What does a book rarely do

Conversations: Kerstin Hämke thinks: "A good book rarely comes alone" (KiWi). She says: "My reading group manual explains how to find a reading group or how to start one yourself - with lots of practical tips!"

She started her first reading group 17 years ago - it operates today Kerstin Hämke with www.Mein-Literaturkreis.de the largest advice and recommendation platform for reading groups in German-speaking countries. The reason: More and more people feel like talking about the books they have just read. In her new book A good book rarely comes alone. The great reading circle manual(Kiwi/ ET 07.09) she shows why reading together is so much fun and complements her guide with 50 book tips that are particularly suitable for discussion in reading groups. Reason for questions to the author:

BuchMarkt: What is the A good book rarely comes alone?

Kerstin Hämke: The book is a guide for reading groups.

What are reading circles?

A reading group (some also speak of a literature group) comes into being as soon as some people agree to read certain books or discuss them at regular meetings. Mostly novels are discussed, but there are also crime reading groups or groups who switch between different genres and sometimes discuss a non-fiction book or poetry. I am often asked how many reading groups there are in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I estimate around 70,000. And since we assume an average of ten members per reading group, around 700,000 readers meet regularly to learn about new literature and to exchange ideas and experiences. A couple of older women chatting about books at a coffee party - this often-mentioned prejudice does not apply.

How did the idea for such a book topic come about?

I've been dealing with the topic of reading circles for many years. I started a reading group with a friend over 17 years ago. Like many other reading groups, we are always on the lookout for new book tips. Unfortunately, there was also no information on the Internet specifically for reading groups, so I used my advice and recommendation platform to create the website I would have liked to find myself. On the website we provide book tips for reading groups, help with setting up and organizing reading groups and provide information on literary topics. We are now a small team and are supported by 30 test readers, who are of course all members of the reading group, in choosing a book. We were asked again and again whether our information was also available in printed form, and that's how the idea for this book came about. An (analog) book is of course a perfect addition to our (digital) offer on the website.

Which readership do you want to appeal to?

Preferably everyone who likes to read, of course! Literature fans who are already in a reading group will receive many ideas on how to keep their existing groups alive. Since reading groups are always on the lookout for the next good book, this guide contains many book tips, 50 of which are recommendations with detailed background information on the book and the author as well as suggestions for discussion.

Readers interested in reading groups can find out in this book how to find or found a reading group - with lots of practical tips: How often should you meet? How do you choose books that everyone will enjoy? Thanks to the numerous book tips, the book is also of interest to the reader who reads alone, but likes to be encouraged to engage more deeply with his or her reading.

What is the best argument for the bookseller to sell the book?

Those who like to do sports go to the sports club and those who like to sing join a choir. And who likes to read? A reading group is the right choice! Current studies show that the number of readers is falling sharply. The number of books sold however still remains nearly the same. This means that those who read read more. And that includes reading circle members in particular, because a recent survey on our website shows that reading circle participants are frequent readers. A quarter of you read more than 50 books a year!

So should booksellers maintain contact with local reading groups?

Absolutely. How about a special shelf with book tips especially for reading groups? Or reading groups from the region are invited to a recommendation evening, where some good book tips (for example from my book) are presented over a glass of wine? It should then be possible to sell my book directly;)

And since I am of the opinion that the production of Kiepenheuer & Witsch has made the book look wonderful, the bookseller should definitely point out the beautiful features: The cover has a leather look with glued-in colored title vignette, has rounded corners, high-quality paper and a beautifully designed endpaper and a ribbon bookmark. In addition, the volume of 350 pages - and all for 15 euros!

In what literary context do you see your book in the bookstore?

It fits with guidebooks or non-fiction books, but also with normal fiction, as it contains many book tips. Ideally, the bookseller will place it on its own table, along with some of the book tips from the book. And maybe a nice reading journal, a few bookmarks, a practical reading light, a stylish mug ... Because reading group members are not only interested in books, but also in a lot of things related to literature. And of course a reading group guide should be on every bookseller's desk.

3 words that describe the book well?

Practical tips, lots of detailed book recommendations, especially nicely designed.

And privately, what are you reading there?

I don't separate professional and personal reading. Of course, I read a lot for work - the reading groups always expect new and up-to-date book tips on our website. Our 30 test readers also support us with the reading and selection.

For the book tips in my book, for which there are detailed suggestions for discussion, I have read or re-read a few books over the past few months. Many of them impressed me, for example A little luck by Claudia Pineiro, one of the most famous Argentine writers. The novel is a poignant book about guilt and forgiveness and how a single moment can destroy a life. Stylistically unusual What we dreamed of by Julie Otsuka. Using historically documented events around 100 years ago, she describes the challenges people are confronted with in a new culture. This is still a topical issue. Linguistically, the novel is unique: with the help of the narrative perspective of the collective We, the American author with Japanese roots succeeds in describing the different views and experiences of many women.

What question would you still like to have answered that we haven't asked?

People are online more and more. How does that fit into reading circles, don't you have to meet there in person?

Here you can do this now:

Yes, most reading groups meet in person. Why? Probably because, in a good, committed discussion, one often reveals one's own life experiences and experiences. And you prefer to have such an open conversation with people you know personally.

But so-called reading clubs on the Internet are also playing an increasing role. There are now some groups who exchange information online about what they have read - even if sooner or later the suggestion comes up to meet in person - e.g. at a book fair.

We at www.mein-literaturkreis.de also have our own reading club that discusses a book on Facebook every month - currently since September 1st Child welfare of Ian McEwan. By the way: new members are welcome.