This is my review of Bloomsbury Essential Guide for Reading Groups by Susan Osborne.
This is very helpful for suggesting ideas for books when a group is floundering round for the next set of titles. Classified by theme e.g. childhood, growing up, growing older, death and how we cope with it, friendship, etcetera, it features 75 titles – mostly written during the past 20 years, and safely between pulp fiction chicklit and obscure highbrow fiction. We are given a summary of each book – perhaps a little more info than I would like in some cases, a potted biography of the author, background to the novel, discussion topics and related resources e.g. interviews with the author.
The author has clearly put a good deal of work into this, and it is certainly labour-saving for a reading group organiser, also summarising a range of resources available, such as websites of literary magazines which review books.
I was initially sceptical because the opening advice on setting up a group seems a bit obvious and patronising e.g. “the easiest way to start a reading group is to begin with friends”…”If you have a small group, two missing members might mean that you want to reschedule”
A few useful points have been omitted such as the fact that sometimes sets of books can be obtained through the local library. The University of the Third Age deserves a mention. How to obtain books – e.g. secondhand through Amazon for as little as one penny plus postage is also worth flagging up. Working through local community groups and having a space on a website, or one’s own website is another area to include.
This very useful book lends itself to having an “online” version which can be updated regularly.