So, you’re either already in a reading group and have responsibility to host or facilitate; OR you’ve been thinking about starting a reading club or group but have been unsure about where to begin; OR you’ve happened upon this post by accident and can’t wait to browse some other posts here or elsewhere . . . .
Whether you’re a reader of not, if you have any kind of small group meeting in your home or if you ever plan to host such a group, hang in here for a few more paragraphs and see if you can use some of this stuff. It comes from decades of experience at facilitating small groups and will save you tons of anxiety and conflict as you facilitate your reading group.
Since it says so in the title, I’m going to assume this is a reading group we have responsibility for. Ready?
DO establish Group Rules/Guidelines. Some groups fail to do this and end up paying the price down the road. Even though we tend to hate rules, they help everyone know what’s expected and agreed upon. Therefore they lend stability and a level of predictability to the group experience. These in turn help the group cohere
Group rules/guidelines should be decided upon by the group for ownership. There’s always somebody who will conflict with the rules unless they understand that it’s not just you as facilitator/leader that has decided upon the standards, but the entire group that has set the standards in place. If we weren’t such easily offended, touchy, literary types, this would not be an issue, but this is 21st century America. In addition, people like to know what’s expected and allowed.
- Housekeeping Items to share with the group should be shared up front. These can include things like deciding whether you’ll meet at the same place every week, or rotate through the homes of those who volunteer to open their
- Meeting Times - Decide at the first meeting if the beginning and ending times work out for everyone. Set times that all can agree upon. Then KEEP THEM!!
- Begin on time. This is important. Plan 15 minutes up front to catch up, banter. But begin on time! This is the right place to say END ON TIME too. I’ll hit this one more time later in case you’ve forgotten by the time you go through this post of do’s and don’ts.
- ALL Cell phones OFF (or set to Airplane mode) - This is REALLY important. Far too many people are tied to their cell phones as though they were umbilical cords. Most people do not need to be immediately available. Unless you’re Secret Service, a brain surgeon on call, or a Navy Seal on active alert, you can probably go without the cell phone for an hour and a half.
- Provide a comfortable circle – Set up chairs so that you are in a circle. Try not to have too many hard chairs. Do you to strait to the hard chair to plant yourself for the next hour?
- Eliminate distractions – Don’t allow for ringing phones, howling dogs, demonized cats, parrots that quote Shakespeare. Some distractions can be very cute, but over the long haul, people will begin to drop out and you’ll never understand why. If your husband does Elvis impressions, ask him to perform in “the meeting AFTER the meeting”–when those who wanted to, have been able to spare themselves by way of a hasty departure
- Decide ahead of time about refreshments – Does the host home provide them all? Or do you rotate who brings them to the meeting place.
DO Establish “House rules.” These are the guidelines/rules that hosting home or establishment sets out for the group. The group should determine if this is a house group or a group that meets in public (e.g. at Starbucks or Joe’s Bagel Emporium). If in public, make sure you (or someone) has talked to the manager or asst. manager to find out what their expectations are. Work within them and you may have a great experience. You’ll be happy and they’ll be happy to have a regular group of customers.
If your reading group will meet in a home–your home–unapologetically lay out your expectations. After all, this is YOUR house. You are sharing it with your fellow readers, but they are not renting the space. They are in your home. You can expect them to understand that you really don’t want smoking in your home or dirty shoes on the wall-to-wall white carpeting in your formal living room. Or on the imported Persian rug in your library. If you’re unsure about what guidelines you’d like to establish, then seek out someone who’s experienced at hosting and they can give you a heads up on what you might realistically expect.
- What about kids? Will they be attending since some of your readers may be single moms or dads?What about your own kids? Will they be allowed to interrupt the group whenever they want attention or another glass of chocolate milk (part of the problem already perhaps)? Some parents of young children seem clueless when it comes to allowing their children too much freedom to be front and center. I’ve heard every excuse for why continual attention-grabbing is ignored or dismissed by some parents. Be honest with one another and discuss how children will or will not fit into the plan. We have found that a babysitter, or older sibling–paid for by the group–is often the perfect solution. We put a love-bowl on the table and even the parents who don’t have children present usually give generously and the babysitter goes home happy too.
