By November 8, 2008 8 Comments Read More →

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Fa la la.

What’s a book group to do in December? Half your members won’t have time to read a book, and if you add to their task loads, many will ditch the group altogether, taking one of the other, less-demanding, holiday invitations they’ve received.

You can just pack up the group for a month and come back in January, but there’s something sad about that. If your book group members are also friends like mine are, it’s an important part of the season to spend an evening with them. Here are ten ideas for how to handle that awkward holiday meeting. Pick one or mix and match them for memorable, seasonal fun.


It’s not original, but everyone has extra goodies around during the holiday season. Bring them to the group along with small bookish presents. Bookmarks are cheap and welcomed by readers. Or exchange books, either serious gifts from your overpacked shelves or silly white elephant titles.


As we librarians discover when we put together the Obligatory Holiday Display, many longer books devoted to the season are author cash-ins and other less-than-inspiring fare, but there are lots of wonderful short works. Whether your taste runs to Jean Sheperd stories, The Christmas Carol or David Sedaris’s acerbic Santaland Diaries, there are dozens of good choices to pass around a book group circle. If you aren’t a Christmas mood, try poetry or reading a play aloud.


Pick a well-known novel or a literary genre and decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments inspired by it. Whether the result is a Seussian squiggle or a dark Russian masterpiece, a spicy romantic blush inducer or a futuristic dystopian nightmare, you’ll have a lot of fun. Consider donating the result to a charity tree festival, a local library, or bookstore. Or blame it on the mulled wine and hide it in the basement.


Instead of reading something new, ask members to briefly talk about their favorite book of the year or their favorite book-related moment.


Get one of your clever members to design book-related games or puzzles. One possibility is a bookish version of Balderdash, in which each player invents a one-paragraph plot synopsis for a lesser-known book title. Mix the creations with the real plot synopsis, having one player read them all aloud, then have players guess which synopsis is real. Players score points by guessing the correct synopsis or when others guess that their fake synopsis is real. Hilarity will ensue! For a simpler version, reverse the game, requiring players only to invent titles for a synopsis.


This is less cheerful, but consider taking a few minutes to remember great authors who have passed away in the last year. Remembrances can take the form of short passages from their work read aloud or short personal tributes by members about the impact these writers had on them or others.


Bring loved ones and friends who are readers to a holiday meeting. It’s a good way for the book group members to get to know each other better. Make sure you have good food and a few fun distractions if you choose this option: It might result in the recruitment of some new readers. 


Ask each member to bring a list of their favorite authors or books. Read them aloud and briefly discuss. Make sure that someone compiles the result into a list that can be distributed later to each other and future members. A variation is to list the books that inspired you to become readers.


Instead of reading something new, use the last meeting of the year to develop your forthcoming schedule. If that task is too heavy, put together a joke schedule: a year of terrible books, silly books, or books for an imaginary audience–member spouses, the Nobel Prize committee, ill-behaved people, or Martian anthropologists trying to understand Earth culture–for instance.


Assign your members to introduce an excellent children’s book at the meeting. Children’s books are short and not much trouble in a busy month, and you may help your members find gift ideas for children on their shopping lists. Consider collecting everyone’s selections and giving them as a donation to a worthy school library, family, pediatrician’s office, or charity.

Those are a few of my ideas for the holiday meeting, but I’d like to hear about what your groups do in December. Please share comments so that other book group organizers can benefit from your creativity and experience!



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).

8 Comments on "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?"

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  1.' Kerrie says:

    Our monthly book discussion group plays a sort of Kris Kringle thingy where we bring gifts no more than an agreed value and draw them from the table bynumbers. we generally have a light morning tea/lunch too.
    We also bring books to share so that everyone has plenty to read over the next 4 weeks or so

  2.' Andy says:

    Like the idea of children’s books. The reading takes no time but the discussion actually can be very interesting, bringing up some very interesting personal opinions that might not otherwise be surfaced.

    I also like the idea of the best and worst list. It’s a great time to recap all the books read during the year and to think about what’s going to happen for the upcoming. Another idea is to just hold a holiday party, no reading. Another idea is to pick randomly one member to buy one other member a book. The choices are an interesting discussion in itself and as well, the only obligation for the holidays is to buy one book for someone in the group.

  3.' Lisa says:

    I’m thinking of trying showing a film — I would do one of a book we read this year, but there isn’t a movie of the ones we read. However, we did read Sidney Poitier’s memoir “The Measure of a Man” so perhaps we’ll show “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”?? I still wonder if folks will show up…

  4.' Cynthia says:

    The book group I participate in designates December as poetry month. We each bring one or two favorite poems and read them to each other. It has become one of our favorite meetings of the year.

  5.' Becky says:

    My long standing library book group changes things up for our Decmeber meeting also. We meet for 4 hours instead of 2 and have a pot luck luncheon in which the library provides the main course and the participants bring side dishes.

    We always schedule a “classic” title to read that month. This year it will be The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway. Then, we arrange to watch the movie version on the classic title after lunch. This leaves little time for discussion, so if people did not read the book it is ok.

    We also discuss our favorite books from the last year and present the list for the first 6 months of the next.

    It makes for a nice break, it is fesitve, filled with holiday cheer, and there is no pressure to finish the book in order to enjoy the fun.

    Come see what books my group has been reading at

  6.' liz says:

    We just party. Brunch at my house and gift exchange. I make the same food every year because that’s what everyone requests. One year we tried having a short book discussion after but almost everybody left after the gift exchange. I left too because I had another party to attend.

  7.' Janet says:

    Our book group brings small gifts ($10 limit) but we also encourage those who can to bring white elephant gifts. We distribute by rolling dice. Doubles gets you your choice of gifts but once all the gifts are distributed, we go around again for five mintues and take presents from each other.

  8.' Teresa says:

    Our book club has a scheduled reading for December, but we are also going to meet at a restaurant and do a used book exchange. We are going to wrap up a book we have read and pass it to the person on our left. If we have time to go over the scheduled reading we will but mostly likely we will just socialize 🙂 I like the idea of the childrens books, and the tree with a book theme is great for library displays!

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