Posted by: Kaite Stover
In a recent post, Neil reminded us of the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book is a great summer selection for a book group. It’s short, accessible, and most of us have read it at least once. There is also little likelihood that book group members will hear “we don’t have enough copies of that” at their local libraries.
This American classic is the perfect book group book and readers will never run out of discussion topics. TKAM has recognizable yet layered characters in unspeakable situations described in clear, compelling prose and a story that is still suspenseful after multiple readings. It gathers a wide spectrum of themes in literature–courage, injustice, coming of age. And it’s all told in a voice that is innocent, observant, warm, and funny.
Mockingbird has been a perennial choice for community-wide reading programs and book groups for years. If your group hasn’t revisited Lee’s only published novel, this might be a good year to do so and there are plenty of supplemental activities and materials to bring with you to the book group to take it beyond a basic discussion.
If a member prefers not to read TKAM for the umpteenth time in her life, suggest she read Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields and talk to the group about Lee’s life.
Also consider suggesting Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a collection of interviews with people who have a connection to TKAM. Mary Badham, the actress who played Scout in the movie contributes an essay, as do well-known Southern writers, Lee Smith, Rick Bragg, and Mark Childress. Other proponents of reading literature weigh in as well, David Kipen and Oprah Winfrey. There is an insightful contribution from The Reverend Thomas Lane Butts, pastor emeritus of a church attended by the Lee family in Monroeville, AL. This is a thoughtful collection that is easy to pick up and put down.
Of course, here’s a fine opportunity to screen the Oscar award-winning movie, To Kill a Mockingbird, and pair the book with a movie discussion. Bring some information on the Civil Rights Movement and mockingbirds and childhood friend and fellow writer, Truman Capote.
There’s no end of issues and topics to discuss with the novel that is so closely tied to American history and considered by students, teachers, academics, and readers everywhere America’s national novel.