Guidance for Groups and Individuals on How to Select Books

Groups. The method that worked best for the group was by consensus at the end of a meeting. The selection criteria was simple in that we tried to stick to literary fiction, but we read cult favorites, too, and local authors (meaning Oregon). In addition to literary quality, we like variety and avoid reading similar works or authors in succession. There are also books that we have considered, but ultimately rejected because they were out of print or otherwise difficult to obtain for all of the members. Sometimes, we rejected a specific work if members of the group have already read it. Lastly, our monthly meeting schedule required us to stick to reasonable page counts (under 300 pp. generally), but we are able to adjust those when we have more (or less) time between meetings.

Individuals. There are a lot of advantages to reading and discussing books in a group–especially when it comes to listening to others share their impressions and insights about a specific work. I read and enjoyed books that I would not necessarily have read if I were the only one selecting the book. Lastly, I learned things from the other group members at every meeting, and am indebted to them for increasing my knowledge of literature. However, if you do not have a group with which to meet, you get to enjoy the advantage of choosing books based on your specific tastes, and you can take as long as you like to finish a book without rushing through it right before the meeting–a technique I resorted to from time to time. Page counts are no longer an issue, either, which made it easier for me to read Middlemarch (515 pp.)–a novel I was inspired to read, in part, by the book nerds at The Atlantic….

The Compromise? The Atlantic has a Twitter-based online book group, “1Book140” ( where followers vote on the monthly selections. Even if participation doesn’t appeal to you, it’s a great place for ideas on what to read, and the commentary can be interesting.

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