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Book Discussion Questions: The Shack by WM. Paul Young

Cover of The ShackTitle: The Shack
Author: WM. Paul Young
Page Count: 248 pages
Genre: Christian Fiction
Tone:  Inspirational, Thriller

Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack. Four years later, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare.

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

  1. 1. Did this book shock or disturb you? Intrigue you?

2. Were you drawn in by the plot of The Shack? How is it as a story?

3. Who is the intended audience?

4. The book maintained a spot on bestseller lists for several weeks and over one million copies have been sold. If religion is such a touchy subject, how can we explain the runaway success of this book?

5. Did you find the character of Mack to be sympathetic?

6. Many readers find the early chapters of The Shack almost too painful to read. Could they have been written in a way that would be less painful without changing the book’s message?

7. Why is The Great Sadness so frequently mentioned and always italicized?

8. Did the family’s different reactions to the tragedy ring true? (e.g., Josh, Kate, Mack)

9. How did you respond to the use of the narrator “Willie”? What did this add to the story?

10. How was Nan characterized? Should she have been more integral to the story?

11. Does the idea of God as a character in the book, or God’s first-person voice, bother you? Does it work within the context of The Shack’s story?

12. Why is God portrayed a woman? What reasons does God give Mack?

13. How is Young’s description of God different from your concept of God? What parts of his description did you like and what parts didn’t you like? Compare Mack’s assumptions of how God might appear to your own.

  1. 14. Are people changing their view of God because of this book?
  2. 15. Why do you think Mack’s encounter with God took place at the shack?

16. Why did God let Missy die? Do you think The Shack answers convincingly the central question of why, if there is a God, bad things happen to good people? Were you satisfied with God’s answers to Mack about suffering?

17. Why do you think Missy was buried in the garden?

18. What does The Shack say about forgiveness – toward the self or toward those who have wronged you?

19. What were your thoughts about Mack’s reconciliation with his father? In what ways to our relationships with our parents define us? Color our relationship with God? With others?

  1. 20. What is the literary merit of this book?

21. What do we know of the author? What does he reveal about himself in the story and in his reasons for writing?

22. How does the author portray church (or The Church)? Do you agree?

  1. 23. Which part of the book spoke to you the most and why?

24. What part of the book created the most questions for you?


Lit Lovers’ Discussion Questions
Video of Young talking on CBN (Christian Bible Network)
USA Today Article on controversy surrounding The Shack
Q&A with WM Paul Young
Richards Academy’s Discussion Guide


Dinner With a Perfect Stranger Book Cover Paper Angels Book Cover The Reason Book Cover







Dinner With a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory
Paper Angels by Billy Coffey
The Reason by William Sirls

Staff Pick: One Day in the Life of the English Language by Frank Cioffi

Jo of Research Services suggests One Day in the Life of the English Language by Frank Cioffi

One Day in the Life of the English Language Book CoverDo you know whether the question mark goes inside or outside the quotation marks? No matter. Everyone can find something to learn and even enjoy in the book One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook by English professor Frank Cioffi.

Rather than make up sentences to demonstrate correct usage as is done in many grammar handbooks, Cioffi examines the English language as it is actually used, using more recently published examples to ensure that the sentences were composed by a professional writer and checked by at least one editor. I especially enjoyed the 50-word microglossary which reminded me of just how much formal grammar I have forgotten.

For more books on English language fun, try….

Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma QueenBetween You and Me Book cover by Mary Norris

Who knew grammar could be so much fun? Check out this hilarious “grammar memoir” and find out why a question mark is like a lazy person.



Woe is IWoe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner

New York Times Book Review editor O’Conner guides you through grammatical pitfalls with wit and insight. There’s a companion edition for kids, too!



Word Nerd book coverWord Nerd: Dispatches from the Games, Grammar, and Geek Undergrounds by John D. Williams, Jr.

If word games are your thing, this book is for you! Get the inside story on the greatest SCRABBLE plays and players of all times as well as insight into other games like anagrams and palindromes. Author Williams served as the executive director and official spokesman for the National SCRABBLE association.


