Book Club Field Trips
Once a book club is well-established and members have gotten to know each other, organising a field trip can be a wonderful way of enhancing relationships within the book club and adding another dimension to the discussions.
Here are some tips and suggestions for field trips with your book club:
- The simplest field trip is probably just to have your regular meeting at an unusual place. In the warmer summer months for example, having the meetings outdoors in the garden or park can add a whole new dimension. Alternatively, have more informal meetings at the beach, lake, botanic gardens or even on a boat or a train!
- Books are always being transformed into films so a good field trip would be a visit to the cinema to watch an adaptation of a recently-discussed book. This will often provide great fodder for further discussion as members can debate on the accuracy and quality of the adaptation, the suitability of the actors, how well the story translated to the big screen, whether the screenplay did justice to the original, etc. If the book in question does not have a current movie release, you can have a movie-themed meeting instead and rent the relevant film on video or DVD for members to watch and comment on.
- A variation on this would be a visit to the theatre to watch a play or musical adaptation of a book. Again, this could stimulate much additional discussion, particularly if the story was adapted in an unexpected way, for example, being turned into a musical.
- Visit an area, town or natural location that is featured in a recently-read book or an upcoming book to be discussed. This works particularly well when reading along a “theme” – for example, if you have decided to systematically read the works of Jane Austen, then a visit to Bath could be add greatly to each member’s reading pleasure as they can envisage the setting, atmosphere and even costumes of the stories as well as learn about the background of the famous author.
- For a more general field trip, how about a visit to cities or towns renowned for their great bookshops, libraries or even literary sites. You can even do this in your own town or city by planning a “bookshop crawl” – research the local bookshops, especially any with a focus on interesting specialities (e.g. women’s bookshop, children’s bookshop, 2nd hand books, antique books) and then make a game plan for hitting them all.
- Visit a town or city with famous author’s homes or with renowned settings in famous novels. Some places – such as Oxford – may be featured again and again in several stories so if planning a visit to such a place, it may be worthwhile planning a selection of books all related to that location which can be read before or after the visit.
- Museums are always good destinations for field trips and you can choose the right type to fit your current reading programme. Whether it is touring the British Museum whilst working your way through historical novels or exploring the Science Museum as you cover the great authors of science-fiction – or even visiting the Jewish Museum as you read novels about the Holocaust – such trips can really enhance both the reading experience and the group discussions.
Time management is very important – always plan more time than you think you need, particularly with a large group of people, and plan for the unexpected – for example, what happens if you miss the last bus? Who is in charge of checking for any stray members? What should the group do if bad weather makes the excursion impossible?
It is best to discuss and agree on all points – such as time of meeting, length of visit, time of return, means of transport, venue for any food and refreshments – BEFORE starting the trip as one of the biggest and most common problems when dealing with a group of people is the time wasted while everyone debates what to do next. It is best to elect a leader of a group, even if temporary, just to keep things on track and take charge of group decisions, as well as speak for the group if necessary. If bookings are needed then be strict with members and make sure they confirm ahead of time whether they will be attending and that they will honour this commitment unless in extenuating circumstances.
The key to having an enjoyable book club field trip is planning well, having all members in agreement about important aspects of the trip and then being flexible once in the field as your carefully planned activities may not be suitable once members are in location and enjoying themselves. Remember also to extend the experience and use the trip to enhance your future discussions once you are back to your regular meetings. A visit to one place may give members ideas for other, future books for the club to read.