There’s reading. And then there’s READING. The first is a solitary endeavor from start to finish, done on the subway, or curled up in a chair, or in bed. The second adds a step at the end: discussing a book with someone else who has read it. That person may be a single individual. It may be a group of women in a nail shop. It may be a formal book group, either one you’ve been in for a while or one affiliated with a bookstore.
I’ve been in the same book group for more than 25 years. Too often to count, I’ve driven to a meeting thinking that the book we’d chosen was pretty empty – only to find that the evening’s discussion gave it new meaning and depth. The best of those discussions left me thinking about the book long after the meeting was done.
What makes for a good discussion? It’s about asking the right questions. “Did you like the book?” doesn’t quite do it for me, but it’s definitely an ice-breaker. Where to go from there? I often have questions as I read (and write) – about the plot, the symbolism, the prose – and I try to jot them down to raise in a later discussion. That said, I do love Reading Group Guides supplied by the publisher. Some questions are dense, others simple. But they certainly get you thinking.
I always look for Reading Group Guides. Sometimes they’re printed in the back of the book, other times simply printed online. In that they capture the book’s themes and issues, they may help me decide whether or not to buy the book, and once I’m into the reading, they open channels of thought. Beware, of course. RGGs often contain spoilers. Me, I read the end of books first, so it isn’t a problem.
When it comes to the RGG for Blueprints, here’s what we have so far. Yes, there are spoilers in this RGG, so, if you haven’t read the book, take care. On the other hand, if you have read Blueprints, I’d love your thoughts on these questions. Are there any you would add? It’s not too late, so speak up!
A final word on book groups. Increasingly, there’s the phenomenon of online groups. The most noted right now is Goodreads, which has millions of members and a ton of book discussions on-going on at any given time. Membership is free, and the site is fairly simple to use. I’ve been a member since 2011, when my publisher set me up to do interviews, but I’m only now growing active. That means listing books I’m currently reading, books I’ve finished reading, and books I want to read. It also means reviewing books I’ve read and reading reviews of books on my to-read list. I haven’t yet joined a specific “group,” which would offer the kind of book group discussion I’m blogging about now, but I hope to.
And there’s the crux of it. I like my reading to be social. I want to hear what other people have to say about the books I’m reading. It enhances my appreciation of the book.
What do you say?
P.S. I’ve just posted a poll on Goodreads asking readers if they use Reading Group Guides. If you’re a member, you can vote right here: