Tips on Prepping for Your Book Club Discussion

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Participants should come to book club prepared with 8-10 topics to discuss or points to make. This does not mean you need to write small essays about the book! All you need is a sentence or two at most, and a page number or flag color. e.g.: The drawing where Spider-Man is punching the Lizard is really good. (Pg. 15)

Here are some other specific ways to help you prepare to talk about the book:

  1. Take notes. Notes help not only with discussion of the material, but also with retention of what you read — if you take notes, you’re more likely to remember what happened in the book. You can take notes on a separate piece of paper, in the margins of the book, or on self-adhesive note paper. Taking notes may increase the amount of time you need to finish reading a book, but it will enhance your ability to think critically about the book. In your reading kit, you should find a notebook and post-it notes.
  2. Flag important pages. Use the post-it flags we included in your reading kit to mark important pages so you can easily refer to them during the discussion. Write down page numbers if they are available. (Sadly in graphic novels, often they are not.)
  3. Ask questions. If you come up with an interesting question, share it with the group. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, and identify questions that you think will promote meaningful discussion of the material. Asking yourself questions can help you identify with the work.
  4. Pay attention to both the art and the text. Graphic novels embrace both textual and visual cues to tell a story. Sometimes, it’s easy to focus on one over the other. As you read, make an effort to examine both and how the interplay between the two is greater than the parts. It may help to read the book multiple times, focusing first on one aspect, then the other, and then finally on both together. What is something that could only be done in comic book format?
  5. Identify themes and symbolism. Analyze the deeper meaning behind the work: What are the ideas that the creators are exploring in the book? How do they use text and images as metaphors or similes, as symbols of something else?
  6. Examine the structure of the book. As you read, pay attention to how the creators use color (or the lack of color) to convey ideas, themes, temporal changes, and so forth. The creators may also use panel size, frequency, and structure to convey emotions and events or to develop a sense of urgency about the plot or characters.
  7. Evaluate the motivators behind the book. Is the book plot- or character-driven? If it is plot driven, it will move from event to event quickly, with little time spent on character development. Character-driven books tend to have a slower pace, focusing less on events and more on individual reactions, emotions, and thoughts.
  8. Compare the book to other stories.  As you read, compare the book to other stories, whether they are prose or graphic novels. Consider the other work of the writer and artist: Are their previous books similar in art style and subject matter? Are there common themes? Identify prose books or other graphic novels that have similar themes or employ similar structure or visual style.