Over the winter holidays, during summer break at the beach house or any other time when your extended family gets together, try presenting each member with the same book. As Grandma, Aunt Jane, Mom and Uncle Frank’s new (shy) girlfriend hang by the fire at night or linger around the coffeepot in the morning, they’ll read (as opposed to lecturing on their particular politics or hinting as to who should mop the kitchen floor). At night, over dinner, the group will also have something relatively safe and engaging to discuss (as opposed to talking about exactly how dry the turkey is or why Aunt Jane decided to join a coven).
What works: Rotating who chooses the book, so that everyone gets a chance. Also, keeping the book a secret until everybody arrives. (This is not one of those things you want your older brother or grumpy Uncle Boris to weigh in on ahead of time.)
What doesn’t work: Forgetting to put each person’s name in big blocky letters on the title page, leading to books to getting confused, places lost, and irritation to set in.