We all love our book clubs, but there comes a time when even the most ideal group (think stimulating novels, insightful members, priceless wines, organic caviar, a live harpist in the corner who strums ethereal notes after every comment) gets a little stale or a little intimidating to outsiders. Take Joanna Goddard. She always wanted to join one, but she knew she was a slow reader and that she’d never finish a 300-page novel or memoir (hmmm...unlike the rest of us who always finish). Her idea? Start a club based on something that takes only 45 minutes to read—the old-fashioned in-depth magazine article. "Articles are so digestible," she says. "And they’re real-life, which makes them easier to relate to." Another bonus is that the ideas discussed in those pieces tend to be controversial, which leads to lots of fun, even heated debate. Goddard picks her articles from magazines like The New York Times, The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine about topics that range from education to divorce. (But this O magazine piece on hidden agendas might also do the trick)
What works: Articles about dating, marriage, siblings, family conflicts-anything that lets members weave in personal context to the factual content. One big winner in Goddard’s group was this New York Times modern-love piece about a husband who announced to his wife: "I don’t love you anymore."
What doesn’t work: Articles that have only one argument, such as "too much alcohol is bad for you." Everybody agrees it’s true, and then the discussion pretty much dies.