Ten Books I’d Love to Read With My Book Club

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of SS Readers Corner. This post contains spoilers so kindly skim it to avoid too much information.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme started by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week there is a specific bookish topic, which will be discussed and shared among bloggers. Today’s topic excites me because my friends & I initiated a book club for a youth organisation close to our hearts. We have wonderful discussion on a particular book every month. I always look forward to our book discussion.

My choice of Ten Books I’d Love to Read with My Book Club are…

‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion

Cover by Simon & Schuster; published in 2013

I noticed this novel a couple of months ago when Sony Pictures bought the rights to adapt the novel. My interest piqued when Bill Gates posted about the book on his Facebook. I got a copy at a book sale and am looking forward to reading it next year.

Possible topics of discussion:

  • Is there any difference of writing styles between male and female romance author?
  • Can true love be found using a formula? What about matchmaking websites?
  • Don Tillman’s peculiarity

 

 

‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Cover by Scholastic; published in 2011

I enjoy reading novels with dystopia theme and ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy is one of my favourites. I believe the books need to be discussed individually. ‘Mockingjay’ is my favourite book because of its darker themes. Therefore I would love to hear other people’s views on:

  • Reality tv shows – compare them to ‘The Hunger Games’
  • Propaganda & tokenism – Katniss as a “symbol” to unite other districts
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after winning the Hunger Games – I’d love to read more about Haymitch’s point of view

 

‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell

Cover by Penguin; published in 2008

 

George Orwell’s books are popular for book club discussions and some consider this as a children’s book. So why not use this book to lure more members to come to a book discussion?

Possible topics of discussion:

  • Propaganda against communism / Russia
  • If George Orwell had used human characters instead of animals, would the novel still be influential?
  • How do young readers comprehend the political aspects of the novel? (I’m intrigued that this novel is marketed as a children’s book)

 

 

‘My Sister’s Keeper’ by Jodi Picoult

Cover by Washington Square Press; published in 2005

This novel provokes a lot of after-thoughts, such as:

  • The novel is told from many different viewpoints. What do you think if it was written in just single (Anna’s) or double viewpoints (Anna’s & Sarah’s)?
  • What do you think of designer baby? In this case, a baby was conceived to save an older sibling.
  • What do you think of the parenting style?

 

 

 

Cover by Harper Perennial, published in 2006

 

‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver

I was emotionally exhausted when I finished reading this book. Nevertheless, I would love to spend 1-2 hours talking about this book. Questions that still linger in my mind:

  • Did Kevin respect and love Eva at all?
  • Who do you blame for Kevin’s atrocious behaviour? Himself or the parents?
  • Contrast the parenting styles of Franklin and those of Eva.

 

 

‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green

Cover by Speak; published in 2006

I have only read ‘Looking for Alaska’ and ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. I really enjoyed the former than the latter even though ‘Looking for Alaska’ is a much older work and less popular work (this might change once the movie goes into production). I like how human existence is dealt in this book. Some questions I would ask in a book discussion are:

  • John Green divided the story into two parts: ‘before’ and ‘after’. What do you think of this structure of storytelling?
  • What happened the night Alaska died? Did she kill herself or was it an accident?
  • What is the most important question human beings must answer? Choose your question wisely, and then examine how Islam, Buddhism and Christianity attempt to answer it.

 

‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote

Cover by Penguin; published in 2012

I watched ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ a couple of years ago when I was in a ‘Hepburn’ phase. After watching the movie, I assumed he wrote fluff pieces. Whoa, I was so wrong. This book was compelling – I couldn’t believe that ‘In Cold Blood’ is a true crime! There are many questions that I’d like to explore:

  • What kind of men were Richard Hickock and Perry Smith? Compare and contrast their backgrounds.
  • Do you think Mr Capote give a just/unbiased representation of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith?
  • If the murder victims weren’t as white, prosperous, or well-liked as the Clutter family, do you think this book would be well-received and adapted into a movie?

 

‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman

Cover by Headline Publishing Group; published in 2014

 

I have only read one of the author’s work – ‘Neverwhere’. I enjoyed the depictions of London but I dislike Richard Mayhew and the pacing of the story. Nevertheless, I am keen to give Mr Gaiman another go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness 

Cover by Candlewick Press; published in 2013

 

This is another book in my ‘to-be-read’ list. I have never read Patrick Ness’s work before but I purchased this novel after reading about its book-to-movie adaptation. I’d like to recommend this book to my reading group because of (1) the adaptation and (2) the genre – we don’t have a horror book in our list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Cover by Harcourt, Inc. Published in 2000

 

My former housemate gave me a Spanish copy of ‘The Little Prince’ as a parting gift (hablo un poco español :)). I was curious about the book so I searched for it via Google. The book seems to be a favourite choice amongst book lovers. By adding this book to my book club’s reading list, I hope more members will attend the monthly discussions.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Are you part of a book club/reading group? What questions should I ask during a discussion? I would love to read your book suggestions as well as discussion questions. Please share them in the comment box below.

