It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book lover in possession of a juicy book may very well be in want of a book club.
Have you ever finished a book full of twists and turns, characters you loved or loathed, or a story full of meaty conversation hooks and wished you could share your revelations with others? Then you may be in need of a book club. Perhaps you can find your way to an already existing book club, otherwise you might have to start your own from scratch.
Here are the 8 questions to ask when starting your book club:
1. Who will you invite to join your book club?
Will it be made up of friends, family, work colleagues or complete strangers from your local community? It may depend on the purpose of your book club. Do you want it to be not only about books but a chance to catch-up with friends at the same time? Or do you want to use it as a chance to meet new people?
Once you’ve decided, aim to invite a minimum of six to eight people as not everyone will be able to make it to every book club meeting. Also consider the maximum number. If your group is too large, not everyone will have a chance to have their say.
You might also like to give your book club a name.
2. What kinds of books will you read?
Will you only read non-fiction or are novels more your thing? Will you mix genres, read only classics or stick to the latest releases? Is the aim of your group to catch-up and socialise first and read second (i.e you can come along even if you haven’t read the book), or are you strictly readers first? Or maybe a mix of both? This will influence the type of books you choose.
3. How will you choose a book to read?
In your first meeting, you might like to get everyone to write down a book suggestion each and then draw the names from a hat as a way of choosing the order of books you read. Or perhaps you can choose your book around a theme—a mystery/thriller, a thought-provoking memoir, a classic, a book with a controversial subject matter, the latest YA bestseller–and pick your next read at the end of each book club meeting.
You might like to try and choose books that no one has previously read, or someone may wish to nominate their favourite book (just be prepared for the fact that not everyone may share your reading taste).
Whilst reading the latest bestseller might be fun, also consider the subject matter of
a book before choosing it and whether it’s likely to generate discussion. Even if you have common tastes, try diversifying and reading outside of your comfort zone—especially if the point of your book club is to open yourself up to new authors and different viewpoints.
Check that the book is readily available for members to purchase or find at their local library. Lastly, make sure that everyone gets a chance to recommend a book. People will stop coming to your book club if they never get the chance to choose the reading material.
4. Where will your book club meet?
Find a place that is convenient for everyone to get to. Location ideas include: a quiet pub, in the work lunchroom (if your book club is with work colleagues), taking turns to host it at each other’s houses, outside in a park (if you are having your book club during the day)–the list is endless. Just make sure it’s a place where you can hear each other talk.
5. How often will your book club meet?
Some people are speed readers or have a long commute and can get through a book or two a week. Others may be time poor and might take a month or more to read a book. Work out what’s best for your group at your first meeting. If you decide to meet monthly, make it easy for everyone to remember by making it the same day each month (e.g. the first Wednesday night of each month at 7.00pm.)
If you find that a monthly book club is too difficult for people to attend, perhaps every six weeks is a better compromise. Or you might like to decide on a meeting by meeting basis based on the length of the next book. War and Peace anyone?
6. How will you structure your book club meetings?
You might like to allow a set time for socialising at the start of the meeting, an hour or two to discuss the book, and then time at the end to choose the next book. Or you may prefer to have a quick chat about the book before getting into the serious business of catching up. Do whatever works best for your book club.
7. How will you moderate the book club discussions?
It could be that the person who picked the book comes prepared with a list of discussion questions to help the conversation flow. Or maybe people will jump in as the discussion develops. Just try not to talk over the top of each other and make sure that everyone gets a chance to have their say.
Hopefully not everyone will have had the same reaction to the book—differing opinions are an essential part of a good book club and make the best discussions! Just try to respect everyone’s opinion.
Many publishers offer book club or reading group notes to go with particular books on their website. It’s a great idea to have a look for these resources before choosing a book as they will save you time and help guide your discussions.
If you are hosting the book club at someone’s house, you might like to choose a moderator who is not the host so one person is not doing all the work.
8. How will your book club communicate between meetings?
If it’s a work book club, you can easily email each other or put a poster in your lunch room to inform every one about the next meeting and what book you will be reading. You can also send out calendar meeting invites so everyone knows when the next meeting will be.
If you are running a book club with friends, family or strangers, you can create a group Facebook page or event where people can easily see information about the next meeting and post comments or suggestions between meetings. Just try not to get into discussions about the current book outside of the meeting, and definitely NO SPOILERS.
The most important bit of advice when starting out …
Don’t forget to have fun!
Are you already in a book club and would like to make it a bit more fun? See 15 Ways to Freshen Up Your Book Club.