Post­ed by Miri Pomer­antz Dauber

The Post­script series is a spe­cial peek behind the scenes” of a book. It’s a juicy lit­tle extra some­thing to add to a book clubs dis­cus­sion and a read­er’s under­stand­ing of how the book came togeth­er. 

What sep­a­rates a good book dis­cus­sion from a blah one? When you’ve left your book club feel­ing like you had a real­ly good con­ver­sa­tion, what is it that set it apart from pre­vi­ous con­ver­sa­tions? Was it the depth or thought­ful­ness of the com­ments? The shar­ing of ideas and per­son­al reflec­tions? Some­thing you learned or that you thought about in a new way? 

Book groups, actu­al­ly, are one of the few places, out­side of a class­room, where these kinds of con­ver­sa­tions occur. They are, by nature, often a com­fort­able set­ting in which peo­ple are inspired to read and think, share ideas, respond to the ideas of oth­ers, and start new con­ver­sa­tions – and they can be on any top­ic. So while book groups are fun and social, an infor­mal place to sit back, take off your shoes, and pore over the con­tents of the book in your lap, they are also place of edu­ca­tion and study. 

So many books can inspire a great con­ver­sa­tion, and some­times com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed­ly. When many read­ers look for a book to read with their book clubs, it’s often a work of fic­tion or pos­si­bly nar­ra­tive non-fic­tion in the form of a mem­oir, biog­ra­phy, or his­to­ry. A good book from one of these gen­res is a won­der­ful cat­a­lyst to a live­ly, pas­sion­ate, thought­ful con­ver­sa­tion. How­ev­er, books from oth­er gen­res, many of which are not con­sid­ered to be good book club books”, can also pro­vide an inter­est­ing read­ing expe­ri­ence and an engag­ing discussion. 

Take a book like Rab­bi Adin Stein­saltz’s Bib­li­cal Images: Men and Women of the Book. This is a book of schol­ar­ship and Jew­ish thought that explores and elab­o­rates on char­ac­ters in the Bible. Not a book that most book clubs choose on a reg­u­lar week. But when you view it as a char­ac­ter study of fig­ures with whom many peo­ple already have some famil­iar­i­ty, it can become the cen­ter­piece of one of those thought­ful and inter­est­ing book group talks. If this kind of con­ver­sa­tion sparks your inter­est, JBC Book Clubs devel­oped a read­er’s guide for Bib­li­cal Images for The Glob­al Day of Jew­ish Learn­ing (next Sun­day, Nov. 16), both for a sin­gle chap­ter and for the entire book, which can be down­loaded as part of the tool­box at www​.the​glob​al​day​.org

Anoth­er book that might get over­looked as not a book club book” is Ruth Calderon’s A Bride for One Night: Tal­mud Tales. This book, a col­lec­tion of sto­ries from the Tal­mud accom­pa­nied by MK Calderon’s own expan­sion of the nar­ra­tives, reads like a short sto­ry col­lec­tion that will raise ques­tions and exam­i­na­tion at every turn. For a book group look­ing for fas­ci­nat­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing sto­ries (that also hap­pen to have a basis in Jew­ish texts) to dis­cuss, it’s a book to con­sid­er (and MK Calderon will be speak­ing as part of The Glob­al Day’s 24×24 series, so you can watch her live!). 

Of course, find­ing the right book for you or for your book group isn’t sim­ple. And find­ing a book that will touch off a spir­it­ed con­ver­sa­tion is nev­er a giv­en, no mat­ter how inter­est­ing, thought­ful, or pop­u­lar a book is. But when you find one that works, it can be an invig­o­rat­ing and enlight­en­ing hour or two.

Miri joined the JBC team in Win­ter, 2004 upon grad­u­at­ing from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Orig­i­nal­ly from Philadel­phia, she has lived and stud­ied in Israel and Lon­don. Pri­or to work­ing with JBC, she interned for the Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety. After sev­en years as the direc­tor of the JBC Net­work pro­gram, Miri has shift­ed her focus to book clubs, work­ing to devel­op resources to bet­ter serve book club readers.