of the stories in common that we all enjoyed, but disparate views on all the rest.  Some readers didn’t get to all of the stories, some read all the way through.

What’s been your experience with short story collections?  I’d love to hear!



About the Author:

Rebecca Vnuk is the editor for Collection Management and Library Outreach at Booklist. She is also the author of 3 reader’s-advisory nonfiction books: Read On…Women’s Fiction (2009), Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (2014), and Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide (2009). Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_RVnuk.

1 Comment on "What’s the best way to lead a discussion of a short story collection?"

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  1. atodd@phpl.info' Alex says:

    One that stands out was David Sedaris’ Naked. It’s probably more a collection of essays than short stories, but then again, I’m not sure what the difference is.

    My group loved the book overall, even if some of the language and themes were a tad … Sedarisian. As we started the discussion, I asked folks what their favorite stories was. Interestingly, I don’t think there were any duplicates – each person chose a different story as their favorite.

    But we also talked about the writing style – how Sedaris was able to turn such difficult topics into belly laughs without making the reader feel guilty for laughing.

    We talked about Sedaris and his extended family, always good to jump start any discussion.

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