How We Choose Our Books

A brave few of us risk later embarrassment by choosing the books that the group will read for the next year. This “Supreme Leadership Task Force,” as a member jokingly put it, has enjoyed many successes in the past (“Trumpet” springs to mind) and some dismal failures (still surprised that “Anthills of the Savannah” was such a bust). Regardless, all the books we’ve read have given us the opportunity to flex our brain-muscle with our thoughtful, funny and creative-minded peers!

Everyone is welcome to recommend books for the discussion (see more on that at the end), but it is just this small group that gathers one evening with book review clippings, downloaded Amazon summaries and award lists. We read about the books and then choose those that best fit the following criteria:

  1. Availability & Affordability: Must be available in paperback. Titles that are currently in hardback but likely to soon be available in paperback by the time it is on our reading calendar are also eligible. Regardless of how good it is, don’t recommend an out-of-stock book.
  2. Diversity: Must not have more than 6 male writers. Must represent different parts of the world, including work that is translated into English. Themes also must be diverse (can’t all be war histories, for example).
  3. Notability: Must be an award-winning or award-nominated work. Some risk will be taken with new authors that have been highly praised by the literary community (“The Intuitionist” anyone?) or a work by a well-known author (“Feast of the Goat” for example).
  4. Political: Must have something to say about the socio-economic world in which we live (e.g. no beach material, however widely praised it may be). The personal is political, but the story has to have some larger complexity to it. Historical fiction counts.
  5. Readability: Must not make us want to run to the kitchen for a knife with which to commit suicide. Also, can’t be such a huge book (500+ pages) that no one actually can finish by the time of the next meeting. At least, no one with a life. Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie are the exceptions to this rule.
  6. Fiction: No, this book group will not read non-fiction. Thanks for asking … again.

As noted above, recommendations from all ARE WELCOME. However, to make the process work, folks do not simply submit a title. Rather, the person making the recommendation is asked to submit a title, a summary of the book and why they believe it fits the criteria of the book group. They must also include a link to Amazon or wherever s/he read a review of the book. And, to make it even easier, all this information is sent to the small group point person to collect for the group review.

One of the best things about participating in a book group is reading unfamiliar works, so members are NOT welcome to recommend books that they have already read.

Photo by Lucas Faragoza on Unsplash