- Provide Orientation – which door do you normally use? Let them know. Show them the bathrooms. Let them know if nothing but paper goes down the toilets please. Is it OK to get a glass of ice water or do you have a special time for “snacks & refreshments?” Anything they should know about parking? You get the picture.
- Purchase Helpful Resources – You might like to purchase some resources in the form of reference books to have on had for your meetings. Have Helpful Resources on hand (see my “5 Helpful Resources Every Book Club Should Own”).
- End on time. I repeat this because it’s very important. Better to have them leaving and wanting more than to have them continually fidgeting and glancing between your clock and their phones. You can always end on time and announce that whoever would like can mill around another half-hour. So now, I’ll lead by example. THE END.
QUESTION: What are some DO’s and DON’Ts you have discovered from your experience in a Reading Group/Club?
© 2013, David C Alves
To Catalog or Not to Catalog?
That is the question for us bibliophiles. Why is that a question for us? Because we are a diverse lot. We are a stewpot of male, female, everything in between, adventurers, eggheads, bookworms, Renaissance men and women, lovers, haters, spiritual, unspiritual, true believers, atheists, scientists, romantics. You get my point. We have a challenge agreeing on anything . . . except our love of books. But even here, we diverge–our tastes align infrequently. But when they do . . . it’s Nirvana, Happy Hunting Ground, Heaven, or Oblivion–whichever you embrace.
For some, cataloging opposes a dearly held value–freedom. The person who has a perfect memory, has his/her books already cataloged mentally. He knows where every book he ever bought is located. She is aware of the date of purchase, the cost, the conversation at the checkout, and the feel and weight of the volume (perhaps smell too). Others of us–I believe most of us–know we think that maybe we have that book. Sounds familiar. Oh right. I bought four copies because I forgot about the other three. I know they’re here . . . somewhere. And that’s the testimony of a young person. Add forty years to a twenty-year-old and 10,000 volumes over a lifetime, and you might be in the boat I’m in.
I NEED to catalog.
And if you use your books, as I often do, as research assistants, then you definitely need to catalog. Unless you IQ and retention are superhuman–which leaves the rest of us out.
In a modest attempt to unite us toward a consensus then, let’s consider some reasons for or against cataloging your personal library. See, I know you. Some of you are already querying, “Why do we need to ‘unite . . . toward a consensus”?
Because, we may grow. We may be able to move from our own opinion to include the opinion of someone who can simplify our lives and free us of our limitations. Someone who got desperate enough early on to know that libraries catalog for a reason. And I have benefited from that system across my years of education, research, and writing.
Don’t have a personal library? But you want one? Then take a moment to read “How to Build Your Personal Library.” You may want to then read, “How to Arrange Your Personal Library.” Then come back here.
Some Pro’s and Con’s – You Decide
- Takes too much time
- I could be reading instead
- I hate organizing
- I’d rather not know what I have. I like surprises
- I know what I have
- I can easily access the information I need
- I like order and harmony
- If I want to lay my hands on a book, I know exactly where it is
- I want to know where I bought it, when, how much I paid, etc.
- I can do book lists in an instant
3 Resources I’ve Found Helpful
- Librarything.com - a little technical for me. I prefer user-friendly. Also, I could not find a mobile app that worked properly.
- Collectorz.com – costs money, but a good system. I used it for years. Stopped using it because every upgrade cost money and I could only access my books if I had my computer wtih me.
- Goodreads.com - FREE and easy to use. Lacks some bells & whistles, but I’m sure they’ll show up soon enough. In addition, the mobile app is excellent, easy to use and access, and user-friendly.
QUESTION: Do you catalog your personal library? What software or site have you found helpful?
This is unashamedly a “How to” post. How to form a “quality” book club or reading group. The adjective in this title is all important. It describes what kind of reading group you form. In my opinion, and since you have no possibility of redeeming wasted time, a quality book club is the only kind of reading group worth participating in.
