A few years ago everybody, publishers included, seemed to wake up and notice
book groups. Long-time book group members may shake their heads at the sudden
spotlight (after all they've been doing their quiet work for ten, twenty,
thirty years), but no doubt they'll also find pleasure and useful
information in the books that have been written for and about them. A few of
these are noted below.
The Book Group Book: A Thoughtful Guide to Forming and Enjoying a
Stimulating Book Discussion Group, 2nd edition, Ellen Slezak, ed., Chicago
Review Press, 1996. -- This collection of essays written by book group members
across the country gives an intimate, insider look at how different groups
work. Includes a section of reading lists containing more than two thousand
titles from thriving groups. Foreword by Margaret Atwood.
Read All Your Life: A Subject Guide to Fiction, Barbara Kerr Davis,
McFarland & Company, Inc., 1989. -- Offers reading suggestions, short excerpts
from novels, and discussion questions based on subject areas including self,
family, society and politics, religion, and philosophy.
The Reading Group Handbook: Everything You Need to Know from Choosing
Members to Leading Discussions, Rachel W. Jacobsohn, Hyperion, 1994. -- The
author, a professional book group leader and founder of ABGRL, shares tips on
format, fees, reading lists, and food.
What to Read: An Essential Guide for Reading Group Members and Other Book
Lovers, Mickey Pearlman, Ph.D., HarperCollins, 1994. -- Designed for
reading group members who need ideas on what to read and book lovers who want
to know about contemporary and classic books they may have missed. Contains
thirty-three annotated reading lists.
Plenty of bookstores publish monthly newsletters that are jammed with useful
information for book groups. These are typically free -- get on your store's
mailing list. Other newsletters, like those listed below, are available on a
subscription basis -- your group may find it's worth the minimal investment.
Between the Lines, Box 88, Fairview, NC 28730 (704-628-9750;
SuperBooks@aol.com)--This is a 12-page gazette, published quarterly, aimed at
discriminating readers. The gazette covers 80-100 books annually. It tells its
readers what's good and why, in fiction, biography and history. Editors of the
gazette ferret out this quality writing by a variety of methods, such as
canvassing very knowledgeable booksellers for their picks, and using ideas
presented by the gazette's own subscribers. Subscribers may even write up their
ideas, for which they may be compensated. The gazette's aim is simple: put out
a well-written, dependable guide for personal reading enjoyment, while also
serving as a first-rate resource for discussion groups. Send for a free
Ex Libris, 33 Chandler St., Newton, MA, 02158-1106. -- A lively,
bimonthly newsletter that contains reading lists, book group profiles, and
Select Fiction, P.O. Box 1069, Sharon, CT, 06069. -- Bills itself,
accurately, as "a selective guide to well-received new fiction that did not hit
the New York Times bestseller list -- and possibly passed out of view
too quickly to catch the eye of readers looking for good new novels and short
stories, serious and otherwise."
Doubleday Reader's Companions
Obviously, there's no shortage of fine fiction and nonfiction on the bookstore
and library shelves -- and Bantam Doubleday Dell is publishing more than its
share of this. Readers combing our catalog will find hundreds of provocative,
entertaining, thoughtful, and just plain good books to challenge and
To make things even easier for book groups, we've published a number of
Reader's Companions that are geared specifically to enhance the work
that groups do.
The companions don't fit into any set formula, though they all contain
suggested questions for your discussion of the book, and background information
about the author. Instead, they try to suggest hidden currents that may have
influenced the author, or they may present source material that the author used
in writing his or her work. We've heard from book group members that our
companions add to the work that groups do, suggesting angles of interest in any
given title that may just be the tinder for an exceptional book group meeting.
You know, the one where Sarah and Jonas squared off for an argument about the
theme of isolation, and Lisa offered an elegant paean to the precision of the
We've published companions for books that we feel are perfect book group fits.
The companions are free and available at your bookstore, or you can call the Doubleday Marketing Hotline at 1-800-605-3406. In addition, the
complete text of each is available here. Controversial, funny, moving --
these are some of the words that you'll probably use to describe your feelings
about the books that are part of our Reader's Companion series. We hope
your group gets hold of them.