The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon

Great Book Groups Bring Rewards

February 18, 2009

By Erika Weisensee

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance
to read them at all.”
– Henry David Thoreau

About a year ago, when I had emerged from the haze of my son’s infancy, I was ready and rested enough to reclaim a genuine love of mine: Reading. Feeling a bit isolated, I also wanted more time with a small and special group of family and friends, my inner circle. So, I combined those two needs and started my own book club. I’ve been reading and reaping the rewards of it all year long.

Book clubs have surged in popularity since Oprah started hers more than a decade ago. Oprah’s power in getting millions of people to buy books when she endorses a title is frankly a little frightening. Yet, it’s difficult for me to be cynical about anything that gets people reading and talking about books. After all, in an age when more and more of our communication is going digital, it’s heartening to see people wanting to sit down and discuss literature.

If you love reading and want to, as I did, use books to bring people together, here are some tips for starting a book club:

1) Find people who enjoy each other and love to read.

2) Be a democracy. If one person chooses all the books, it could begin to feel like a teacher assigning homework. In my club, all of us suggest titles and then we vote on what we want to read next.

3) Eat good food. Thoughtful discussion requires plenty of nourishment. If everyone contributes something to the meal (dessert, a salad, an appetizer, drinks, etc.) no one is over-burdened.

4) Let discussion questions guide you. A group of friends or family can easily get distracted and never actually discuss the book. To avoid this, we each come with questions we want to ask others about the book. When the questions are gone, we have plenty of unstructured time.

5) Choose great books. That’s easier said than done. There are so many choices out there. Numerous websites like and provide title suggestions for book groups. For a complete list of Oprah’s Book Club titles, visit

6) Read old books, too. Bookstores seem to push the brand-new titles still in hardback. But you can save a lot of money by reading classics and non-new titles available in libraries.

Here are just a few of the books that we enjoyed this year: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, One Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleed Hosseini, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, and The Shack by William P. Young.


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Discuss this article

Dona February 18, 2009

Good books are like old friends. Put them together and you can have a great time.

Kay February 18, 2009

I loved your article today! Any news on some new up-and-coming Oregon authors.

Pearl February 18, 2009

Do bookstores have a special section displaying books by local authors. I think that would be a great idea. (Maybe they do and I just haven’t noticed.)

Marie February 18, 2009

Ya, and then a monthly book signing featuring one of the authors. I think it would have good play in Oregon…and could be a great draw for customers

Suz February 18, 2009

The classics are always better than what is on the shelves now because they are timeless.

Olivia February 18, 2009

Erika, what a delightful idea and wonderful article! I love reading and always have a book going. It’s like taking a little vacation during the day or evening. I loved The Shack and just checked A Thousand Splendid Suns out of the library having just finished The Kite Runner. Last year a friend of mine introduced me to Jodi Picoult. I just bought a used copy of Vanishing Acts. Two of her newer books are Nineteen Minutes and Change of Heart, both excellent. Her character development is incredible and I’m sure your book club will find much to discuss about her topics if you haven’t already. Thanks for passing on your titles.

Erika Weisensee February 18, 2009

Wow, I love all your comments. I’ll have to write about books more often.
A book by an Oregon author getting a lot of buzz is “Stubborn Twig: Three Generations of a Japanese American Family.” The book is the selection for the 2009 Everybody Reads program. It’s a true story of a Japanese American family that settled in Hood River and lived through internment during World War II. It’s definitely on my reading list!!!

Rahecogn March 3, 2011

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