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How do you structure a book group ?

(10 Posts)
Galava Tue 16-Jun-09 14:53:55

I've just got together with friends to start a book reading group, and just after a bit of advice really.

So far there are 8 of us and we are planning to meet every 6 weeks to discuss a new book.

We've chosen the first book and decided that each time the host will choose 3 books and everybody will vote fo their favourite and therefore choosing the next book.

So far so good. But what happens next ?

Is the discussion structured or is it just a free for all ?

How long would you expect to spend discussing the book before chatting and gossip takes over ?

PandaG Tue 16-Jun-09 14:58:10

I set up a group with a bunch of my friends about 5 years ago, and it is still going strong.

OUr rule is, whoever suggested the book leads the discussion. Sometimes we print questions off the 'net, other times not.

We usually have a takeaway, so chat till the food arrives, discuss the book over the meal and for as long afterwards as it takes, then chat again.

Always do a thumbs up/down, as to who liked it, and reasons why.

Tambajam Tue 16-Jun-09 14:59:48

We have been going for 9 year and have been through a few systems.

We have currently settled at this:
Person hosting next time chooses a book. There is no opportunity for debate. They get to pick. (paperback only).
We then have a second book that comes from discussion. People bring possibilities and we read dust jackets and chat and vote.

We like to have 2 books as it gives people choices and it can be interesting to have a contrast in discussion and if everyone hates a book or finds it very dull it gives some variety.

When we arrive we eat and chat. Only after the eating do we discuss books. We go round the circle and give initial impressions and then the discussion becomes more open. At the end we give marks out of ten and work out an average score which sounds cheese but has actually been fascinating. We now have a huge database of books and can compare how they have all gone down. Our book discussion probably takes 10-30 min per book.

PandaG Tue 16-Jun-09 15:01:10

so to answer your q's - a bit of structure is good to encourage discussion, but often one topic sets off another one and the discussion just flows. I try to make sure everyone has a chance to chip in if one person is dominating the discussion, but we know each other pretty well and will speak up.

Length of time discussing the book can vary greatly, anything from 20 minutes (rare) to a couple of hours, but maybe 45 mins usual?

londonartemis Tue 16-Jun-09 15:01:17

In our group the person who chose the book talks about it first (only takes a minute or two) and then everyone joins in like a normal conversation. It's good that you are on your first book as you can lay the ground rules and say, let's see if we can stick to talking about the book for the next forty minutes or so. If the conversation strays, you can say at a suitable juncture - well to get back to the book, did anybody think blah blah blah!
We find it naturally dies out after a while and then the chat takes over, but if you have a few comments about style or subject up your sleeve, you can often bring the conversation back to the book and keep it all going without it being strained. Depends on what book you have selected as to how long you talk about it, but our best discussions are when opinion is divided.
Hope it goes well!

We've been going for 10 years and also been through a few variations, but now have it down to this:

- We meet at a restaurant, not as somebody's house. We've moved a couple of times for various reasons, but we're now in a fab little Italian place which has a separate area which is not too loud, so we can hear each other talk, and they don't mind whether we all eat or not, or how long we stay.

- Anyone can suggest a book, and we prefer if the person suggesting the book has either already read it or is familiar with the author or similar. We had some real bad luck with just picking bestsellers, as they may have been good books but there was just nothing to talk about, so we had about 15mins of discussion and then it all just faded into gossip.

- Person who chose the book starts and leads the discussion. Depending on who it is, this sometimes means they'll have printed off a list of questions or topics or have certain points they want to discuss, or just someone saying "well I liked it because...".

- We choose books at least 3 months in advance (we read 1 book a month) to allow everyone to get the books (we're and English book group in Germany, so availability of books is an issue with us) and for those who read slower to get the big books read in time.

- Having said that, we try not to choose massive books, as people just don't have the time to read them!

- We set dates in advance and unless pretty much nobody can make it, we stick to it.

- We all make an effort to talk about the book until there's a natural point when there is no more to say. This can happen after an hour, or sometimes two! Depends on the book. Another reason it's a nice idea to choose books which someone thinks will make for good discussion, rather than just random titles.

- We sometimes do a couple of months of themes, or come back to a particular author. And we always do a Classic at Christmas, which has been a great way of re-reading some of the stuff we were made to read at school - and we all rather look forward to a bit of Dickens or Austen or whatever at Christmas

Oooh, I've written masses, sorry! But I love our book group!

Oh and would second londonartemis that the best discussions are the ones when people don't agree! I will never forget the time we did Lolita...it almost came to blows, but it was fabulous!

Lucifera Tue 16-Jun-09 15:52:43

I've been in my book group 16 years (one other person has been in it nearly as long)! There are only 5 of us and we take turns to host at home. We always chat first then do book, often chat more later. We've just started a new rule of host having two suggestions for next book, one of which must be accepted, as it was taking us too long to decide and getting a bit lowest common denominator.

duke Tue 16-Jun-09 16:13:14

I love my book group too! We have settled on this format. We all cook one dish based on where the book is set and the person that hosts doesn't have to cook but chooses 3 books which we vote on. Once we have ohhed and arred at our yummy food we talk about the book. We have found it just flows without too much structure. I agree with londonartemis and HFTBETW when you disagree it's far more entertaining!

Galava Wed 17-Jun-09 09:38:55

Thanks guys, you've given me some good ideas.

I'm quite looking forward to this now !

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