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Challenge your reading: #3 Set yourself an amount of books to read

Ever think you don’t read enough books? Fret not, you can fix this problem by taking up Goodreads reading challenge. All you have to do is sign up for Goodreads account and choose a number of books that you want to read within a year.

This year’s logo is purple

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – set an achievable number. A minimum of 52 books is a good goal if you are setting yourself against other Goodreads users (see the stats below). If you can only manage to read 12 books during the year, so be it.

Stats for 2014 Reading Challenge

The reading challenge is a great tool to keep track of the books you read. If your Goodreads friends take part in the challenge, you could view their goals. If you would like to meet other users who are part of the challenge, just join this group.

Have you attempted the Goodreads reading challenge? Do you use other tools to keep track of the amount of books you read? Feel free to share your comments in the box below.

ps: This post is part of a serial on strategies to challenge one’s reading. Read post #1 & #2.

Challenge your reading: #2 Do a Book Bingo

Have you ever felt dull after reading books in the same genre or with similar themes? If you would like to challenge your reading, then do one of these book bingos! They are also considered as a great tool to cultivate reading habit in reluctant readers.

A book bingo is like a normal bingo but the numbers are replaced by book categories. There are several ways of playing a book bingo:

  • Choose to go after a particular Bingo row and pick the books that fit the categories, OR
  • Use a book bingo as a guide and complete all or most categories, OR
  • Do a book bingo competition amongst friends or in your book community and award a prize to the Bingo winner

There are many types of book bingos available in the world wide web. Here are my favourites:

Reading Bingo Challenge by Retreat by Random House

Kelley’s Book Bingo Challenge 2014

Book bingo by Library Thing

Book bingo by Richmond Public Library

  • Super Teacher Worksheets – click here to view PDF copy of Book Bingo

You could use Goodreads and Genre Map to help you with book suggestions. If you are afraid being disappointed by a book/new author/different genre, don’t waste your money on new books. Borrow or rent a book instead! 🙂

Have you attempted or completed a book bingo before? What is the most enjoyable thing about book bingo? Share your views below.

Benefit of renting books: #7 Avoid buying books you don’t read

In Malaysia, a book in mass-market paperback format costs RM35 on average. Once in awhile, there are several book clearance sales in the country. During these sales, that same book could be sold as low as RM5.

Most book-lovers go into book-buying frenzy. They bring boxes or trolley bags to the venue so imagine the amount of books that they purchase!

Few customers told Mr Sam (store owner) that they keep buying books even though they have not completed reading all of the previous year’s purchase. Some even own books that have been sitting on bookshelves for years!

So instead of buying books you don’t read, why don’t you rent books at SS Readers Corner? You only pay 25% of its retail price if you return the book before its due date (it’s usually 90-days rental).

Visit our store to find out more about our book collection.

A book clearance sale in Kuala Lumpur

ps: This is a serial of blog posts to encourage people to borrow/rent books. Find out more about this blog serial by clicking the tag ‘Series’.

Challenge your reading: #1 Join a book club or a reading group

Have you always wanted to challenge your reading? One of the ways to challenge your reading is to join a book club or a reading group. A book club or a reading group consists of a group of people who choose a book to read. Once members have read the chosen book, they get together and talk about it.

There are plenty of benefits of participating in a book club or a reading group. My personal favourites are:

  1. I get to meet other book-loving people and make new friends.
  2. it encourages me to analyse the content and execution of a story.
  3. I am able to share my views with others.
  4. it is an opportunity to learn something new by listening to other people’s thoughts.
Books that have been discussed by my reading groups. One book is missing 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

Books that were discussed in my reading groups. One book is missing: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

I have experienced 4 different book clubs: at university, with random strangers and among friends. So I thought, “Why not share my experience with readers of this blog?”. Here is a summary of the things I have learned from attending and hosting book discussions:

Book selection

  • Determine the book at least a month in advance. Everyone reads at different pace.
  • Pick books in different genres if you want to attract different types of readers.
  • Alternatively you could choose book-to-movie adaptations to attract non-readers to join. If time permits, you could compare the adaptation and the original source

Food and drinks

  • Provide food and drinks at the discussion. Super enthusiastic host(s) can prepare food according to a theme. An example is Southern food (e.g. fried chicken) for discussion on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
  • If your discussion is done at a café, choose a quiet place that is easily accessible (provide map if possible). Inform attendees that they may have to pay for their own food and/or drinks if the host is not paying for them.
  • Ask attendees to RSVP the event to ensure there are enough food, drinks and seats.

Questions

  • Possible topics of discussion include (but not limited to) themes, characters, plot, writing style, quotes, takeaway points.
  • Host can compile all the questions and prepare a question bank.
  • Open-ended questions (e.g. “why”, “how”) generate productive discussions.

Interacting with others

  • Do an icebreaker or introduction session before a discussion. The more comfortable people are at an event, the more likely they participate in discussions.
  • If you would like everyone to speak, you could ask each person to pose a question (round-robin style) instead of the host asking all the questions. If they do not have a question in mind, ask them to select one from a question bank, answer the question and then open the discussion to others.
  • Take a picture and post it in the group’s social media channels. That move is likely to encourage outsiders (if you are open to it) to join in the fun.

