Even though we write tons of book club discussion guides, sometimes it’s also handy to have a toolkit of generic book club questions at the ready. You can certainly use them if you don’t care for the discussion questions that you find around the web. But you can also assign out a few questions in advance and ask your club members to do some light prep. Or you could use some of the more entertaining questions as an ice breaker for new members.
However you use them, these book club discussion questions are designed to help your group have a fun and stimulating conversation.
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In addition to the questions below, we also suggest that you mine a few other sources for book club content. All of our book club guides include the publisher’s synopsis. We do this not only to describe the book…but also because they sometimes do a terrible job of describing the book! You can have a whole conversation about whether the publisher properly marketed the book or accurately reflected your experience of it.
We also love looking at the Goodreads reviews. Even super popular books (like those from Colleen Hoover or Jenna’s book club) have their detractors and there is often thoughtful fodder in the reviews. You can also consider assigning some multi-media to the club by putting author interviews or movie adaptations into the mix.
This guide is divided into three sections. The first has generic questions, the second lists a bunch of ideas for fiction related to plot, character development, setting, author intent and some genre-specific questions. And the final section has some prompts for non-fiction books. Here’s a table of contents if you want to jump around.
- Generic book club questions
- Book club questions for fiction (format, author intent, plotting/pacing, characterization, mood and genre)
- Non-fiction discussion questions
Generic Book Club Discussion Questions
- If you could describe this book with one word, what would it be?
- Is this the kind of book that you can read a little bit of before going to bed? Or is this the kind of book that demands some concentrated reading time?
- (Share some Goodreads reviews) Do these reviews reflect your experience of the book? Why or why not?
- What level of Goodreads star would you give the book?
- Did you listen on audio? If so, how was the performance?
- If the book gets adapted for the screen, who would you like to see play the main characters? What do you think would have to change?
- Of all the books that your club has read in the past year, how does this one rank for you?
- Have you read other books by this author? If so, how is this one different?
- Will you read another book by this author? If so, what will you be looking for?
- Have you read another book that is similar in plot, tone, setting or theme? What was it and how do the two books relate?
- Were you feeling the feels while reading this book? If so, which feels were you feeling?
- Did the book land a gut punch on you? Or did you cry? It’s OK, we’re all friends here.
- Did the book ever frustrate you or make you mad? Why?
- Pull a quote from the book and share with the group. Why did you find the quote meaningful?
- Will the book be worth a re-read someday?
- Were there elements of the book that were completely unique? If so, what?
- If the book was outside of your normal reading wheelhouse, has it inspired you to read more books in this vein?
- Was there something about the book that you still find yourself ruminating on? If so, what?
- Will you be recommending this book to others? If yes, what’s your elevator pitch in one sentence?
- You’ve just been hired-on as this book’s editor. What sort of changes would you suggest?
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Book Club Questions for Fiction
Formatting and Presentation
- The book was written in (first, second, third) person point-of-view. How do you think it affected the presentation of the story?
- (If not told in a linear format) The book went back and forth in time (or space). Were you able to follow the threads?
- How did you find the writing style? What did or didn’t work for you?
- How was the title significant to the book?
- What did you think of the book cover? Did it accurately reflect what the book was about?
- Was the book too long, too short, just right?
- (If there was an unusual formatting structure, such as letters, monologues or poetry) What did you think about the structure of the prose? What did it add to the reading experience?
- Was the book more plot driven or more character driven?
The Author’s Point of View
- What did you think of the official synopsis of the book? Was it an accurate representation of your experience?
- If you were to invite the author to dinner, what would you ask them? And what would you serve them?
- Do you think that the book was at all semi-autobiographical?
- Would you call this an owned voices book? Why or why not?
- In terms of theme or plotting, how does this book line up relative to the author’s other works?
Plotting & Pacing
- How did you find the pacing? On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is the tortoise and 10 is the hare.
- How satisfied were you with the ending of the book?
- Did the plot hang together? Were there some holes or lose threads?
- What were the book’s central themes?
- Where there any plot devices that you found too trite or convenient?
- Did you find the book believable?
- Were there some tried, true and perhaps over-used tropes in the book?
- Was there a lot of lying, subterfuge and betrayal going on? If so, how did you untangle it?
- Were there elements of the plot that were a stretch? And if so, were you able to suspend your disbelief?
