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Cornflower book group

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Our book group meets once a month, but we don't all read and discuss the same book. At our first meeting of the season in September each member brings along three or four books (fiction/non-fiction - whatever appeals to the individual)that they have enjoyed. After a brief outline of the reasons for their choices, the books are put out on the table and picked up on a first come, first served basis. Over the course of the year, the books circulate and discussions continue from month to month.
We have found that this way of doing things avoids the guilt of not having read a particular book by a set deadline. The conversation rarely strays from the subject of books because there is such a variety.
Most of the titles are new issues, but sometimes a classic does make an appearance.
Ususally everyone gets a fair chance to speak - we have only had the one off-putting experience of a 'dominant' personality, but this was tactfully & effectively dealt with by our 'organiser'.
We ahve had a number of hits over the years along with some which have really divided opinion, leading to some really good meetings.
The books are predominantly French.


That sounds like a very interesting and successful way of doing things - thankyou!


How often do you meet? Once a month

How are the books chosen? Books that have won an award/prize or been shortlisted for same lot of foreign books too.

We read fiction including short stories.

Do you tend to read recently published books or range widely over works from all periods? Published in last 3-4 years. We wait until book comes out in paperback.

Has everyone read the book by discussion day? Usually. Does everyone get a fair chance to speak> Everyone has a chance to speak. Some naturally say more than others just because they are more confident speakers.

Do you find you stick to talking about the book when you meet? We focus on the book and then have lunch and the conversation is then on general subjects.

Do you find you get more out of a book when you're reading it for the group? I read with more attention when for group and make notes but it is more relaxing when reading just for fun.

Has any book been a particular hit with the group or given rise to an especially stimulating discussion? Wolf Hall/ The Lacuna.

Susan in TX

Our group met once a month. Everyone contributed titles and we picked 11 from the list (December we did a book swap). The rule was that at least one person had to have read the title in question (in an effort to prevent a "dud"). We read fiction and non-fiction, from classics to modern and everything in between. While not everyone could complete every book every meeting, everyone was allowed to participate in the discussion (most only discussed as far as they read). The person who submitted the title was the one who came up with the discussion questions for that book and led the discussion that month. We did tend to stick to the book for discussion (for at least the first hour -- then we moved on to other topics over food). I do find that I read books differently when I'm reading for a book discussion -- even Cornflower books where I don't discuss face-to-face. :)
A few of the books that stirred up some of the best discussions (just a few, pulled from about 4 years of meeting) were: The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas (we usually did longer classics over 2 months in the summer), Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (don't know if people outside the States go over-the-top with the commercialization of Christmas like Americans do, but that's where this one gets its humor), Midwives by Christopher Bohjalian, A Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and Forgiving the Dead Man Walking by D. Morris.

This topic is one of my favorites, so I'll be popping back in to see how everyone weighs in (and look for those "favorite" book recommendations. :) )


If you have a reccommendation for an enjoyable read to follow the excellent 'L'élégance du Hérisson' it would be very welcome to improve my French!


I just heard Alexander McCall Smith speak last night, and he was very funny about book groups (and many other things!) He said that people in book groups should remember that many, many books are written by authors with gallstones...

I would love to be in a non-virtual book group, but I would want to be in one where people actually read the books. I've just heard too many stories of ones where no one ever does...there's friendship, and gossip, and good food (all good things), but I'd still want to read.

Julie Fredericksen

I am no longer a book club member but was one for 17 1/2 years so I feel I am qualified to answer your questions. We met once a month and the hostess chose the book. We usually read fiction but enjoyed some non-fiction too. We had just one rule: No hardcovers. Every once in a while someone would choose a classic. We read poetry or short stories at Christmas, when no one (but me) had time to read a book.

When we were in the era of Oprah's book club, we read a lot from her list. Otherwise, it was pretty varied. I was introduced to the trade paperback while in book club and still go to them today for a pretty reliable good read. I got to the point where I was upset if someone chose a popular mass market paperback (Sue Grafton, James Patterson, Maeve Bincy and once, horrors, Danielle Steele).

Audrey's second paragraph described my book club to a "T". We would always start off with lots of discussion (gossip) and as the evening wore on someone, usually the hostess, would say, "We need to talk about the book!" Usually only three of us regularly read the book; the others could not be counted upon to finish, or even START the book. It made discussion so difficult, especially when someone would say, "We'd better not talk about the ending." My reply was, "Yes, let's talk about the ending; it's not our fault if someone didn't finish." This Failure to Read is why I eventually quit.

I did get more out of a book when I read it for club. I read it more carefully, and flagged more passages. I also remembered a book better when it had been discussed in group.

There were some books that generated a great deal of discussion. There were others that did not, but all of those were not failures. We might have really enjoyed a certain book but it just didn't generate discussion beyond, "I really liked it."

Julie Fredericksen

Sorry, I didn't mean to misspell Binchy.

Susie Vereker

I couldn't cope with the Elegance of the Hedgehog at all.Too unlikely.
I'm not in a book group. Seems to me people in our local one often choose books I don't want to read - my own taste is a bit peculiar.