If I Was You book coverIf I Was You…: And Alot More Grammar Mistakes You Might Be Making by Lauren Sussman

This book includes sample sentences highlighting the grammatical error followed by a straightforward explanation of why it’s wrong and the correct usage.



Kiss My Asterick book cover

Kiss My Asterisk: A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar by Jenny Baranick

English professor Baranick takes on the most common punctuation and grammatical errors in a laugh-out-loud way.

Science Fiction Romance

Science fiction is more than just intergalactic battles and alien apocalypses! Take time to explore some of the more romantic sides filled with love affairs with aliens and hard to resist attractions. Want more suggestions on what to read? Ask a Readers’ Advisor!

Touched by an Alien Book Cover

Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

Men in Black meets romance, Kitty stumbles into an interstellar affair when a man suddenly morphs into a monster outside of the courtyard and begins a killing spree. Her choice to fight leads her down a path she never would have expected!



The Down Home Zombie Blues Book CoverThe Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

A space commander and her new prisoner/partner from Earth team up to try to save the planet from a biomechanical organism attack. She risks it all in this mission, including this man she is beginning to have feelings for whether she likes it or not.



The Stone Gods Book CoverThe Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson

Humans have worn out their planet and are looking to resettle onto Planet Blue. Equally a wide sweeping look at humanity and a narrow focus on Billie, a human who skips throughout time and in the process falls in love with a Robo-Sapien.



Enemy Within Book CoverEnemy Within  by Marcella Burnard

Captain Ari Rose is imprisoned by pirates, with pirate leader Cullin setting his sights on her because of her suspicious time spent in alien prison. The chemistry between them is strong, however, and they might not be able to resist their attraction.



Don’t forget:  for each science fiction book read during November, adults are eligible to enter a drawing for a gift card to AMC Theatres or to Barnes & Noble. Read more about Try Sci-Fi!

Fiction: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

FascParable of the Sower book coverination with dystopias may seem a new phenomenon, but it isn’t. Authors have long probed the fear of what might go wrong and, even more importantly, what brave souls can do to keep the worst from happening.

For Lauren Olamina, an 18-year-old in Southern California, the year 2025 is an exercise in ugly survival, and she has it worse than most. In addition to avoiding desperate scavengers and drug-addled rioters, Lauren suffers from hyperempathy, which causes her to feel others’ pain as her own. Written in diary form, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler offers a thought-provoking and highly readable record of the path she forges not only to discover her own destiny but potentially to offer belief to others.

Did you realize that dystopia is a popular sub-category of science fiction? Stories like these are eligible for our Try Sci-Fi celebration!  For each science fiction book read during November, adults may enter a drawing for a gift card to AMC Theatres or to Barnes & Noble.

Octavia Butler author photo


"I write about people who do extraordinary things. It just turned out that it was called science fiction." ~ Octavia Butler


New Fiction: Finding Magic in Reality

Find the magic in the ordinary in these three very different fiction books released in 2015. New books are added almost every day to our collections. Ask online or at the Fiction/AV/Teen services desk on the second floor and we can help match you with something new (or old) to fit your reading mood!

Clarice Lispectors Complete Stories Cover
Minnow Book Cover
Beauty is a Wound Book Cover

Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector
“Lispector ’s stories are surreal, modernist, and laced with magic realism, and she has been compared to Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf. But Lispector ’s tales are distinctly her own—sharp, swift, and dangerous in their stinging humor and burning illuminations of the paradoxical human condition.” – Booklist

Minnow by James E. McTeer II
“Readers will sink into this novel like sinking into South Carolina pluff mud, feeling the tension like oppressive humidity, and wondering what obstacle the protagonist will face next and what sacrifices he will endure for his family. A compellingly dark debut full of Southern mystery and lore.” – Library Journal

Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan
“At the beginning of this English-language debut from Indonesian author Kurniawan, Dewi Ayu, who was once the most respected prostitute in the fictional coastal town of Halimunda, rises from her grave after being dead for two decades. She’s returned to pay a visit to her fourth daughter, Beauty, who is famously ugly. …This is an astounding, momentous book.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Staff Pick: Greatest Hits Collection by Brooks and Dunn

Picture of DonnaKix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn started out as vocalists/songwriters and joined together1990-2010. Their twenty-year career as Brooks and Dunn produced numerous award-winning country music albums. In 2015, the duo reunited for a series of concerts with Reba McEntire. For a toe-tapping honky-tonk album with easy to understand lyrics, try their Greatest Hits Collection.