Assuming that you value your time, this is the right post for you. Either it will confirm something you’re already doing right (that should make you feel good); or, it can prove helpful motivational to consider doing something worth your time and effort. Perhaps the information shared here will equip you to take that step you’ve been contemplating–planning the launch of a quality book club or reading group. So, where do we begin?
So, are you starting a group that you will lead? Or are you wanting something more democratic? Just remember, the more cooks you invite into the kitchen the better or worse the food may be, but the question is do you want the confusion that can come with a room full of cooks? If so, then bring the group together to form the group, otherwise, you form the group and see who’s interested. Some groups prefer to not have to make a thousand decisions. They make far too many decisions every day as it is. So they may LOVE that fact that the leader takes that load off. Other groups don’t like one person leading. At this point, it’s your decision and your group, if you haven’t formed one yet.
Let’s assume you’re beginning a group and you’re unsure.
Decide Upon the Nature of the Group
First of all, is it a “reading group” or a “book club.” The suggestions in this post apply to a group of either nature. A “reading group” may read any number of different kinds of books. It may read a novel one month and a non-fiction, self-help the next. The group may decide to read the likely definitive biography of Neil Armstrong this month and a history of the game of Monopoly the next (there is such a book).
A “book club” usually forms around a particular author, topic, or genre. The participants may decide to read all the works of G.K. Chesterton or to read as many books as they can find about Sable Island. They could also be genre oriented. One book club I know of reads nothing but high fantasy another club reads only military history books.
It’s important to determine the nature of your club or group, but don’t get into angst about this. You can either decide up front–before you invite participants–or you can think of the people you want to invite into the group and bring them together to discuss what kind of group you’d like to be. Just make sure you enjoy the process. This is about FUN!! Keep that central. When it stops being fun, forget about it. You don’t need more stress in your life.
Once you know what kind of group you’ll be–reading group or book club–you’re ready to take the next step–determining the content.
Determine the Content
Is there an expert in the group from whom you can learn something new and valuable? Get rid of her/him. Just kidding. Actually, if you have a person who is knowledgeable in a particular area, and it’s an area worth exploring or learning more about, the group may want to invite that person to suggest or submit a bibliography and the group or leader could choose a reading list from the bibliography. In any case, bibliographies are invaluable when exploring an author, a genre, or a niche. Here is a source of bibliographies that can be invaluable to the reading group or book club.
Perhaps you decide you want to form a reading list from the top 10 New York Times best sellers (though that list is no guarantee of quality). A group that enjoys hiking or mountain climbing may want to Google books about climbing K2 or great hikes in the White Mountains of NH. Some groups I’ve heard of really like to gamble. They invite a different member each month to determine the title they’ll read for that month. It can be interesting and informative OR you could be held hostage to bad taste and disaster. You don’t want an exodus of members because they’re exposed to bad or bankrupt literature.
In deciding what your group wants to read, make sure that the writing is good and that it will hold the interest of the group. Fiction should engage the reader and allow for vicarious experience. Non-fiction should instruct, inform, challenge, and provide practical solutions. Both should come highly recommended by a diverse number of people, journals, or reputable sources.
Be able to answer the questions: What do you hope to get out of this group? What are you willing to contribute to the group?
Location, Location, Location
Will you meet in a home, at Borders (are there any left?), the local library? Find the right environment for the group. Make sure that it’s geographically central to the group members. Is it comfortable? Well lit? Free of distractions?
Will you meet in one place or move around? You can rotate homes on a voluntary basis or you can go to one location for the duration. This can be decided by the group or the club members’ circumstances. Libraries often have rooms available for reading groups and book clubs. And the libraries are usually central for a community.
There Must be a Facilitator – the same person or rotate? Clubs that are supposed to “just happen” don’t usually. They flounder unless someone is willing to facilitate–as opposed to dictate. See if anyone is experienced at leading small groups. If not, you do it, but read a few articles on “small group leadership” by searching on Google or your favorite search engine.
Invite people who love books, reading, growing. Diversity brings growth. Avoid clones. I don’t much like being in a group where everyone has to think alike. I’m challenged and stretched by being with people who have different perspectives. But the key to a positive experience with people who hold different values is–respect the right to disagree agreeably. We don’t all see things the same way. We all have filters we walk the world with. As long as we’re willing to acknowledge that and understand that we don’t have to all agree to enjoy and respect one another, we have the opportunity to grow, to explore. Guard this freedom in your group.
