May 8, 2019
How to Start a Book Club
Have you wondered what’s involved with starting a Book Club?
Are you in a book club? Have you thought about starting a book club?
Would you like to join a book club?
- If you want to be in a book club, you may need to be the one to start it. But first, check your local library or bookstore to see if they already have a book club you can join.
- How do I find members for my book club? You might be fortunate to have friends who are readers and want to form a club. Great, you’re all set. But sometimes our friends are not readers, then what? Maybe you can inquire among the neighbors or at your children’s sports practices or at church? I’ve also seen inquiries on my city’s Facebook page. One of my blogger friends has access to funds at her church and purchases a set of books and then passes the books out to young women in her church, inviting them to read the book and then opening her home for a one evening book discussion. This is a great opportunity for young moms who might not have extra money to buy books and who might be needing a night out! Creating a two-person book club with you and your BFF, your mom, your sister, a child, or a grandchild also counts as a legit book club. Ask your colleagues at work. Perhaps you could meet at lunchtime or after or before work once a month. Be creative! I know you can find your people!
- How do I organize a book club? There is no right way to organize a Book Club. It can be small or large. A book club can meet in your home, in a coffee shop, at the library or a park, or virtually.
- If you open your home for a book club, you can offer light appetizers and wine (or assorted beverages) or dessert and coffee. Some book clubs might meet mid-morning and others in the afternoon or evening. Whatever works for the participants is key, but meet on a regular schedule, keep it simple, and think about rotating hosts. If you’ve read The Little Book of Hygge, this is a perfect opportunity to put some of the concepts into practice!
- Sometimes a small group of readers will meet in a coffee shop, choosing an off-peak time and a place where they can sit together for an hour or so without inconveniencing other customers who are waiting for tables.
- Your library might have a book club you can join or might have a place where a group could meet, although one disadvantage is lack of snacks. You could also consider brown bagging it and meeting at a quiet park during the spring and summer months.
- What is a Non-Traditional Book Club?
- A Literacy Club: Instead of reading the same book, members each bring a book or two they’ve been reading lately. These friends take turns giving a brief synopsis of the book and a reason why it was a good read (or your group can decide the parameters of the sharing). These clubs are gaining in popularity, and I like them because (1) there’s no pressure to read a certain book that might not be your preference or that doesn’t work for you, (2) each person has a chance to speak/share and this helps the one that might have difficulty speaking up in a group setting, and (3) the sharing is inspiring and generates enthusiasm for many different genres. Check out this inspiring post about a book club meeting from a blogger friend, fellow book lover, and host extraordinaire, Rhonda.
- A Social Media Group: Some reading friends who are not logistically close to each other have created private Facebook groups or Instagram groups to discuss books.
- Postal Book Club: This works for readers who want to form a book club with family or friends but they are scattered across the country. I am part of a postal book club that is comprised of a group of readers that I met online, and it works like this: six people each choose and buy a book and a small journal; a master mailing list is created and every two months the book you have is mailed to the next person on the list along with the journal; at the end of the year you will have read six books (including your own) and will receive your own book and your journal back to read all the comments; the fun part of this is keeping the book titles secret so that your book mail is a surprise and it’s fun to receive book mail! We use the Media Rate for mailing which takes a bit longer but is less expensive.
- Online Book Clubs: There are also various online book clubs you can join. I belong to the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club but participation requires a $10 membership fee; the upside is that the members are seriously engaged and the organizers provide live book chats and author chats, monthly book suggestions and message boards with topics that include the monthly selection and various other bookish topics (members in my Postal Book Club are from this group). Another option is Goodreads. You can search their groups to find something that might appeal to you. I find that having engaging conversations on Goodreads is cumbersome because the notification system isn’t the greatest. There are numerous Facebook groups you can follow, but they feel impersonal to me, often they read books that are not in my preferred genre, and it’s difficult to make friends. Of all my online book activities, the MMD Book Club has been the most rewarding.
- How do book clubs choose what to read? Some clubs stick to one genre like historical fiction or rotate genres throughout the year; some clubs enjoy reading classics; other clubs may choose to focus on diverse literature or contemporary fiction or new releases or nonfiction ….. the possibilities are exciting! If your book club rotates hosts, sometimes the host gets to choose the next book as a perk of hosting. Often, members will come prepared with one suggestion and then the group will vote on the next read.
- How is a book club meeting structured? It’s a good idea to discuss norms at your first meeting. If you don’t, it can be difficult to reign things in later. Honestly, one complaint I frequently hear about book clubs is that “We spend most of our time chatting and only a few minutes discussing the book.” Talk about this up front and agree on some guidelines. Meetings can be informal with members tossing out observations and questions as they feel led. Or meetings can be more structured and look like this: each member comes prepared with one question (about the book) to ask the group and the members take turns asking their questions and getting responses from the group. Another more structured approach is when one member (the host? or the person who chose the book?) creates a set of questions to ask the group. Often these questions can be found in the back of the book or online. My favorite structure is when each person comes prepared with one question to ask. You could modify this to be a question or a favorite passage to share.
- What if a book club member doesn’t read the book? Well….this happens from time to time….perhaps it’s because of unforeseen circumstances or perhaps there was some problem with the content and the person chose not to finish the book. My advice is to welcome the nonreader! Chances are this might happen to you once too! Extend Grace. Hopefully, the engaging discussion will encourage the nonreader to read the next book! If the person is a habitual nonreader, she or he will probably drop out of the group after some time.
- What is the ideal number of participants? I think 6-8 is an optimum number for a small group. You want enough members so that if one or two can’t make it, you still have more than two people to carry on an engaging conversation. More than ten might be unwieldy and you are more likely to experience side conversations. Really, the number isn’t a concern. You and your best friend is the perfect number, too!
- Do we need more than readers and a few snacks? Certain books lend themselves to themes. Although it’s fun to plan food and decorations around themes, it can also be a lot of work for the host.
- One of my bookstagram friends recently read I Am Malala in her book club and the participants did some henna on their hands and took a group hand photo (here is the Instagram link). So, yes, plan to have fun but don’t do it at the expense of grand book discussions or at risk of host burnout!
- Some clubs might have a Hawaiian theme and simply wear Hawaiian shirts and move their discussion outside around the pool on balmy summer nights. Simple and fun.
- Another option for fun is to contact the author and ask her/him to Skype with your group. Debut authors are more likely to consider this invitation, but it never hurts to ask! It might also be fun to read a book by a local author and ask if the author will visit your club. Your Book Club could also arrange to attend a local author event together. You might also find an interview video clip of the author discussing her/his work online and watch it together.
- What do we talk about? Choose books with good discussion opportunities. It’s actually not a catastrophe if someone in your group dislikes the book because that can add to the variety of the discussion.
- Discussion can touch on the same elements that might be included in a review (such as setting, likable characters, unreliable narrators, motivations of characters, themes, character-driven vs plot driven, satisfying or open-ended conclusions, favorite quotes, the meaning of the title, point of view/narrator, etc.).
- Do you have questions, ideas, or comments? The bottom line is that book clubs are not hard to start and can be structured in a variety of ways. I’d love to continue the discussion and hear your ideas or questions in comments.
Are you in a book club?
What is your favorite thing about your book club or book clubs in general?
Do you have any ideas you can add to this discussion?
Would you like to be in a book club?
Has this post inspired you to think about joining or starting a book club?
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Tex
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