A few years ago, some close neighborhood friends and I decided to start a book club. We all enjoyed reading and talking about books, but wanted to branch out beyond our light conversations to include more people and in-depth discussions. Since then, “book club night” has become a can’t miss event and something I eagerly look forward to each month.
If you, too, enjoy a rousing literary discussion and have given serious thought to whether or not you should join or start a book club, today’s post is for you.
Read on to learn the benefits of attending a regular literary group, how to start a book club of your own, and some tips for keeping the group organized and on topic.
Why Start a Book Club?
I could probably write a whole series on reasons to start a book club. In the interest of brevity, I’ll keep it brief.
- I’m reading every day: Before we started our book club, I read when I could but didn’t make it a priority. Now I take time to read each day. As you know, there are many benefits to reading and we all need to read every day to take advantage of those benefits. Moreover, it’s good for my teen to see me reading each day, so he can build up good reading habits of his own. Book club holds me accountable and ensures I’m getting in my daily reading time.
- I’m paying better attention to details: Book club forces me to slow down and savor each word. It encourages me to consider details that I might have glossed over before. It has me pondering plot points and asking questions that I might not have considered before. Now when I read, I read with book club in mind so I can bring up things I noticed and see if others made the same observations.
- Wonderful discussions with other literary lovers: Talking about books with people who love books. What could be better?
- It’s “me” time: With all that goes on at home, book club is the one night each month than I can take time for me. It might not be decadent or luxurious, but it’s a place I can go for good food, good conversation, and good friends.
- It’s not a huge commitment: Besides hosting (at least) once a year, there isn’t much of a commitment for book club beyond reading the designated book, making an appetizer or dessert to bring with me, and showing up at the proper date and time.
- Book clubs aren’t only about books: Probably only about 50% of book club time is spent discussing books. We also talk about everything else under the sun. Our book club friends share a special bond, and this our night to get together and enjoy each other’s company.
It’s easy to start a book club. You only need to find like-minded friends and see if there’s an interest. When my friends and I decided to start a book club (there were three of us), we decided to start out small with each of us inviting one friend. Over time all members invited more friends. We have loyal regulars who show up once a month, and those who commit when they can. We still keep our group relatively small, but book club has still grown and evolved over the years.
Once we had enough members, we worked out a hosting schedule and put a policy in place for choosing books (more on that later). It didn’t take any great effort on anyone’s part, though. For the most part we said, “what if we started a book club?” and invited people to join us. The logistics of hosting a monthly club more or less fell into place as we went along. Now and then we receive new members through invitations or word of mouth as people who hear about our club ask to join. We’re not a large group by any means, but each meeting is lively and fun.
If you decide to start a book club, you’ll soon learn that there needs to be rules and procedures in place so that meetings aren’t chaotic. For example, in my book club choosing a date became a challenge because all of us had different activities and obligations. Also, choosing a book could be a challenge because not everyone wants to read the same thing. Plus, there are people who want to be a part of book club but don’t necessarily want to host meetings in their homes. We learned as we went along and now have a set of procedures in place to keep us organized.
- Choosing a date: At first, we all took out our phones at every meeting so we could access our calendar apps to choose a date. However, it was frustrating to find a date that worked for everyone. We all have kids, families, and careers and it’s hard to find one single date when everyone can attend. We now host our meetings on the same day each month – the second Thursday. After having it this way for years, everyone knows that the second Thursday of each month is book club night and not to make plans. Not everyone can show up for each meeting, but at least we’re not frantically searching our planners for dates that work.
- Choosing the book: Our rule is that whoever is hosting chooses the book. This allows us to read books on a variety of topics and interests, and we don’t argue back and forth to choose books we’ll all agree on. What I love about this method is that it’s forced me to read books I’ve never considered because they’re outside of my usual genres. In most cases, I’m pleasantly surprised. If you’re looking for ideas, Amazon has a worthy list of book club recommendations.
- Hosting book club: It’s only fair that everyone takes a month to host book club. Still, you might find that the same few people are hosting each time. To avoid this, implement a hosting schedule at the beginning of each year, giving each member a turn at hosting. If certain members don’t want to deal with the burden of hosting, for example, cleaning and preparing food, those members can make arrangements to host the meeting at a quiet pub or restaurant. Since everyone invests in bringing a dish to book club anyway, they might not mind chipping in for apps and drinks to share.
- Discussion questions: It’s my experience that book club flows better when questions are prepared in advance. It should be up to the host to prepare questions and lead the discussion for her month. For my book club, the host writes the questions on slips of paper and puts them in a bag. We all pick one question to read. By the way, I like to get my discussion questions from Lit Lovers or directly from the publisher. You can also make up your own.
- Refreshments: Book clubs are generally potluck affairs where everyone brings finger foods and desserts. Usually, the host provides a couple of dishes as well as drinks. My book club also occasionally meets at a pub with a small, quiet room where we’ll chip in for finger foods and buy our own drinks. Here’s a fun book for book club hosts: The Book Club Cookbook. It features book-inspired recipes and food for thought.
- Off topic discussions: Book club doesn’t have to be militant about reading and discussing the book. My very informal group meets more for the social aspect than the book discussion. While we do discuss the book, we also set aside time at the beginning of each meeting just to chit chat and catch up.
- Keeping in touch: It’s important that each month’s host reminds members of the date and location at least a week ahead of time. Some groups do it with digital invitations or email. My book club has a secret Facebook group where we make announcements, recommend books, and talk off topic throughout the month.
Starting a book club doesn’t have to be a difficult project. Find some book-loving friends and ask if there’s interest. Once you have a few members signed up, you can take it from there. Everything will fall into place as you have regular meetings. The important thing is to have fun!
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