Begin a Blog or establish an email newsletter. Give everyone in the group access to share a review or suggestion.
If the group is an open group, Register at an online Finder like “Readerscircle.org” so that others in your area can find you.
What time will you meet? How long will this club meet? Six weeks or throughout eternity? Eternal clubs usually only last six weeks anyway. A good rule of thumb is to read three to six books. If you read one book per month, then that would be three to six months. Then meet for a celebration or barbecue and decide if you’ll go another six months. This gives people the opportunity to opt out or have new people join (assuming you’re a closed club until the time limit is reached). Open clubs can have members come and go as they determine together.
Outside Speakers or not? (see my blog on “Speakers for Book Clubs – Yes or No?” I haven’t written it yet, but check back from time to time or, “Follow” this blog and sign up for email notification at top right)
Decide on a Format
Make sure that you have track to run on that makes your club comfortable because its predictable. Studies have been done that show that MOST people are more relaxed and comfortable when they know what to expect.
I like the following format.
Icebreaker–a question that gives some insight to the person answering. Ask the question. Let each answer in turn. “What was your favorite book when you were 11?” “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?” If you write down the answers, you could surprise everyone with a special ice cream bash which includes all the flavors mentioned.
Discussion By chapter? By character? By topic? What stood out to you in this week’s reading? Leave to facilitator? Use a study guide for the book? I understand that guides are available for book clubs. Do a search.
Choose the First Book
However you decided to proceed, it’s time to pick the first book. Make it a winner! Read something that is absolutely engaging. How will you know? Ask around. Do you know other book clubs or readers? Ask a librarian. Read some reviews. What title keeps coming up? What do reviews at Amazon.com say on the book’s product page?
Now Go and read the “Do’s and Don’ts of Facilitating a Book Club Meeting” [This post is not written yet either, but if you check back, I'll include the link just as soon as it's complete.]
QUESTION: Have you ever started a group? Would you add something I left out?
Now also discounted for purchase. You can purchase this life changing book for your Kindle for $4.99. Snap it up!
What’s the book about?
This is a word to the body of Christ primarily, but others can also benefit. God longs for us to get our understanding of who we are from him, not from the surrounding culture or from those who have believed man’s view of who we are. The book leans heavily on Scripture because the views I’m sharing are biblical but not popular. This is meat, not milk.
We’re told to believe that we’re “sinners saved by grace” and we WERE. We’re told that we’re beggars who have found bread, now leading others to that bread, but neither of those are biblical images for our identity. We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . . So What? presents the neglected view of God’s perspective on who we truly are–the “sons of God.” Women, too, find out how sonship applies to you. How it elevates you. Men discover a sense of your role as a man in this world and the next.
To really get hold of this truth and apply the practical suggestions for your spiritual formation, can break you free of strongholds and generational sin, including alcoholism, drug addictions, sexual addictions, and other bondages that keep us earth-bound. You will be filled with Christ’s humility as you consider the scope of the Good News of the Royal Reign of God the Father and your role in his Kingdom.
Want to know God’s will for your life? Want to know your inheritance and begin living in it? See what follows our light and momentary season of suffering.
- In My Father’s House
- What kind of Father?
- A Heart at the Head of the Family
- God’s Authority and Order
- Behind the Veil: God’s Council and the ha Bene Elohim
Know the Problem
- The Great Rebellion
- On Earth As It Is In Heaven
- Wounded Earth
- Kingdoms at War
- Cultures at War
- The “god” of This World
Know the Solution—the Beautiful News!
- Turning Hearts: A Restoration of Legitimate Authority
- The Son of God: All Authority
- Godly Leaders
- Authority of Love
- Promoted Down
Know Who YOU Really Are
- Jesus’ and Paul’s Vision
- What did Paul see? Why could it have caused him to be so “lifted up” that he needed a thorn in the flesh to keep him from harm? Who are we? What was “the joy” set before Jesus? What did he understand that gave him a sense of what lay ahead? What did Paul see in the “third heaven?”
