>Books to help you host a Book Group

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The Book Club Cook Book : Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club’s Favourite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp – New York Pengin USA c2004

Recipe for a Book Club : A Monthly Guide for Hosting Your Own Reading Group by Mary O’Hare and Rose Storey – Sterling, Virginia Capital Books 2004

The Book Club Companion : A comprehensive Guide to the Reading Group Experience by Diana Loevy – New York, Berkley 2006

Book Summaries : These books all do the same thing – advise on the books you could read with your book group and how to tie in the food you might consume at that meeting.

The Book Club Cook Book is the heftier of the three with 519 pages. Each chapter profiles a different book ( from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence to Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker via Angela’s Ashes, Anna Karenina, Chocolat and Love in the Time of Cholera amongst many others – 100 titles in fact) giving a brief introduction and description of the book, the recipe and then a summary of their discussions from various book clubs.

Recipe for a Book Club is only 107 pages long and it is divided into 12 chapters – one for each month of the year in different genres. Each chapter give the suggested book title, a menu (with recipes) , a review of the book and information about the author (both very brief) and follow up suggested reading. The suggested readings often seemed to have only a tenuous link to the suggested book and theme.

The Book Club Companion is divided into groupings by genre with chapter headings such as The Beloveds, Brit Lit and Red, White and Noir. The chapters start off with a list of ‘indispensible titles’. And there are some quite pragmatic suggestions for what to do, rules you might want to think about, questions you might come up with as well as the now obligatory recipes.

Review : Given that the Recipe for a Book Club authors state that “our intent is to help you create a relaxed atmosphere and minimize the stress that individuals often feel when they host a gatherng” I think in some ways these books might cause book group hosts more stress.

In my civilian life I belong to two book groups. With the first, we meet at an hotel each month and just partake of the food and drink on offer there. With the other group we meet in each other’s homes but the host of the group is only required to provide tea, coffee and water so the task is not too daunting. Those of us who are visiting bring along the food and any wine, etc. we might wish to share. There is one member who likes to do the whole theme thing when we are at her house (Spanish decor and clothing for The Shadow of the Wind for example) but that is her thing and none of the others of us make any attempt to compete.

I may be biased but I feel both these approaches fulfil the “create a relaxed atmosphere and minimize the stress” criteria.

These books are both are heavily US centred so many titles may not appeal/be available to Australian readers. And while they are new to Blue Mountains City Library, none of these books were published any less than 5 years ago and so won’t mention many notable books published since then. That said, if you are thinking of starting a book group with friends – and it’s so easy to do – these would be a nice jumping off point for ideas.

Reviewed by : Alba

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