James Naughtie and a group of readers talk to leading authors about their best known novels.
Running a book club
by Dymphna Flynn
It can be hard to make contact with book groups, as they are normally set up by word of mouth.
Try to find a group of like minded individuals, asking around family, friends, friends of friends and colleagues, to see if anyone knows of a group who'd welcome a new member, or if anyone would like to join a new one.
Or ask your local library if they have spaces in their reading groups, also try your local book shop.
Here’s ten steps to setting up your own book group.
1. The ideal number is about eight – too few and it can be hard to get a discussion started. Also, if a couple of members don’t show, you can still go ahead. Too many and shyer people may not get heard.
2. Monthly meetings work well because it gives everyone a chance to get hold of the book, or find it in the library, and to read it, no matter how slow a reader.
3. Try to find a quiet place to meet. Pubs without loud background noise, cafés and members’ homes work well.
4. Letting each member of the group pick a book in turn means you should have the opportunity to read a wide range of authors and hopefully be introduced to some new ones.
5. Make up of group: a mixture of age, experience, single, married, male to female will all add to the variety of the discussion.
6. Choosing a book : go for titles in paperback (cheaper). Look for reviews in newspapers and magazines, try us - Radio 4’s Bookclub (naturally); our sister programme Open Book, dare we mention the book group programme on Channel Four …Try past or present prize-winning novels (Man Booker, Costa etc)…and old favourites that you would like to re-read and share.
7. A reading group can be as relaxed or informal as you want it to be. For more formal groups a prepared list of questions about the book will keep the discussion moving forward. Check publishers’ websites as they often include readers’ guides to books. More informal groups may prefer to let the person who chose the book give their opinion first and take it from there.
8. Taking down short notes on a postcard while reading the book helps enormously when it comes to later discussion. Or sticking post-it notes next to sections of the book that interest you as you read. Points to discuss could include: your emotional response to the book, characterisation, themes, most memorable parts (descriptions/dialogue), strengths and weaknesses
9. Be aware of how you will manage cancellations/ change the book if it’s unavailable etc.
10. Socialising together outside the book group can be rewarding too – seeing the film version of a book you’ve discussed or going to an author event.
or try the following guides:
Reading Groups by Jenny Hartley (OUP)
The Essential Guide to Reading Groups
by Susan Osborne (A & C Black)
The Good Reading Guide : What to Read and What to Read Next edited by Nick Rennison (A & C Black)