Are you the lucky person who gets to pick the next book for your group to discuss? Feeling a little pressured? Here are some tips and suggestions that can help make the decision a little easier.
Start by considering the needs of the individuals in your group. Does anyone need large print or an audio version? No matter how great the book, if someone can’t participate because it’s not available in the format they need, don’t pick that book.
Next, consider the group’s interests as well as what they’ve recently read. As one patron mentioned recently, “I am so tired of depressing books!” Her group had read four books in a row that left her feeling down. Most groups need variety to maintain interest among members.
Another consideration is whether group members are willing to buy the book, or do they prefer to get copies from the library. If they want to get their copies from the library, it’s important to choose titles that are at least a year old and not in high demand. What does “in high demand” mean? Titles are typically in high demand when they are less than a year old and/or on the New York Times bestseller list. Older titles can become in high demand when a movie or TV series based on the book is released (for example, “American Prometheus”, which is the book “Oppenheimer” is based on). If the book you want is in high demand, you could choose a different book by the same author.
One more thing to consider is how your group likes to discuss the book. Will you (or someone else) be leading the discussion? Is the group comfortable with a rambling conversation that can go in any direction, or do they prefer having a framework? If the group needs a framework, you may want to limit your selections to books that have discussion guides/questions. Sometimes these are included in the book itself, other times you can find them on the internet. Try the publisher’s or author’s websites first. Sometimes there aren’t any “official” questions, but you might find questions created by another group that have been posted for anyone to use. You can also try LitLovers: https://www.litlovers.com/. LitLovers has discussion questions for specific titles as well as generic questions that are good for most books. They also have guides for starting and running book groups.
Now that you have some guidelines for choosing a book, all you need is to pick one! Still feeling overwhelmed? Take a look at past selections from the library’s book groups here: https://germantownlibrarywi.org/book-groups/. Every book read by all of the groups is listed here. And below are my 15 fiction and nonfiction favorites, chosen from those lists.
|The Art of Racing in the Rain / Garth Stein||Racing, Dogs, Illness, Family|
|The Bees / Laline Paull||Bees, Communities, Change|
|The Bonesetter’s Daughter / Amy Tan||Family, Aging, China, Customs|
|Finding Nouf / Zoe Ferraris||Mystery, Saudi Arabia, Customs|
|The Half-Drowned King / Linnea Hartsuyker||Historical Fiction, Vikings, Roles|
|The Immortalists / Chloe Benjamin||Family, Destiny|
|The Last Town on Earth / Thomas Mullen||Historical Fiction, epidemics|
|Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand / Helen Simonson||Aging, Love, Family, Social Roles|
|My Antonia / Willa Cather||Classic, Coming of Age, Immigrants|
|The Nest / Cynthia D-Aprix Sweeney||Family, Relationships|
|Never Let Me Go / Kazuo Ishiguro||Coming of Age, Dystopian|
|The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency / Alexander McCall Smith||Mystery, Botswana, Social Roles|
|The Ocean at the End of the World / Neil Gaiman||Fantasy/Terror, Coming of Age|
|The Pumpkin Rollers / Elmer Kelton||Western, Coming of Age|
|The Silent Land / Graham Joyce||Marriage, Death|
|Ants Among Elephants / Gidla Sujatha||History (India), Family, Politics|
|The Boys in the Boat / Daniel Brown||Rowing, History, Friendship|
|Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight / Alexandra Fuller||South Africa, Family, Resilience|
|Dust Bowl Girls / Lydia Reeder||Basketball, History, Friendship|
|Educated: A Memoir / Tara Westover||Coming of Age, Resilience|
|Empty Mansions / Bill Dedman||Biography, History, Wealth|
|In the Heart of the Sea / Nathaniel Philbrick||History, Whaling, Resilience|
|Limping Through Life / Jerry Apps||Illness, Wisconsin, Resilience|
|My Life in France / Julia Child||Food, France|
|Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / Caitlin Doughty||Death and Dying, Humor|
|The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating / Elisabeth Tova Bailey||Illness, Snails, Nature, Resilience|
|They Left Us Everything / Plum Johnson||Family, Aging|
|Three Weeks With My Brother / Nicholas Sparks||Family, Grief, Resilience|
|A Time of Gifts / Patrick Leigh Fermor||History, Travel|
|Wave / Sunila Deraniyagala||Disasters, Family, Resilience|