Reading Group Guides
One of the most sure-fire ways to ensure a successful book club discussion is to enlist the help of reading group guides. These are readily available from many publishers and are now also easily accessible on the internet. They not only help with book club discussions but can also enhance an individual’s reading experience by offering thought-provoking issues to ponder.
What is a Reading Group Guide?Also called reading guides or book discussion guides these are usually short documents or booklets which have been designed with book clubs in mind. Thus, they provide specific discussion topics and questions relating to a particular book or literary work. Many guides not only give questions and topics but also provide excerpts from the book, reviews and sometimes, even author interviews and other background. This extra information provides an even richer base from which to view the book and its themes.
Using Reading Group GuidesReading group guides can be an invaluable tool for directing a reading group’s discussions and keeping things on track. The discussion topics and questions will often provoke responses from members, whether they agree or disagree, and can be used as a starting point, even if the rest of the discussion deviates from the remaining content of the guide.
Many book clubs find that maintaining stimulating and enthusiastic discussion can be one of the hardest things to achieve and so reading group guides can really help to keep the spark of interest in conversation, to inject a bit of fresh perspective into proceedings. They can also be used by members before the meeting to prepare for the discussion and help them think more deeply about the book they have just read. In fact, many people use them even for private reading, finding that the guides help them to experience and understand the book better.
Finally, many book clubs use reading group guides as a way of selecting future books for reading. Their summaries of information are very useful in helping to decide which books are suitable for your book club and your individual members. Note, however, that almost all guides contain plot details and spoilers therefore reading them can spoil your enjoyment of the book. In this case, perhaps just refer to the reviews and excerpts to help you choose titles.
Reading Group Guides OnlineMany publishers now provide reading guides to their books on their websites, free and in “printer-friendly” versions. In addition, other websites provide a huge range of guides that are available with membership and have the advantage of adding several new guides each month, as well as other bonuses like author interviews.
- Reading Group Guides - a great starting point if you’re looking for the guide to a particular book: this site allows you to browse by genre as well as author and title.
- BookBrowse.com – a great general resource for book clubs, including an extensive reading guides section.
- Publishers’ Book Guides – not to miss out on the avid readers in the many book clubs across the country, publishers have long been offering reading guides to accompany their books, thus making the more attractive and accessible to readers. Note that guides often refer to a particular edition (e.g. British Vs. American) so check which edition you will be discussing.
- Harper Collins – a website dedicated to book clubs, with a list of reading guides which include not only the latest best-sellers but also popular classics. New guides are added each month.
- Transworld - their website has a section which features books that they regard as being particularly suitable for reading groups, including a mix of new and classics, and all considered most worthy of discussion. Guides only accompany paperback versions of the books and are only produced when the book is released in paperback.
- Random House – special section of the website dedicated to book clubs, including new guides each month, competitions and more.
- Virago – all guides contain extracts from the book, discussion questions and background material about the author.