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Novelist brocure: The Secret Language of Books

Confessions of a Book Club Addict

I’ve run three book clubs at one time. Sound like a foolish thing to do? Well, I’ve done it twice. And, trust me, you don’t do something that harebrained (twice) without help.

The Book Clubs

The first time I was in over my head, I was running my Romance Lovers Book Club, genteXt, a book club for Gen-Xers, and a staff book club focused on expanding my library’s readers’ advisory services. The second time, I was still running the romance and genteXt book clubs when I decided to run a book club at my local YMCA to go along with the summer reading theme.

Reading all those books requires discipline and can’t be outsourced. However, I found lots of help picking out books, finding book discussion guides, and learning about readers’ advisory training through my library’s subscription to NoveList.

Finding Books

NoveList was a lifesaver for picking out books. I still run the Romance Lovers Book Club and NoveList is still a lifesaver for me. My romance book club reads two books per month. As a group, we brainstorm what we’d like to read (titles, authors, tropes, subgenres, etc.) and then I pick out the books—matching the two books per month to a theme.

As a recent example, one member wanted to read The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin. Lin writes lavish, sweeping romances set in the Tang Dynasty. There aren’t many Tang Dynasty romances, so I turned to NoveList to help me find matching books.

According to NoveList’s appeal terms, The Lotus Palace has an atmospheric tone and a richly detailed, descriptive writing style. I can search NoveList for other historical romances with an atmospheric tone. My book club can discuss the books separately and how well each creates an atmosphere for the reader.

If you want to learn more about NoveList’s appeal terms and genre headings, download copies of A Guide to Genres and Book Discovery and The Secret Language of Books. Hand them out to your book clubs. They’ll love them!

Pamphlet: Novelist Genres: A Guide to Genres and Book Discovery

Novelist pamphlet: The Secret Language of Books


Book Discussion Guides Saved My Bacon

Book club Quick StartThe book discussion guides in NoveList were also a lifesaver for my genteXt book club. One, because the book discussion guides were a great place to browse for book ideas (look for them in the Quick Links). Two, because when I was running three book clubs at once, spoiler!-- I didn’t always finish the books.

I wrote book discussion guides for NoveList while in library school and working as a public librarian. I’m familiar with the work that goes in to them. As a book club leader, I relied on that work to help me stay confident. Plot summaries saved me from embarrassment when I hadn’t read the book (or read it months ago). I kept the discussion prompts in my back pocket for lulls in conversation. And my book club members loved the sample responses, especially when we disagreed with the guide’s author.

Staff Training

The book club I ran for library staff was different. We picked a genre or subgenre and everyone read a book of their choice. As a group, we discussed what we knew about the genre, what readers like about the genre, the appeal of the book we had read, and how we would help a reader find more books.

Along with the NoveList appeal terms, we also relied on NoveList’s genre overviews, articles, Recommended Reads lists, read-alikes, and awards tracking to orient our conversation. Whether talking about microhistories or historical romances, we came out of those meetings better equipped to help our readers.

Let Us Help You

Have NoveList in your library and want to find all the resources I mentioned? In honor of Book Club Central, we’re kicking off a new page on our website. Throughout the year, we’ll add information about ways NoveList can help you and your book clubs. Got questions or tips to share about how your library has used NoveList to support book clubs? Drop us a line.

Jennifer Lohmann is a NoveList expert, romance author, and former public librarian. She has a full-fledged book club addiction.


NoveList has been helping readers find their next favorite book for more than 20 years, and continues to develop innovative solutions for connecting readers, books, and libraries. By helping libraries help readers, NoveList empowers libraries to engage and inspire their communities.


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