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Book Group Discussion Tips and Tricks

(or what to do when the book you've selected doesn't have discussion questions)

While there are several sources that provide generic questions for a book for your discussion, the following ideas may help you provide a more tailored and thoughtful discussion when you are assigned to be the leader of your book group.

1. Read the book. This may seem obvious, but it is the most important step, so it is worth stating. You should finish the book well in advance of your meeting so that you have time to think about it and prepare before you book club meets.

2. While you are reading, mark pages with post-it notes if there are passages or quotes that might be worth reading out loud to the group for comments. Take notes on anything that strikes you and you want to remember.

3. Using your notes, come up with eight to ten questions to ask your group. Avoid questions that are too general such as "what did you think of the book?" and avoid questions that have yes or no answers. Keep questions open ended which will yield better answers and discussion.

4. Ask the person who selected the book to remind the group why they thought their title would be good for the book club to read.

5. Read book reviews both professional and on book sites such as The reviews can often help you form questions about topics or themes for your discussion.

6. Research the author and share their biography with the group.

7. Discuss characters of the book and ask members to comment on them. Talk about traits, behaviors, and whether or not members were sympathetic to the characters.

8. Discuss the setting of the book; the location and the time in which events took place. If the work is a period piece, think about how the time was represented. What did your book club members learn from reading the book?

9. What were the major themes of the book?

10. Why do you think the author wrote the book?

11. Are you reading for story, character, setting or language and how does this book satisfy or not satisfy you? Check the four doors of reading here:

12. Would handouts help? For some books, writing a summary, a list of main characters, and a description of the setting might be helpful to distribute to your book club members.

13. Show a film clip of the movie for which your book is based. The Library Commission also has several book club kits that include a DVD of a movie with the same title. It may be a nice change of pace to read the book and watch the movie together to generate a different kind of discussion with your group.

14. Let others answer questions first. When you are asking questions, you want to facilitate discussion, not come off as a teacher. By letting others in the book club answer first, you will promote conversation and help everyone as though their opinion matters.

15. Make connections between comments or expand upon an answer of a book club member. By connecting people's comments to the questions, you'll help build momentum in the conversation.

16. Go around the room and ask every book club member about a topic, a question or comment, or something that interested him or her about the book.

17. Discuss the title of the book and how it fit with the content.

18. Discuss the cover of the book and how it fit with the content.

19. Wrap up the conversation with a question such as - was the ending satisfying to you? if not, how would you change the ending? Would you recommend this book to any of your friends and why?

Here are other resources for assistance in leading a book group discussion:

Guidelines for Leading Book Club Discussions

How to Discuss a Book

How to Lead a Book Club Discussion

Leading a Successful Discussion

What does it Take to Lead a Book Club?

What to Do When No Discussion Guide is Available

For more information, contact Information Services Team.