There were a variety of reasons the books and the ensuing discussions had been disappointing, but one specific point that came up was that one of the books was a title based on a longer, engaging magazine piece and the person suggesting it loved the long article but, like everyone else in the group, was very disappointed in the book length version. [I'm not calling out the title on purpose.]
This led them to talking about picking an article or 2 to read some other month.
I love this idea because there is an amazing amount of long form journalism being produced these days, and its proliferation is one of the wonderful and positive things about the internet. But where to find the best articles for the group, and also, where to find articles from different outlets that can be combined for 1 discussion?
The answer--- Longreads! From their "About" page:
Longreads, founded in 2009, is dedicated to helping people find and share the best storytelling in the world. We feature and produce in-depth investigative pieces, profiles, interviews, commentary, book reviews, audio stories, and personal essays.Longreads has indexes by "Editor's Picks" or "Best of" the year which will help you identify single articles of note, but for the book club that would like to tackle a topic or issue from multiple perspectives [which will lead to a better discussion meeting experience], the Longreads topics index is the best place to begin.
If you really want to give your book club a shot in the arm and inspire dynamic discussions, I would consider pair a piece from Longreads with a podcast or Ted Talk.
So, for example, I used the Longreads topic index to identify essays on "Science and Nature" and found "Why Bugs Deserve Our Respect." Then I did a simple Google search for "podcasts on bugs" and found this Radiolab episode entitled "Damn Bugs." Finally, I searched "Bugs" on the TED Talks site and found this 11 video playlist entitled "Insects are Awesome!"
All of these pieces can be read, listened to, and watched for 1 book club meeting. Consuming this information will take a fraction of the time it would have taken your members to read an entire book, but the discussion itself will not be scarified. In fact, I would argue the mixing up of formats in how the information is taken in itself combined with the shorter lengths of each piece will actually lead to a more dynamic discussion.
Not only will this idea recharge your tried and true members, but also, it could lead to you attracting a whole new group of book club participants. And everyone will learn something new and interesting in the process. Seems like wins all around from my perspective.