I belong to a neighborhood book club of ten or so women who meet once a month over wine and snacks to discuss a book we've all read. We tend to focus on literary and women's fiction, with an occasional nonfiction book thrown in. I decided to join the book club so I would be forced to read books outside of my default genre--mysteries. Being a member has caused me to read many books I never would have selected on my own, and most of them I've enjoyed.
We tend to pick books that address a controversial topic so we have something meaty to discuss. And my group has a diversity of opinions, so the discussions can get interesting, though they're always polite. For example, this month we read Zeitoun by Dave Eggars, our nonfiction book for the year. This book created a lively discussion, as it's about the horrible effects on one family of the inept, illegal, and irresponsible response of Homeland Security to Hurricane Katrina. Many of us couldn't believe that it happened in the USA, and many feared it would happen again. Pretty scary stuff!
Some other interesting books we discussed this year included Still Alice, a fictionalized account of a university professor stricken with early onset Alzheimer's, Mudbound, a story about prejudice and cruelty in the 1940s Mississippi Delta area, and Tallgrass, about the effects of a nearby World War II Japanese-American internment camp on a nearby small Colorado town. It's not all heavy reading, though. We usually try to pick a small, light book for December and one of the summer months. One was The Mighty Queens of Freeville by advice columnist Amy Dickinson.
What really focuses and deepens our discussions of many of the books we read are the discussion questions we obtain from Reading Group Guides or the book authors' websites. That's why I always provide discussion questions for my own books on my website (go here to see those for my upcoming March release, Deadly Currents). I try to make my discussion questions open-ended so they draw the members into talking about the issue as it relates to their own lives, not just the book.
Meeting with book clubs to discuss my own books is my favorite kind of event. I've visited with many book clubs in person in Colorado and via speakerphone for long-distance groups. The in-person visits have the added benefit of a glass of wine or coffee and food, but all of the group visits have been immensely fun. I always come away with a list of suggested books to read to take to my own book club. If you'd like me to visit your book club, contact me at my website.
How many of you Inkspot readers are in book clubs? How often do you meet and how do you select the books you're going to read and discuss together? Got any interesting stories of having an author visit your book club or if you're an author, of visiting a book club?