Mapping a Successful Meeting
Posted by: Neil Hollands
The good folks at Lawrence Public Library in Kansas have designed a great new reading map for people who like, for many different reasons, Winter’s Bone, a gritty bit of country noir driven by a fantastic female heroine. The map suggests appropriate books for people who like all of the many successful aspects–setting, tone, characters–of Daniel Woodrell’s novel. They even go a step further and suggest works that are like Winter’s Bone but differ in some crucial way: country noir, but without the southern setting; short stories instead of novels; or with similar characters and setting but not quite so dark and ugly.
Creating such a map would make a marvelous addition to a book group discussion, employing the collective brainpower of the group to find the many reasons why people might like the book you read that month, then going a step further to identify other books would satisfy the same yen in sympathetic readers. If elements of the book were off-putting to some readers, then try to identify similar titles that have the book’s strengths but leave out the problematic qualities.
When looking for the aspects of the book that people might like–what librarians call appeal factors–start with captivating characters or relationships, the setting (in place or time), the tone, or important elements of the story. Consider the style of pacing, if it’s important to the story, or the way that the book conveys humor, fear, tragedy, joy, or other emotional states. When you’re done with this little exercise, your group should have both a deeper understanding of how this month’s book works, but also a list of recommendations for readers who want to explore further.