“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 www.bookclubclassics.com and www.readinggroupchoices.com provide title suggestions for book groups. For a complete list of Oprah’s Book Club titles, visit www.oprah.com.
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.