- A New Age—The Royal Reign of God
- sons of God
- A New Family—joined in heaven and earth
- Firstfruits of the Kingdom
Bear the Likeness
- We Shall Be Like Him
- The promises of “glory” are promises to bear the likeness of Christ or of God, depending upon the context in which it’s used.
- Walk As Jesus Walked
- Fixed On Jesus – author & perfector
- Ministry in the 21st Century
- Useful to the King—Rev. 3:14ff
- Our Choices
Prepare to Rule
- The real Return of the King
- The Revealing of the “sons of God”
- Raised and Reunited
- Our Fatherland
- The New Heavens and the New Earth
- Our Father’s City
- “The New Jerusalem”
- The End of Evil
- The End is the Beginning – Back Where We Belong
- Believe INTO Who God Says You Really Are?
Check it out. You’ll be encouraged. Then spend 4.99 to change your life.
Or join Amazon Prime and borrow it for free. But after you read it you’ll not only want your own Kindle version, you’ll want either a softcover or hardcover version. (which I prefer, because I use it so much and it holds up under continued study). Let me know what you think.
QUESTION: Are you living the abundant life Jesus won for you? Are you riding the heights of the earth yet?
©2012, David C Alves
Sabbath Keeping is a fresh look at an important antidote to our chronic busyness.
I love it that Lynne Baab does not approach the topic from the vantage-point of “law.” Rather, she comes at it through a seasonal metaphor. Life is full of seasons. Sabbath rest is an organic, season in our week. It is a rhythm of life. Those who participate in this special gift of God–one day out of seven–experience a harvest of peace and joy in the midst of their lives.
She also gives practical helps for those interested in going deeper or launching into a Sabbath. She gives multiple solutions for those who want to move out of the cultural torrent, to the still waters of a deeper spirituality.
Since I have been keeping a Sabbath with my wife for two years now, I find her suggestions and conclusions to be right on target. I highly recommend this book to veterans or those just thinking about the need for a quiet space in their week.
The following story by Joel Rosenberg, in his newsletter, simply adds support to my post entitled: At the Middle of the End: No Way Out. The following paragraph appeared in “FlashTraffic:”
CULTURAL IMPLOSION? — It’s hard to make up stuff like this. “A West Virginia man who was traveling across the United States gathering material for a book about kindness in America was shot and wounded while eating lunch in Montana, police said on Monday,” Reuters reports. “Ray Doland, 32, was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the arm following the incident near Glasgow, Montana on Saturday, Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier said. Doland was still in hospital on Monday but was expected to recover, Meier said.” The sad and bizarre story comes on the heels of a new FBI crime stats report indicating a big jump in the number of murders in small towns across America. While overall crime went down slightly last year, murders in towns of under 10,000 people spiked 18.3%. –from Joel Rosenberg’s “Flashtraffic” Newsletter
I purchased and am reading Implosion. I just downloaded it on my Kindle. I KNOW it will be good. It’s a little pricey. Perhaps the publisher (Tyndale House) is trying to encourage readers to purchase the hardcover.
Usually Kindle books are under $10. This one is $14.84. And you can buy the hardcover version NEW for $14.99, only a few cents more. What are they thinking? I’m trying not to let that take away from the important premise of Implosion. I see it coming and have tried to alert people to be ready by knowing that they are right with our Father-God. My heart longs for a nation that honors Christ. That has seldom been the case. At least during the Great Awakenings, a wave of hunger for God abounded. But can that happen for this reprobate nation? I waver in my hope. I KNOW God can move, I just don’t believe His Justice will allow it this time. Otherwise, He’d have to clear Sodom & Gomorrah.
- BILLY GRAHAM’S DAUGHTER COMMENDS “IMPLOSION”: Book releases nationwide today. (flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com)
- I will lift my eyes!!! (sistersforchrist.wordpress.com)
- “Implosion” Named on “The Blaze” Top 10 Summer Reading List (flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com)
- At the Middle of the End: No Way Out? (davidcalves.com)