Lead a Discussion

Are you interested in leading a book discussion group, but don't know what's involved? Here are some guidelines that may be helpful, especially to new discussion leaders. Feel free to follow some or all of these suggestions. The idea is to keep the meetings relaxed but meaningful.

Decide on a Book

The book you select should be one that will encourage discussion and be of interest to a diverse group. Some books, although a "good read" do not have much meat for discussion. (Murder mysteries, for example, are often excellent books to read, but may leave little to discuss.) The best books are ones that make you think and learn.

Recommend Titles

Lists of recommended titles for book discussion groups are widely available! Marnie Smith and other library staff members can show you about the wonderful database "Novelist" and can offer suggestions. Internet sites are also helpful: one excellent site is Reading Group Guides

Read the Book Before Making a Final Decision

Check to be sure there are enough copies of the book available within our group of libraries. Fifteen copies should be enough. The computer catalog will tell you how many copies there are in the system, or Marnie can check that for you.

Choose a Date

Marnie will put you on the schedule as soon as you have decided on a book. Marnie will arrange to get copies of the book. She will also prepare publicity, distribute flyers, and send notices to the local newspapers prior to each month's discussion.

Do Some Preparation

You may want to prepare a brief outline of the book to get the discussion started. Find some information about the author: other books written, awards, best-sellers, etc. This does not need to be extensive, but is helpful to set a tone for discussion.

Find reviews, to learn what others have had to say about this book. Book reviews are always presented on Amazon or Marnie can help if you like.

Book Discussion Guide

Check to see if a prepared Book Discussion Guide already exists: the two websites listed above may help. Reading Group Guides also provides lists of recommended questions that can be used even when no prepared guide is available. (This website even offers recipes that have proved helpful at various book group gatherings!)


Ask the library staff to show you how to use Novelist, a wonderful database purchased by the library that offers suggestions of what to read, discussion guides of many books, and extensive reviews of books. You can use Novelist from your computer at home or at the library. Not comfortable with the computer? Marnie will happily do some research for you!

Bring Something to Eat

We think discussions always go better when there is something to munch on! Marnie will provide hot water and all the fixings for instant coffee or tea. The rest is up to you.


Your job as a discussion leader is to see that all get a chance to share their opinions and ideas, and to coax the discussion back to the topic if it begins to go far off course. There has rarely been any problem with this group finding things to talk about! Don't take it personally if others don't like the book you chose. It is the book they may criticize, not you. Some of the best discussions have centered on what people didn't like about a particular book or author's style. Controversy is good for a discussion group