Manassas Journal Messenger | Book club is open for discussion

Give the women of “The Reading Group” a glass of wine and all their secrets come out: unfaithful husbands, infertility, sibling rivalries. What started as a reading group became a therapy session where the women became intertwined in each other’s lives and the books they read.

“What I want to know, is how come we don’t have wine,” said Maureen Wellman of Southbridge.

Wellman and eight others met Tuesday evening for a monthl

Start your own book club

Pauline Hubert created to link authors and publishers with book clubs. She offers these tips to help anyone start their own book club:

• Invite the right people. The best book club members are ones who actually read books! Too often clubs flounder because members don’t read the selected books or are there for socialization rather than book discussion.

• Figure out the details. When and how often will you meet? What’s the role of the leader? Will you serve food?

• Be serious … but not to the detriment of fun! Most good book clubs have a mix of intellectual types and general interest people, and this makes for a good mix.  Keep a balance in discussions of fun and serious inquiry.

• Select the right books. Good books for discussion are typically ones, which explore simple human truths, have three-dimensional characters who must make hard choices, and who may behave erratically.

• Learn to read to discuss. Make notes and mark pages as you read. Think of tough questions, which will lead to in-depth conversation.  Identify themes, symbolism and structure in the book.

• Lead an effective discussion. Think of many open-ended questions, and avoid ones which prompt yes or no answers. Ask each member to come with one discussion question. Make every member know there are no right or wrong answers.

• Read into characters. Instead of simply reading a novel and appreciating certain characters, put them under the microscope and think of how you’d relate to this person; open the discussion by asking what members would do in certain situations with a character. Give the characters life.

y book club discussion with the NOVA Novel Book Club. Her reading group read “The Reading Group,” by Elizabeth Noble, a story about women in a book club similar to theirs. The difference is the group at Chinn Park Regional Library focused on the book, not gossip.

“This stuff doesn’t really happen to reading groups,” laughed Felicia Luibl of Manassas.

But what does happen is enlightened banter on a common topic and interest sparked in new subjects. The group members share at least one thing in common, the book they read, and they want to know what each other thinks. Reading a book without discussion can be frustrating.

“It’s like when you see a good movie and don’t get to tell anyone about it,” Luibl said.

The Prince William Public Library System hosts book clubs of different genres at different libraries from mystery to science fiction to African American book discussion groups.

Recently they released Books To Go! Book kits (wine not included) to help discussion groups scoot up to a table.

The kits include 10 paperback copies of a single title and a note

book full of discussion questions and background on the book and author. Titles include “The Cider House Rules,” by John Irving, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, and “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” by Alexander McCall Smith.

Connie Gilman, branch administrator for Chinn Park Regional Library, said staff at four libraries across the county suggested 40 titles that provoke dialogue. There are 10 kits at each of the four libraries, which are available for checkout for six weeks. They can be reserved and sent to any one of the 10 branches in the library system.

All it’s missing is eager readers:

“Somebody who wants to read a whole book and discuss it, instead of someone who wants to be there for the whole social aspect,” Gilman said.

Social benefits should be a bonus of discussion groups, not the main reason for attending, she said.

And the NOVA Novel Club, self-proclaimed avid readers, found that balance. They teased one another about the characters they related to and whether or not they finished the book.

“We’re here for support, not to beat up on one another,” said Anna Sobota of Woodbridge.

They welcome the different perspectives of members of different ages (this group ranged from 30s to 60s) and from across the county. Though it’s currently all women, they’d love a male point of view, they agreed.

“It’s kind of fun when some people like [the book] and some people hated it,” Luibl said. “It makes for better discussion.”

Dorrie Landry of Woodbridge had a hard time getting into “The Reading Group,” this month, but said the club helps her branch out of her reading comfort zone.

“I never would have picked up this book in a bookstore,” she said.

Gilman, who led neighborhood groups and public discussion groups at libraries, said some groups thrive on their differences, while some thrive on similarities. A small group of southern author fans broke away from a larger group that read diverse authors and genres, she said.

Regardless of the topic, moderators need to keep discussions moving, she said. That’s where the kit materials come in handy, especially for groups just starting. There are also Web sites, such as that offer discussion materials on hundreds of books.

“Somehow they [moderators] need to make everyone comfortable enough that they can share their views,” Gilman said. For discussion, open-ended questions are key and not letting one person dominate the discussion is critical.

Wine is optional.

Staff writer Emily Brown can be reached at (703) 878-4650.

When you go…

NOVA Novel Book Club

Chinn Park Regional Library, 13065 Chinn Park Drive, Woodbridge

Meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month

Next month’s book: “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult

(703) 792-4800


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