Discussion Questions—shaking it up

readguide-girl-blogWriter Joe Queenan thought he might earn a few extra bucks by trying his hand at writing some discussion questions—the ones publishers issue for book clubs. (See our Reading Guides.)

Queenan decided to take a look at what others had done, and what he found surprised him—quirky questions that “force readers to think outside the box.” He refers to them as "off-the-wall questions.” Here’s a sample:

Off the Wall Questions

Anna Karenina—If Anna had lived in our time, how might her story have been different?

Ethan Frome— Is this novel just too grim to be enjoyed? [ For real! ]


Pride and Prejudice—  Have you ever seen a movie version in which the woman playing Jane, as Austen imagined her, was truly more beautiful than the woman playing Elizabeth?
                              “There Will Be a Quiz,” Joe Queenan.
                                New York Times (4-6-08).


Queenan loves
these questions because they “shake up the musty old world of literature.” And that’s great, because I think book clubs have been doing that all along. In fact, hasn’t the role of literature always been to shake things up, to challenge comfortable assumptions? (See our free LitCourse 1—Why We Read.)

But I’ve got some questions of my own:

Questions for book clubs

  1. Do you use book discussion questions? If so, how Do you try to answer them—or use them as a more general way to help you focus on some aspect of the book?
  2. What about Generic Book Questions? Do you ever use them? Do they help? To me, they seem to get to the core of a book more quickly than the publishers’ questions—which have a whiff about them of a really, really tough English exam.

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