If you liked the hedgehog, you could also try 'Une Gourmandise' by the same author - have to say that I preferred this one! Anything by Annie Ernaux is a safe bet and Maxence Fermine is another favourite: try 'Neige' or 'Le Violon Noir' to start with. You will find informative reviews on both and


Hi Susie - it is an unlikely plot but you must remember that I like Terry Pratchett! Additionally the plot requires perfect grammar - which was a nice extra for a learner!
The nice thing at Cornflower is that you are not required to read any of the books but still gain from the ideas. I'm not in a regular book group either.


Many thanks fifiquilter - I will look up your suggestions and look forward to more hours of fun with book, coffee, music .... and


I am in a bookclub that meets once a month. In December we meet for a potluck dinner and general chitchat. The rest of the year we meet at a restaurant, discuss the book and then general chitchat. The book comes first.
We only read books that are out in paperback. Water for Elephants and The Book Thief were popular ones. Most of the time we all finish the book. But not always. And we have one person in our group who has severe dyslexia and rarely finishes the book. And that is okay with us.


Our book club meet once a month and has been running for 8 years. We read fiction, non-fiction, and short stories. No poetry or plays yet, but who knows.

Whoever is hosting chooses the book, we read mostly from the 20th/21st centry. Generally everyone has read the book by the meeting. We discuss the book whenever feels natural, but also generally include chat and a meal. We don't come armed with question topics for eachother or anything scary like that, but rather let the conversation flow. Some do speak more than others. Often a point I might have made might be offered by someone else. Occasioanly I suspect that one member has hunted for appropriate comments to make on "google" - usually rather obviously so. I prefer the more personal oppinions, especially if a book has touched someone in a particual way.

It is hard to say what produces the most dicussion. Maybe when a book has divided the group, like "Never Let me Go" for instance. "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck provided lots to talk about, although not everyone enjoyed it. Sometimes someone elses comments can provide a fresh view or greater understanding of a book.

I would add that I always agonise over my choice, hoping to select something that I think will be stimulating. I tend to note down books that I have read or heard reviewd that I like the sound of, from radio/newspapers/blogs. Some select from the 3 for 2 offers. If there is a film version of abook that we have read, we might get together to see that - as we did with "Miss Pettygrew Lives for a day".


1. Once every six weeks or so but it is not set in stone, someone will get a diary out and suggest a date and we go from there.

2. At the end of the discussion we each write the name of any book on a piece of paper which then goes in a hat and someone is chosen to "pick a winner".

3. We have read fiction mostly but we are doing non fiction next and then poetry. We have done short stories and memoir and Paulo Coehlo!!!

4. We read whatever book comes up.

5. No. but the discussion goes better if most people have read the book. We make sure everyone does have a say. I find women are much more organic and democratic in the way they let the discussion develop. We have an academic male who comes from time to time and he tends to put a damper on any discussion (he knows best etc) and we take it in turns to sit on him.

6. On average the discussion lasts an hour and a half before we start to drift off to other topics. Anyone who tried to start a general discussion or worse to gossip would be told off and shut up.

7. The whole point of the Group is to be able to share our thoughts and it can seem at times that some of us have read completely different books....but that is the joy of it. The best times are when someone manages to change your opinion about a book....

8. This group has been going for years and after 10 years we had a vote on what had been our best book and it was THE BLUE FLOWER by Penelope Fitzgerald ( originally suggested for discussion by me of course!!)......The Outsider by Colin Wilson was a damp squib....


Our Reading Group (three and a half years old) meets once a month. Our books are supplied by the County Library Service which has a large number of Reading Group Sets available and a catalogue that can be accessed online. The books are delivered to our local library a few days before the meeting and someone from the group will pick them up. They are returned in the same way.

One a year we spend hours looking at the catalogue and choose a book each (it helps that there are around a dozen of us in the group) and submit our list to the Library Service. The catalogue contains both fiction and non-fiction and we have read a lot of both but we chose not to take up the Library Service's offer of play-reading sets. We are unlikely to be able to read the latest Booker Prize winner, for example, on this system but the bonus is that the catalogue contains many books which are now out of print or unavailable. The catalogue is updated annually.

Not everyone manages to read all the book by the meeting (I stalled at page 5 on a book about George Stevenson) but everyone tries very hard to. We all respect each other's choices and come armed with our own thoughts, background info gleaned from Google, pictures, maps and anything else relevant.

I administer the group and I work hard to make it as inclusive as possible, making sure everyone gets their chance to speak and encouraging the slightly more reticent. I am a bit fierce and only allow 5-10 minutes catch-up chat at the start and then we're into discussing the book for maybe an hour/hour and a half. Then coffee and chat and the second part is given over to admin (collecting/distributing books, arranging venues, book recommendations, questions, general chat.) On books that have raised fierce responses, we have still been debating three hours later.

