Get to Know the Chicago Public Library’s MASTERPIECE Book Group

bookgroupbuzziconThe Chicago Public Library has an impressive collection of book groups for the city of Chicago, some of which are previewed here. One in particular that took place this past fall is touched on—a MASTERPIECE Theater-themed book club. MASTERPIECE has recently announced it will relaunch this book group series, so some of you may want to consider trying it!


Chicago Public Library Masterpiece Theater-themed book group

A British high tea at the Clearing branch for CPL’s Masterpiece Theater-themed book club.

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Tell us a little about your book group(s).

Our Adult Book Clubs at the Chicago Public Library have been in existence for decades and consist of branches hosting monthly book discussions and the One Book One Chicago selection held each year in October. Each participating branch is a member of a team (comprised of four or five branches) that chooses their discussion selections for the year, using various print and online literary reviews and of course recommendations from our book club members. Staff at these locations facilitate and promote their monthly discussions and we have a very loyal following of book club members.

How do your group discussions work?

CPLCurrently there are monthly book clubs in English in 41 branches. We have three subject divisions at the Harold Washington Library Center (both fiction and nonfiction) and many World Language discussions in Chinese, Korean, Polish, and Russian. We also have a Korean/English bilingual book club at the Albany Park branch, which meets twice a year. All discussions are facilitated by library staff.

Additional discussions are hosted for the following heritage months: African American, Asian American & Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Polish American, and Native American. There are “Book Club in a Bag” kits to guide any branch interested in hosting a heritage month discussion which features authors or themes related to each heritage month.

A new project which began this fall is our MASTERPIECE™ Book Club series. This takes place at 13 branches throughout the city and features works of literature related to PBS’s wonderful series (from Poirot, Poldark, Phryne Fisher, to Wallander and of course Downton Abbey). Using the PBS MASTERPIECE™ Book and Film Club Guide as well as our own library and online resources, our staff engage in some fascinating discussions. The guide provides recommended reading lists and we add news posts to our website that complement that month’s selections.

The photos on this page are from two different book clubs that took part in the MASTERPIECE series. As you see, they chose to celebrate the time period in style. Our Vodak-East Side Branch had members all bring their own teacups, scones, clotted cream, and Phryne’s golden gun replica. And the music of the 20’s played in the background. More photos from the Vodak group are below.


Sheri Czulno, who leads the MASTERPIECE book club for the Vodak-East Side Branch, enjoys a yummy drink.

What is the best piece of advice you’d give a group that is just getting started?

Just begin! We have groups which have five very loyal members and others that have 15-20. It is a work in progress. Do not concentrate on numbers. Select quality works that interest your group and enjoy the conversation.

Are you looking for new members? If so, leave your contact info for those interested.

All groups at CPL are open invitation. We welcome everyone to participate. Just check our events listings under Book Clubs and come to any discussion in one of our great city neighborhoods.


Vodak Group

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About the Author:

Sarah Grant is the Marketing Associate for Booklist. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Grant.

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