- What was your key takeaway from the book?
- Were there some interesting racial, cultural or gender dynamics at play in the book? If so, what did you take away from them?
- Is the book’s timeframe (or place in history) critical to the story?
- Were there magical or fantastical elements in the story? Did they work? Were they believable?
- Is there a moral to this story?
- Was there a scene or section that has really stuck with you?
- If the book is part of a series, are you now motivated to continue in the series?
- Who was your most favorite character, and why?
- Which was your least favorite character, and why?
- Which character did you most relate to?
- If you could choose a character to be, which character would you choose?
- Did you develop expectations for certain characters? If so, did they live up to your expectations?
- Have you found yourself thinking about what may have happened to the characters after the events of the book have ended?
- Were the characters reliable narrators of their stories and lives?
- Have you ever experienced some of what these characters were going through?
- How did you feel about the (family, friend, work, school) dynamics in the book?
- Did you find yourself judging the decisions that the characters were making?
- Choose a thorny issue or impossible choice that one of the characters had to deal with. What would you have done in their circumstance?
- How did the characters evolve over the course of the book? Did they find themselves? Did they lose their way?
- What is the main character’s worldview?
- Can we allow the characters’ past to excuse their behavior or choices in the present?
- Were there any interesting power dynamics going on in the book?
- Did any of the characters remind you of someone you know? And is that a good thing…or a bad thing?
Mood & Setting
- How did the setting contribute to the mood, atmosphere or tension of the story?
- Could the book have been set somewhere else?
- Did the book make you want to visit the location?
- What sort of emoji would you assign to the mood of the book?
- Is there a thread of feelings that percolate throughout the book?
- Was there something about the book’s setting or culture that was unfamiliar to you? If so, what did you learn from it?
- Pick a color that best describes the mood of the book.
Genre-Specific Discussion Questions
- (For thrillers and mysteries) Are you the kind of reader who likes to puzzle out whodunnit? If so, who did you think dunnit and how did your opinion over the course of the book?
- (For thrillers and mysteries) Were there some red herrings in the storyline?
- (For thrillers and mysteries) Were you able to follow the twists?
- (For thrillers and mysteries) On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is a wet noodle and 10 is a tight rubber band, how strong was the tension in the book?
- (For romances) Well, will they live happily ever after, or not?
- (For romances) Do they belong together?
- (For romances) On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is a cold glass of milk and 10 is a house afire, how high was the heat level in the romance?
- (For sci-fi/fantasy) Was the world building complete?
- (For sci-fi/fantasy) What lessons from the book are relevant to our current space and time?
- (For sci-fi/fantasy) Did the book present an alternate reality that you can relate to?
- (For historical fiction) How might some of these events or cultural attitudes play out in our modern world?
- (For historical fiction) Did the events of the book change your perception or knowledge of history?
- (For historical fiction) Why do you suppose that the author chose this time period?
Discussion Questions for Non-Fiction
- (For memoirs) Did you find the author’s memory to be reliable and believable?
- (For memoirs) Could you relate to their lived experience? If so, which parts?
- (For memoirs) Can there be such a thing as a perfectly true memoir?
- (For memoirs) What were you hoping to learn from the author?
- (For memoirs) How did you feel about the author’s voice?
- (For memoirs) What did you think of the author’s worldview?
- (If business or self-help) If the book contained tools, worksheets or further reading, will you follow up and use them?
- (If business or self-help) What was your key takeaway?
- (If business or self-help) Has the book inspired you to make a change?
- (If business or self-help) Was the book predicated more on inspiration, or action?
- (If business or self-help) Will this book help you solve a problem?
- (For narrative non-fiction) Did the story line hang together?
- (For narrative non-fiction) Do you think that the book was well-researched?
- (For narrative non-fiction) Why were you interested in this topic? And did the book answer your questions?
- (For narrative non-fiction) Has the book made you rethink your position on the topic?
NEED BOOK CLUB IDEAS?
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More Book Club Resources
- Get some ammo for the key benefits of book clubs and why they are so worth it.
- And also some useful tips for starting your own book club.
- Have a smooth running book club using these rules and expectations.
- Develop winning strategies for choosing book club books.
- Browse our book club guides for fiction and non-fiction.
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Tuesday 28th of March 2023
These questions look great! Can't wait to use them with my new book club. Thank you!