Choosing What to Read
One of the most enjoyable yet
frightening aspects of a reading group is choosing the books. While it's
exciting to consider the options, make your list and winnow it down to
those few select titles that you'll read each year, picking good books
for your group can also be intimidating. You want the perfect book: one
that's not too easy, not too hard, that will hold the interest of a diverse
group of readers and will also inspire a lively discussion. Where on earth
do you find books that are all that and more, and how do you pick which
of these to read?
Probably the best place to
start looking for titles is your own members' bookshelves. Some groups
insist that those proposing a book have read it and can testify to its
worthiness for the group. Other groups would rather that no one have read
the book, making it a surprise for everyone; they choose books based on
word of mouth from outside sources, reviews, or dust jacket blurbs. Is
there a title that many of you have always wanted to read? A classic that
some of you would like to revisit or have never quite gotten to? An old
favorite that you'd love to share with your group?
Are you looking for something
a little different? Outside your normal reading curve? Try searching this
site for a good book. All the books listed here have reading guides that
can enhance your group's discussion. Many publishers specialize in certain
types of books, either by genre or literary style. If you find a book
you like, search the publisher's site for similar titles. Try reading
several works by one author or on the same topic. Or compare two books
set in the same time period or focusing on related topics. Some reading
groups even have themes, such as 19th century literature, science fiction,
or women authors. If this is not the case with your group, remember that
a major complaint of many reading groups is monotony --- all their books
tend to have the same subject or tone. Be sure to include a variety of
topics and voices in your selections so your group doesn't get bored.
Another place to look for
recommendations is your local library or bookstore. Libraries routinely
put out lists of recommended readings and librarian picks. Bookstore clerks
are generally up on what's popular--the bestseller lists and what other
groups in your area may be reading. Lists of award winners and nominees
such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Booker Prize and the National Book Award
can provide your group with many quality suggestions. There are also many
books available now that have lists of books for reading groups. These
are usually divided into a wide range of categories to fit many reading
groups' tastes. An important decision to make before picking your books
is to decide if your reading group members are willing to buy hardbacks
or if all selections must be available in paperback.
Now that you've got your list
of books, how do you choose which ones to read? In many groups, each member
suggests several titles and the group decides together which they'll read.
Often these groups will choose several months' or a year's worth of books
ahead of time. In other groups, each member takes a turn making her or
his selection. Your group might prefer the excitement of deciding next
month's read only after this month's discussion, or you may prefer to
plan at least two months ahead to allow time for everyone to get the book,
especially if some of you are depending on the library for your copy.
Choosing your book list should
be fun. The better informed you are about the titles you consider, the
less likely you are to pick a dud. Use this website and to get suggestions
and information, make your list, and then enjoy the best part --- the
reading and discussion of great books!