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Thought-provoking book club questions that work for virtually any book.

By Rebecca Renner and Lisa Milbrand
Updated February 12, 2020
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You're having a great book club meeting, sharing drinks and talking about your latest group read when the unexpected happens: the room goes silent. What can you do to spark a deeper book club conversation?

You all read the book, and you shared your likes and dislikes, but there is still plenty more to talk about before you shift the conversation beyond the book you've picked.

The best book club discussion rises above each group member's likes and dislikes, instead seeking to understand the book on a deeper level than each person could have on their own. With that goal in mind, ask thought-provoking questions that tap into the building blocks of stories, like characters, plot, settings, and symbolism. Don't stop at what the author is doing. Try to understand why the author made their choices and how those choices affected the story. Here are some starter questions to help guide your group discussion.

1
Book Club Questions About Plot

  • Which event in the story causes all the others?
  • Is this book based on a classic story, like from mythology, history, or literature? Why did the author choose that particular story to retell?
  • Was there a simple solution to the problems in the book? Why didn’t the author let the characters use it?
  • What is the book’s climactic scene? How did the author build up to it?
  • Does the book’s ending resolve the plot? If it doesn’t, do you think this was intentional? What else do you want to know?

2
Book Club Questions About Character

  • Why did the author choose to follow this protagonist and not another character in the story? Would the story have been different if it was told from another character’s point of view?
  • Do you think the protagonist is a hero or a villain—or somewhere in between?
  • How does the main character change over the course of the book?
  • Does the protagonist experience a major revelation or period of growth? How does it change them?
  • Does this story have an antagonist or villain? What traits does this character reveal about the story’s hero?
  • Are there any nontraditional "characters" in the book—such as animals, or even places that play a strong role in the story? 
  • Other than the main character, is there another character you found compelling? Describe how the book might be different from their point of view.

3
Book Club Questions About Symbolism

  • Is the setting symbolic? If it is, what does it symbolize?
  • Are there any particularly striking visual symbols used in the book? What do you think they represent?
  • Do the characters themselves represent anything?

4
Book Club Questions for a Memoir

  • Memoirs often exclude many parts of the author’s life. Why do you think they excluded what they did? What other details do you wish they had included in the book?
  • If you were in the author’s shoes, is there anything you would have done differently?

5
Book Club Questions About Author Style

  • How would you describe the author's writing style? (Was it flowery and descriptive, or more succinctly written?) 
  • If the book was written in first person, why do you think the author made that choice? How did that choice change the story, vs. having it in third person?
  • How does the author's writing style compare to other authors you have read? 

6
Just-for-Fun Questions

  • If you were making this book into a movie or TV show, who would you cast in the lead roles?
  • Did this book remind you of any songs? Make a playlist as a group.
  • You are dropped into the world of this book for the day. How would you fare?
  • Which of the characters in the book do you most relate to? Which would you want to invite for dinner—and why?
  • If you could ask the author one question about this book or anything else, what would you ask?

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