Book discussion groups

I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural meeting of the Waves Coffee House book club this week.  In conversation with Susan Toy of ABC (Susan is an energetic promoter of Alberta authors and their books), Amanda, the manager at Waves, had mentioned that she would love to start an in-store book discussion group.  Mentioning something new and book-based to Susan is all it takes to get her up and running.  She asked me if I would do my “how to talk about books” presentation for the group, and arranged to have Pearl Luke make a cameo appearance from Thailand via Skype to talk about  On one of the sloppy winter nights that seems to be the new spring in Calgary, we met at Waves and the four women who turned up brought along enough enthusiasm and love of reading to fuel them for the next several months.

I’ve left the Waves group with my thoughts on what we can talk about when we talk about books, and post them here for anyone else who might be interested:

Probably the easiest way to talk about books is to consider the beginning, the middle, and the end. And to go back to the very beginning —

How did you choose this book?  If you read the book because it was someone else’s choice, do you think it’s one you would have picked up on your own?

What expectations did you have of the book before you began to read?  Did the cover appeal to you?  Did the “blurb” on the back, the précis on the inside cover suggest a story that would engage you?  Were you influenced in your expectations by reviews or award nominations or recommendations from other people?

Whose story is this?  Who is telling the story? (The narrator is not always the main character, or even someone directly involved in the story.)  Does the story unfold in the reading, or does it have a retrospective feel – a story being told after some time has passed, some distance between then and now?

What does the character (or characters if there are multiple main characters) want?  Is there enough believable motivation to keep the story moving forward?  How do you feel about the character?  Do you care about what happens to him/her? Is the narrator reliable?  Do you trust his telling of the story?

How does the language and the style affect the telling and your reading of the story?

How satisfying is the story in the telling?  Are there places where it sags?  Is it believable, or does it at least so sufficiently enthral you that you are willing to suspend your disbelief?  Is the ending earned?  Does it feel like a good landing?

What do you feel your own life and experience has brought to your reading of the book?

How did the book make you feel?  Were you glad you read it?