Guidelines for Good Discussion

Here’s what we strive for with each discussion. Please read this short list before participating. Each item appeals to common decency. You will find that we already adhere to the respect implied in the following guidelines (even though Jan consistently forgets item number 1).

1. Don’t say whether you liked or didn’t like a book. These responses don’t help move discussion forward and can cause other members to get defensive. Did the book engage you? How did you engage with the book? Was it the plot? Characters?

2. Avoid judging the book. It’s okay to not like a book. It’s okay to join in a discussion while not liking a book. We’re here to think and talk critically about the stories we read. But remember that there are different tastes in this world and in this book club. Avoid words like “stupid,” “idiotic” and others. Talk about your experience. How did you feel while reading the book? Be able to articulate your thoughts and feelings about the book without judging others’ reactions to the book.

3. Don’t be dismissive. You’re allowed to disagree. In fact, we encourage diverse opinions about what we read. Explain that you don’t share that opinion and explain your own.

4. Support your views. Use specific details from the book. If you can cite page numbers which members can turn to during discussion, even better.

5. Think of at least one question that you want to ask the group. The discussion leaders always prepare between 6-10 questions, but don’t stay quiet if you have a question. It’s possible that you thought of something that never occurred to the discussion leaders!

Make sure you do four things at each book club meeting:

  1. Teach someone something.
  2. Learn something from someone.
  3. Think critically.
  4. Laugh.

We have been doing this since 2014. We have read with men, women, minimum-wage retail workers, PhDs, English-as-a-second-language speakers, the young, the old, nerds, jocks, hipsters, friends, strangers, and everyone in between. Reading with these diverse crowds has shown that no one’s reading is more valid than another’s. We’re here to build our opinions, not to tear anyone’s opinions down.

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