This month (and every month) at ReadingGroupGuides.com, we're particularly interested in the dynamics of your book group. We know that --- for longterm groups especially --- it can be hard to evaluate how your group is doing and get back on track. That's why we think groups will benefit from a Book Group Checkup: It gives your group an opportunity to do a self-check to be sure its goals are still being met. Pick a month that you are going to do this and make it an open forum where people discuss a number of questions, or you can have people write their comments anonymously. We've been asking readers to share some thoughts and tips for optimizing meetings, which you can check out below.
Suzanne from SaddleBrooke’s 4th Tuesday Book Club wrote and shared, "Our group went over the questions you’d suggested we consider about our sessions and books. We discussed each bulleted item and drew a consensus about them as a group. We were rather surprised that the seven members present agreed as one on the great majority of answers.
1. We decided two books were duds: THE 19TH WIFE by David Ebershoff was dry, repetitive and too long; THE RUMOR by Elin Hilderbrand was fluffy, unbelievable and too 'chick lit' for our taste.
2. Our meetings are structured and enjoyable --- we’ll stick with our format.
3. We could use improvement in staying with the topic the facilitator has given us. We decided anyone could encourage the group to return to the discussion.
4. Members are welcome at our meetings even if the book hasn’t been read.
5. This year we are going to try a new method of acquiring books through the public library’s Caboodle Book Club Kit program. A collection of one book title will be available for checkout for eight weeks. We’ll see how advantageous this will be for us.
6. We agree we are more than satisfied with our book club.
One question mentioned: Do members benefit intellectually and learn new facts and information from the selection of books? We vote for 11 books (per month) from choices submitted by members. Each person volunteers to be the facilitator for at least one or more books. Facilitators glean information from the Internet about the author, questions from guides or any other method they choose."
Dale L. had this to say: "We have mentioned multiple times that we would love to have a meeting with other book clubs from our town at the same time. Problem is the schedule, picking a book for us all to read and where to have this large gathering of people. But we are all in agreement this would be fun to gather with other book clubs. We could not only discuss the book, but share ideas as well."
Sue M. from Wordsworth AM Book Club writes in:
"Some questions that came up with our book club:
1. Should we meet periodically in the evening for those that volunteer or still working? We are an over 55 community and most are retired.
2. Should the hostess (we meet in their home) provide food and drink?
3. There is a sign up sheet at the end of the year where we sign up for a month and are responsible for the book selection for that month. How much notice do you give the group of your choice?
4. Getting off track at a gathering is easy but controlled by the hostess who starts the discussion off with background. Going around the room for discussion and comments can be hard on those who like to listen and learn different points of view, so we usually just jump in and there are some interesting give and takes sometimes. We do find that the books we did not care for make for the best discussions.
Thanks for the checklist; that is something after 10 years that we should definitely consider. And thanks for the years of book choices we probably would never have picked up."
Chris P. shared the following: "My book club takes a different spin on things, making whether you read the selection not a critical factor but definitely beneficial to the ensuing discussion. The reviewer researches and discusses anything of interest about the book, whether it be the author, the subject, the genre or period or whatever of interest. One time we even had the author appear to discuss writing! We always end with the book and how or what we liked or disliked, but with a better understanding of things surrounding it."