A Discussion Strategy for Books
(adapted from “Critical Response Protocols”)
Goal: To engage all members in a rich and thoughtful discussion of the book.
This strategy is best done before any background information about the author or book is
shared. It is built around three questions or prompts.
1. Share one thing that you noticed about this book.
Each person responds “round robin” with one thing that comes to mind as they think about the
book. This could be a particular event, character, setting, or turn of phrase. It should be a brief
and specific observation. This is not the time for a summary, big idea, judgement,
interpretation, or overarching feeling (that comes later…).
• Paraphrase each noticing to make sure everyone hears it.
• If a noticing is not specific or includes a judgement or interpretation, ask “What did you
notice in the book that makes you say that?”
• If others reply to someone’s noticing, thank them, but keep the responses moving by
asking the next person to share one thing they noticed.
• Keep a mental (or written) list of possible ideas or thoughts to return to later.
2. What does this book remind you of or make you think about?
This is a more open-ended question that anyone can answer “pop corn style”. There are a range
of possible responses: It can remind you of another book; of an event in your own life; of a
social, cultural, or political issue; etc.
• Thank participants for their responses.
• Paraphrase if needed.
• If a response seems to be coming “from left field” or unrelated to the book, ask what
specifically about this book leads them to their association.
• Keep the discussion open to all by periodically asking, “Would anyone else like to share
what this books reminds them of?”
3. Why do you think the author wrote this book? What do you think she/he wants us to
understand or feel after reading it? Do you think they were successful?
The key phrase here is “do you think”. Participants are not expected to know what the author
had in mind, but to speculate based on their noticings and associations. On the other hand, it is
ok at this point for the moderator or others to share outside information they may have about
the book or the author.
• Step back and let the discussion flow.
• Feel free to invite others to contribute if the responses become too one-sided by asking,
“Does anyone have another idea or feel differently?”
• Follow-up or interject pertinent background information about the author or critic’s
reviews of the book. When possible, refer back to and reinforce participant’s
observations and opinions by what you learned from your research.
Thank everyone for their participation and for the great discussion.