The book that completely obsessed the group a while ago was Thursbitch (Alan Garner); we even had the maps out and were plotting to do the walks but we try to extract the best from every book. Even if we feel a book was a bit of a literary disaster, someone will bring in autobiographical information, or tell us a bit about the country it's set in or about its turbulent history and we try and rescue the meeting that way. Members enjoy doing this (it's not a requirement!) and it certainly enhances our reading experience. Lolita was universally disliked because of the subject matter but we tried hard to understand the reasons why it is a classic.

Everyone agrees the book group is a real bonus in their lives, especially because we read things that we would never have chosen for ourselves. We all value hearing other people's points of view and even having our own opinions changed.


How often do you meet? once a month

How are the books chosen? by the hostess and when they are stuck for a title, they go online to read some "good books for reading groups" for example, good selections for every type of book club,

Do you read non-fiction as well as fiction?
mostly fiction

Do you tend to read recently published books or range widely over works from all periods? definitely a range

Has everyone read the book by discussion day? most of the time. if one person starts to dominate the conversation, the other members yawned and pretend they are going to sleep -- works every time!

Do you find you stick to talking about the book when you meet? we have a social time with wine and appetizers at the start, move to the book discussion (45-60 minutes), then back to social with dessert, if anyone wants to stay and chitchat. If we have an author chat, the night is a bit longer.

Do you find you get more out of a book when you're reading it for the group? I don't feel I do anything different -- probably because I worked in the book club business

Has any book been a particular hit with the group or given rise to an especially stimulating discussion? any book that has lovers and haters. and, by the time the night is over, many people have changed their minds. not a stimulating conversation? any book that everyone likes.

I am biased -- I am constantly reading books to make selections for reading groups for my career. I loved my job -- the reading group/book club community is one of the best way to share ideas and communicate opinions in a civilized manner. Well, most of the time it is civilized:)


I belong to two book groups; in one each member of the group choses a book to read during the next year and we lead the discussion on our own books - as some of the group is very literary and a couple barely read outside the book group choicces this leads to a very vaaried selection. We basically read fiction but a few non political biographies and memoires have crept in - The Flame Trees of Thikka for instance.
The other group is multi national and we chose as a group, we try to have one non-fiction, one classic and at least two foreign novels (they must have been translated into English) each year.

In both groups members can veto books if they really can't stand the author (this can cause extreme bad feeling so isn't often done), we try not to read second books by the same authors unless the styles are radically different and we don't do short stories as experience has shown that some people will have concentrated on one or two stories while others want to talk about entirely different ones and it's hard to get a good discussion going.

Political books are out too as members tend to discuss their own ideas rather than the book.

At both we meet, discuss the book in depth then have lunch. Book groups are women only.

I love my reading groups. I've been introducted to some fantastic authors, likewise I've come across some whom I'll never willingly go near again and by having to read books I'd never normally pick up I've had some of my literary prejudices turned upside down.


Been in a few, drawing from general experience:
Monthly meetings
Choice of book to rotate, always good to avoid your all-time favourite in case it's rubbished by the group
Everyone gets 5 minutes say at the start then general discussion
Rarely has everyone read all of the book
Talk will devolve into other books, films, life more or less quickly depending on the dedication of the group to talking about books - it doesn't matter as long as there isn't a singleton out of kilter with the groove for talking/not talking about books
Choice of books usually fiction, good to introduce memoir, poetry and nonfiction from time to time

I get tons more out of reading with and for the group than alone, most importantly it makes me read books I wouldn't normally pick up and/or have never heard of. Easily ridiculed as a middle-class female obsession, they help me learn more about the world and myself.

A book group friend recently sent me these links, to quote her verbatim:
"Talking about people's various book groups the other day, reminded me of Rachel Cusk's incredibly bitchy (but car-crash fascinating) article that appeared in the Guardian a few years back, slagging off a book group she'd joined:

And this is a reply the next week from one of the other members (the letter is called 'writer and readers'):

Julie Fredericksen

Reading the comments added since I commented, I have to add that I, too, have read many books for book club that I ordinarily would not have chosen, or even given a passing glace, and that is one of the greatest benefits of belonging to a book club. (Or an online club, as I certainly have been introduced to new authors thanks to you, Karen, and your readers.)

Jennifer Dee

My group meet at Truro Library the first Thursday of each month. We talk about the book(s) we have read since the last meeting, which could be anything from fiction to nonfiction. I love this idea of not reading the same book;I have read many books that I wouldn't normally have read just because of the enthusiasm the other members talk about the book. We also talk about a book we didn't particualry like and say the reasons why. This month we are going to our local Waterstones where the manager is going to show us all the back room stuff that goes on in a busy book shop. I'm told we are going to have a coffee (Costa coffee within the store) and a mince pie. We are also planning to go to all of the local writing festivals next year. Always wanted to go to the Daphne De Maurier Festival so looking forward to that one.

Simon T

I love my two book groups so much, even though they're very different - one, which usually gets about 6 people, just picks books when we feel like, and anything anyone suggests goes down, a nice mix of new and old. The other, which usually gets about 40 people, has a very democratic process of six being drawn out a hat, and then this shortlist going on the website, etc. etc. They're quite different groups, but I love 'em both.

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