Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Hello writers and readers!

My name is Molly McCall and I’ll be contributing to The Well-Read Donkey over the next couple of days. It’s a pleasure to be here.

For the past 10 years, I’ve moderated the fiction book group for Kepler’s. This monthly gathering is free and open to the public. We meet in the bookstore, usually on the third Monday, and our discussions last about an hour and a half. Anyone is welcome!

Over this decade (decade!) of plucking books from the stacks and listening to a diverse slice of the Kepler’s community talk about them, I’ve learned some things about book groups and moderating and readers. Here are a few of them:

  • You can never predict how a reader will respond to a story. Never. You may agree with someone on eight books in a row, but on the ninth you’ll have vehemently opposite reactions. It’s the spark of that disagreement, or the surprise of being in harmony with another reader’s take, that fuels so much of the fun in our roundtable talks.
  • Tough books often -- usually -- make for the most vibrant and substantive discussion. If we go around the group and everyone likes the book okay, then I get worried. But when Doug loved it and Marian hated it and Susan gobbled up the first half but got bogged down in the second and Rachel just couldn’t relate to the narrator, then I know we’re going to have a great ride.
  • Kepler’s readers are passionate and dedicated and smart, smart, smart. When I say that I “moderate” the group, I should quickly add how little moderation goes on. I never cease to be amazed by the people who come to the bookstore on a Monday night to discuss a novel that is, often, one they wouldn’t have picked for themselves. They might not always like the book, but they want to talk. And talk we do.
This past Monday, we discussed “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. Tomorrow, I’ll write about how Monday’s band of readers responded to it. Following that, I’ll share some of my favorite book group novels, a glimpse of one of my bookshelves at home, and a brief shout of joy for my six-month-old daughter’s bookcase. It’s already crammed, as a bookcase should be!

If you have any questions about book groups or suggestions for fantastic -- or lousy -- book group books, I’d love to hear. Leave your comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I've been going to this book group since '97. Discussing the books with such a smart group of people is addictive. And Molly's subtle and exquisite moderating is a monthly treat!