Welcome to our Book Groups page where you’ll find hints and tips about running a book group and some suggested books with appropriate questions.
See our list of book suggestions on the left!
We’d love to hear how you get on, your views about the suggested books and any wisdom you can share about running a group; do email us at email@example.com
What is a book group?
Variously known as Book Clubs, Book Groups or Reading Groups, these are regular gatherings of adults who meet to talk about a specific book which they have all agreed to read before the meeting. There are also on-line book groups (see Resources below) which share some of the qualities of the face-to-face variety but which are beyond the scope of this article.
Why run a book group?
People run and use book groups for a wide variety of reasons including:
- They value the social ‘get together’ aspect
- They value hearing what others think about the books
- Being a member encourages them to read a more diverse range of books
- The views of others help them to understand more
- They get a richer, shared experience than if they read alone
- They have things to say about the book; the group provides an opportunity for this
The books on these pages are all concerned with faith, religion, spirituality and the Christian life, so adding these aspects into the mix brings in the possibility of exploring the books in relation to personal faith, struggles, doubts, hope and joy.
A church based group can be an excellent way of introducing people to the church and to thinking about matters of faith and spirituality. Avoid thinking of the group as evangelism, however, as the key to a successful group is genuine openness to everyone’s ideas. Any sense that the group is really a cover for slipping in some religion will be resented.
How do I run a group?
You may not have to! Book groups are springing up everywhere so do a little research first to see if anyone else is running a group that you could tap into. You could look in your local library, doctor’s surgery and, of course, in churches and church magazines.
Size of group
How big do you want the group to be? This will partly be affected by where you plan to meet. If it’s in your living room, what’s the optimum number for comfort? Another factor is the group dynamic. Many groups find that about eight people is a comfortable maximum but you can easily run a group with three or four participants.
Where to meet?
A home makes an inviting and friendly environment and is often the simplest and best option. Remember that some people will be quite nervous about sharing their thoughts in front of others so an informal setting is often more conducive to getting the conversation going. Church halls and rooms also have their place but they can be seen as ‘officially sanctioned’ spaces where some people might not feel so free about expressing their true thoughts.
You might occasionally go to a specific place for the meeting, somewhere relevant to the book, a church that’s mentioned in the text for example or an art gallery if relevant.
When to meet?
Most groups take place in the evening because of work commitments but there’s no reason not to meet in the day if enough people can make it. The length of each meeting is entirely flexible but an hour to an hour and a half is a good discussion time and you can always continue over a coffee or tea – allowing those who’ve had enough to bow out if they choose.
Be sensitive if the meetings are in someone’s home where an agreed end time could be important.
You need someone to get the ball rolling and act as organiser and facilitator of the meetings. These roles can be shared but whoever undertakes them, they’ll need to think about the following issues.
You need a way of formally starting so that members feel comfortable that ‘chit chat’ has come to an end and its time to discuss the book. You can serve drinks as people arrive and then after ten minutes, get your copy out for all to see and say that its time to turn our attention to tonight’s book. You could also give a run down of what’s going to happen such as, ‘We’ll talk until about 9.30 then think about next month’s book over another drink’. It helps people if they know the structure of the event.
Choosing the books
We offer suggestions complete with discussion questions (see the menu at the top left of the page), and we intend to add more. To get the group started, the organiser will need to choose the first book and possibly the second but at the end of the first meeting, when introducing next month’s book, you can ask for suggestions for the book to follow that.
Try to go for contrasting books so that if you do something provocative one month, you go for a more reflective book the following month for example. It’s important to take account of the differing interests of group members in the selection of books in order to keep the discussion fresh and lively.
Up your sleeve!
In addition to the questions we suggest for each book, it’s a good idea to have some general questions ready which can be applied to any book such as:
- How engaging did you find it – did it interest you from the word go?
- How does the author’s view relate to your faith position?
- Did you find that the book challenged your beliefs?
- Did any part make you angry or irritate you?
- Would you read more by this author?
- If you were to describe this book to a friend, what would you say?
It’s also a good idea to have a passage ready to read out and discuss in case conversation falters.
The following links are to book and reading group resources online:
A Guide to Book Clubs and Reading Groups from www.book-clubs-resource.com
Starting & Running a Book Group from www.mvls.info
Advice on running a reading group from shropshire.gov.uk
Finding Someplace to Go: Reading and the Internet from Ariadne Web Magazine (www.ariadne.ac.uk). Includes information about online goups.
Books about book groups:
The Reading Groups Book by Margaret Forster and Jenny Hartley
Reading Groups by Jenny Hartley and Sarah Turvey
Bloomsbury Essential Guide for Reading Groups by Susan Osborne