Choosing the books for your book group's reading year doesn't have to be a headache. Check out our top tips for building a book list for maximum enjoyment and excellent discussions.
Static vs dynamic
Some groups like to 'set and forget' their lists at the beginning of their reading year, but moods and interests may change during your membership, so do remember that you can add or subract titles from your list anytime. Current events or relevant social themes can often influence the books you are interested in or want to read at any given time, and enrich your discussions.
Make sure you and your group are following us on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest titles announcements where we share what our reviewers network had to say about the books we've chosen for the catalogue. We also share Staff Picks — the reads our well-read team have loved and can recommend.
Democracy vs (benevolent) dictatorship
Some book group members really enjoy being involved in the book selection process, while others are quite happy to be handed a book to read every month without having to make any decisions. Whatever the make up of your group, try to allow those who do want a voice to have one — and don't be frustrated when others simply want to come along for the ride.
Open books open minds (but not necessarily hearts)
While it's unlikely that everyone will agree on and love every book choice, try to develop a system that ensures your group will enjoy your books on the whole. While allowing everyone to nominate a certain number of titles each may seem equitable on the surface, if you know you're a group of diverse tastes, adding books that only one person in your group has any interest in reading may not be the best option. Instead, encourage your group to put forward choices which are then voted on by the whole group.
Unfamiliar authors, genres or subjects should be treated with an open mind — remember, that's one of the benefits of book group: discovering great reads you wouldn't have picked for yourself.
Award winner, but a group flop?
Be wary of relying solely on awards lists for choosing your books. While they will certainly direct you to some worthy reads, the key to an enjoyable reading year is a diverse book list. You'll generally want to include some lighter reads to balance out some of those heavier, challenging or more literary reads.
Extra things to note
Pay attention to things noted in the catalogue such as the page count and size of font. If your group would struggle to read a 700 page book in one month, you won't want to accidentally select I Am Pilgrim, for example. Legibility can also be a concern for some groups. Books are tagged with 'small font' under their listings in the online catalogue. You can also use the 'larger font' filter to ensure you're only selecting the most legible books we hold. In the print catalogue, these books are marked with a magnifying glass icon.
Other things to look out for are 'content may disturb' or explicit content warnings in the online and print catalogues. While these things can be subjective, do your best to consider your group's feelings, backgrounds and experiences when selecting books — and if you do end up discussing a sensitive or polarising topic, keep the conversation respecful.
Review your final list
Once you've selected your books, consider the list as a whole — do you have a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, genres, local and international authors, settings, styles and subjects? This will help greatly minimise the chance of reading sequential books that are too similar. It will also ensure you're getting the most out of your book group — learning about unfamiliar times, people or places and broadening your perspective.
If you need help with your book list, BDS staff are here to assist.