The Book Group Book

I picked up The Book Group Book: A Thoughtful Guide to Forming and Enjoying a Stimulating Book Discussion Group (2nd ed) by Ellen Slezak in the library book sale; it's from 1995, so pretty much pre-internet. I belong to two very different book groups at the moment (actually, maybe three!) and I belonged to another about ten years ago (we read literary fiction, mostly), so I thought it might be fun to find out how it 'ought' to be done, and to see if my groups were obeying the rules.

Well, it turns out the title is a bit misleading. This is a collection of short essays written by members of various US book groups, discussing their own experience of what works and what doesn't, and the contribution book groups have made to their lives. There are also lists of the books some of these groups have read (some with comments) at the end of the book. The same titles kept cropping up, some I'd never heard of, which are now on my radar.

All my current book groups are based on children's literature and YA, and none of the groups in this book were, though there were feminist/ classic/ non-fiction groups represented. One of my groups is very informal; people just turn up and show-and-tell what they've been reading lately (though we have recently instituted a regular 'classic' title or author for us all to read and share; next month we are all going to read something by Hesba Brinsmead). The other group reads three books on a common theme: a picture book, a junior fiction and a YA title. This always provokes a stimulating discussion -- next month we are doing Unusual Styles, and upcoming themes include Ships and Fire.

My third, sort-of, book group experience is an on-line forum for fans of Antonia Forest, where we are enjoying a communal read-through of all her books in order, a few chapters per week, with a flurry of comment-posting to follow. This has really shown me the benefits of the internet for niche interests like this -- for decades I thought I was the only person who had ever read, let alone loved, Forest's books, but through this site I've discovered a whole community of intelligent, thoughtful and extremely thorough readers who are willing to contribute fan-fic to fill in the gaps and endlessly discuss the minutiae of the books themselves. This has enriched my reading of the books no end, and also alerted me to the re-release of titles I don't yet have! Members of the forum hail from all over the globe - ain't the internet a wondrous thing?

But I think three groups is probably enough!

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