Here are some tips for first timers:

If you have any tips for running a book club, feel free to share in the comment box below.

ps: I would like to thank Born and Read for encouraging me to write about my book club experience. Click here to read her tips on keeping the book club magic alive.

This is the first post in a serial on strategies to challenge one’s reading. Keep visiting this blog to find out more strategies. 🙂

Benefits of renting books: #6 Improve English proficiency

‘Bahasa Malaysia’ is the national language in Malaysia. English and Mandarin are widely spoken, particularly in main cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Education First’s English Proficiency Index listed Malaysians as highly proficient English speakers. Yet recently several people have noted that English proficiency of Malaysian university graduates are quite low (read articles written by The SunLok Wing Kong and/or BA Hamzah for more details). As a result, these graduates become unemployable in the English-medium private sector (‘Bahasa Malaysia’ is the medium of instruction in the government sector).

There are many ways to improve one’s English language skill. One of the ways is to read (click here to see other strategies).

Out of 28,000 books stored in SS Readers Corner, majority of them are written in English. I asked my friend, who is an English graduate, to recommend books for English as Second Language (ESL) learners. She suggested these titles:

  • ‘Harry Potter series’ by J.K. Rowling
  • ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger
  • ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S. Lewis
  • ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon
  • ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by L.M. Montgomery
  • ‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie
  • ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll
  • ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ by Johnathan Swift

Even though these titles are categorised as young adult and children’s books, the language deployed in each book is rich. The plot has substance hence making it appealing to adults and teenagers.

We have the complete set of 'The Chronicles of Narnia' in our store

We have the complete set of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ in our store

Some of the suggested books are available from SS Readers Corner. Visit our store to rent the books and work on improving your English proficiency.

ps: This is a serial of blog posts to encourage people to borrow/rent books. Click on the number to read previous posts: #1#2#3#4 and #5.

Author-readers interaction: #2.1 Facebook event

In my previous post about the benefits of Facebook to an author, I focused mostly on the use of Facebook page.

Recently, I discovered that some authors used Facebook events to conduct their book release parties. I think it is a great idea because it transcends geographic borders. It costs much lesser than your standard party: authors do not need to hire a venue and book caterers, invite press and/or fans while invited guests themselves do not need to spend on travelling and lodging. Therefore using Facebook for book launch allows more people to take part.

For the past two weeks, I participated in book release parties held by my favourite authors, Robin Covington and Catherine Bybee. On 5th of August 2014, Ms Covington launched “Temptation”, her firsts book in New Adult genre. A week later, Ms Bybee released the fifth book in her Weekday Brides series “Taken by Tuesday”.

Virtual release day parties by Robin Covington and Catherine Bybee

Virtual release day parties by Robin Covington and Catherine Bybee

In addition to having so much fun, I learnt new things in book marketing. Here are five points that I learnt from the virtual release day parties:

Event name

Robin Covington named her book launch as “Temptation Release Day Slumber Party” – that’s very catchy! The event was held in the evening (USA time) and invitees were encouraged to wear their pyjamas. The author herself was really dressed in pyjamas (there was a photo evidence!).

Timing/duration of event

“Temptation Release Day Slumber Party” was two hours long while “Taken by Tuesday Release Day Party” took place during office hours (9 am till 5 pm). I enjoyed two-hour party more than the longer one because I was able to “be present” throughout the entire duration. I missed some activities at Ms Bybee’s party because I slept (there was a 15 hour time difference).

Guest appearances

There were many authors that attended and supported the event. It was a great opportunity to introduce new authors to the party-goers. Each guest author during Robin Covington’s party had 15 minute session with participants, which I thought was short. I was distracted during the party so by the time I posted and read comments by other participants, the guest author’s time was up and it was another author’s turn. There was slightly longer time to interact with guest authors at Ms Bybee’s party, which is slightly better.

Giveaways

The parties were filled with giveaways by the hosts and guest authors. Most giveaways involved simple questions such as “What’s your favourite romance sub-genre?” and “Who’s your favourite book hero of all time?”. Some giveaways were challenging, for example “What is the author Debra Holland’s other profession?” and “What other pen name Caridad Pineiro writes under?”. I had to look up Goodreads or the author’s website to find the answer. Some giveaways by guest authors involved liking Facebook page as proof of entry. Now that’s a clever strategy to increase fanbase! I’d say giveaways are compulsory in a book launch party!

Engage the party-goers

What better way to engage the party-goers than with interesting conversational topics. Since majority of heroes in romance novels are good-looking men with great physique and masculine confidence, debates on hot men were a must! Examples include “a trait in hero a reader find most attractive” and “favourite athlete hottie”. There were also topics that did not involve men, for instance a beautiful diamond ring posted by Catherine Bybee. Overall, there were comments to each post so one could assume that party-goers were engaged and had fun at the party.

As a reader who lives far far away from her favourite authors, I truly appreciate any book-related events that are conducted online and open to participants all over the world. I’d love to participate in these events not just to have fun but also to learn as much as I can.

So authors, why not set up a Facebook Event page for your next book launch? Feel free to extend an invitation to me by leaving the event’s details in the comment box below.