Have you ever thought of inviting someone other than the author of the book you read to your book club meeting? When you think about the topics covered in your book and who may be able to give you more information about them, you open up a world of possibilities for guests to invite. For instance, when the members of a mother-daughter book club near Chicago read the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, they invited a naturalist from a nearby forest preserve to attend their discussion. He brought a real, live owl, and was able to talk about owl habits and habitats.
Why would you want to bring in an expert? One reason is to learn more about a topic you found interesting when reading your book. It’s also a way to liven up your normal routine every now and then as well as keep your book club meetings dynamic. And there are typically many more experts to be found who can address a topic from your book than there are authors you can get in touch with.
A club in Arizona found that to be true when they read The New York Stories of Edith Wharton. Wharton died in 1937, but her words continue to inspire readers in many ways. The book club moms and girls took a topic from the book, formal manners popular in the late 1800s, and turned it into an opportunity to invite someone to their meeting who was an expert on manners. At their group meeting the girls and moms organized a formal tea party, and their guest had them play games that helped them learn manners, including how to set a formal table and how to introduce one another properly. Everyone in the group loved the meeting, and it brought more depth to the stories they had read.
Here are a few ideas for other book/expert match ups to help you get started on your own brainstorming exercise:
- Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce—the curator of a local art museum
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George—someone who can teach wilderness survival skills
- Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang—a history teacher who can talk about China’s Cultural Revolution
More ideas for how to find experts and invite them to your meetings can be found in Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs.