Reading groups, or book clubs, are a type of forum you either understand intrinsically or vaguely comprehend and certainly need help organizing. If you're familiar and comfortable with book clubs, you know that all it takes to get one going is a handful of friends or acquaintances who will commit to meeting regularly, a book that is inspiring in topic and manageable in length, and an understanding among participants that everyone will need to share the responsibilities of hosting or finding locations for the meetings and contribute to the discussions. If you're stuck on details--how to assemble a group, which book to pick, how to handle a member who never contributes to the discussion--then The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Reading Group is for you. By now, everyone is familiar with (and not offended by) various entries in the Idiot's Guide series. Ultimately, any one of these books leaves a reader either feeling as though he or she has just read a helpful 101-type introduction to a given topic or seething and wondering how the repackaging of so much common sense is worthy of the paper in a book. It's possible that this Idiot's Guide for book clubs can produce both feelings.
But this one is good about offering specific ideas. For example, after you've formed your group from a number of possible sources (recommendations include friends, family, coworkers, classmates, neighbors, people responding to an Internet post or a flyer in a bookstore), if you're stuck trying to secure a meeting place, author Patrick Sauer suggests, rotate the meetings between members' homes; secure a room in a local school, community center, or library; or use a coffee shop or bookstore. Suggested reading lists are also included for various types of groups. All women? Go for Toni Morrison's Beloved, Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, or Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. And men's reading groups (an uncommon gathering, the author notes) may want to consider Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It, or George Will's Men at Work. --John Russell