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September 25, 2008

Book Club Makeovers

Posted by carol
Does your book club need a makeover? No, we won't be revamping your wardrobe but rather your reading habits and group dynamics. The Book Club Makeover is a new feature on We'll select groups each month for makeovers, review their problems, and make suggestions. Below, contributor and Books & Books' reading group coordinator Debra Linn explains the concept and how it came to be.

If you're interested in a Book Club Makeover for your group,
click here for details. We'll unveil the first "made-over" group next week here on the blog.

Fall has begun, and that means change is here. The white shoes have gone away (thankfully), football has kicked off (thankfully), and your book club trudges on...

As much as you cherish your book club meetings, you just can't deny that you've fallen into a rut. You keep picking the same type of books. Or you're picking a variety of books no one enjoys. The discussions feel like deja vu. Like deja vu. Your excitement is waning, and fewer members are coming to meetings.

Well, like any relationship or anything that matters, your book club needs tending, needs refreshing, needs a little loving care. But like any relationship or anything that really matters to you, it's hard to be objective and constructive, to find the poetic beauty of renewal and reawakening.

Maybe you need a helping hand. Maybe you need a Book Club Makeover.

Reading Group Guides guru and Book Report Network co-founder Carol Fitzgerald came up with this brilliant idea to bring help to readers across the land, one bookstore at a time. A fresh look and a fresh outlook for each month.

This is not Dr. Phil territory, nor as weighty as the September issue of In Style. And it wouldn't be a forum for thrashing your fellow book clubbers. Just advice and wisdom from reading group experts.

Like any good makeover, it all starts with the foundation. For us, that's the books. Pick the right books for your group and just about everything else will fall into place. (Yes, even the food.) We'll offer up options. If you like The Kite Runner, try Brother, I'm Dying. Edwidge Danticat's memoir about Haiti, Brother, I'm Dying, might seem --- and literally is --- thousands of miles away from Khalid Hosseini's novel about Afghanistan, but both explore upheaval and exile.

They provide insight into worlds we read about in the news but can't fully appreciate. They force us to feel and think, and they force us to feel and think differently than we had before. And that forces us to have a different discussion. Similar topic, but different perspective. And when the discussion is different, so is a possibly troubling group dynamic (Chatty Cathy or Dominating Debbie might find herself in a new role). And, trust me, Haitian food is rather different than Afghan food (both good, though).

Would your club be interested in a Makeover? What areas concern you most? Book selection? Group dynamics? Meeting variety? We're trying to shape a meaningful --- and fun --- experience before we take it out on the road and to a bookstore near you.

---Debra Linn