Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bookmovement.com, and two reading gems: Nancy Pearl, Hallie Ephron

Somewhere in the heat of things, I missed posting this column, published Dec. 29. Here's a look at Internet link Bookmovement.com, for book groups, and an interview with Hallie Ephron.

There's an Internet link for readers with every kind of shared interest, at which readers will find rich options, both to learn more about literature and to connect.
Bookmovement.com is free, and includes a service that's a little different. 
As with meetup.com, a regional link for all kinds of clubs, Bookmovement gives clubs their own space, but the site is limited to book groups. Each group has its own visual and easily accessible page, “My Club Page,” for listing materials related to upcoming books, authors, meeting times, reading lists and suggested discussion questions, as well as forums to continue discussion online.
If you are overwhelmed by multiple schedules (and who isn't?), this is a place to quickly locate meeting info and book details. Bookmovement provides reading guides for 20,000 books, shows how many clubs are reading each, and gives clubs space for ratings, plot summary and discussion questions. Individuals may join in to add perspective, or add a specific book guide to their club page with a simple click.
There’s a place to post individual “wish” lists, archive books already read, and other book-related info. This definitely tops using ripped-out notebook pages, I'd say.
There’s also a newsletter, book recommendations, new releases, and–always welcome–book giveaways. The site claims to compile the ratings of books discussed at 35,000 clubs. Since not all great books make great club selections, the ratings give readers an idea of which may yield stimulating discussions.
The site also includes books nominated for writing awards, lists of light reading, and reviews. As an added feature, a section dubbed Author Chats reprints author interviews. There are also lists for group leaders, to help them run the meeting and guide the discussion.

The site links to Nancy Pearl (“Book Lust”), a well-known librarian who has abundant advice for book clubs on operating a group, selecting books, and getting the most out of reading. (Genre fiction, she points out, doesn’t lend itself to any discussion, since everything is pretty well spelled out for the reader and nothing is left to question.)
Her recommendations: mark up the pages as you go along—yes, go ahead and write in the margins if it’s your book; look for the tough questions as you read—everyone may have a different answer when it comes time for discussion; analyze the themes and the characters, as getting to know them well provides insight into the story; notice the book’s structure, and decide whether it works for you as a reader, and whether it helps to tell the story; compare the book to other authors and books, considering who else may have written on the same theme.

Hallie on touring:
Hallie Ephron, a Boston area author from a markedly creative family, is often on tour, visiting a lot of book clubs between the conventional book store stops. I asked her about the large number of book clubs on her tour—as opposed to the old bookstore visits.
Clubs, she says, are a natural venue. “Writing and publishing books is gratifying, but it's mostly one-way communication until you actually get to interact with readers. So getting to speak to a book group or a book club is really the icing on the cake. It's been a treat to speak with local book groups at homes and libraries, where there might be a dozen or more readers, and big book clubs with hundreds of avid readers—like the Greenbrook Country Club's Book Club in New Jersey. Lately I've been speaking about my new novel at a string of Jewish book clubs across the United States."

A plus for any visit: She says club members usually have already read the book when they meet. “The neat thing about speaking to book clubs is that anyone in a book club is, by definition, an enthusiastic reader and an informed human being. Which is to say, these are the most interesting people you can hope to meet. Plus they ask the best questions. I'm always delighted when someone spots a theme or a connection or a clue that I didn't consciously put in, and yet, there it is.” 

This column appeared in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on Dec. 29, 2013. Send your central Massachusetts group meeting info, questions and suggestions to ann.frantz@gmail.com.

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