When you’re meeting with the same people at similar locations, even the most successful book groups can fall into a too-familiar routine. Although familiarity and routine are great factors in keeping a successful book group meeting month after month, sometimes a bit of change can vitalise your book group’s dynamic and bring some fun into your discussions. This month, the CAE Book Groups team and CBD-based Melbourne City Readers book group have come up with six top tips for livening up your next meeting.
With the number of book titles being made into TV or theatrical movie releases, there’s no shortage of titles to choose from. Last year alone we saw Dialogue titles such as Sense of an Ending [B2138], The Dinner [B2171], Berlin Syndrome [B2113], The Handmaid’s Tale [B1189], The Cuckoo’s Calling [B2265] and The Glass Castle [B1882] adapted for the big and small screen. You can mix-up your meeting by complementing your book discussion with a movie rental and include comparisons into your discussions, not to mention it also makes for a fun night in with the group. We have even made it easy for you by adding adapted book symbols into our Dialogue, this way you won’t have to search high and low to discover which books have a theatrical or TV release!
Use your discussion notes effectively
Sometimes the discussion of a novel can quickly run out of steam, especially if everyone agrees to either loving or hating the book. In those instances, it can be hard to find new points for discussion or it can cause the discussion to veer off-topic and the meeting to end early. One way to prepare for this is to use your supplied discussion notes to draw ideas, themes, background information and suggested questions to enrich the discussion. You can also use the page references within the discussion notes to flag (with a post-it note!) specific quotes or pages and share them with the group to read out and discuss.
Many of us avid readers are pretty certain about what we like and what we don’t like when choosing books, but that doesn’t mean that certain books or genres can’t surprise us. It’s always important to experiment outside your reading bubble and include new or unique genres, perhaps even giving certain types of books or genres a second-chance. If you devour only literary, realist titles then perhaps changing it up with a thought-provoking speculative fiction title such as The Underground Railroad [B2270], Cloud Atlas [B1875] or The Left Hand of Darkness [B1064] can get you thinking about how speculative fiction addresses real-world problems. Or if your group leans toward historical narratives, maybe a contemporary novel such as The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time [B1816], The Fault in Our Stars [B2181] or Of a Boy [B1804] could provide a unique point of view to discuss and consider.
Invite new members
For some long-standing book groups, it can be more about friendship than the actual book discussion, which can often turn into a discussion of similar topics and opinions each month. One way to ‘shake up’ the discussion and experience a new point of view is to open up your book group to new members outside of your work or social circles. Inviting new members won’t just boost the conversation in your book group, but new members will bring their own unique opinions and experiences that may provide a fresh outlook to your monthly meetings. If you’re looking to open up your group but don’t know where to start, you can advertise online, through social media, at your local community centre or by contacting the CAE Book Groups team.
Asking one person to cater for an entire group can be a great ask, and oftentimes book groups stay away from organising food for this reason. One way to add flavour to your meeting is a ‘potluck’ dinner, where each person brings their own signature or themed dish for the entire group to share. For book group’s that don’t meet in a location where it’s possible to BYO food, a potluck surprise could be alternating members organising a restaurant, pub or café so the meeting won’t just expand your mind, but will also expand your palate.
Investigate current affairs and controversial reviews
Most literary titles can be tied into discussions about current court cases, social movements or societal issues (such as immigration, economic inequality or equal rights to name a few) to give the novel an immediate relevance to current affairs. Tying your book discussion into immediate issues sourced from news articles, essays or opinion pieces can provoke a larger discussion and draw out differing points of view to get your group talking right to the end. Another tip to enrich your group’s discussion is to go online and source controversial professional or public reviews as an additional talking point to discover whether your group agrees or disagrees, and why. After all, it’s usually the disagreements that generate the richest of discussions!