How to Discuss a Book

Our ideas can help you lead a discussion, find helpful resources, and be a smart participant.

How to lead a discussion

1. Toss one question at a time out to the group. Use our LitLovers Resources below to help you with specific questions.

2. Select a number of questions, write each on an index card, and pass them out. Each member (or team of 2 or 3) takes a card and answers the question.

3. Use a prompt (prop) related to the story. It can help stimulate members' thinking about some aspect of the story. It's adult show & tell.

(Think maps, photographs, paintings, food, apparel, a music recording, a clip from a film adaptation.)

4. Pick out a specific passage from the book—a description, an idea, a line of dialogue—and ask members to comment on it.

(Consider how a passage reflects a character...or the work's central meaning...or members' lives or personal beliefs.)

5. Choose a primary character and ask members to comment on him or her.

(Think character traits, motivations, how he/she affects the story's events and characters, or revealing quotations.)

6. Play a literary game. Use one of our Icebreaker Games. They're smart and fun—guaranteed to loosen you up and get your discussion off to a lively, even uproarious start.

7. Distribute hand-outs to everyone in order to refresh memories or to use as talking points. Identify the primary characters and summarize the plot.

LitLovers Resources
How to participate in a discussion

1. Watch your language! Try to avoid words like "awful" or "idiotic"—even "like" and "dislike." They don't help move discussions forward and can put others on the defensive. Instead, talk about your experience—how you felt as you read the book. See our Read-Think-Talk guide for helpful ideas.

2. Don't be dismissive. If you disagree with someone else, don't refer to her as an ignoramus. Just say, "I'm not sure I see it that way. Here's what I think." Much, much nicer.

3. Support your views. Use specific passages from the book as evidence for your ideas. This is a literary analysis technique called "close reading." (LitCourse 3 has a good discussion of close reading.)

4. Read with a pencil. Take notes or mark passages that strike you—passages you find significant, funny, or insightful. Think about—and bring up in your book club discussion—the reasons for marking those passages.

5. Use LitLovers for help. Check out our Litlovers Resources above. They'll help you get more out of what your read and help you talk about books with greater ease.

Discussion tips by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online of off, with attribution. Thanks

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