If you are a reader
- what do you get out of them?
Do you like them to target the book closely or be of a more general nature?
How long do you think they should last?

If you are a writer
- have you ever lurked in a discussion of one of your books? How did you feel? Did you feel threatened? Did they ever make you cringe? or wish you had written something a little differently?
Do you think book discussions impact on book sales?

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My reading group is a wonderful group of women. We try to read all kinds of books--even plays, poetry and short story collections. It's hard to get them to read crime fiction though. They want something more serious--issue oriented. I don't always care for their choices, but I admire their earnestness and commitment to the group and to important causes. If we veer away from the book, it's usually to express our angst about the current state of world affairs. Not to discuss gossipy stuff. All in all, I have had a postivie experience.
Once they decided to read a book my daughter had written. That was big uncomfortable for me. They liked it very much but it was too personal and I wouldn't do it again.
I coordinate the East Bay Mystery Readers' Group, now in its 14th year. We read three books a month and our discussion of each book is very general. We stay at the liked it, hated it and why level. I've occasionally asked whether members would like us to delve deeper, but everyone seems happy with this. Some belong to other groups where they go into the analysis of the story. In addition to the three books we'd selected, we go around the group and each person talks about the other books they've read during the month, mystery and others. We just get together and have a good time.

I am also a member of the Diana Gabaldon Outlander group online. We are going through the series of six books chapter by chapter. I participate occasionally but sometimes find that deep of an analysis can overshadow my enjoyment in the book. I like it when they bring up points I may have missed, but not neccessarily when they try to interpret the meaning behind the author's writing or a character's actions. There is also one member of the list who is conveninced her opinion is always the correct one and who mush always have the last word. When I was the object of her attack, other kind members of the list wrote and advised me they deal with her by not reading her posts. It's unfortunate when one member can make many of the other members so uncomfortable.
I've found I like online discussion groups the best -- they talk about the book more in-depth than face-to-face groups I've attended, where discussions seem to veer off into other topics at times. I do like to discuss the book in-depth: it provides me with other points I might have missed.
From the reading side, I've found that intense book analysis has made me a fussier reader and sometimes it's much harder to just enjoy the book.

However, that teaches me a lot about writing. I understand things readers won't tolerate, and so I can apply the knowledge to my work where appropriate. By that, I mean I won't do my forensics research off the tv...t there are some subjective things that I'm not going to worry about.

And these discussions taught me a lot about reviewing and the kinds of things important to look for.

So... I get fussy every now and again and read a book I refuse to review so I can just enjoy it and not have that processing at work as much.

The only real discussion on my book has been on a forum and people have added their thoughts over time. I participate on the forum, so every so often I acknowledge the comments and thank people for them. They've all been supportive and positive, in part, I'm sure, because they know me.

I'm sure book discussions impact book sales. I know I've bought books for group discussions.
Sandra is being modest. Yes it's true that many of us probably wouldn't have bought the book if we didn't know her-but liking the book has nothing to do with that. It's a damn good book. We're not the kind of people that would lie openly about it. I immediately passed my copy on to my mom and ordered her to read it. Her job has been interfering (why a librarian would consider work more important than reading I don't know), plus she's incapable of staying awake past eight thirty at night-but she's enjoying it too. My mom loves me, but if she didn't like it, she wouldn't be reading it.
I love them - I just wish I had more time to participate in my favourite online book group's discussions (4MA). Through them I have discovered books that I may not otherwise have read - probably the most memorable being Eddie Muller's THE DISTANCE. I might not have discovered that one on my own, or at least, not so soon. And it's now one of my favourite books. I feel I have 4MA to thank for that.

I like detailed discussions, but sometimes I don't have much to say. Sometimes I like a book 'just because' and can't analyse the things I like. Other times I can go into great detail. Book discussions do make me think about the book I am reading, savour it, try and analyse what works or doesn't.

I know that a lot of people don't like a book they love being criticised. On 4MA the discussions never get personal, and I really enjoy hearing from those people whose experience of the book is different from mine, as well as from those who loved the book.

