For the next 3 months on this blog, I will be posting once a week on a book of the week. But I won’t be reviewing or rating any of them.
Instead, I will be telling you how and why you should talk about it. Because I appreciate concrete examples, I want to use a childhood classic, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as an example.
Each post will consist of thinking along three lines of thought.
1. How can we start a conversation based on this book? By this I mean, what is an easy entry point into conversation with this specific book. Oftentimes, that is as easy as “Did you like it or not and why?” But sometimes, it’s more fun to take a main premise of the book and jump in from there.
For Where the Wild Things Are, we can start a conversation by thinking about the role this book, or others played in our own childhoods or in our lives as parents. Personally, I loved doing the wild thing rumpus with my kids when I read this book. Also, it could be fun to think about where else this classic picture book has intersected with culture. I loved the recent realization that the Wild Things are part of the classic David Bowie movie, Labyrinth. This is a fun way to start a conversation.
2. How can we build camaraderie with this book? Camaraderie is my fancy word for connection: with each other and with the text. How do we each feel about different aspects of the book? Are our opinions common or divergent? Being curious about what another thinks or experiences with a book builds camaraderie.
In Where the While Things Are, we build camaraderie by asking about our reactions to Max’s time with the Wild Things. What parts of Max’s experience would we enjoy? Should Max have had a different response? When we are curious about the story and what is happening, it can lead to building relationship through that story.
3. Finally, we ask questions with regards to compassion. We try to name the pain or suffering that a story is addressing. We find ways to connect to that, with compassion, and hold it for a time in our own lives.
Where the Wild Things Are is actually a story about a little boy who gets in trouble. He is sent to his room–where in his hurt, embarrassment, or anger, he “escapes” into the fantastic world where the Wild Things are. But at the end, he is called back to home through the love of his parent, who brings him dinner in his room. Even though the story is of adventure, it is also of a little boy who simply wants to be loved by his mama. We can all relate to that.
It’s Not Like Other Book Discussions
For most books, you can just google a list of discussion questions and that is usually just fine. I can appreciate an in-depth analyzation of characterization, plot, setting, and writing tone. But adding some questions through any of these three lenses can deepen our discussion and our connection to one another.
Willing to Try?
If you try this at the next book club you host, let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear how this goes.
Curious about how a specific book could fit in this framing? Leave a comment or send me a note. I’d love to consider it for a future blog. (Otherwise you’re going to hear about my many of my recent reads that I think would be great to talk about. )
Have fun reading,