Teletefila Book Club

How it works

Limits on Choice of Book

We have chosen to limit Teletefila Book Club selections to works of fiction under 500 pages.  We aim to host a Book Club discussion every 4-6 weeks (perhaps with breaks or adjustments around the major Jewish holidays), and this is about the upper limit of what most of our members can commit to reading in that amount of time.  We also urge book discussion leaders to avoid selections that are too close to current political controversies (i.e., fictionalized accounts of current events like Joel Klein’s Primary Colors).  This does not mean all books that in some way deal with political themes are off-limits (i.e., All the King’s Men would make a perfectly fine selection).  But we have plenty of other opportunities to talk about current events and politics as a minyan, and Book Club aims to provide a much-needed break from the relentless, 24-hour news cycle we all live with.

It is not necessary or even preferable that books have Jewish themes or content, but such books are welcome as possible Book Club selections.

Suggesting a Book

We take suggestions from all members of Teletefila, or anyone else regularly attending Book Club, as to Book Club selections.  If you wish to offer a suggestion, e-mail our Book Club Coordinator, J.R. Wilheim, at jrwilheim613@outlook.com.  When J.R. has received a few suggestions, he will send out a poll with the proposed selections for the next Book Club Discussion.  If there is a clear winner in the poll, that book will be chosen.  If there is a tie, J.R. will select the book suggestion he received first, and the other one will be the next book club selection.

At his discretion, J.R. may deviate from this practice if there is overwhelming consensus at a Book Discussion about what the next book selection should be.  But even when a book selection has already been made by acclamation at a Book Club Discussion, suggestions are welcome at any time, and all suggestions received will be voted on in the near future.

Rotation and Choice of Leader

There is no formal rotation of who will be the next Book Discussion Leader, though J.R. will try to make sure that there is variety in who leads Book Club Discussions so that everyone who wishes to will have a chance to lead.  There are no formal rules about how much time must pass between two instances of a person’s serving as Book Discussion Leader, but J.R. will aim not to have the same person serve as Leader for two discussions in a row.

Arranging a Time for Book Club

We do not (at least as of yet) have a set schedule for Book Club Discussions.  Our first took place on a Sunday evening at 5 p.m.  Given people’s work schedules, it is likely all future Book Club discussions will take place on Sundays, but time is likely to be flexible.  As noted above, we aim to have a Book Club discussion every 4-6 weeks but are flexible around a Discussion Leader’s schedule.  When you have selected a book, please e-mail J.R. Wilheim (see e-mail above) to suggest a time.  Announcements concerning Book Club will be sent in the Teletefila e-mails, which are sent out by Nostradamus Sher (nos@nostradamus.net).  Reminders about Book Club may also occasionally be made at the end of services.  A Zoom link for the Book Club will be sent in these e-mails the week the discussion takes place.

A Note on Guests

Although this Book Club is affiliated with Teletefila, it is perfectly fine to invite guests who may be interested in joining discussion of a particular book.  We are always happy to meet new people.

Leading a Book Club Discussion,
step-by-step

  1. Choose a book:  Obviously, the first step in leading a Book Club Discussion is to choose a book.  Aside from our rules on Limits on Choice of Book, it is highly recommended that you choose a book you have already before when you lead.  This avoids a few possible problems.  When you choose a book you have already read, you won’t have to worry that your selection won’t generate enough fodder for discussion.  You won’t have to worry that the selection will be too difficult for you or other Book Club attendees to understand.  We also urge you to buy the book rather than check out from the library, so that you can make whatever notes you wish in your book (see below).
  2. If there are multiple editions of the book, choose an edition.  We ideally like to have all members of the Book Club using the same edition as it makes finding specific passages for discussion much easier for all members.  Aim for an edition with larger print; remember that not all Book Club members necessarily have eyesight as good as yours.
  3. Think about whether there are any materials that would aid readers in understanding your book, and distribute them if necessary.  This could include things like family trees, lists of characters, maps of book settings, or timelines of events surrounding the events of your book.  You can e-mail these to Book Club participants.
  4. Take notes: Even if you have read your book twenty times before, take notes on your book.  As discussion leader, you will want to be able to refer other Book Club members to specific passages in the book. You can use whatever system works for you: underlining, highlighting, flags, or even the time-honored system of folding the corner of pages you wish to refer to.
  5. Prepare to present your book:  There is no single, set formula for presenting your book, and book presentations can be as elaborate or simple as you wish.  As Book Club Coordinator, I (J.R. Wilheim) will often prepare PowerPoints as I find this is a good way of keeping track of things I want to say, but it isn’t necessary to prepare a whole PowerPoint if you do not wish to (though I am happy to send you a sample PowerPoint presentation if you choose to go that route).  At a minimum, however, you will want to present at least the following about your book:
    1. Why you chose this book as a Book Club selection
    2. Why this book is worth reading and discussing (this can include the book’s impact on your own life, its significance as a work of literature, the themes and ideas it deals with, or anything else you feel is pertinent)
    3. Some basic background about your book (really, any background information the reader needs to know to be able to understand the book)
    4. Some “jumping off” questions for discussion: I would recommend having 3-4 questions to begin generating discussion.  These should be open-ended questions about the book’s characters, plot, theme, major ideas, or things in the book you found challenging.  Book discussion members may go with any of these questions to begin the discussion or generate their own ideas, but “jumping off” questions give Book Club members a place to start in their thinking about the book.
  6. Moderate the discussion: Members of our Book Club are a pretty polite bunch, but may still start to talk over each other in the excitement of discussion.  As Book Club Leader, it is your job to make sure participants take turns speaking, that no one dominates the conversation, and that everyone has a chance to share insights, opinions, and questions about the book.  It may occasionally be your job to bring people back from tangents to discussion of the book itself, if discussion starts to wander away from it.
  7. Close the discussion: Book Club will typically go on for about two hours.  At some point, conversation may flag or participants may express a need to go and do other things.  As Book Club Discussion Leader, you should politely bring the conversation to a close, thank everyone for coming, and encourage people to come to future Book Club Discussions.

(Prepared by J.R., Book Club Chair)