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January 29, 2010

Teaching an Old Book Club New Tricks

Posted by webmaster
In today's post, contributor and book store owner Jamie Layton talks about the difficulties of keeping a book club fresh and fun and explains how our Advice for New Book Clubs can be just as helpful to reinvigorate a group that's been around awhile.

Wow! A big Thank You from this contributor to all you Reading Group Guide blog readers out there who responded so enthusiastically to Dana’s call for book club advice! I saw lots of great ideas I can’t wait to try at the next Duck’s Cottage Reading Group meeting!

Our meetings are held in the bookstore and, since I am the store’s manager, I have been the facilitator by default for the past seven plus years. The last year or so I have been feeling woefully inadequate and worry that my loyal members leave meetings dissatisfied, or feeling like something was ‘missing’. If I don’t do enough research about a particular topic or author, I feel guilty; if I focus too much on a peripheral tangent of a book, say, Salinger’s pacifism or the symbolism in Mercy, I feel guilty. If I remember to print out discussion questions for a book, and then find when we finally turn to them that we’ve pretty much answered them all already- I feel bad! If I forget to print out discussion questions, or can't find any, I feel bad! It's gotten to the point where I dread these very same meetings I once looked forward to because I am so sure of disappointing everyone. I knew I needed a 'shot in the arm' so to speak and leave it to Reading Group Guides to give it to me!

So to Bea Carroll- thanks for the end of meeting rating idea! Peggy Jebavy- great idea on shortening discussion questions and spreading them amongst the group to be be read! Kellie Tropeano- your group sounds like a hoot! I loved your games ideas! And to everyone else who took the time to add their two cents about what has worked (or not)- muchos gracias!!

I think I’m going to ease up on myself a little bit, try to relax and remember that I am not there to lead all the time, but to guide and encourage this group of smart, witty, deep thinking women as they discover new books, thoughts, authors and ideas.

If perchance you haven't had time yet to check out Advice For New Book Clubs, a five part post from earlier in the month, I strongly encourage you to do so! Whether your book club is brand spanking new or has been meeting for fifteen years, I promise you'll see at least one new idea to try at your next meeting!

Footnote: our group met last night and using the new tips I found we had a wonderful discussion of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. I handed out note cards with shortened or revised discussion questions and each person got to take a little ownership of the question they read aloud to the group taking some of the pressure off me! We also went around the circle and 'rated' the book at the end using a 1 - 10 scale, placing it against all the books we've read in our lifetime. A wonderfully re-energized meeting with which to start Oh-ten!

Read on!

Jamie Layton