How to choose books your book discussion group will enjoy

There are many different ways to choose books for your book club/reading group, and there is no reason to stick with the same formula all the time. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Choose a theme - e.g. a particular culture, country, author, time period, genre or subject. Or avoid getting stuck in a theme by deliberately choosing books that are different from each other! BookBrowse's reading guides are sorted by title, author and a wide range of themes.

  • Take it in turns to choose.

    Agree who will short list the books for the next meeting and have them bring along 2-3 recommendations which the members vote on.

  • Browse BookBrowse!

    A great way to find exceptional books, save time at your meetings and be sure that everyone knows a bit about the books they're going to be voting on, is for one person to visit BookBrowse and select a shortlist of books that look to be of particular interest. Then email the URLs (page addresses) to the other members, who can then browse the extensive excerpts, multiple reviews etc. of each book and come to the meeting with an opinion on the shortlisted books.

    If you have trouble agreeing, why not read all of them (spread out over a few months of course)?

    If you find yourself disappointed that the group don't want to read a book that you think looks excellent, keep in mind that there is absolutely nothing stopping you reading it yourself - and if it proves to be as good as you think, you can always recommend it to the group at a later time!

  • Look for recommendations at your library or bookstore. Most libraries have lists of recommended titles and 'librarian picks', and many libaries will be happy to work with you and your group to find book choices that you're likely to enjoy; or check out lists of awards such as The Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize and National Book Awards.

  • It's unlikely that everybody will agree on every book choice every time. Make it clear when the group is set up, and when new members join, that a majority vote will carry - encourage members to treat new genres or authors with an open mind - after all most people join a book club to expand their reading experience.

  • Be mindful of genre burnout - don't stay with the same list/theme for too long, or take a break every now and then with a book that breaks the mold.

  • Select your books at least two to three meetings ahead of time, so that you have plenty of time to read them (and potentially to borrow from the library or share copies amongst the group). Some groups plan their entire year's reading at one meeting, others prefer to stay just a few books ahead.

  • However, be cautious of committing to books too far ahead as the mood and interests of the group might change over time and you could find yourselves tied into a book or genre that is no longer of interest to the group.

  • At least for the first few meetings, choose reasonably short books (leave War and Peace for a later meeting!) with a ready prepared reading guide. Avoid books that are bound to become controversial (e.g. religion and politics) until the group members have had time to get to know each other.
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