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“She is too fond of books, and it has
turned her brain.” - Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, January 27, 2013

General Book Discussion Tips

From LitLovers:

How to Discuss a Book

Our ideas can help you lead a discussion, find helpful resources, and be a smart participant.

How to lead a discussion

1. Toss one question at a time out to the group. Use our LitLovers Resources below to help you with specific questions.

2. Select a number of questions, write each on an index card, and pass them out. Each member (or team of 2 or 3) takes a card and answers the question.

3. Use a prompt (an object) related to the story. It can help stimulate members' thinking about some apsect of the story. It's adult show & tell.

(Think maps, photograpahs, paintings, food, apparel, a music recording, a film sequence.)

4. Pick out a specific passage from the book—a description, an idea, a line of dialogue—and ask members to comment on it.

(Consider how a passage reflects a character...or the work's central meaning...or members' lives or personal beliefs.)

5. Choose a primary character and ask members to comment on him or her.

(Think character traits, motivations, how he/she affects the story's events and characters, or revealing quotations.)

6. Play a literary game. Use one of our Icebreaker Games. They're smart and fun—guaranteed to loosen you up and get your discussion off to a lively, even uproarious start.

7. Distribute hand-outs to everyone in order to refresh memories or to use as talking points. Identify the primary characters and summarize the plot.

LitLovers Resources
  • Fiction and Nonfiction generic discussion questions to help with almost any book.
  • Reading Guides — discussion questions, reviews and summaries for 1,800 books.
  • Read-Think-Talk — a guided-reading chart to use while your're reading.
  • LitCourse — our 10 free online courses on literature are short and fun...and highly informative. You'll be the smartest person in the room! Guaranteed...or your money back. (Oh, wait. They're free!)

How to participate in a discussion

1. Watch your language! Try to avoid words like "awful" or "idiotic"—even "like" and "dislike." They don't help move discussions forward and can put others on the defensive. Instead, talk about your experience—how you felt as you read the book.

2. Don't be dismissive. If you disagree with someone else, don't refer to her as an ignoramus. Just say, "I'm not sure I see it that way. Here's what I think." Much, much nicer.

3. Support your views. Use specific passages from the book as evidence for your ideas. This is a literary analysis technique called "close reading." (LitCourse 3has a good discussion of close reading.)

4. Read with a pencil. Takes notes or mark passages that strike you—as signficant or funny or insightful. Talk about why you marked the passages you did.

5. Use LitLovers for help. Check out our Litlovers Resources above. They'll help you get more out of what your read and help you talk about books with greater ease.

General Questions for Fiction

Use our general fiction questions to get your book club discussions off to a good start. They're basic but smart.

1. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to
"get into it"? How did you feel reading it—amused,
sad, disturbed, confused, bored...?

2. Describe the main characters—their personality traits, motivations, inner qualities. Why do they do what they do? Are their actions justified? Do you admire or disapprove of them? Do they remind you of people you know?

3. Do the main characters change by the end of
the book? Do they grow, or come to learn something
about themselves and how the world works?

4. Is the plot engaging—does the story interest you? Is this a plot-driven book: a fast-paced page-turner? Or does the story unfold slowly with a focus on character development? Were you surprised by the
plot's complications? Or did you find it predictable, even formulaic?

5. Talk about the book's structure. Is it a continuous story...or interlocking short stories? Does the time-line more forward chronologically...or back and forth between past and present? Does the author use a single viewpoint or shifting viewpoints? Why might the author have choosen to tell the story the way he or she did—and what difference does it make in the way you read or understand it?

6. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? Don't forget to talk about the title, often a clue to a novel's theme.

7. What passages strike you as insightful, even profound? Perhaps a bit of dialog that's funny or poignant...or encapsulates a character? Maybe comments that state the book's thematic concerns?

8. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not...and how would you change it?

9. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? Have you read other books by the same author? If so how does this book compare. If not, does this book inspire you to read others?

10. Has this novel changed you—broadened your perspective? Have you learned something new or been exposed to different ideas about people or a certain part of the world?


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