How to Lead a Book Club Discussion – 7 Great Discussion Tips
Oh, dread. It’s that time of year again: your turn to lead the book club discussion-not exactly something you relish. In fact, you’re beginning to lose sleep…you’re pacing the floors and pulling out your hair. Okay, not that bad, but still…you wish you could just pass on this one.
Relax. Leading a book discussion doesn’t have to feel like a root canal. There are lots of book club ideas and resources that can make the whole process less painful-in fact, you can actually come to enjoy taking the lead. Really. Spend a few minutes looking at some of these suggestions. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to master the process.
Display a prompt. A prompt is any object related to the book that can remind club members about some aspect of the story. Perhaps a map or photos. If it’s from another country, you might wear a costume or serve a national dish. Consider music or a DVD. Think of any particular item mentioned in the book-the idea is to put people in the mood and help stimulate conversation.
Do an icebreaker. Play a book club game to break the ice and get a discussion moving. Try “Grab Bag,” similar to the prompt above. But this time, instead of just one, collect a number of items connected to the story and put them into a shopping bag or a box. Give each member a turn to pull out an object and explain how it relates to the book. Be as creative or funny as you want. If you want to try other book club icebreakers, there are plenty more on the web.
Distribute handouts. It never hurts to pass around a brief write-up that includes a summary, a list of main characters, and a description of the setting ( or context). You might also highlight interesting plot twists, quotations, and suggested themes. Handouts can serve as a handy reference point. They can help refresh memories and keep everyone on the same page.
Use reading guides. You can find these on the web. A number of book club sites feature discussion questions for specific books. The sites may combine the questions with book reviews and author bios to create in-depth reading guides. You can print the guides off for the meeting-they’re a big help in leading discussions.
If you can’t find discussion questions for your specific book title, search for generic book club questions. They’re available on a number of sites.
Pass out index cards. Come equipped with cards and pencils, and let your fellow club members help you out. Distribute the index cards around the room and ask each person to write down a question or a comment about the book. Collect the cards, and then choose one, two, or more to read aloud. In other words, use what’s on the cards to prompt your discussion.
Go to the book. Search though the book to find a particular passage or a character that intrigues you. If it’s a passage, look for one that summarizes a central issue of the book, or that offers a key insight into one of the characters. Ask members to comment on it-either how it relates to the book…or how it reflects their own values or lives.
If choosing a character, ask members to describe the character’s underlying conflict and the motivations underlying her actions. Talk about traits and whether or not members find the character admirable or sympathetic?
Show a film clip. If your book has a film version, show selected episodes and ask how they compare to the same episodes in the book. Are the characters portrayed accurately? Does the film meet expectations?
Some people have a real facility for leading a book discussion. They’re the lucky ones-they’re completely comfortable with the process and very skilled at it. But the rest of us? It’s not easy and, quite frankly, generates a fair amount of anxiety. But by using any of these discussion tips, you can reach a point where-when that time of year rolls around again-you’ll have the confidence and the tools to get you through.