Finding Common Ground: Using Themes to Guide your Author Selection

BIC Account Manager, Christie Hinrichs

BIC Account Manager, Christie Hinrichs

Gearing up for your next Common Reads selection? For most event coordinators, this means winnowing down a long list of titles to a short list of authors, who often write on wildly different topics. How do you choose?  Incorporating a theme can play an integral role in meeting your program’s goals. Instead of considering thousands of books, using a theme can narrow down your choices with titles that help focus the important goals you’d like to achieve with the program. Themes also offer a fresh perspective on your program, additional marketing opportunities, and chances for collaboration with new partners.  For example, a musical theme allows you to tap into the musicians in your community.  An animal theme opens the door to a partnership with the local veterinarian or animals shelter. Historical themes (World War II, Civil Rights Act, regional events) might introduce an academic component that corresponds with local school’s curriculum, and draw those with real life experience into the community conversation. Consider tying your theme to a current event or significant anniversary like Shakespeare’s birthday, Asian-American month, or Autism Awareness.  Opportunities for new and unique themed programming abound.

The good news is that no matter what theme you choose, Books In Common can help find you an author to perfectly fit your theme. Our database categorizes books by theme, along with many other criteria, enabling us to generate a list of titles that fit your theme, with authors we’ve screened to ensure they’re great speakers.  Not only can we offer valuable feedback about the authors you’ll consider, we can also provide detailed programming suggestions.  We work with thousands of venues across the country, and just as many published authors and speakers, both renowned and emerging. We know which titles correspond best with a given topic, and can offer insight on how similar programs have maximized their success.  Here are a few programs working with themes, and the authors we’ve helped connect them with!


Tidewater Literary Festival | Theme: Travel

  • Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Are You Wearing?, and Where Are You Eating? Kelsey’s books focus on what it means to be an engaged global consumer, and takes readers on a worldwide tour exploring the origins of our favorite food and clothing providers.
  • Event Coordinator: “You all do such a great job!  It’s made these last two years really easy!”

Arlington Reads Together | Theme: World War II

  • Janet Singer Applefield, holocaust survivor.
  • Event Coordinator: “Thank you so much for connecting us with Janet. She was wonderful!  Several people waited to thank her personally after the event.”

Federation of State Humanities Councils | Theme: Leadership in a Time of Change

  • Paul Taylor, author of The Next America. Taylor is the Executive Vice President of Special Projects at the Pew Research Center, and his book examines the country’s changing demographics.
  • Event Coordinator: “It makes such a difference to have a speaker who is truly pleased to be a part of what we are doing – one more sign that he was the right person all along. You’re wonderful, Christie – Thank you!”


Other themes to consider: 

The anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (April 2016):

  • Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
  • Dan Falk’s The Science of Shakespeare
  • Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World

The Aftermath of the Iraqi/Afghani Wars:

  • Laura McBride’s We Are Called To Rise
  • Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp
  • Marcus Lutrell’s, Service: A Navy Seal At War

Overcoming Difficult Childhoods: 

  • Regina Calcaterra’s Etched in Sand
  • Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train
  • Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us


Read about Fredrick Reads themes

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  • Garth Stein: A SUDDEN LIGHT