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 http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com/ Nora also runs The Book Club Network on Facebook
Who Picks the Books?
Does it really matter how or who picks the books to be read by your book club? In my experience it does. The right book can bring your group together in unexpected ways; the wrong book can have them sending you hate e-mails, not showing up for the monthly meeting or ever again.
What are some ways to choose
1. Rotate who picks the book
2. Leader always picks the books
3. Members vote on the books each month
4. Take suggestions from the group—with the leader making the final choice
First, deciding the genre your book club will read can help in the book selection process. The focus of some clubs is Christian fiction, some focus on romance books. Yet other clubs choose only mysteries, or action-adventure stories.
Some leaders let members pick the books and are on a rotation schedule so everyone has an opportunity to pick the monthly book selection.
When I first started a book club, I picked all the books and knew I wanted to read only Christian fiction. My objective was (and still is) to have my group read as many different authors as possible a year. I wanted to expand our horizons, get everyone out of their ruts and thought it would be a great journey to discover new authors and their books—I still do. I stayed away from authors my group had read often for the first year. I wanted us to discover treasures together and for there to be a fresh experience for everyone each month. Now, I’ve pre-read so many wonderful books I put them on a list for the members to vote on.
One fun aspect that I didn’t expect to find in the book club experience was community. Reading a book as a group and talking about it afterward is like all of us going to watch a movie in the theater as apposed to each of us sitting at home watching it on TV. There is a different enthusiasm in watching the movie at the theater where you can see and hear people’s reactions. We experience the same excitement when we discuss the current reading selection at book club.
In my search of new authors and genres for book club, I entered a whole new universe I didn’t know existed—books that were fun, moving, and life changing. An exciting world was opening up to me—I discovered the love of reading for the first time.
Book club was giving me and others in my group a positive experience with books. I didn’t view them as things to avoid or struggle through (because of being dyslexic), but I actually
caught the reading bug. Being the book club leader forced me to read more; therefore, reading got easier. I started to like the adventure, and members of my group felt the same way.
I decided my group would not read sequels. My job would be to introduce the women to an author and a series. They are more than welcome to enjoy the rest of the series on their own. This way we’d have more time to discover new authors. Some books are good but don’t lead to much in-depth discussion, and other books I knew the group wouldn’t enjoy because they didn’t like the subject matter or the violence. Over time you get to know your group’s likes and dislikes.
I work at a Christian bookstore and see books fly off the shelf. Sometimes people come in raving about a book they’ve read. I pay attention and check it out, especially if it’s a fiction book. I participate in online book give-a-ways in hopes of winning the newest fiction release. This is a good way to find new authors for my group. I also have made new discoveries in the public library.
Some book clubs I know just read what is on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Other clubs choose only books that have been made into movies, and some choose just the classics. Some leaders don’t pre-read their books because they want to experience the book with their members. The sky is the limit. Don’t let the book selection process get you down. Make it fun. Talk to the members in your group about how they want to pick books.
Take book suggestions from your club members. You can go to review sites such as www.Novelreviews.blogspot.com, Amazon, or Christian Book Distributors. Check out the authors and articles in this magazine. You can even check out my blog, Finding Hope Through Fiction (www.psalm516.blogspot.com). I feature author interviews, fiction and nonfiction book reviews, and first chapters of many books. Now that so many of us have access to the Web, we have many places to get the scoop on the books your group can read.
Everyone needs to agree on the book selection process to make your book club flow and create a little bit of excitement for everyone.
Keep it simple and have fun no matter who picks the books.
Until Next Time.
Nora St.Laurent, ACFW Book Club Coordinator