What Makes a Good Book – Book Discussion Worthy?


Books.  There are great books out there.  As readers, we are quite familiar with these books.  Perhaps they are beautifully written and each word creates a full picture in your mind of the scene, the scents, the heat (or lack there of) in a room.  They can create great emotions – from joy to pain; laughter to anger.  (Come on, admit it – haven’t you ever thrown a book down on a table or across a room because of the emotion it evoked?  No?  Just me?  Well… this is awkward…. 😛 )

My question I present today is what types of books lead to great book discussions?  Not all great reads make for great discussion.  I know personally from my own book club experiences, some are really hard to group review other than just opening the room up to discussion.  No hot topic questions come to mind… no great emotion.  The book may be perfectly fine, there’s just really not much to say.  😯

I love books that stretch us.  That make us think differently.  They cause a difference in opinions within the group – love or hate the protagonist; lets talk about it.  Hot topics of today and/or in the past… lets discuss. 

SO I toss this question out to you.  Many of us are in book clubs or book discussion groups. 

When choosing a book that you think would be great to bring to the group to read, what do you look for within that book? 

Do you look for something in the synopsis that you think will work great for a group discussion, or is that not a part of it? 

When you select a book for a reading discussion have you already read it? 


I am excited to hear what your group does. 🙂

39 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Book – Book Discussion Worthy?

  1. A subject that you and others are passionate about (like bullying), something that’s controversial or not everyone agrees with (like homosexuality) any kind of book with layers of differing opinions. Usually I don’t read a book before I nominate it, I like to experience it…good or bad…for the first time along with everyone else. However, if I have read a book that I positively adore, you can be sure I’ll be nominating it!

    1. Right! Like what I just did to ya’ all with Me Before You? 😛 I do normally also like to have not read the book first – I enjoy it more when I can get a feeling for the book right along with everyone else 😉

  2. What comes to mind is books that are not obvious. For example, a book like The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes where most people aren’t sure what exactly happened at the end… that would make a great topic for discussion.

  3. This is a really great question, and something that I’ve thought about quite a bit lately. My book club just past our one year mark, so we were kind of feeling our way through, but we realized pretty quickly that our best discussions came from books we didn’t necessarily all love. Or, at least, we didn’t all love every character in the book. I think there needs to be at least some underlying conflict in the book (moral, social, historical, etc.) to really get people talking. I recently posted a list of books from 2013 that would make good picks for book clubs because they either have interesting characters or debatable topics (a few of them were books that got my club chatting, too). http://tinyurl.com/mugt2dk

  4. I’m curious to hear the answers to this one! I haven’t been in too many book clubs, but when I was going regularly it did seem that great books didn’t always make great discussion. Like Shannon just said, there has to be some conflict for a discussion to happen. I want to form a book group, so I’m curious to get suggestions from this post.

    1. Awesome Kim – be sure and check out my “For Book Clubs Only” tab. This is where I have tried to put our great book club discussions through the years. This year I have decided to be even more intentional on how I post about what the Bookies read to make these books more accessible choices for other groups (with what we discussed as well). I think you would make a great Book Club Kim, you read such amazing books and many have wonderful topics for discussion.

  5. i tend to pick books I have already read…then I know that there is something there to discuss!! our bestest discussion was with the tortilla curtain…..immigration certainly brought out the best and worst in us 🙂
    I always see if there are discussion questions out there….there is always at least 1 or 2 questions that get people yapping

  6. I have sometimes suggested books I’ve already read that I know would make good discussion books but usually they are books I haven’t read. I look at the book description and check to see if there are discussion questions available from the publisher or readinggroupguides.com to help me decide. I think that the best books for discussion have conflict or situations or characters that provoke thought. The worst book discussion I’ve attended was one for Confessions of a Shopaholic. There just wasn’t enough to talk about.

  7. What you choose could be driven by a theme, too. For example, say your group decides to do a “history of mysteries” or “vampire” theme. You might choose various works that were considered definitely important to the theme and discuss how the story was told, how it fits in to the history of the genre, how it influenced later works, etc., and it’s a discussion that might build from book to book.

  8. Angie already mentioned books with controversial issues…but those do make lively discussions. Jodi Picoult’s books often have lots of these themes…and so do Joyce Maynard’s books.

    Books with interesting characters, some of whom we are bound to hate, also keep things moving along.

    1. They do Laurel – we have had the best discussions over historical fiction – The Other Boleyn Girl, The 19th Wife…. as well as others that can make our blood boil or hit nerve – not always in a bad way 😀

  9. I think controversial issues contribute but it’s most important that there are a variety of perspectives supported. For example The Dinner by Koch. Horrible circumstances faced by parents who obviously love their kids. How far would you go for your kids? Riveting conversation starter.

  10. Thank you for posing this question, Sheila. I don’t have any answers, but I can’t wait to share this post with my book group.

  11. In my own book club, we’re not allowed to preread our selection when picking, so it makes it difficult sometimes and I find myself hopping on Goodreads for book club suggestions. On the other hand, I’ve attended 4 book clubs now that picked my own novel to discuss and there’s always lots of discussion on the surprise ending and about where I’ll take the sequel. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Crap moment 🙂 Even if people do want to throw the book across the room, it sticks with them and they want to see what happens next!

    1. LOL – love that “never underestimate the power of the holy crap moment” SO true! We usually have not read the books we pick but once in a while one of use will read one on our own that we have to nominate because it would be sad if we all didnt get to discuss it 😉

  12. We have a special book club, born of tragedy and focusing on books about race in America. In my Monday post today, I talked about a book that none of us finished reading — and it still led to a great discussion! When you start with a topic like race in America and get a group willing to cover a topic that most of us shy away from, you always have a terrific discussion.

    Some of the books we read would be great for a more conventional book club:
    The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
    Life on the Color Line by Gregory Williams
    The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris
    Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

  13. Hi Shelia – I have been reading several of your posts. Your blog is awesome! I like your eclectic choice of topics and your writing is warm and easygoing.

    I tend to think that by definition a good book can lead to good discussions. I guess it helps that I tend to analyze things a lot, some would say a bit too much. I also think that one can discuss all sorts of unexpected things when discussing books. Sometimes the best discussions come out of some very minor points.

  14. I love discussing books with one of my book groups that are thought-provoking, the kind that bring up all sorts of ethical issues, the kind that you finish and immediately think, “I need to talk to someone about this book NOW!”

    Of course, that is hard to know ahead of time. I like to choose books for my book groups that I have heard great things about but have not yet read myself – maybe some of the previous year’s top books that are now in paperback. You can usually tell from the reviews whether the books is “meaty” enough to encourage good discussion.

    Great topic!


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  15. I’m not part of any formal discussion groups. Informally, however, I have my blog. And quite often, I’ve enjoyed a few great discussions on a particular title. I usually like a book that has a good rhythm. Or leaves you breathless after you finished a really intense scene. I like books that make me think or something now or future, or relatable.
    Not every book does this me, but when I find a good one, trust me, it becomes one my favorites 🙂

  16. What a great question. I haven’t been in a book club for very long (it took me a year to find one) so I don’t have that much experience but what I’ve seen has been surprising. Books that I wouldn’t have imagined there to be much discussion about seem to have got everyone talking and then others we have just dried up after 15 mins or so. but there doesn’t seem to be a pattern. I’ve chosen two only so far – my first was Possession by A S Byatt which I chose because it had could generate questions about themes like memory and love but also about technique. My next choice is purely on the basis its by an author from Wales where I live who has his 100th anniversary this year.

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