In the Bag: 10 Books and a Great Discussion Guide

You and your neighbor cross paths in the library. You notice the blue bag she’s carrying. “What’s in the bag, Susie?” She just checked out the library’s Book Group in a Bag kit. “This month we’re reading The Help,” she said. You mention that you and your friends have wanted to start a book club for a while, but it seemed cost-prohibitive to buy new books. Susie holds up the blue library bag. “Not these. They’re free and come with a discussion guide to give me a head start on leading the talk.”

Whether you are thrifty or not it’s a wise move to use the library’s Book Group in a Bag service, which provides 10 copies of the same book at no expense to you or your club members.

“It’s so nice having multiple copies available for our book club. The staff who helped me get the books and answered questions were very patient and helpful,” said Mary Napier, book club member.

Bags are stocked with titles ranging from the classics like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury to best-selling current books like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Our nonfiction bags include The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

View our 125 different titles at While you’re there, create an account to log in and get started reserving bags of books for your group.

“I recommend Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks because it is based on a true story from history. Your group can delve into the historical facts behind the story while also enjoying the fictional story that gets you emotionally involved with the characters,” said Librarian Deb Bryan.

Many book clubs want to distribute copies well in advance of their meetings. Good news: the Book Group in a Bag kits check out for six weeks, which allows you to hand out books at one monthly meeting and collect them the next. Bags can be reserved in advance, making planning what to read next a snap. Lissa Staley, librarian and resident expert on leading book discussions, recommends reserving your titles early because this service is popular.

“We have a variety of titles to choose from. Most of the books that we select are character-driven, which aids in the discussion and gives members something to relate or react to,” Lissa said.

In the bag you will receive notebooks with the author’s background and book discussion questions to help if discussion gets off topic or you don’t have time or know-how to come up with your own. If you want more information on leading a book group, meet with our book group experts, Deb and Lissa. Your request can be made via our Speaker’s Bureau at

“We can provide ideas and inspiration for your group, and you can adapt it to your group’s needs,” Lissa said.

If you would like to recommend a book title be added to our Book Group in a Bag service, call 580-4400 and talk to a librarian or log on to our Digital Branch at

Lisa is a former employee and shared the library story in many of her posts.