Are you always struggling to come up with book club questions to help guide your group discussion? In one of my past book clubs, we literally ONLY read books that included discussion questions at the end of the book because we wanted to be certain we’d have a meaningful discussion.
My current book club group is much more casual, but perhaps too much so. Our 2-3 hour meetings are primarily a social gathering with a mere 10 minute discussion about the book snuck somewhere in the middle.
I decided to come up with a generic list of book club questions to compel us to dig deeper than “Did you like the book?” and “Why or why not?” without tying us down to traditional book club books or classic literature.
The questions below work just as well for a mystery with an unexpected twist, a time period romance, memoirs of interesting people, or even a scientific non-fiction book.
What Makes a Good Book Discussion Question?
Before we get to the list, I should probably explain the criteria I used to choose the questions. I used both my experience as a book club member and my background as an English major to guide my decisions. I looked for these characteristics to identify good discussion questions:
- Encourages a closer look at details in the book
- Aids in the understanding of the story
- Challenges assumptions
- Expands one’s thinking
- Enables members to share differing perspectives and opinions
General Book Club Discussion Questions
The book club questions below can guide your group through a meaningful discussion about almost any book.
1. How did the book make you feel?
- Were you amused, upset, bored, angry, intrigued?
- Did you have to force yourself to get through it or were you unable to put it down?
- Are you glad you read it?
2. How do you feel about how the story was told?
- Did it start too slow or end unresolved?
- Do you wish it had been told from a different perspective?
- Did it jump around too much or hold you in suspense?
3. What did you think about the main characters?
- Did you like them? Were they believable?
- Did you approve of their decisions and behavior?
- Who did you relate to the most/least?
4. Which parts of the book stood out to you?
- Are there any quotes, passages, or scenes you found particularly compelling?
- Were there parts of the book you thought were incredibly unique, out of place, thought-provoking, or disturbing?
5. What themes did you detect in the story?
- What were the main points you think the author was trying to make?
- Did you notice any symbolism?
6. What did you think about the ending?
- Were you satisfied or disappointed with how the story ended?
- Is anything left unresolved or ambiguous?
- How do you picture the characters’ lives after the end of the story?
7. What is your impression of the author?
- Does the story seem to fit with what you know of the author?
- What do you think about the author’s writing style?
- What do you think about the author’s storytelling ability?
- Would you read another book by the same author?
8. What changes/decisions would you hope for if the book were turned into a movie?
- Which sections would you cut?
- Who would you cast to play the main characters?
- If the book is already a movie, are you happy with the representation? Do you prefer the book or the movie?
9. How does this book compare to other books you’ve read?
- Did you like it more or less than other books in the same genre?
- Is the book different in any way from the books you usually read?
10. How did this book change you?
- Do you have a new perspective as a result of reading this book?
- Did you learn something you didn’t know before?
- Has your attitude or behavior changed?
Nonfiction Book Club Questions
Some of the best book club reads are nonfiction titles. Hearing other’s perspectives on facts and how data is presented can help us absorb material in a much deeper way.
Here are some questions to guide your group through a discussion about a nonfiction book.
- What was your biggest takeaway from the book?
- Did you end up doing extra research on anything presented in the book? If so, what did you find?
- Did you detect any bias in the way the information was presented?
- Did you agree with the author’s point of view?
- Do you believe the topic was covered adequately in the book? If not, what do you wish had been explained more?
Fiction Book Club Questions
Fiction transplants us into a new world. Depending on our backgrounds, values, and belief systems, each of us is drawn to different aspects of those worlds.
When we discuss fiction with our friends, we not only immerse ourselves deeper in the story, we learn a lot about our friends. Here are some questions to help facilitate that experience.
- Did the story unfold the way you expected? If not, what surprised you?
- If the story could be told by one of the other character’s, which character’s perspective would you prefer to hear? Why?
- Which place in the book would you most like to visit?
- Which character would you most like to meet?
- Was the reality created in the book believable? If not, which aspects were hard to believe?
- Which character was most like someone you already know? How did that affect your perception of the character?
- Which event in the book was most similar to something you’ve personally experienced?
How to Lead a Good Book Club Discussion
Since you’ve landed here in search of good book discussion questions, chances are that you’re about to host book club. If this is your first time leading the group, here are some tips to help you guide the discussion.
Prepare in advance
Choose questions (from the lists above, the book itself, and/or your own ideas) that will allow for a thoughtful and lively discussion.
Jot down your answers and bookmark a few pages in the book that will help you explain your answers. Maybe even highlight a passage or two that you found thought provoking or your favorite quote.
You can ask other members their thoughts on the passage as one of your discussion questions.
Set expectations and some ground rules
Some of the best book club books are those that deal with topics or situations that are extreme. Consequently, members may have strong reactions to some of the content.
An easy way to avoid negative discussions is to identify any potential trigger issues for members at the start of the meeting — allow members to state any topics or elements of the story they’d like to skip over.
Depending on how well your group knows one another, you may also need to spell out expectations to avoid conflicts. For example, is the group comfortable with profanity? Will discussion move around the group (each person has a chance to respond) or can members jump in at any time?
Pose one question at a time
Start with a very broad question that everyone can answer. It can be as simple as “what did you like about the book?” or “what was your least favorite part of the story?”.
Choose subsequent questions based on how the discussion flows. If a question lands flat or causes too much of a stir, move the group in a completely different direction. Or, if the discussion is positive and lively, continue on with related questions.
Be a proactive moderator
When you’re leading the book club discussion, your most important task occurs during the actual discussion. It’s your responsibility to make sure members stay on track and feel respected and heard.
Prevent members from inadvertently monopolizing the conversation by asking questions directly to members who are less likely to interrupt or jump in to voice their thoughts. Restate some of the thoughts shared by others to ensure you (and others) understand what they were saying.
If the discussion starts to wander to topics other than the book, gently guide the conversation back. If a differing of opinions starts to turn combative, highlight the merits of both sides and move onto a new question.
More Book Club Resources
I hope the book club questions above help you get more out of your book club discussions. Here are some other resources to make your book club meetings more meaningful.
- The Best Monthly Book Club Subscriptions
- Monthly Book Club Theme Ideas
- How to Start a Family Book Club
- Great Psychological Thrillers for Book Clubs
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