Book Group Grace: Talking About Books, Part 3
Posted by: Neil Hollands
This is the third and final post in a short series of hints for how you can get better at discussing books. Last week I suggested three behaviors to avoid at book group. Let’s finish on the positive side: three ways to become a book group guru.
1) BE SPECIFIC
Perhaps the most common problem that plagues boring book groups is overgeneralization. The enthusiasm wears thin fast when half a dozen people blandly repeat that the book is “good,” that it’s ”well-written,” that they “REALLY liked it.” Dig deeper. Talk about how the author handled conflict, or characters, or setting. Talk about the pacing. Talk about what you found suspenseful. Consider what you would do if faced with the dilemmas the characters faced. Note which sections you found believable and which you did not. Search for the author’s life experience in the book’s events. Before you go to group, try to prepare three to five specific points of discussion and be prepared to use them.
2) DRAW CONNECTIONS
To find favor in your group, draw connections. Compare the book with others by the same author. Try sentences that start with “This reminds me of…”, “If you liked most of this book, but didn’t like the…”, or “Another author who handles this material well is…” If your group likes video, compare the book to films or choose a director and cast for its adaptation. Comparisons keep the conversation buzzing and send everyone home with lists of new books to seek out.
3) LISTEN. ASK QUESTIONS. BUILD THE CONVERSATION.
It’s simple, but so often overlooked. Sometimes we get so tied up in inserting our next brilliant comment that we fail to listen. We change subjects prematurely, cut off others, or let interesting comments get lost. You’ll make better conversation, and more important, better friends, if you quit worrying so much about talking and LISTEN. Ask follow up questions, particularly if someone’s point is good but not fully explained. Provide examples for the generalizations they might make. Try rephrasing them with “That’s interesting, what you’re saying is…” or supporting them with “I like that idea, tell us more.” Book groups are a team sport, and often the most valuable player is the one who makes everyone else better.