Wednesday, September 4, 2013

General Questions for Nonfiction Book Clubs

Asking the right questions during a book club can make all the difference in the world. While many books feature discussion questions or reading guides, there are so many more discussion worthy books that don’t come with questions. This is especially true of nonfiction books as fiction book clubs are still somewhat more popular.

When choosing books to discuss, it would be unfortunate for book clubs to limit themselves to only discussing books with reading guides. For these situations, I keep a list of basic discussion questions and topics that I fall back on from time to time. I have found that the best questions are open-ended and encourage participants to freely share their opinions. Here is my general list of questions and topics for nonfiction book clubs: 
  1. Did you know anything about this person (or subject) prior to reading this book? What preconceived opinions did you have and did these change after reading the book?
  2. Why do think the author opened the book this way?
  3. Do the issues raised in this book affect your life? How so? How about in the future?
  4. Do you think this book was controversial? If so, which side would you align yourself with?
  5. If the author discussed problems or issues, did he also provide solutions? Do you agree with these solutions or are there other solutions out there?
  6. Talk about the writing style and language of the book. Was the language engaging, inflammatory, etc.? Did it draw you into the story or not? Was the language easily accessible? Were unfamiliar terms and concepts explained?
  7.  Is the focus of this book interior/psychological or exterior/action oriented?
  8. What are the book's strengths and weaknesses?
  9. Did the author succeed in teaching the reader something? If so, what did you learn? If not, how did the author fail?
  10. Have you learned anything new about yourself by reading this book? Please share.
  11. Please share a specific passage or quote from the book that left an impression on you. How did it affect you?
  12. What role do illustrations, maps, etc. play in this book?
Use as many of these questions as you like, but feel free to let the discussion go where it will. Just like an engaging conversation, book discussions can meander from topic to topic and don’t necessarily follow the questions in order. If one or two particular topics really fascinate the group, let them explore these topics for a little while before moving on. As a book club moderator, my personal goal at the beginning of each meeting is to gently guide the group through the questions and topics, but most importantly we are there to have fun. So let the conversation flow and enjoy.
P.S. Here's a fun bonus question that works well with both fiction and nonfiction books: Would this book make a good movie? Cast the movie!
Note: I found the book question mark clip art at:

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