Good reading


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:

Barbara’s Poll on Goodreads

I always look for Reading Group Guides. Do you?




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  1. Susan Edmondson on July 8, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    A friend bought 2 copies of a book 2 years ago. Her idea was we’d read our books at the same time and discuss it. Well, time went by and with our schedules, we just couldn’t come up with a time. So I read the book and she read her copy months later. By the time she read it, I had forgotten! But as she made comments, it came back to me and we did share some comments. Maybe when i retire I will get into book groups. It would be fun. Just don’t have time right now. 2 or 3 more years to go!!!!!

  2. Kay Malone on July 11, 2015 at 10:33 am

    I read Blueprints, awesome book. I wish that I could get a group together to
    have a book club. Only one other friend that is an avid reader.

    Thanks for many hours of reading (especially in the night when I cant sleep).

  3. Marge Garrett on July 13, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I just finished reading Blueprints….I am still struggling through a recent tragedy that took the life of my daughter and left her children orphaned. My elder daughter came forward with her partner to become guardian of these 3 children. The dynamic of having your whole world change in an instant to raise children when children was not part of the plan, helped me see a perspective (other than my own loss) of the panic and insecurities my daughter and her partner were struggling with as they took on this new responsibility.
    I also had an eye opener regarding the mother/daughter communications as portrayed in the book that was helpful to me in making adjustments, and insight as our family going forward formulate a new family and all the changes that come with that process.

  4. Clara Watt on July 26, 2015 at 6:56 am

    I really enjoyed reading Blue Prints. It made me stop and think that as women we are able to be and do anything we want. We do rule our world.

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