Bringing Back the Buzz, Pt. 2

This is the second post in what will be a long weekly series about ways to shake up your book group with variations that keep that not-so-fresh feeling at bay.


Take a time machine to the year or decade of your choice for one meeting. Select books that were published or popular during the year in question. While you’re at it, run down the list of the year’s bestsellers,  review the current events from the year, dress up in period clothing, or cook foods that were popular at the time. As they report on the book they selected, ask each reader to share one personal memory from the year in question.


Those book assignments from school days–whether loved or dreaded at the time–greatly shape the readers we have become. If you’re like me, you still remember some of those books better than many titles read much more recently. Take a meeting to revisit one of the books that you were assigned in school. You might choose an old favorite, or try a book that you suspect you were too young to appreciate at the time. Either way, this will be a meeting full of great books and funny memories.


This activity may take multiple meetings. Why not put yourselves in the positions of literary prize judges? Many of the major awards publish a long list, short list, or list of nominees months before the big winner is announced. In the intervening months, give each meeting over to one or two of the nominated titles. When they’re all read, select your own prize winner. You don’t have to limit this activity to expensive new hardbacks, it works just as well to play the game retrospectively, comparing your selection to that ultimately made by the judges.


Looking for a little more depth in your discussion? Perhaps it’s time to bring in some help. Invite a professor from a local university, a local writer, or anyone who is an aficionado of a particular work or author to lead a discussion. As with any guest, make sure to establish the visitor’s role clearly with them in advance. Don’t neglect internal expertise, encourage your more scholarly members to lead an exploration of one of their favorites occasionally. Don’t limit your guest list to literature scholars either. You might also consider bringing in a historian, someone who knows the book’s setting well, or a specialist in a field that is central to the book in question.

See Part 1



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).