Get to Know the Gwinnett County Public Library “Novel Crimes” Book Group

Leader/Organizer: Danny Hanbery, Supervisory Librarian, Gwinnett County Public Library, Collins Hill Branch

Years of operation: 2.5

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Tell us about your book group. 

We wanted to start a book group, and in libraries, a lot of our circulation comes from the mystery section. As a mystery reader myself, I decided I’d try to start a mystery-themed club. At our first meeting, it was just me and one other member—but it grew after that. We eventually had to split the club into two groups; on the first Tuesday of each month, one group meets in the afternoon and the other meets in the evening. Now, we get anywhere from 15-20 attendees between the two meetings.

How does your group make its reading selections? 

At first, I picked the title. Now I look at the number of copies in the library’s collection, available formats (some readers prefer audiobooks or large print), and book reviews to come up with a voting list. We’ll vote twice a year, picking six months’ (or more) worth of books at a time.

Which book did your group collectively like the most this past year? 

Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen was popular, possibly because of the unexpected historical fiction element. The book has two plotlines, one in the present day and one in the past, and the group enjoyed that aspect.

Which is the most divisive book your group has read, and why? 

We just read Kay Hooper’s Wait for Dark, which was our first paranormal mystery. Though some members of the group are huge Kay Hooper fans, this book was not popular with a majority of the group.

How do your group discussions work? 

Because there aren’t typically any publisher-provided questions for mystery books, I come up with the questions. If there’s a lot to talk about, I may come up with a full list. If there’s not, I might just provide a list of characters and plot points and use them as jumping off points for the discussion. While some weeks do involve me reading off a list of questions, a lot of the time, a conversation gets going without much prompting and we can skip the questions and get to what people really want to talk about.

What is your group most looking forward to reading this year? 

We haven’t voted for the second half of the year yet, but Karin Slaughter’s The Good Daughter got the most votes for the first half.

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

Be prepared to get creative when leading the discussion. If the mystery turns out to be boilerplate, use the characters or themes in the story to draw out discussion.

Are you looking for new members? 

We have members who come to every meeting and some who drop in and out. New members are always welcome!

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