A book discussion club
is a group of people who meet to discuss a book or books that they have read
and express their opinions, likes, dislikes, etc. It is more often called simply a book club
, a term that is also used to describe a book sales club
, which can cause confusion. Other frequently used terms to describe a book discussion club include reading group
, book group
, and book discussion group
. Book discussion clubs may meet in private homes, libraries
, online forums, pubs, and in cafes or restaurants over meals or drinks.
A single-title club is one in which people discuss a particular title that every person in the group has read at the same time. Clearly, the club must somehow decide ahead of time what that title will be. Most often, that title will be a new release, and it is expected that each member buy a personal copy. If it is a book discussion club that meets at a library, the title may be a new release or an older title. If they choose, each member may borrow a copy of the book from the library.
One of the problems with these clubs is that some members regard them as opportunities for social contact and conversation veering off onto a wide variety of non-literary topics, while others hope to engage in serious literary analysis focussed on the book in question and related works. Still others suggest a book not because they are interested in it from a literary point-of-view but because they think it will offer them an opportunity to make points of personal interest to them. Different expectations and education/skill levels may lead to conflicts and disappointments in clubs of this kind.
The characteristics of a multi-title club are such that each member may be reading different titles from each other at any given time. What distinguishes this from any group of unrelated people reading different things from each other is that each title is expected to be read by the next member in a serial fashion.
Open loans imply that the books in question are free to be loaned among the population with the expectation of getting them back eventually. Instead of one member deciding what everyone will read, with all the cost implications of acquiring that title, these clubs usually involve circulating books they already own. Each book is introduced with a short precis. This offers members the advantage of previewing a work before committing to read. It has the effect of narrowing the focus of the dialogue so that book and reader are more quickly and more accurately matched up. The sequential nature of the process implies that within a short time, three to five people may have read the same title, which is the perfect amount for a worthy conversation.
Catch and release
Catch and release imply that actual ownership of the book transfers each iteration with no expectation of the book returning to the original owner. The mechanism of transfer may include a personal face to face hand off, sending the items though the mail, or most remarkably, leaving the book in a public place with the expectation that unknown future readers will find it there. All three methods are utilized with BookCrossing. Participants use a website and a system of unique identification numbers to track released items as they migrate through a world-wide community. The interaction is largely web-centric, but it does not exclude face-to-face gatherings, each of which can take on the traits of other book discussion clubs.
With the challenge that not all members of a club can regularly meet at an appointed place and time, and the rise of the Internet, a new form of book discussion club has emerged online. Online clubs exist in the form of Internet forums
, Yahoo Groups
, e-mail mailing lists
, dedicated websites, and even telephone conference calls. Also in the category of social networks
, these online clubs are made up of members of a variety of reading interests and often approach book discussion in different ways, e.g. academic discussion, pleasure-reading discussion, personal connection and reaction to books members read.
A broadcast club is one in which a television, radio, or podcast show features a regular segment that presents a discussion of a book. The segment is announced in advance so that viewers or listeners may read the book prior to the broadcast discussion. Some notable broadcast book discussion clubs include:
- Association of Book Group Readers and Leaders (AGBRL), also known as the Association of Professional Book Club Facilitators, is a cooperative information clearinghouse for avid readers, both individuals and those in book discussion clubs. Its founder and director is Rachel W. Jacobsohn, author of The Reading Group Handbook. The organization can be reached at P.O. Box 885 Highland Park, IL 60035.
- Great Books Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization established in 1947 that publishes collections of classic and modern literature for use in book discussion clubs. It also offers workshops in conducting book discussions.
- Library of Congress Center for the Book is a program of the Library of Congress' Library Services division that promotes community-wide book discussion groups through its "One Book" project.
Book discussion clubs in fiction
- "The Couch", a 1994 episode (season 6, number 5) of the American situation comedy Seinfeld
- "Books", a 2001 episode (season 1, number 2) of the British situation comedy The Savages
- The Book Group, a 2001-2002 British situation comedy series
- "Wedding Balls", a 2002 episode (season 4, number 22) of the American situation comedy Will & Grace
- "About a Book Club", a 2003 episode (season 1, number 5) of the American situation comedy Hope & Faith
- "The Book Club", a 2004 episode (season 1, number 4) of the American children's series Unfabulous
- "The Book of Love", a 2004 episode (season 5, number 12) of the British situation comedy My Family
- "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do", a 2005 episode (season 4, number 9) of the American animated series Family Guy
- "A Tale of Two Cities", a 2006 episode (season 3, number 1) of the American drama series Lost