Posted by: Neil Hollands
I just posted March themes a couple of days ago, but themes are more useful for book groups if you have a chance to plan ahead, so let’s launch right into April, with a list of themes your group might try next month.
1. APRIL FOOLS DAY
You can find fools in fiction in works like Fool by Christopher Moore, King’s Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes, The Autobiography of Henry VIII: with Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George, the Fool’s Guild mysteries by Alan Gordon, Robin Hobb’s fantasy Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, The Fool’s Tale by Nicole Galland, and The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory. Or just ask your readers to choose a work of satire or parody.
2. WORLD AUTISM DAY (April 2nd)
There has been plenty of great fiction and nonfiction lately that will enhance a reader’s understanding of autism. Try The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Ann Bauer’s A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards, Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach, Cynthia Lord’s Rules, or Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark, for instance.
3. NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
Poetry is an overlooked pleasure for book group meetings. The key is that you’ve got to read it out loud so you can appreciate the language. Ask your members to select an anthology or collection of poems and plan to read one or two favorites to the group.
4. APRIL BIRTHDAYS
If your group is interested in biographies as a theme, the list of April birthdays includes Thomas Jefferson, Queen Elizabeth II, Billie Holiday, Bette Davis, Hans Christian Andersen, William Randolph Hearst, Willie Nelson, Marlon Brando, Doris Day, Marvin Gaye, and Ulysses Grant.
5. BASEBALL OPENING DAY (April 5th)
Of all sports, the literature surrounding baseball is probably the most extensive and interesting. Even for those who don’t love sports, there are great works of baseball fiction such as The Natural by Bernard Malamud, Shoeless Joe (and other works) by W. P. Kinsella, Summerland by Michael Chabon, Playing for Pizza by John Grisham, For Love of the Game by Michael Shaara, and The Brothers K by David James Duncan.
6. ENCOURAGE A YOUNG WRITER DAY (April 10th)
What better way to encourage young writer than to read one of their books? Select works by writers under 40 for this meeting. For added fun, ask your members to bring a sample of something they or someone close to them wrote when they were young.
7. THE BEATLES
April 10th is also the 40th anniversary of the Beatles breakup in 1970. There are thorough recent biographies of Paul McCartney (by Peter Ames Carlin) and John Lennon (by Philip Norman) that would be good choices for a Beatles theme, or consider Revolution in Your Head by Ian Mac Donald, The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, or Jonathan Gould’s Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America. And by all means, don’t have this meeting without bringing the music to play out loud.
8. ALCOHOL AWARENESS MONTH
It’s a harrowing topic, but the literature doesn’t disappoint. Try Blame by Michelle Huneven, Big Sur by Jack Kerouac, Charming Billy by Alice McDermott, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, Dry by Augusten Burroughs, or John O’ Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas.
9. EARTH DAY
It’s on April 22nd, and a plethora of great books about natural history, ecology, pollution, the slow food movement, and global warming await your group.
The bard was born on April 23rd in 1564 (and died on the same day in 1616!) Many haven’t read a Shakespeare play since high school or college. Returning to Shakespeare as an adult is a pleasure. For a really great meeting, consider reading some scenes, or even a whole play, aloud.