What We Talk about When We Talk About Book Groups

On Tuesday I had the distinct pleasure to spend a day in the company of some of NEFLIN‘s (North East Florida Library Information Network) most convivial and dedicated librarians. We had gathered for a workshop called Common Grounds: Book Groups for New and Experienced Readers & Leaders. Whenever I lead a workshop on this topic, I walk away with more good ideas for my own book groups than I think I present. I also get at least five books to use for discussions. I will post more about one of those on Friday.

But for now, I just had to share one of the best ideas to come out of the workshop from one of the attendees, Jackie. She was wondering why more readers weren’t on a first name basis with her favorite author, Joanne Harris. Jackie wanted to do one of Joanne’s books with her book club, but felt that the best choice for the group, Chocolat, wasn’t really the best of the author’s works (Jackie’s favorite is Five Quarters of the Orange). Chocolate

The workshop participants eagerly tackled this quandary. One person suggested that Jackie assign the author to the entire book group and give all members a handout of Harris’ works with annotations. Readers would select from the list the title they found most appealing and then all would attend the book group meeting to promote their chosen novel. Jackie could concentrate on doing some biographical research on Harris, gathering some photos, possibly emailing the author for some comments for the group and collecting reviews of all the novels for the group to share.

Then another workshop participant jumped in with, “Since most of Harris’ novels take place in France, you should bring in a map and put thumbtacks for each novel’s location!” “And photos of the places!” chimed in another participant, “Especially of post-WWII France.” Linda proposed bringing in a film clip of Chocolat to whet reader appetites for that particular novel and Todd took the idea further by suggesting bringing in some books or articles on the lives of the ‘canal gypsies’.

Another participant thought that some French food might make a tasty contribution and it was a gimme that chocolate and oranges would be on the menu as well. Someone mused aloud that chocolate should always be offered at book group. Other contributions to turn this book group meeting into a Book Lovers event included playing French folk music; handouts with all the titles, short descriptions and possible discussion topics for each book and a couple of nonfiction titles on the French countryside, French history and French culture.

The brainstorming session ended with Jackie furiously scribbling every idea into her notes and then grinning when one of the other librarians said, “If you turn that into a program, I want you to come to my library to do it!”

I’m on it, NEFLINers.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands.

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