Friday, December 11, 2009

On book club questions

I enjoyed this Guardian blog entry about why "back matter" in novels (author q&a, book club questions, suggested reading lists etc.) is "a waste of space". I've actually found some of this content worthwhile in my reading, but usually just author interviews or a list of the author's favourite books. In general, however, I skip over the stuff, and in particular when it's questions for book clubs.

Here's what I don't understand about book club questions-- doesn't the fact that someone else had to come up with them undermine your reading of the book in the first place? Surely if you read in an engaged fashion, you should be able to come up with your own? And if you aren't engaged enough to do so, that's either a discussion in itself or your book club is reading the wrong books?

In her blog piece, Imogen Russell Williams makes a good case for how limiting back-of-the-book book club questions can be-- one discussion topic requires readers to argue a particular take on an ambiguous ending, undermining the fact that the ambiguity itself is pretty remarkable. It seems these discussion questions seek to nail a book down rather than open it up wide, and therefore I can understand how such discussions could certainly be less than scintillating.

I'd probably quit that book club.