Tips for Staging Rut-Busting Book Club Discussions

It’s easy to settle into a routine with your book club when it’s time to discuss the book. We’re all creatures of habit, and there’s something comforting about knowing what to expect when you show up at your reading group meeting. Routine has the advantage of making it easier for you when you’re the one in charge of leading the discussion, too. If you follow an established formula, you can be relatively sure that book talk will go smoothly.

Yet sometimes following an expected pattern can get boring, and your predictable group may run the risk of its members losing interest. That’s why it’s good to liven up your discussions every now and then. Here are a few ideas for ways to bust out of your meeting ruts and get everybody energized.

  1. Ask members to bring something to share—when one of the members of my reading group assigned poetry to read one month, she also gave us an assignment: write at least one poem of any type and read it at the meeting. This got us talking about the kinds of poetry we liked, our favorite poets, and why we chose to write the poem we wrote in the style we chose. Discussion was vibrant and lasted a couple of hours. You could also ask members to bring an object that symbolizes something in the book they want to talk about. Then let each person present her object with the topic to discuss.
  2. Create a visual focus—set up a display pad  and ask people to shout out traits they liked or disliked about the main character while you write down the list. Use your list to discuss how those traits affected the action in the book. Another idea is to list two columns: one of things people in your group have in common with the main character, the other of things that are different.
  3. Borrow a page from the theater crowd and start with a warm-up exercise. A common one that’s sure to get everyone laughing and lead into discussion is the game of telephone. Choose a sentence from the book that starts a passage you’d like to discuss. Whisper it into the ear of the person sitting next to you, and have her whisper it to the person next to her and on around your circle. Have the last person repeat to the group what she heard.
  4. Ask out of the ordinary questions that will get your members thinking differently. For instance, you could ask, “What kind of books do you think the main character likes to read?” “What do you think happens after the book ends?” “What will you remember about this book a year from now?
  5. Toss a beanbag to encourage participation. You can start off by holding the beanbag and asking a question you’d like everyone to answer. When you’re done, toss the bean bag to someone else in the group and ask her to pose the next question. Continue around until everyone has a chance to lead a discussion point.

These ideas may just get your own creative juices swirling enough for you to come up with lots more rut-busting ideas of your own. Just remember your goal: to create engaging lively discussions that leave your members looking forward to your next book group meeting.



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