When is a book discussion not a book discussion? When the participants each bring and talk about news articles rather than all reading the same book.Discussing news articles rather than a single title can revitalize the members of a book group. This kind of book discussion mash-up allows the participants to choose an article from the news which appeals specifically to them. They do not need to read an assigned book and this freedom of choice can make their topic easier to talk about in a group.
A few years ago a Management Book Club was started in my library district. We were in a period of transition with a new Director coming on board. The idea for a book discussion on management titles was to help out during the transition by bringing new ideas to the fore. It also provides the opportunity for staff to meet socially outside of the library.
The group meets once a month after work at a local restaurant. This arrangement worked for everyone and at first, the group followed the regular book discussion format. Each member read the same title and discussed it at the next meeting.
Some titles we read:
- Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Broadway Books: 2010)
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler (McGraw Hill: 2002)
- How To Talk To Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes (McGraw Hill: 2003)
- Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press: 2007)
- Bossypants by Tina Fey (Little, Brown and Co.: 2011);
- WHO: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street (Ballantine Books: 2008).
And there was an interesting exchange of ideas for a while but in recent months, the discussions seemed to wane. The group still meets each month because everyone enjoys the social gathering but few, if any, of the participants had finished or even read the current title. There was discussion about this lack of enthusiasm and the group decided to take a page from one of our branch discussion leaders who had switched up the format of her discussions. The leader instituted a ‘Let’s Talk About It!: A News and Current Events Discussion Group” which has a general news theme each meeting but the participants can bring in articles about anything currently in the news to discuss.
This program has been quite successful so for last month’s staff book discussion, each member was to bring an article related to management. Participants brought in recent news articles which addressed various aspects of the topic. They included: “Olympic Lessons for Corporate Managers,” “8 Work Habits That Will Kill Your Career,” and “Are You Sure You’re Not a Bad Boss?.”
There was some overlap in the points made by the authors which had also occurred when the group read the assigned books. But it was the different forms of presentation in each article which made discussing them so interesting. The members felt re-energized by the book discussion mash-up and have decided to continue exploring new ideas about leadership and management using this format. Try it, you might like it!