Bringing Back the Buzz, Pt. 5

Here’s part five of my ongoing series listing ways to shake up your book group with a little variety:


If you live near a location that has been used as a setting in a book, consider combining a site visit with your discussion. You could hold the meeting on site, discuss the book first and then visit the site later, or if the locale allows, even bring books and read content aloud at the source of their inspiration. Make sure to consider whether or not the author succeeds in capturing the nature of the place or if something crucial has changed, was left out, or was described inaccurately.


Book groups often search for quick reads that won’t place too many demands on participants’ busy schedules, but as an alternative consider trying something epic. Sure, it’s a challenge, but it will also feel like an accomplishment. Read a long book over the course of two or three months. Read a short series together. Your big book will deserve a big discussion, so strive for more depth than usual, discussing the book chapter by chapter, sharing reading journals as you work your way through, or combining some of the other activities in this list with your epic read to make it an epic experience.


An evening of poetry can be a lovely alternative to the same old meeting. You can read a common book of poems, but I prefer to mix it up, asking each of your readers to try a new poet, bring some old favorites, or a find a poem on a meeting theme. In any case, make sure that reading poems aloud is part of the program, whether it be individual readings of favorites or a group reading of some longer poems. Hearing the language spoken is an important part of the poetic experience.  


Most book group participants read other books on the side, and I’ve always found that focusing on this side reading is a worthwhile diversion, particularly if your group always reads one common title. You’ll know each other better if you know your preferences for reading outside of the group, and may discover shared interests that suggest book group titles or topics for later meetings. Whether you try it once a year for the whole meeting, include side reading two or three times a year, or make it half of the evening at every meeting depends on your group, especially how often you tend to push the limits of your allotted time. However frequently you choose to do this, encourage participants to bring the books with them to pass around. If the amount of time this activity takes becomes prohibitive, limit the number of books each reader can introduce, or go around in a circle, sharing one book per person, with repeat cycles only allowed if time remains.

Bringing Back the Buzz Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3 & Pt. 4



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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