Has Your Book Group Been Hijacked?

Everyone in your book group wants to have a glass of chardonnay and talk about the book. One member, however, wants to talk about how the book relates to her marriage, has affected her sex life, and has become a major topic at her weekly group psychotherapy session. How to make it end happily ever after?

“Without a shared purpose and some clear ground rules,” explains Esther Bushell, book group facilitator and one of many experts in What to Do When No One Has a Clue, “it’s easy for one person (I call this member ‘the Ayatollah’) to hijack the group. So you all need to decide together: ‘Is it drinks first? Books first? Then we socialize?’ Have a model to follow and stick to it. And if someone won’t get with the program, a couple of members need to find ways to rein him or her in. Say something like ‘Doesn’t what you just said sound exactly like that situation in Elizabeth Strout’s new book? Why don’t we read about it instead?’ Reading is what validates the personal experience. And that’s why you’re there in the first place.”

In putting together What to Do When No One Has a Clue, Stephanie Pierson and Barbara Harrison created an etiquette book for our brave new world, calling on savvy experts in many different fields – from Arianna Huffington to Badgley Mischka to Danny Meyer – to give smart advice. They also took to the streets, as they explain below.

“To prove how baffling and bewildering life is today (and to show how necessary our book is),” Stephanie and Barbara explain, “we decided to ask people on the street their reactions to situations in the book. Their spontaneous answers – fresh and funny and often completely contradictory – brought the book to life.

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In the process, we humiliated themselves chasing after people (and dogs and statues) in Madison Square Park and one superb documentarian (Roger Sherman of Florentine Films) captured it all with a hand-held camera.

Stephanie Pierson and Barbara Harrison, authors of What to Do When No One Has a Clue, are ready to troubleshoot your toughest book group questions! To enter for your chance to win a copy of their book – and to get some great advice – post a comment with your book group predicament. Winners chosen at random. Limited quantities. No purchase necessary.

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.