I have a live-action book group, as well as the online book discussion group. I'm really good about making sure that every one in the group, including me, gets a copy of the book for the next month.
Pretty much the first question I ask in group is "Did you read the book?" I can tell whether the selection was great or a dud by the percentage of people who have read the book.
I try really hard to include the folk who have not read the book in the discussion, giving a lot of background, asking broad and societal questions, and building a lot of discussion on member comments.
However, there comes the time when I, myself, have not read the book. It happens, and I hang my head in shame when it does. ("I'm sorry, guys. I got 14 pages in, threw the book against the wall, then kicked it.")
Another book group leader has come up with an excellent list of questions to ask, when you haven't read the book. Her first question is:
1. Studying the cover of this month’s selection may provide hints to the reasons that Margy MacDougal chose this book for your group. What does the metallic font used for the title convey—pretension, or insecurity? Although the cover art is minimal, what tensions does it suggest are lurking under the superficially glossy surface of Margy’s relationship with her husband, Eric? (read the rest - they're a stitch!)
Have you ever been in a group and not read the book? What questions made you crazy? What was most helpful?