Bringing Back the Buzz, Pt. 3

Here’s the third entry in my series on ways to create some needed variety in a stagnant book group.


Sometimes the best solution is to dig a little deeper. Presumably, you’ve all joined a book group because at some point books made a difference for you. Spend an evening exploring that. Ask each member to bring a book to the meeting that meant something special to his or her life at the time they read it. When one of my book groups tried this, the selections were surprising and fascinating, in several cases not the kind of book that one would have suspected from particular members. It’s a good way to get to know each other in more depth and a chance to testify (Hallelujah!) to the power of books.


Instead of spending most of the evening discussing a book, use most of your time in a meeting to actually experience a book. There’s a magic to reading a book out loud that many have forgotten. Many books lend themselves to this approach: try children’s stories, poetry, a group reading of a play, or any work that is rich in physical detail or crackling dialogue. Take turns reading so that you can hear each member’s voice. Some of them might surprise you with depths of feeling or an ability to connect to the book that you wouldn’t guess at from their regular conversational tone.


Years later, I have fond memories of a meeting at a lovely Indian restaurant to discuss Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. As Proust noted long ago with his madeleine cakes in Remembrance of Things Past, there’s something about food and memory. This activity works especially well with books that evoke particular ethnic cuisines, whether they be Indian, Italian, Chinese, or down-home American comfort food. It also works with the bumper crop of great foodie literature that is being published today. Or read a book by Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver, begin your meeting at a farmer’s market, then hold the discussion over a picnic potluck. No matter how you implement this suggestion, you’ll get a memorable meeting, a nice meal, and a strong sensory connection to the book.

Jump back to Pt.1, Pt. 2



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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