Great Group Reads Process
For eleven years now, the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) has promoted the value of books and reading with National Reading Group Month (NRGM) initiatives. Great Group Reads is one such initiative. It invites members from all chapters to read books submitted by publishers that might be a good fit for book clubs. The members choose books based on their potential for timely topics, personal relationships, and cultural and worldly issues. We put our focus on underrepresented titles from independent and university presses as well as lesser-known releases from larger houses. The number of submissions has grown every year, with hundreds of books considered. This year’s final list has twenty novels.
It seems like a daunting task, but with several volunteers to read and provide their opinions, the work load is easier. Each committee member had to read twenty to thirty books over the span of five months.
In years past, I’ve chosen which book to read next based on the title. This year, I decided to put the books in size order from the smallest to the largest. This gave me a chance to get a lot of reading done with smaller books and save the longer books for when I had more time. Overall, I was able to keep a steady reading pace.
Brooklyn Book Festival
Receiving the books ahead of time prepared me to have this year’s chosen titles ready for the New York chapter’s annual appearance at the Brooklyn Book Festival. The festival pays homage to small, literary, and university presses. During the festival, we displayed all books chosen as 2018 Great Group Reads, as well as the Reading Group Guides, which is a supplement to the list. It includes more books of interest for book clubs.
Discovering New Authors
The best part about being on this committee is discovering new authors. One memorable book that did not make the final list was Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien. O’Brien tells intriguing stories about women who made history, a timely book when women are making strides in today’s male-dominated world. Another author I discovered is Leah Franqui, who wrote America for Beginners, which did make this year’s list. It’s a refreshing yet raw story about a journey to America that is not all “white picketed fence.”
Being involved in Great Group Reads and the Women’s National Book Association, for that matter, allows me to participate in conversations between industry and non-industry people to collaborate with one another toward a common goal, to get more people reading. As our motto says, “We connect, educate, advocate, and lead.”
Rachel Slaiman (New York City) is a published freelance writer of several articles in both print and online, as well an editor and copy editor of aspiring authors’ manuscripts. She is currently the co-recording secretary for the WNBA-NYC and co-chair for the Brooklyn Book Festival. Rachel holds a B.A. in Communications and a M.S. from Pace University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing short stories.