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Book Discussion Groups: Selecting Books

Resources for establishing a book discussion group

Selecting Books

"Whenever I begin reading a new book, I am embarking on a new, uncharted journey with an unmarked destination." 
-- Nancy Pearl, from Book Lust

You've created your book discussion group, and have established how meetings will run and where you'll meet. Now... what to read? 

This section has resources on selecting books for your group discussions, including some recommendations on the process, a bibliography of recommended titles, and online resources. 

Online Book Lists

Other Resources


Dos and Don'ts
  1. Do mix genres
    A steady diet of one thing can be dull, dull, dull. Try interspersing fiction—current and classic—with nonfiction: poetry, history, or biography.
  2. Don't just read favorites
    Reading a book someone "just loves" can lead to hurt feelings—like inviting people into your living room to critique your decor. Ouch. Best to stay on neutral territory.
  3. Do explore themes
    Focus on a specific author, travel journals, childhood memoirs, books on food, or a literary issue (family, loss, working of fate). Don't do it for the whole year (see #1 above), maybe just 3 or 4 months.
  4. Don't choose for the whole year
    It ties you into a rigid year-long schedule with no flexibility to add exciting new works you might learn about. And it's unfair for those who miss that one meeting.
  5. Do choose 2 or 3 at a time
    This allows members to read at their own pace. It's especially helpful for those who travel or miss a meeting or two.

Ways to Select

  1. Vote
    All members make suggestions, followed by an open discussion, and vote.
  2. Rotate
    Members take turns, each choosing one book for a given month, or proposing 2-3 titles from which the group chooses one.

Bibliography - Collections of Recommended Books

1001 Books for Every Mood: A Bibliophile's Guide to Unwinding, Misbehaving, Forgiving, Celebrating, Commiserating

An annotated list of books for every mood, including quizzes to help readers decide on their next read.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Each entry is accompanied by an authoritative yet opinionated critical essay describing the importance and influence of the work in question. Also included are publishing history and career details about the authors, as well as reproductions of period dust jackets and book designs.

Booklist's 1000 Best Young Adult Books Since 2008

Booklist magazine's editors' deep and broad knowledge of the landscape offers indispensable guidance, and here they bring together the very best of the best books for young adults published since the start of the 21st century.

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason

Annotated lists cover such topics as mother-daughter relationships, science for nonscientists, mysteries of all stripes, African-American fiction from a female point of view, must-reads for kids, books on bicycling, "chick-lit," and many more.

Books under Fire: A Hit List of Banned and Challenged Children's Books

School and public librarians, LIS students, and classroom educators will find the assistance and support they need to defend these challenged books with an informed response while ensuring access to young book lovers.

The Coretta Scott King Awards: 50th Anniversary

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards, this invaluable guide celebrates the legacy of these prestigious honors, which have enlarged the prominence of literature for children and youth about the Black experience. Spotlighting the work of the author and illustrator winners and honorees since the awards' inception, this unique resource is an excellent tool for collection development, readers' advisory, and classroom use.

The Newbery and Caldecott Awards: A Guide to the Medal and Honor Books

A trusted guidebook for quick reference and collection development, it's also a useful resource for curriculum links and readers' advisory. This resource for locating information about the best in children's books is invaluable for children's services librarians, educators, and everyone else who cherishes quality literature and illustration.

The Novel Cure

Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote. Bibliotherapy does not discriminate between pains of the body and pains of the head (or heart).

Teaching Banned Books: 32 Guides for Children and Teens

In this best-selling classroom- and library-ready book of discussion guides, thoroughly updated and expanded to include genres such as graphic novels and nonfiction, award-winning champion of children's literature Scales shows that there is a way to teach these books while respecting all views. Using this powerful resource, the oft-challenged books featured inside will be jumping-off points for rich and engaging discussion among young readers, their librarians and teachers, and parents.