Session: “Books Build Friendships” – Mon. Jan. 14, 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
The last program I attended at the Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia was part of the Sunrise Speakers Series–a panel discussion about book discussion groups and their benefits. It was moderated by Carol Fitzgerald of ReadingGroupGuides.com, which is a website with resources for reading groups. Panel participants were Jennifer Hart of Harper Collins Publishing, who also writes the blog Book Club Girl; authors Elizabeth Noble and Victoria Lustbader; and Shireen Dodson, whom Ms. Fitzgerald called “the book club queen” and whose book The Mother-Daughter Book Club has its tenth anniversary this year.
The panel focused on womens’ book groups and particularly mother-daughter groups. Ms. Dodson explained that these create opportunities to communicate about any topic and learn things about people that you wouldn’t otherwise. “Daughters learn that they don’t have the only crazy mom. Mothers learn that they don’t have the only daughter who’s pushing the envelope.”
The panelists also gave some tips on how to create successful book groups. Ms. Hart noted that people in her groups always relate the books to their own lives, and it can be especially satisfying to discuss memoirs or fiction that lends itself to this. The panelists also emphasized that it isn’t necessary to always read choose “great literature” for your group to read. Ms. Noble commented, “You can still have a discussion about something that isn’t as clever–something lighter and more fun.” She said this can be a good way to bring groups together at first, because you can start out with a book that’s less intimidating. The panelists all praised book groups as a way for people to expand their horizons, introducing them to books they wouldn’t have otherwise heard of or read.
This panel was a good introduction to the challenges one faces in setting up or participating in a book discussion group, but especially to the benefits of participating in one, and it was a good note on which to end my Midwinter Meeting experience!