Friday, May 7, 2010

discussion topics for book groups

My latest project is ready for submission, and my agent asked that I put together a brief explanation of how I got to this point. Why this story? Why now? Those of you who've been following my blog know what a long journey this has been, and know I pretty much bet the farm on this one. But if I hadn't written it, I would have spent the rest of my life regretting that I'd never tried. A few years ago I think it would have sold. Now...well, let's don't go there.

As I read the material one final time, I realized that the book lends itself to discussion topics. Even though the main story is about farming and living on a farm, I think this book has the potential to speak to everyone.

All of us can reflect on our lives and and in retrospect see those decisions we made that ended up having a much bigger impact than we could have anticipated. And it's interesting to follow that thread back, back, back to the beginning, to that very first trigger. So my first topic for discussion would be this:

What single event, large or minuscule, changed the course of your life in an unexpected way?

I realize this isn't a new question, but I think it's one that doesn't get old and is always fun to think about.

I've never participated in a book-group discussion, so if anyone has any tips I'd love to hear them. Is the focus always about the book, or can the topic turn around and be about the reader?


  1. I think the focus of the book can definitely involve the reader with a question like yours. I recall some of my old teachers always doing this to get the students involved in discussion.

    It works!!

  2. thanks, kelly! that makes sense to me.


  3. That is a very difficult question for me to consider, mostly because I don't spend much time if any thinking about the effects of events in my past (for better or worse). I guess because I rarely had any course in mind for my life, I always thought whatever happened was what was supposed to happen rather than a deviation from "the plan." I have lived a strange life, certainly, but I don't think my constitution could abide anything but.

    And my strangeness is perhaps the main reason why I don't throw out personal--but book-related--questions to the members in the book club I belong to. I don't want to have to dodge my own question. I guess if we were a bit closer with each other it might be different, but when there is a new or infrequent member present, I don't want to fly my freak flag. :P

    Great topic, Anne. (p.s. I'm discussion leader for The Secret Life of Bees in a few weeks.)

  4. Mary, thanks so much for your input. Your comment leads me to think this topic could be too personal for a book group discussion. It might be more suited to private discussions. like a discussion in a reader's head. :D

    I never had any kind of plan, but one letter, an invitation to work with someone, changed the course of my life.