Do you want to get more out of your book club discussions? I sat through many book club discussions where we just went around the room and said whether we liked the book and why. I enjoyed those book club meetings. I met several wonderful people who love reading, I read great, and not so great, books, I even met an author. I just wanted more.
It took a while before I found a book club with more substance. Discussing likes and dislikes is fine, but there is so much more to discover within the pages of a book!
As a literature instructor, I often told my students that literature is like any other art form. You interpret it based on your life experiences, beliefs, and mood. What you see my not be what another sees, but both are correct.
If your instructors said there was only one right answer to literary questions, forget what they told you. There are no right answers to discussing books.
The good news is you don’t need to know about literary devices to have a good discussion. All you need is a book (it doesn’t even have to be good. Some of the best discussions come from bad books), a few friends, and a willingness to explore.
Here are a few simple tips to help you guide your next book club meeting.
- Look for an object that reoccurs in the story. What is its significance? For example, if a flower repeatedly appears in the narrative, could the author be trying to direct your attention somewhere?
- What are the character’s names? Do they hold any special meaning based on their actions or ideals?
- Does the weather reflect the action or the moods of the characters?
- What does the family look like? How do family members affect the story? How does the lack of family affect the story?
- What is the point of view? Is it written from one character’s perspective or various people? Is it written in the first person or an unseen narrator? How does the point of view affect the story?
- How does the writing style affect the story? Is it written linear or are there jumps in time? Is it written as a personal journal or in letter format?
- Make comparisons to other works of literature, TV shows, film, or even real life. Don’t limit yourself to obvious comparisons.
- Many books now include a book discussion guide at the end. Sometimes they have really good questions.
- Have fun! Just because you want a more serious discussion doesn’t mean it all has to be on subject. Sometimes the tangents you may venture down lead back to the book in unexpected ways.
A good discussion does not come from people agreeing about the book or what a particular scene means. Differing opinions make the conversation better. We learn to view things from different perspectives when we disagree. Just make sure to disagree respectfully. (This rule should be applied to any discussion.)
Many of you may argue that a flower is just a flower. Everything does not have to mean something. It is true. It is also true that what you and your friends discuss may be nowhere close to what the author meant. As I mentioned at the beginning, it is not important if you get everything right. What is important is the conversation. Keep an open mind and have fun!
What book are you discussing at your next book club meeting? Share it with us in the comments.