The Best Way to Book Group

Cindy Shapiro
3 min readSep 15, 2023

After several tries, I’ve finally got it right

Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

A book group should not be a wine-tasting club. Or a gossip session. But for book groups I’ve been part of in the past, both slipped into those realms.

One book group I started several years ago got ugly fast: I’d picked Elizabeth Edwards’ book, Resilience. The book meant a lot to me, and I found Edwards’ vulnerability and honesty to be striking. At the meeting, as we were discussing the book, one woman said, “Elizabeth Edwards is a c_nt.” She went on to discuss how she hates women who don’t get out of bad relationships and how she got what she deserved. Get this: the woman was a counselor and she couldn’t extend the embattled, recently-deceased Edwards some grace. What a b-tch.

That was when I gave up on book groups.

But I missed having discussions with others about books. Especially as I moved out of the classroom, leaving my literature behind, and moved into coaching. One of the best parts of being an English teacher was the discussion and hearing students’ differing points of view on a book.

Truth is, I didn’t read as much when I didn’t have someone to talk to about it.

And then something happened this spring. I got back in contact with an old friend from 10 years ago. We hadn’t been close, but I’d always liked her. She was funny and had great ideas, and like me, she was an English teacher, so we both had a love of literature.

We started talking about books — she teaches college-level English at the high school we both used to work at. She had so many amazing books to recommend, most of which I’d never heard of. I shared a few that I’d been reading, mostly nonfiction titles, and we found each other scribbling down book titles as the conversation progressed.

I decided to dip my toe back in casually, asking, “Are you part of a book group?”

She said she was not, and we began to devise a plan: we would have a book group for two. Each month, one of us would pick the book, and the other would pick the meeting location — a different local coffee shop (no chains!) that we could try.

We would review both: the book and the coffee shop.

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Cindy Shapiro

Cindy Shapiro is long-time teacher living in Colorado. As a writer, she aims to elevate teachers’ voices and provide insight on issues in education.