Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why Lit Groups Rule

by Elodia Strain
(photo by austinevan)

About a month ago I got to do something that was a first for me as a writer. I partnered with the editor of my upcoming novel and wrote some book club discussion questions to go in the back of the book.

The project got me thinking a lot about book clubs (or lit groups or whatever you want to call them)—especially the ones I’ve been a part of in my life—and how cool they really are. Here’s what I like most about lit groups:

Reading books I might not read otherwise. I write chick lit so I read a lot of chick lit these days, but one of the best books I’ve ever read was forced on me in a book club: Galileo’s Daughter.

Having a variety of people with a variety of thoughts in the same room discussing the same book. I was in a book club in Spokane, Washington that consisted of an engineer from Idaho, a librarian from Seattle, a full-time mom from Utah, a flautist from California, and a substitute teacher from Maryland. The discussions we had in that group opened my mind in ways that are still a part of me.

The reading tips. I remember mentioning in one book club meeting that I was into Sarah Mlynowski novels. Another member of the group piped up with excitement that she loved Sarah’s writing style and started mentioning other authors I might like if I liked Ms. Mlynowski. Me and my new book club friend ended up trading books back and forth for a whole year, and I discovered authors I never would have without my friend's help.

Food. And, to take it one step further, food that matches the book. I’m hoping to sometime read Don Quixote again and have a whole Spanish feast. And I’ve gotten emails from people who’ve read The Icing on the Cake and made Portuguese sponge cake—a cake that plays a part in the book—for their book club meetings. There’s a good recipe for it here on Alison Palmer's review of the book.

An author or author interview. I never really knew this before, but you really can email the publisher of the book you’re reading and request the author's help with your book club. Most authors are willing to answer questions for book clubs, and some will even join your book club via telephone. In fact, some will even show up in person! Hmm...Maybe if enough of us email J.K. Rowling...

So blog readers, as you’re looking out at 2009—a span of empty months just waiting with books to be read, ideas to be formed, and fun to be had—maybe think about starting a book club. Or vamp up your current club. There are some really fun ideas for this at

And if you have anything to add to the list of the best things about book clubs, jump right in!

Have a wonderful 2009 filled with many amazing books!

No comments: