Nora St. Laurent

Nora St.Laurent runs two book clubs near the Atlanta area and this year became ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Book Club Coordinator. She currently writes a Book Club Column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. You can read her reviews and author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog located at Nora also runs The Book Club Network on Facebook 

Book Club Preparation

What’s the big deal about preparing for book club? Read a book, show up, and talk about the book. It’s easy, right? Yes, but if you read the book too early, strange things can happen. Here’s a peek inside a meeting I had my first year.

“Hey, ladies, how many of you loved The Resurrection File by Craig Parshall as much as I did? Didn’t you love the premise? A small-town preacher and his attractive daughter ask Will Chambers, a religiously undecided lawyer, to defend not just their ministry but the very foundation of Christianity. What a challenge for Will. He couldn’t refuse.

“Doesn’t this sound like today’s headlines? Did you get the e-mail I sent with the attachment about the bones that were discovered last week? I can’t believe how timely this book is. The news article said they think Jesus’ relative’s bones were found.

“A recent documentary’s case rests on inscriptions of names found on the box. These names—Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Joseph and Judah—were common names in the days of Jesus.”

Lauren catches the enthusiasm. “Nora, it’s almost like reading a fiction story that comes to life. What are your thoughts? There’s almost as much controversy about this as The Da Vinci Code book and movie!”

“Yes, that’s for sure. How many of you saw the movie The Da Vinci Code? Well, I have to tell you the truth; the code is safe with me. I saw the movie and haven’t a clue what everyone was all worried about. I can’t believe all the hype regarding the book and movie. Ladies, I haven’t the slightest idea what the Da Vinci code is!” My ladies start laughing at me and I join in.

“Okay, my first question is what parts of this book made you feel uncomfortable? Anyone want to tackle that? How about you, Sandy?”

“Well, I really was uncomfortable when the man got his head blown up! It was unexpected. Shocking!” Sandy says in all seriousness.

“Sandy, a man’s head got blown up? I don’t remember that happening. Any of you recall that?”

We all shake our heads, agreeing nothing like that happened in the book we read. We had read a suspenseful, thought-provoking book, not a violent one. Sandy frantically flips through pages to find the event. I hear her say, “I’m sure it was this book. I read a few books ahead, but I’m sure it was in this book.”

We all agree that Sandy must have read this in another book. We move on to the next question, leaving Sandy to her search. Then suddenly she yells, “I’ve found it. It’s on page three hundred eighty-seven.”

Sandy reads to us about how Dr. Reichstad gets hit in the head with a missile. We look at one another and burst out laughing. We can’t believe our ears. “A missile to the head of the bad guy in the book—why didn’t any of us catch that?” We couldn’t believe we all had blotted this scene from our minds! We’d all come to the conclusion that this guy was a very evil character and he deserved what he got. Sick, I know, but we all felt this man got what he had coming to him.

We then congratulate Sandy. “Thanks, Sandy, for standing your ground and finding the missing piece!”

So, why did all of us but Sandy forget that event? Some of us read the book months before the meeting. I thought I would have time to reread the book before we actually read it for our book club selection, but that didn’t happen.

A few tips to help you have a better and more accurate book club discussion:

1. TAKE NOTES: I still read the books in advance. I often don’t have time to reread a book before a monthly meeting, so it’s important to take good notes when I first read a book. I highlight things that touch my heart and I want to share with the group. I write in the margin or on sticky notes fun and powerful things I find, such as Scripture verses brought to life or important events—like that guy getting his head blown up! This helps me remember what I want to share with members. I also use sticky notes and arrows to mark the pages with important facts. This may not work in your situation; so find what works best for you.

2. USE PROPS: For example, we read The Last Disciple by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer one month. I copied pictures of the arena where they killed Christians. It brought the book to life for my members, helping us to imagine the massiveness of the Colosseum and the horror of the events that occurred there.

My ladies have learned to read the current book selection about a week or so before the meeting. This way it’s still fresh in their minds. We’ve worked together to create a lively book club atmosphere and fun discussion time. You will learn what works best for you and your group. Remember. Have fun with it.

Until Next Time.

Nora St.Laurent, ACFW Book Club Coordinator