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Creating a successful, lively book club: Picks and tips from 'The Stacks' Traci Thomas

A man browses through books at the Cecil H. Green on the Stanford University Campus. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A man browses through books at the Cecil H. Green on the Stanford University Campus. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Book clubs leaders, look no further for next month’s selection.

The Stacks” creator and host Traci Thomas has a list of her picks for book club reads. And if you’re dealing with drama or want to gather a group of bookworms, she also shares tips for forming and maintaining a lively book club.

Book club recommendations from Traci Thomas of ‘The Stacks’

Fiction


Nonfiction

Tips on running a bountiful book club from Thomas

What makes a good book club book?

“Sometimes a good book can be something that you enjoy and that you process for yourself and it’s just a moment that you have. But a good book club book has to have topics for discussion. There has to be room for debate and conversation that the book brings up organically. You’re always looking for something that has lots of topics that are debatable and bring up emotions and feelings in the reader.”

Does the book need to be controversial or a best seller?

“No, I don’t think so. I think some of the best book club conversations that I’ve ever been a part of often have to do with family because we all have family and relationship to them whether that’s, you know, the family you were born into, a family that maybe adopted you, a chosen family. So those kinds of themes that are big and overreaching, they are really ripe for discussion and that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a popular book or a best-seller or anything like that.”

How do you create a healthy, enjoyable group free of drama?

“I think if you’re starting your own book club the first thing you want to think about is what you want the book club to focus on. And pick people that you think have interesting things to say about that. Think about people who you do enjoy talking to, who don’t hog the conversation when you’re out to dinner. Think about people who will mesh well with each other, you know, you can’t have a book club with one friend who hates pop culture and the other person watches ‘Real Housewives’ every night … You’re not going to be able to find common ground. So you want to be able to find the right group of people and maybe it’s five people. It doesn’t have to be your whole PTA group. It can be a small intimate group of people that you think will have good conversation.”

How can a book club leader handle a person who isn’t fitting in or following guidelines?

“I would say if you have someone who’s hogging the conversation or who isn’t cooperating in the way that you think that they should, I would pull them aside but I would also maybe implement some structure to the book club like ‘Okay, we’re going to start with this topic. Everyone gets two minutes’ and someone’s going to say, ‘Okay you have thirty seconds left’ and try to find ways to still be inclusive with the people that you’ve chosen while also setting up some firm boundaries so people who maybe are a little more shy don’t get stepped on all the things they do in third grade.”

What if you hate the book? Do you still go to book club?

“I love to hate a book, it’s one of my favorite hobbies. I love to find issues with art, I think that art is rife for discussion and that if you love everything you can’t possibly love anything. And I think that book club is the perfect place to have these conversations. Obviously, please people be respectful of one another. But, I don’t like to be too precious with anything and I think it’s sort of fun when someone doesn’t like something. I think it’s fun when there are different opinions and, and you kind of have to fight your point or explain your point. So for me, when someone comes to book club and they don’t like the book, I’m am always so excited.”


Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Tamagawa also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.