Are you really an expert on all of these books?
No! What I’m an expert on is teaching people to read through difficulty, to find the pleasure in it and to create their own reading and take “ownership” of the text. For more than a decade, I have taught graduate-level texts to college freshmen. That sounds daunting, but many students find the experience transformative; they realize they are stronger readers than they thought they were. Adult book clubs can benefit from that experience, too. That said, while I am not a scholar of Shakespeare or Shelley or Steinbeck, all of the books on this eclectic list are books that I have read and enjoyed, and some of them are books that I have taught. I know them well enough to walk you through a meaningful reading experience.
What if we want to read a book that’s not on your list?
Tell me what you’d like to read, and I’ll tell you whether it’s a book I can prepare for you. There are some “great books” that I’m not prepared to take on with a book club—at least, not yet—and some books lend themselves better to a Great Readers, Great Books discussion than others.
Why do you cap participation at 20 people?
Twenty people is a really big group. The best discussions take place in smaller groups in which everyone has a chance to contribute. In a larger group, a few people tend to dominate the discussion, while others may be intimidated or quiet. The ideal group size is around 8 to 12 participants. However, if you have more members or would like to spread the cost of a Great Readers, Great Books read over a larger group of up to 20 people, you may.
Tell us more about the online discussion.
The online discussion will be available through a closed Facebook group. No one from outside your book club will be able to “lurk” in our discussions. I’ll start by posting a few links and tips that may help orient you in the book. Then I’ll check in every day or two while the read is in progress to see whether anyone has questions or needs support and to join in any discussion you’re having. The online discussion is a great place for book club members to converse with one another as they read. It’s a lot more fun to read together than in a vacuum! We’ll set up a schedule and some ground rules in order to avoid “spoilers” in the discussion.
How would you describe your discussion style? Will you lecture? Will you just throw out questions and expect us to answer them?
The direction our final discussion takes will have a lot to do with what interests you. I’ll bring in some reviews, literary criticism, biographical information, and insights that haven’t already come up in our online discussion to feed the conversation, but you should come with your own burning questions and observations, too. My job is to keep things lively (you’ll learn that I’m an extrovert who loves to laugh) but also to keep the conversation on track (no monopolizers, no hijackers) and to make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak. Most of all, my goal is that everyone will leave the final discussion feeling that they not only “got” the book, but that they “got” it in their own way. I want you to leave feeling that the book is now yours.
Why are there so few recent books on the list?
There are a lot of enjoyable, thoughtful, interesting books that you don’t need my help to read. Much of contemporary literary fiction falls into that category. (So does a lot of older fiction, but most people have never heard of those books because they didn’t last.) I’ve included only a few newer books that are already heading for “classic” status. There are certainly others. Feel free to make a suggestion!
Three hundred dollars seems kind of expensive for a book club discussion. Why so much?
Like any teacher, I’ll be putting in many hours behind the scenes to get ready for our discussion. Three hundred dollars isn’t expensive if your book club shares the cost. Can you come up with ten participants? (If you’re a small group, think about inviting another book club to join you.) Then the cost is only $30 per person for online support throughout the reading process and a great discussion at the end of a book you’ve always wanted to read. That’s less than the cost of a piano lesson or dinner out with a friend, and it lasts longer!
Why do we have to pay more for a book we’ve requested?
If I’m going to lead a good discussion on a book that’s not on my list—maybe a book I haven’t even read before!—it’s going to take me longer to prepare. The charge for requested books won’t actually cover my preparation time, but if it’s a book that I think might interest other book clubs in the future, I’m willing to give it a shot!
How far will you travel for a book club meeting?
Anywhere in Connecticut.
How do we set up a discussion?
Start by appointing one person from your book club to be my contact. Decide together what questions you have for me or what you’d like to do, and then have that member send me an e-mail to get things started. I look forward to reading with you!