What Did You Like about The Martian?

Because books with the most buzz tend to be thrillers, historicals, or literary darlings, hardly anyone expected that the story of a stranded astronaut could collect some of the most enthusiastic word-of-mouth of recent years. Even readers who usually avoid science fiction have been completely won over by Andy Weir’s The Martian, which offers an exciting mix of appealing qualities. There’s something for everyone!

Wondering what to read next?  Depending on what you liked best about The Martian, there are many directions you might go:

Martian readalike suggestions

For additional readalikes or personalized suggestions, contact a Readers’ Advisor.

Don’t forget:  for each science fiction book read during November, adults are eligible to enter a drawing for a gift card to AMC Theatres or to Barnes & Noble. Read more about Try Sci-Fi!

Fiction: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Romance, adventure, humor… Dangerous by Shannon Hale is a roller coaster of a book.

Dangerous book cover“Humming the Star Wars theme to encourage myself, I wobbled onto my feet. Sometimes a girl’s gotta provide her own trumpet-heavy heroic soundtrack.”

Maisie Danger Brown might only have one fully-functioning arm, but she isn’t going to let that stop her from becoming an astronaut. Her dreams seem like they have a chance of coming true, when she wins a place in a space camp joining other teenagers across the country for a three week intensive program. It isn’t long, however, before she unearths an undercover plot that might wipe out Earth as we know it.

Book Discussion Questions: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter Book CoverTitle: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Page Count: 401 pages
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Tone:  Somber, Multiple Perspectives

In 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down’s Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears to raise the child herself.

These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

  1. 1. In one split decision, David changed so many different people’s lives. Could you understand his reasons for doing what he did? Did you feel any empathy for him?

2. How did David’s past affect him as an adult? What about his past influenced his split decision the day of the births. How did his past affect his other actions throughout the rest of his life.

3. Did your reaction to David’s decision change over the course of the novel?

4. Describe Caroline and David’s relationship. What impact did their relationship have on David’s decision to ask Caroline to take his daughter away? Why do you think he married Norah instead of Caroline?

5. What was Caroline’s true motivation in taking the baby? Why did she take her in the first place? And why did she decide to keep her instead of leaving her at the institution?

6. Do you feel Caroline was morally obligated to tell Norah the truth from the beginning? Why do you think she chose to come forward at the end of the novel after David’s death?

7. How did Norah change over the course of the novel? Can you think of any specific events that were instrumental in her changing?

8. Was Norah a good mother? What effect did the “death” of Phoebe have on her? How might her and David’s life have been different if he hadn’t lied about Phoebe’s death?

9. Why do you think Norah and David’s marriage began to dissolve. Was it simply the loss of their daughter?

10. Describe Paul’s relationship with Norah. How did it differ from David?

11. Compare the lives of both Phoebe and Paul growing up Who of the two would you say had a better quality of life?

12. When David meets Rosemary at his childhood home, it turns out to be a cathartic experience for him. What about the situation allowed David to finally speak the truth? Why did he feel compelled to take care of her?

13. What role did photography play in the novel?

14. Did you think The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was a good title for the book?

15. The story begins in 1964. How have people’s thoughts changed towards Down Syndrome over the years? Do you think the author could have written this same story set in present day?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!


Discussion Questions from Lit Lovers’
The book was made into a 2008 film
Q&A with Kim Ewards
Information on Down Syndrome


Lies You Wanted to Hear Book Cover The Story of Beautiful Girl Book Cover Clever Girl Book Cover

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

Staff Pick: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Picture of NancyDonna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is an engrossing novel that follows the ups and downs of New Yorker Theo Drecker. It’s a huge book with generous detail and many thought-provoking themes such as art, friendship, and the chaos and beauty of life. The flawed, charismatic characters stayed with me long after I finished the last page. If you missed it when everyone was talking about it in 2013, don’t worry – you can never be too late to the party with this award-winner.