And I remember some discussions as being hilarious - I will never forget the symbolic onion in our discussion of Stephen Booth's BLACK DOG - I'm sure Stephen remembers it too.

Most authors who have been there for discussions have been very gracious, realising that not every book is to everyone's taste. However, I think it CAN stifle the discussion a little because people are understandably unwilling to say anything TOO negative. If it was a discussion of my book (which, quite frankly, would be pointless as it's short, silly and shallow) I would love people to be honest, as I like to hear negative comments as well as positive (even my mother's "Donna, you're weird. Weird, weird, weird."). I know they're not saying "Donna, you suck", they're saying "Donna, I didn't care for your book." (Except for the people who say "Donna, you suck." They're actually saying "Donna, you suck.")
I am involved in one f2f mystery discussion group, and we do discuss the book. Been told that we are one of the few groups around that actually do this. We are a very diverse group, different ages, experience, so we all bring something to the group. Have only rules that the book must be in pb, because some of us are on fixed or limited incomes and still in print.
Our best discussions are when no one liked the book, or just a few. Then the discussion really get intenese. This is in the Minnepolis/St Paul area, and we are known as Saints & Sinners.

Am on few online discussion groups, and the 4MA discussions are great. The SF and SFF groups I am invoved with have book discussions and some have a tendency to go all over the place, but that is what SF is about, anyway, IMO.
The best part of a discussion group, for me, is exchage of ideas with kindred souls and different outlooks, perspectives. If the book is discussed, I am there.
I've been leading a F2F group called Mystery Talks in MD for about a year and a half now. I'm also in online groups 4MA and Murder and Mayhem.

With the F2F group, for the first 15 minutes we generally talk about what we've been reading and catch up on personal stuff. Then the leader reads biographical info on the author and opens the discussion. I usually have a prepared list of six questions, but I've found most members just head off where they will and it's tough keeping them on topic. The group is supposed to be fun, so I don't take this personal, and if a gentle tug doesn't get it back on topic, I just let it go. Life is too short.

It seems the books that people don't care for generate the most lively discussions. They genuinely want to understand more what the author's motivations were. These discussions usually are the most fun. If the discussion starts out with everyone saying they liked the book, I know we're going to go on a lot of tangents and end up talking about someone's upcoming root canal. Still, I prefer burrowing into the books and having a more in depth discussion.

With the online groups, I find myself reading other's comments, and then not posting because I think what I have to say isn't far different from something already posted. Still, the online seem to be more in depth and I like that.
Kerrie,

I just saw the greatest tee shirt in a inspirational, Yoga, zen-like catalog. It said: I don't belong to a reader's group.
The only discussion groups I've been in have been online-part of a forum I'm on. This is mainly because no one I know reads the same kind of books I do.

Kalamazoo Library does this deal where they try to get as many people in town reading the same book, but so far the books have been, in my opinion, dull. If one comes up that catches my eye, I'll probably participate. They've also done lunchtime book discussions that anyone can come too-you brown bag it and everyone discusses the book that was advertised. Really I'm lucky to have a great library system, so hopefully something will come up that I can take advantage of.
I like the idea of discussing a book as I'm reading it Em, but I've never been organised enough to do that. You are right, you lose so much detail so soon after you've finished reading. When I am leading a discussion I try to take notes a I read etc. and often I read the book twice although often the 2nd read is a real skim. But when I just participiating I have found it best to try to read the book as close to discussion time as I can, but even then some questions just leave me cold.
One thing I do worry about is how much account you take of the fact that some people reading the email may not yet have read the book. I don't belive in that situation you can worry too much about 'spoilers'
Our face to face group chooses a book each month but I find that often the discussion doesn't go very deep - some people often haven't read the book- and that we are there because we are friends first and readers second. We often talk about a lot of other things, but unless people are really prepared to focus on particular issues or questions about the book then we don't get very far. I often wonder if it is precisely because we are looking at each other that the discussion doesn't get very far - we don't want to look silly etc- whereas in an online discussion we can test ideas out more thoroughly.

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