UPDATED January 18, 2022. Once your group has decided on a particular book or film to discuss (tips for starting a discussion group), here are some suggestions for finding resources, using an “ABCD” approach: Author or filmmaker (biographies, their other works), specific Book or film (reviews, analyses), Context (historical, cultural including related works in other media, such as a book’s film or stage adaptations), Discussion questions, and more.
- AUTHOR OR FILMMAKER. Do a search on their name to see if they have an individual website, or if there are any sites devoted to their work. For contemporaries, check YouTube for video interviews, discussions, or author readings. Explore the author/filmmaker’s biography, including their other works.
- BOOK OR FILM. For the specific book or film that your group is discussing, do a search (using Google or your preferred search engine) on the title. Wikipedia will likely have a detailed entry with a plot synopsis (you may want to let group members know if there are any ‘spoilers’). Your search will reveal reviews, from both free sources and ‘paywall’ publications (such as The New York Times). For books, at Goodreads you’ll find a diverse selection of readers’ reviews and recommendations. My personal favorite source for literature synopses (I like to begin with a summary) and analysis, has a silly name, Shmoop, but great (often free) resources… along with a sense of humor. Also, check the book publisher’s or film distributor’s website for background information, discussion questions, etc.
GETTING BOOKS OR FILMS: You can check out books, and films, from your local library (likely at no cost), download free public domain works (pre-1927) via links throughout this site or use the Online Books Page (over three million titles), or buy them from a local bookseller or retailer. You may be able to download – or sometimes read online – a free temporary copy of a book, including new titles, from the publisher-supported OpenLibrary (the title will automatically ‘evaporate’ from your e-reader after a few days but you may be able to renew it); at Internet Archive, some books can be read online in one-hour increments (just keep “renewing” it). Also, I have an Amazon Associate link – details at the bottom left of every page on this site: Thanks! Sources for free movies online include Tubi, IMDbTV, Crackle, YouTube Movies Free With Ads, Vudu Movies Free With Ads, Plex, Pluto, silent era classics via this site. NOTE: I’ve also added, based on this section, a separate blog post about getting books or films from legitimate sources.
- CONTEXT. Some people enjoy looking at a work in a wider context, including historical (relating to eras, social movements, the sciences, and more), and cultural (thematic comparisons with other books, or films using the IMDb, or works in such media as the visual arts, theater using the IBDB, music including opera and ballet for which there may be videos).
- DISCUSSION GUIDES. Many authors / publishers, and some filmmakers or film distribution companies, have websites that include discussion questions, and additional background materials. Also, ask your group members to share any resources that they recommend. Some basic discussion topics include, How does the book or film speak to your members’ personal experiences? Does it illuminate a past era, and/or does it reflect the current social situation? How would each of your members like to change the book or film, or is it already optimal? Does it bring to mind other works?
ENJOY the lively exchange of ideas between the book or film, and your fellow members!