Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Reading Group Handbook

Can you tell I'm catching up on my reviews?

I got this book through Paperbackswap.com and I probably wouldn't own it if it wasn't practically free. Nonfiction and how-to's tend to be suitable for library check-out rather than purchase, unless the subject is something crafty that I expect to refer to during a project or a series of projects.

This book contains a whole lot of obvious information. For example, on the question of what makes a good book group member: Someone who is interested, willing, enthusiastic. Someone who can read at a certain level. Someone who will read. Someone who is committed, prompt, curious, sensitive, inquisitive, and flexible, and who has a good sense of humor. Someone who is both a good listener and a good speaker. Someone who is intelligent. Someone who can stay focused. (In other words, someone who is qualified to be your new best friend.)

Fortunately, this book also takes the inquiry beyond the things that make you go "Duh." For example, should you choose your friends to be in the book group? Are you willing to include strangers, with whom you'll necessarily be sharing your personal contact information? Do you want a homogeneous group, or a purposely more diverse group? If a member isn't working out, will you try to exclude them from the group? If so, what process will you follow to decide to exclude them? Food or no food? Rotating leadership, or a paid facilitator to lead the discussion? How will you choose what to read?

It also contains a wealth of useful reference material: Reading lists, sample syllabi, sources of reviews and other background information, a glossary of literary terms, and advice from group members.

If you are a seat-of-the-pants, everything-will-be-fine type, you may not need to do that much thinking up front about the What Ifs. But if you are a careful planner, or someone who likes to consider all the options in advance, this quick read is worth a look. Ditto if you want inspiration for why to start or join a group in the first place.


I believe a good book is a gift to be appreciated by the mind, the body, and the soul. It is ours to explore with the excitement of a child, the clarity of a scientist, the spirit of a priest or priestess, and the intensity of a creator. To be able to enhance these pleasures in the company of others is better than a gift--it is a treasure.

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