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The Ongoing Popularity Of Book Clubs Part 2

Updated on February 25, 2010

What about group dynamics? Often, private book clubs are created from friendships or a common meeting ground (say, everybody works for the same company). Those relationships ultimately spawn new members. Yet discussing a controversial book with a group of strangers can be uncomfortable. Establish a healthy atmosphere early on and consider what atmosphere you desire, academic or social. Be open and forthright with the rules and policies. They are for the good of everyone.

One perk to being a book group leader, either paid or volunteer, is that you get to choose the books and guide the discussion. A little detective work is also part of the job; many leaders research newspaper articles and gather critical reviews to enhance the meeting.

If you can't make it to a meeting, consider an online book club. Besides the obvious chat-in-your-bathrobe capability, most of these cyber circles allow participants a month to formulate ideas, which they can post any time of the day or night.

The Internet also has become the warehouse that keeps the reading groups stocked with books. In fact, most publishers are making book club selections, filled with liner notes and discussion questions, available at a reduced rate to clubs that register.

So here's your chance to hop on board the book-club train, if you're not already in a passenger seat. And whether you meet through a Web site or around the kitchen table, you'll find out what we old-timers already know: Book clubs rekindle reading and provide a place for thoughtful discussion, critical thinking and good old friendship.

How to Keep a Book Club Humming:

You've been clubbing it for the last five years, and the enthusiasm is waning. Twelve members used to arrive promptly; these days, you're lucky if five straggle in. Two probably haven't even finished the book.

Don't worry! Book clubs, like all hobbies, can suffer from the drabs. To spruce them up:

1. Pick books beyond the "norm." Oprah Winfrey admits: Women like to read about women. But why not read about soldiers in World War II? Or, way-out science fiction? Or, biographies of CEOs? Or, switch to poetry, short stories or screenplays. A change of literary genre is a good thing!

2. Meet at a restaurant or other location. Perhaps your club revolves around your apartment house's dingy all-purpose room. Well, it's time to get out, about and excited! Funky eateries, bookstores, even parks on a warm summer's evening can be a wonderful place to talk about books.

3. Theme the club. Say you're reading Isabel Allende. Ask members to bring food with a Latin American flair, and provide atmosphere by playing Latin tunes on the CD player. Viva los libros!

4. Invite guest speakers. Does anybody know a professor of medieval English who could weigh in on Ivanhoe? Or, to hear a new perspective, open the club up to spouses, children or special friends for one meeting.

5. Watch a movie or video of a book your group has read. Lots to compare, for sure!

Why not take the plunge and either join or start a book club in your area? You won't regret it as it will most likely turn out to be a lot of fun!

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