"Everyone reads a piece for themselves, then we talk about it together." This sounds simple at first. But how often does a discussion go round in circles: Some don’t get to the point, others don’t even get a word in edgewise. Here are some hints for a good discussion culture in your literature circle.
Do we need someone to lead the discussion?
Many groups have a moderator. He or she leads the discussion, structures the conversation and makes sure every member can participate. Another task can be the organization of meetings: invitations, new members, premises…
In the case of ‘public’ groups, e.g. meet in churches, educational institutions, libraries or bookstores, the leader is often a foregone conclusion. But a moderator has also proven useful in privately organized groups. Some groups even organize an external facilitator, usually someone with experience in leading discussions (of literature circles) or a literature "expert"; here, however, the cost factor must be considered. More often, one member will lead the discussion; this may always be the same or may change at each meeting – for example, the host in each case.
Should we prepare for the discussion, and if so, how??
For some readers, deliberate reading of a book is enough to prepare for the reading circle meeting. However, you will feel more confident in the later discussion (and it will also be more structured) if you write down the most important topics and text passages on a piece of paper or an index card while you are still reading; the latter can also be used well as a bookmark.
However, many literature circles emphasize more detailed preparation. They add further information about the book and author to their discussion. If one member takes turns to do this helpful extra work, everyone gets something out of it – without much effort.
What information is helpful for our reading circle or literature circle?
Useful supplementary materials – depending on the effort expended – include a biography of the author, interviews, information on the creation of the book, guiding questions for discussion, selected press reviews, and further reading on topics addressed in the book. For many, it is also interesting to know which other books the author has written, and whether the book has been made into a film.
You should keep the supplementary material in any case. Perhaps in a few years you will read another book by the same author or can pass it on to a literary group of friends!
Tip: For some books that we consider particularly worth reading and discussing, we have already done the work for you and compiled extensive additional material on the author and content, as well as adding questions that are helpful for the discussion. If your book is not (yet) included… we are continually adding to this special offer!
How do we start the discussion?
You can start the discussion by having the moderator or the person who suggested the book briefly summarize the content and the main issues that the book addresses. Afterwards everyone can express his personal opinion. Ideally, this should be done in turn so that everyone gets a turn.
Some literature circles do an evaluation of the books they read. This could also be useful at the beginning of the meeting, before the discussion starts. Thus, your own evaluation is uninfluenced by the opinion of the other group members. It is interesting to contrast your own "grade" (many give one to five stars as on the Amazon book website) with an overall rating from the literature circle.
It is important to ask open-ended questions. "Did you like the book??" might elicit a "yes" or "no," followed by silence. In contrast, a focused question such as "What did you like (or dislike) about the book?" leads the discussion?" in most cases leads to a lively discussion. Check in and ask members to explain their opinions and reactions. Why did we not like the book? Was it a particular person in the book? The writing style? Try to find examples and passages in the book to support your opinion.
If the discussion gets bogged down, it can help to change the perspective of the interpretation. This is a way to shift the focus from formal issues to biographical aspects of the book. Or one deliberately looks at a novel from the point of view of the time in which it was written.
Tip: To start the discussion or to bridge pauses in the discussion, general discussion questions that fit (almost) any book have proven useful. We have compiled a list of general questions on topics such as plot, characters, relationships, narrative/style, author, impact, book design.
Many good books have been made into movies. Watch the film together (in the cinema or on DVD) and discuss it – z.B. Using our discussion questions for literary adaptations.
How do we achieve a balanced and fair discussion??
Many participants want to form an opinion first, others like to make a statement spontaneously, sometimes to provoke contradiction. This, of course, enlivens the discussion, but you should be careful that individual members do not dominate the round. Questions answered in turn are a way to give quieter members a chance to say something – if they want to.
Basically, there are only different opinions, no right or wrong interpretation of a book. We all bring our personal experiences to the table as we read and discuss the book. Every opinion is important and right, as long as it is expressed respectfully. However, if the discussion does get heated, don’t worry: this is a sign that everyone is engaged!
How do we handle a dominant reading circle member?
The discussion of the book is the most important part of your reading circle meeting. It is therefore all the more unsatisfactory if one member always dominates the discussion and others say few (want to or can). Here are some tips from other reading groups:
- Interrupting the "torrent of talk" by asking other members what they think about a topic.
- Introduce the role of facilitator; can be taken over by another member at each meeting.
- Limit the speaking time per member to a certain length.
- If the problem persists for a longer period of time, the person in question should be contacted. (This should first be done privately, d.h. not happen in front of the group, happen.)
- Possibly invite a moderator for a meeting or two, maybe a ‘pro’ has experience handling this.
- Draw up a short list of general rules. This can then be used to address other issues and potential problems such as tardiness, frequent absenteeism.
Before everyone goes home, make sure the next date, place and book to be read are known. Emails are a quick and easy way to summarize this info shortly after the meeting for everyone – especially members who were unable to attend. In addition, it is a good idea to send out a reminder a few days before the next meeting.
Rahel and Peter have been married for almost 30 years. But love has left its marriage. A vacation should clarify how and with whom they want to spend their future life.
FOLLOW the Diogenes publishing house
Does a man have to be a man and a woman a woman? No, and this was already true in the 18. Century! Irene Dische tells a true, fascinating story about the freedom to be anyone and everyone.
FOLLOW the Hoffmann und Campe publishing house
Our paperback of the month: The Lost Land by Astrid Lindgren
Paperback of the Month:
The Vanished Land by Astrid Lindgren
"After all, there is no age when you experience everything as insanely intensely as in childhood. We grown-ups, who after all were once children ourselves, should remember what that was like." This quote is from the most famous author of children’s and young adults’ books, Astrid Lindgren, who died on 28. January died 20 years ago.
In her autobiography ‘The Vanished Land,’ she describes her childhood in Sweden.
Introducing the book and author in detail, including topics for a good discussion in your reading circle.
Our New Discovery of the Month: Where the Wild Women Live by Anne Siegel
Our discovery of the month:
Where the wild women live by Anne Siegel
The ‘wild women’ live in Iceland. Anne Siegel portrays 10 strong power women from the far north and their life with and in the nature of the small and sparsely populated country.
Anne Siegel is incredibly versatile – she works as a journalist, scriptwriter and director and for 10 years very successfully as an author.
We present her new book and the author in detail; for the novel we have Discussion questions compiled.
Our Topic of the Month: The Independent Bookstore’s Favorite Book
Our topic of the month:
The favorite book of the independent bookstores
Since 2015, independent bookstores have chosen their Favorite Book. For this, booksellers nominate their favorite novel from the current year and then vote on which is their favorite title.
Announced was the Independents’ favorite 2021 book recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair. 2021 about 850 bookstores participated!
We have compiled all previous winners and the 5 novels on the shortlist for each year – a total of 35 book tips!
OUR FACEBOOK READING CLUB
From 1. DECEMBER: +++ THE BLUR OF THE WORLD BY IRIS WOLFF +++
In January and February there is a break in the discussion. Starting in March.