San diego great books

Frequently Asked Questions



san diego OR Sara Clark at



There are about 20 people on our email list and who have come to a meeting at least once in the last couple of years.  Typical attendance of late is rarely more than 10.

How many people are in the book club?

What is a Great Book??

1. You must have read the selection to take part in the discussion (although observers are always welcome).

2. Discuss only the scheduled selection.

3. Use direct references to the text to explain your conclusions or opinions.

4. The opinions of outside experts as to the meaning of the scheduled text, while possibly interesting, have not been found to increase our capacity to discuss Great Books.

5. Listen to what others have to say and test their ideas against your own.

6. The leader is expected to only ask questions.  For more info see above.

7. Rules are suspended at 4 P.M. when we adjourn to continue our discussion over a drink.  Visitors are invited!

What are your discussion rules?

What is the Great Books Tradition of Shared Inquiry?




Shared Inquiry promotes an intellectually stimulating interpretative discussion of a work —a group exploration of meaning that leads to engaging and insightful conversation. It helps participants read actively, articulate probing questions about the ideas in a work, and listen and respond effectively to each other. And it is based on the conviction that participants can gain a deeper understanding of a text when they work together and are prompted by a leader’s skilled questioning.




1. Read the selection carefully before participating in the discussion.This ensures that all participants are equally prepared to talk about the ideas in the work.

2. Discuss the ideas in the text and explore them fully.Reflecting on what the text means makes the exploration of both the text and related issues more rewarding.

3. Support interpretations of the text with evidence from the work.This keeps the group focused on the text and builds a strong foundation for introducing insights and related issues based on personal experience into the discussion.

4. Listen carefully to other participants and respond to them directly.Shared Inquiry is about the give and take of ideas, the willingness to listen to others and converse with them respectfully. Directing comments and questions to other group members, not always to the leader, will make the discussion livelier and more engaging.

5. Expect the leader to mainly ask questions rather than offer his or her own interpretations of the text.The leader of a Shared Inquiry discussion asks an opening question and follow-up questions about participants’ comments. This encourages everyone to participate. Group members can enrich discussion by striking a balance between making assertions and questioning others, including the leader, about their ideas.


From the Great Books Foundation Handbook



What does all this accomplish?



Here are 10 things that might happen to you as a consequence of your participation in Great Books (San Diego version, of course).


1. You meet people who become lifelong friends or confidants, or, yes, it has happened, even lifelong partners.  Of course, there’s a flip side.

2. You always wished for a ‘liberal education’ and now you see how that might be possible.

3. Your Sunday afternoons, especially in the fall, were frustrating, etc..  Now, at least once a month, they’re interesting (applies equally to Monday through Saturday) when you’re reading.

4. Professional sports (college, too) don’t seem to matter as much as they used to.  We all win eventually, don’t we?

5. You recognize references on the editorial page that you would never have imagined.

6. Cocktail parties are suddenly more (but, that could also be less) interesting.

7. You thought Hamlet was only kidding.  Now you see, it’s the ________, stupid!

8. You see that there is never only one answer to life’s most important questions, but you now have reasons for your answers.

9. Your concern about Alzheimers has been set back 10 years or maybe longer.  Your’re now reading, thinking, communicating . . . 

10. You could learn your own most important question and its answer.