Food and Competitive Hosting at Book Club Meetings

Food is so closely tied with social gatherings, it's no wonder that it's often present at book club meetings. In fact, according to our research report, The Inner Lives of Book Clubs, 91% of private book clubs have food at their meetings, ranging from a snack (41%) to a full hostess-cooked meal (13%) or potluck (13%). Among public book clubs (i.e. groups that are open to anyone to join, many of which meet in libraries), 61% have some sort of food but the great majority keep it very simple.

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Best Books for Book Clubs in 2020

Looking to start 2020 off right with some excellent book club selections? We're here to help. All of these books received positive reviews from BookBrowse and are coming out in paperback in the first three months of 2020, and all but one has a reading guide. So if your New Year's resolution is to be more prepared (or if this was your resolution last year, but you never got around to it), take this opportunity to start planning ahead for a great year of lively book club discussions!

There are options for readers of all tastes and interests, from historical fiction to novels examining social issues, to nonfiction investigative reporting. Many of these books involve complex female characters, from Madeline Miller's Circe to the Korean seafood divers in Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women. Both Alan Brennert's Daughter of Moloka'i and Myla Goldberg's Feast Your Eyes examine mother-daughter relationships, though the authors approach their subject from vastly different angles. Sarah Bird's Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is a fictionalized version of the life of an American heroine with grit and heart in equal measures. These and more to explore below!



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The Book Club Health Check

The Book Club Health CheckWhen you think about your book club--the interpersonal dynamics, the level of organization, the quality of discussions--would you say that your group is happy? Do you consider your book club to be healthy?

Even in the strongest book clubs, issues, whether big or small, are likely to emerge at some point. But, as it turns out, how your group proactively deals with issues is a key factor to your book club's long-term happiness.

In BookBrowse's research report, The Inner Lives of Book Clubs: Who Joins Them and Why, What Makes Them Succeed, and How They Resolve Problems, we see that, understandably, when issues arise, some people choose not to address them directly and, instead, opt to look the other way. After all, book clubs are often comprised of friends, neighbors or co-workers, so a confrontational situation could potentially affect other aspects of the members' lives. But while sometimes problems resolve themselves, they often do not. The tension that builds around unresolved issues can fester and can lead to members leaving the group or, worse, the dissolution of the book club.

Luckily, there are things your book club can do to proactively manage conflict, or even prevent issues arising in the first place. Just as many of us have an annual checkup at the doctor, an annual book club "health check" can help prevent a group from stagnating or prevent unexpressed tensions from reaching a breaking point.

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Historical Fiction for You, and Your Book Club

This month we recommend half a dozen historical fiction selections from across the ages, all of which are recently released in paperback. It's an eclectic mix of critically-acclaimed novels covering a diverse range of time and subject matter. What does the past have to teach us about the present? What's changed and what's stayed the same? How do we relate to characters from such different times and places than ourselves? There are so many pressing questions to be explored within the pages of a good historical novel. Tiffany Blues, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and American Princess feature adventurous and unconventional female protagonists living in the early 20th century, while Washington Black, The Winter Soldier, and Unsheltered consider the social and political issues of the 19th to early 20th.

If you click to "more about the book", you'll find plentiful information to help you decide which of these books are right for you and/or your book club; including reviews, "beyond the book" articles, excerpts, reading guides, and more.

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The Many Benefits of Library Book Clubs

I used to think that participation in public library book groups would be somewhat transient--people would drop in for a few months while they decided if they liked the concept, at which point they'd go off and join a private group, or start their own.

How wrong I was!

One of the core findings of our recently released report on the dynamics of book groups: The Inner Lives of Book Clubs, is how much people love their library book groups and how loyal they are to them.

  • Statistically speaking, there is barely a difference between happiness in public groups compared to private ones: 95% of those in public book clubs (most of which meet in libraries) say they are happy in their group: 71% are very happy, 24% somewhat happy.
  • 69% of those in public groups say their book club is "very important" to them--the exact same percentage as in private groups.
  • 57% of respondents in public book clubs (most of which meet in libraries) have been with their group at least five years!

The research also shows that public library book clubs are a great fit for many who are looking to join a book group. For example:

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Distinguished Debuts: Introduce Your Book Club to Their New Favorite Author

Who doesn't love being on the cutting edge and discovering the next big thing? This month, we recommend debut novels by authors who are rising stars in the literary world and are already creating quite a buzz, snagging coveted literary awards and nominations, and spots on "best of" lists. All six books have recently been released in paperback and are recommended for book club discussion--and come with discussion guides.

Tommy Orange's There There (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and Caleb Johnson's Treeborne both explore the intersections of place, history and personal identity. Zeyn Joukhadar's The Map of Salt and Stars offers an emotionally resonant look at the Syrian refugee crisis, while Fatima Farheen Mirza's A Place for Us (a New York Times bestseller) is centered around an Indian family navigating cultural and religious differences. Shobha Rao's Girls Burn Brighter presents an inspiring and defiant narrator who summons the courage to flout familial and societal expectations. Similarly, Leah Franqui's America for Beginners narrates an Indian mother's transformation as she visits the United States in search of her son.

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The Inner Lives of Book Clubs