Good Books for Book Groups: Bring Your Own Book

Every year, area clubs invariably ask us to suggest short books for holiday reading. There are many such titles, of course, but it can be hard, at this time of year, for members to get copies of holiday titles when they need them.

hidden-figures-margot-shetterlyBut there are ways to work around the holiday crush. Some book clubs in our area have each of their members read a holiday title—not necessarily the same one—and discuss what they like and dislike about these types of books in general. Others do Secret Santa book exchanges or White Elephants, a fun option for groups who know each other well.

Because many members of our group only know each other through LIT itself, we choose to go a different route. This December, the LIT Book Club held our yearly BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) meeting. My co-leader Sam Adams-Lanham and I begin the meeting with a quick series of book talks, generally consisting of four or five titles each. Sometimes we choose them around a theme, but often we just talk about our favorite titles from the previous year. After that, each member shares a little about a book or two she’d like to recommend. We distribute handouts with our suggestions printed on the top half, leaving the bottom and back side blank so our members can take notes.

BYOB has proven to be such a hit that we’re considering repeating it this summer. It takes the pressure off, but provides an opportunity for our members to hear what everyone else in the group is reading and to talk about books they like. Win win! My co-leader and I have found it to be a useful means of gathering book club title suggestions and gauging our members’ interest in different subjects. It’s cozy, it’s fun, and it’s a great change from our usual routine.

Here are some of the titles we came up with this year:

engaged-in-death-stephanie-blackmooreEngaged in Death, by Stephanie Blackmoore

Evicted, by Matthew Desmond

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterley

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

A Promise of Fire, by Amanda Bouchet

To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey

What’s Up Next
This month, LIT is reading In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, the fictionalized story of the author’s upbringing under the Khmer Rouge.

About the Author:

Liz Kirchhoff is an adult services librarian at the Barrington Area Library in the Chicago suburbs. She is a longtime book reviewer and has read for the American Library Association's Notable Books Council. After her first book came out last year, Liz swore she'd never do that again (even though she probably will). Now she happily reviews books written by others.

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