Bringing Back the Buzz, Pt. 11

This week I’m wrapping up my ongoing series of ideas for bringing the buzz back to a book group that’s gone flat. Here are the final four ideas in my list of 36.

33.  REVISIT AN OLD FRIEND

Re-reading is an underappreciated art, and there are several ways to practice it in your book group. Long-running groups might choose to revisit a favorite title from many years back, perhaps constructing a ballot to vote on which book to read again. Or re-reading might be your theme for the month, providing your members a chance to both read an old favorite and share the book with others at the meeting. You might restrict re-reading to something more specific: a book you read in your school days and loved, a book that you read and liked but can’t remember, a favorite author, or the book that each member has read the most frequently during his or her life.

34. EXPLORE AUDIOBOOKS

I’ve written before about the extra wrinkles that audiobook “reading” can add to a book group discussion. It’s a fun variation to try sometime. Most groups will have a mix of audiobook fans and those who haven’t tried this format before. Instead of reading the same book, allow each member to make his or her own choice, as otherwise it will be hard to find enough copies. Bring a laptop or CD player to the meeting so that you can share a bit of narration and compare the various styles. See if your group can develop a list of favorite narrators. Or use audiobooks as a supplement to regular meetings, playing a few choice bits of narration when your group is reading a common book.

35. HAVE AN OPEN HOUSE

A fun alternative is to have one meeting a year where you encourage members to bring family or friends. Your loved ones will appreciate seeing how you spend your time each month, and your group will become closer as you meet the people in each others’ lives. Decide in advance if you will permit those who enjoy the group to become members or if this is strictly a one-time visit. For best results, encourage your visitors to read a book for the discussion and make a little extra effort with refreshments for your festive occasion.

36. CREATE A WEB PRESENCE

Whether it’s a web page, a shared account on Facebook, or a shelf on a reader’s social networking site like GoodReads, Shelfari, or Library Thing, your group might benefit from a web presence. Discuss the goals of going online. Are you recruiting new members? Providing a means to announce upcoming meetings? Tracking the history of your group? The answers to these questions may decide what kind of web presence is most appropriate. At the very least, I would encourage groups to maintain a public record of the books you have read or themes you have addressed in the past that you can share with potential new members and consult yourselves when you’re trying to remember how many years it has been since a particular author, book, or topic came around. Combine this idea with others from this list, using the website to exchange lists of your members’ favorite books, to publish your group’s opinion about the books that you have shared, or to promote some of your more creative book group ideas to other readers. If you build a web presence, make sure to decide in advance who will maintain it. A web site is only useful if content continues to be added.

I’m sure my list of 36 ideas has only scraped the surface of creative methods for keeping your book group lively. Please share any ideas that your group has tried in the comments. To view the list in its entirety, do a search on this site for “Bringing back the Buzz” or work your way back starting with Pt. 10.

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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).

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