Well, last Thursday was the third meeting of my library book group, and to be honest, I was pretty much ready to give up. Plus, I wasn't so in love with the book, The City and the City by China Mieville. (Review to follow; the post just got too long so I decided to split it into two). If you haven't read this post from a few weeks ago, I've started a book group at my library, and last month nobody showed up.
So, last week, a few copies of the book had been checked out, but I knew that one of the two people who'd shown up in January wouldn't make it, as she was attending the American Crossword Tournament in Brooklyn (how cool is that??). And there had been a new development at work. Last week one of our part-time library assistants left for a full-time librarian job in another library system, leaving the Monday evening book group without a coordinator, so this was assigned to me. Since the Thursday group was floundering, my supervisor suggested that I put the Thursday group out of its misery and concentrate on the Monday group, which had been meeting steadily for more than five years. I had only chosen books for the Thursday group through April -- it's already been published in the library newsletter, so I figured that would be the end of that. (Plus I have a teen book group of sorts once a month during Teen Time, but that's another story).
Well, lo and behold, Thursday rolled around. I halfheartedly bought cookies and iced tea on my lunch break, and searched online for some discussion questions. And FIVE PEOPLE SHOWED UP FOR THE GROUP. One was my intrepid co-worker; one was Eva from A Striped Armchair, and three ladies from the Friends of the Library group!
To be fair, two of the women from the Friends hadn't read the book, but they all checked out books for the April meeting, and when I came back to work on Monday from my long weekend off, every single book for the April book group had been checked out! Apparently there was a meeting for our branch's Friends of the Library last Saturday, and the ladies all talked it up. There may even have been mild complaints that there weren't enough copies of the book! (Zeitoun by Dave Eggers). I had no idea I would have that much response, otherwise I would have chosen a book with more copies in the library system. I was flabbergasted. And now I have THREE book groups to coordinate every month. I guess I am just a victim of my own success.
Well, if it gets to be too much I can just repeat books between the groups, or choose books I've already read. I'm pretty determined to try and choose book off my own personal TBR list. It's challenging to find books that fit the criteria:
- there must to be at least ten copies in the library, preferably more. Those with large print and audio are a plus.
- they can't been too popular because I can't choose books with too many existing holds.
- they must be thought-provoking books that will be good for discussion.
- preferably books under 500 pages, though occasionally exceptions will be made, especially if the book is a fast read.
- books that aren't too cheesy and contrived. Honestly, this is the hardest one. A lot of the typical books chosen by book discussion groups I find to be just bleah. I admit, there are definitely great books that are popular for discussion groups for a reason, but a lot of them are honestly just the worst crap ever. There, I've said it. (Feel free to crucify me in the comments, but don't be personal).
So, bloggers, what do you recommend? Any book group selections that are just amazing and great for discussion? Any surprises? And which books are the absolute worst and are to be avoided like the plague? I have a few ideas for the next couple of months, including a couple of short classics and some historical fiction, but I'd love some ideas!