Reading Groups

Anne Tyler’s novels are perfect for reading group discussion—full of richly drawn characters and compelling themes that highlight the joys, complexities, and struggles of everyday life. Pick your book club’s next selection by browsing through the questions below and clicking the links to find out more.

Available Guides:
The Accidental TouristThe Amateur MarriageBack When We Were GrownupsThe Beginner’s GoodbyeBreathing LessonsDigging to AmericaDinner at the Homesick RestaurantIf Morning Ever ComesLadder of YearsNoah’s CompassA Patchwork PlanetA Spool of Blue ThreadVinegar Girl


The Accidental Tourist

From the Reader’s Guide

Would you characterize yourself as an accidental tourist in your own life? Do you know anyone you might consider an accidental tourist?

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The Amateur Marriage

From the Reader’s Guide

What is noticeable about the narrative voice in the first chapter? At the end of the chapter the narrator states, “They were such a perfect couple. They were taking their very first steps on the amazing journey of marriage, and wonderful adventures were about to unfold in front of them.” Whose voice is this meant to be? Why is the chapter called “Common Knowledge”?

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Back When We Were Grownups


From the Reader’s Guide

“How on earth did I get like this?” wonders Rebecca at the start of the novel about the person she has become. Have you ever had a moment like this? Did you end up with the life you thought you would have?

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The Beginner’s Goodbye

From the Reader’s Guide

Aaron is handicapped on his right side as a result of a childhood illness. Why do you think the author chose to give her main character such a handicap? Is it significant—a symbol or metaphor—or entirely coincidental? In her conversation with Robb Foreman Dew, Tyler comments that Aaron may be trying to hide his handicap and suggests there is a reason he does so. What do you think the reason is?

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Breathing Lessons

From the Reader’s Guide

This novel takes place in one day. What effect does this time frame have on the story? Why do you think the author con­structed the book this way? What day is it–what makes it significant? Why are emotions running high?

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Digging to America

From the Reader’s Guide

In calling their baby Susan, the Yazdans “chose a name that resembled the name she had come with, Sooki, and also it was a comfortable sound for Iranians to pronounce” (p. 10). The Donald-sons keep their baby’s Korean name, Jin-Ho. What is the significance of these choices, both within the context of the novel and in the context of adoption in general? Is it important for an adoptive family to give children from another country or ethnic group a sense of their heritage? What insights does Ziba and Bitsy’s fractious disagreement about “Americanization” (p. 46) offer into this question?

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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

From the Reader’s Guide

Beck Tull’s leaving was extremely harmful to Pearl and her children, but was it really the root of all of the family’s problems? What problems would have been the same if he had stayed? What would have been different?

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If Morning Ever Comes

From the Reader’s Guide

Why does Ben Joe go home to Sandhill? What is the triggering incident that makes him get on the train? What are some of the other underlying reasons that send him home?

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Ladder of Years

From the Reader’s Guide

Why did Delia walk away from her family on that Delaware beach? And why did she stay away for so long?

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Noah’s Compass

From the Reader’s Guide

Liam loses his job and moves into an efficiency apartment, thinking he doesn’t have much left to live for and that this final part of life is meant to be “the stage where he sat in his rocking chair and reflected on what it all meant, in the end” (p. 3). Do you think this is an accurate reflection of Liam’s life at this point? Do you think most people his age and in his position feel similarly?

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A Patchwork Planet

From the Reader’s Guide

“Just because we were related didn’t mean we were any good at understanding each other,” says Barnaby after yet another frustrating conversation with his mother. Communication problems abound within the families depicted in this novel. Discuss the nature and source of these problems. Why do we often have so much trouble talking to the people we love?

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A Spool of Blue Thread

From the Reader’s Guide

Chapter 2 begins with the Whitshank family stories: “These stories were viewed as quintessential—as defining, in some way—and every family member, including Stem’s three-year-old, had heard them told and retold and embroidered and conjectured upon any number of times.” (page 40) Why are these two stories so important? Why is the story of Red’s sister important to Red’s family?

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Vinegar Girl

From the Reader’s Guide

Kate is unsatisfied with her life at home and at work, but has done nothing to change her situation. Do you think her father’s strong suggestion to marry Pyotr was actually what she needed to change her life?

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