Every book group in which I’ve ever been involved has gone through cycles. In the boom times, every discussion is fascinating, every book choice clicks, and the readers turn out in droves and get along swimmingly. But then perhaps a couple of books in a row will prove to be unhappy choices, a couple of your more difficult members will find new and creative ways to annoy the others, attendance will flag, and book group will become a tough slog where it feels like everyone is just going through the motions of a very tired dance.
Late summer is a likely time for these doldrums to settle over your book group, and in that spirit, I’m going to begin a long series of posts with suggested methods for bringing the buzz back to your book group. We’ve written about almost all of these methods before on Book Group Buzz, but in this series, I’m going to put them all into one place. I’ll post them three or four at a time until I run out of ideas, which should be several weeks from now.
1. SWITCH YOUR CORE FORMAT OCCASIONALLY
Although there are thousands of variations, there are two basic ways to run a book group: everyone reads a shared book and discusses it, or the group selects an author or theme for the month and members select something that fits the monthly theme and introduce it. One method gets a conversation of more depth, while the other creates more variety and spurs new ideas. If you’ve always used one approach, the simplest way to revitalize is to switch to the other for a couple of months.
2. FIND A FILM ADAPTATION
OK, finding a film with literary origins isn’t the easiest thing to do at the end of summer, but a group trip to the local multiplex, or the best video room your membership can muster is a welcome diversion. Watch for films adapted from books that your group discussed in the past, or read the book for the meeting prior to basking in front of the big screen. Afterwards, discuss what worked better in each format, and what was left out or changed for the film and why. Adapatations of two good nonfiction books, Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and Mark Obmascik’s The Big Year will arrive in September and October, while November offers a new adaptation of John le Carre’s classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. December brings Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin and the American version of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (for extra points, check out the European film as well.) No matter how you watch the film, popcorn is mandatory.
3. PARTICIPATE IN A BIG READ
Make your group part of something larger for a month or two by getting involved in a big read or one community/one book event. Check with a local library to see if any such events are forthcoming or check the lists of events kept by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book or the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to discussing the book in question, most big reads include other accompanying programs such as author talks and lectures on related material.