How to Have a Productive Book Club Discussion About Race

how to have a productive book club discussion about race

Over the past year, BookBrowse has been contacted many times by book club members asking for advice on how their group should approach discussing potentially sensitive topics, particularly relating to racial issues. While race is not the only topic that can be a challenge to discuss, it has been top of mind for many groups over the past year. In fact, in our October 2020 survey of more than 3,000 book club members, we found that 58% of US respondents said their book group had discussed racial issues during the year. And, of course, discussions are not just taking place in book clubs; according to a Pew survey published in June 2020, almost 70% of Americans said they had talked with family and friends about race and racial equality during the previous month.

With this in mind, here are some resources that BookBrowse's editorial team recommends to help these discussions be productive. Each takes a slightly different perspective, so one may resonate with you more than another.


Book Clubs' All-Time Favorite Authors

Book Clubs All-Time Favorite Authors

Last year, we asked book club members to vote for their favorite book club books of all time. Despite the survey question stating that we could only accept individual book titles, a number of people wrote in responses such as "anything by xxx." So, this year, alongside asking book clubbers to name their favorite 2020 books, we also asked them to name their all-time favorite book club authors. This is what they told us:


The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2020

The Most Popular Book Club Books of 2020

Last year, we asked book club members to share with us the books they had most enjoyed reading and discussing in all the years they have been in book groups. In addition to sharing their all-time favorite books overall, they also told us about their favorite mysteries and thrillers and favorite nonfiction titles. In addition, we asked them to tell us which books they had most enjoyed reading and discussing in 2019.

Now, I am pleased to bring you the results from our recent survey to reveal book club members' 2020 favorites.

By any standard, 2020 was an unusual year, with about a quarter of US book clubs not meeting at all once the pandemic started (according to our Book Clubs in Lockdown research report). Because those in groups that had only met for two to three months at the start of the year had a very limited number of titles to select a favorite from, and because they had not had a chance to discuss the more recently published books (which therefore put these titles at a disadvantage) we only asked respondents whose groups had met for the majority of 2020 to name their favorite titles.

This is what they told us:


Successful Book Clubs Share Their Top Tips

Are you in a book club?

If so, you may be interested to know that tucked away in BookBrowse's book club section are 14 years' worth of interviews with a wide range of book groups.

Each one has something to inspire, and are full of interesting and useful information – such as the books that the groups have most enjoyed discussing (and the ones they didn't) and plenty of ideas that you can borrow to freshen up your own group.

Some provide a complete roadmap to starting a similar group or program, such as the interview with Adrienna Turner, founder of the C Facility Book Club at the Sacramento State Prison; or our latest interview with Marianne Paterniti, Book Groups Coordinator at the Darien Library in Connecticut which runs an impressive program of in-house book group programs and actively supports over 100 groups in their community.

You can browse the full archive or start with one of these recent interviews:


Discussing Books on Zoom: The Pros & Cons

book clubs meeting virtually, discussion qualityIn the previous post about meeting virtually, we talked about how switching to a virtual format has changed some key factors for book clubs. Many respondents to our "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey focused on the positive aspects of these changes, such as welcoming back members who had moved away and could now take part in meetings over Zoom. Others missed getting together in person and bonding over group meals and drinks.

But first and foremost, book clubs meet to discuss books. So, how are these book discussions actually taking shape when a group is meeting virtually?


Zoom Book Club Meetings: The Pros & Cons

book clubs meeting virtually, the pros and consIn recent articles, we've been talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought big changes to the way book clubs run their discussions, especially in terms of where and how meetings have been taking place. Before the pandemic, all but 2% of respondents to our October 2020 survey, "Book Clubs in Lockdown," said their book group (or their primary group if they belonged to more than one) had met in person; whereas at the time of the survey, two-thirds of those in groups that were currently meeting were getting together virtually, and almost all of these were meeting on Zoom.

While virtual meetings have their share of drawbacks, many of the respondents pointed out benefits:


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