Dear Literary Lady,
I want to ask questions at my book club so that everyone can participate, even if they’re waaay behind on the reading. I hate that a certain friend feels excluded if they haven’t had time to read. What questions could everyone answer and discuss, no matter where they are in the book?
–R.A., Fort Worth, TX.
Oh, the quest for the right book club questions! It’s hard to strike a balance between questions that are open-ended and inclusive, but not so broad that certain members (ahem!) can railroad the entire discussion into a prolonged analysis of their dating life, their blog, whether they should get bangs… (There’s one in every book club.)
Life often gets in the way of a good read, and it’s hard enough to suffer through a month or even a week without reading anything at all. Nothing rubs salt in your reading-deprived wounds like attending a book club meeting and feeling terribly left out. You end up revisiting that slightly panicky feeling of sitting in English lit class not having done the assigned reading. Why would we ever approximate that harrowing experience in a book club? It’s page-ist and we shouldn’t stand for it!
Here’s to more inclusive, nonjudgemental book club questions, questions that don’t discriminate whether you’re on page 20 or page 200! Try some of the following:
1. What moments in the novel have made you decide you like or dislike it so far?
2. Does the book remind you of any other writers or novels you’ve read?
3. Who’s your favorite character and why?
4. Some people think the first sentence of a novel is the most important. Would you agree or disagree with that, based on this book?
5. Pretend you’re the author’s editor. What notes would you give them?
6. Pretend you’re another famous author writing a blurb for the cover. What would you say?
7. If you were to sum up what you read of this book in one tweet, what would say in 140 characters?
8. If you could meet one of the characters right now, what would you say to them?
9. If you were to guess at a formative experience in the author’s life based on what they’ve written in this book, what would you guess?
10. What are you having the most trouble imagining and can’t wrap your head around?
11. What kind of snacks should we have at our next meeting?
Book clubs should be a place where people are the most sympathetic if you haven’t found time to read. If you’ve been too busy to read, you deserve respite from the cold, cruel world, and a cookie. That’s what book clubs should be all about.
Love and paperbacks,