So you want to start your own book club? Terrific! Book discussion groups are great ways to make new friends, keep in touch with old ones, discover new books, and have meaty conversations. To help you get organized, simply follow these 10 steps and you’ll be on your way!
1. Decide what kind of a club you want to be—do you want to be seriously academic with a heavy emphasis on book discussion and minimal social chat? Or do you enjoy the social bonding aspect of a book club—food, wine, personal sharing—and want to keep discussions shorter, light and fun? Probably, it’s somewhere in between the two.
2. Decide what kind of books you want to read—do you enjoy reading the older classics or contemporary novels? Challenging works or somewhat lighter? Perhaps poetry, plays, or nonfiction—history, biographies, travel stories, current events. What about specific genres—detective/mystery, romance, inspirational, science fiction or fantasy? Perhaps you’re eclectic—you like a variety of genres.
3. Choose three friends who share similar reading tastes and ways of approaching book discussions—that’s important. You all want to be on the same page, so to speak. Each one of the three should ask one or two others, for a total of 7-10 members. It doesn’t matter if you don’t all know each other; in fact, it’s more fun if you don’t. And start small—you can always add new members when you want, though it’s good to stop at 16, a maximum number for most book clubs.
4. Choose when and where to meet. Once you all get together, pick a day and time of the month that works with everyone’s schedule. Some clubs meet in the evenings, after work; others on weekends. Those who are at home with children, or retired, find midmornings or lunchtime best. The most important thing is to establish a schedule and try to stick to it.
Then, of course, decide where you want to meet. Most clubs meet in each others’ homes or restaurants. Others find rooms in local libraries, Y’s, or other more public places. Or you may decide to become a library-sponsored group, in which case you will always have a good source of fresh new members.
5. Decide about food. There will be food, right? Of course. Do you want just appetizers or desserts…or do you want full meals? And who prepares the food—does every member bring a dish…or does each member cook once a during the year? Maybe it’s brown bag lunch or a potluck supper.
Think, too, about having themed food to match your book—feature food from Afghanistan when you read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Look for Book Club Recipes on the web to give you ideas.
6. Decide how to select your books. Most clubs use one of two basic methods—voting or rotation. The voting begins with members making book suggestions, followed by discussion, and then a vote. The process can be as formal or informal as you want. The rotation system means that every member gets a month to choose a book. Both methods have their strong suits…and their drawbacks.
Choose two or three books at a time so members can read at their own pace. Many clubs choose all their books for the year at one meeting, but that ties clubs into a rigid schedule…and it’s unfair to members who had to miss the one meeting.
7. Give yourselves a name. And be creative: some of my favorites are The Happy Bookers…or First, the Food Book Club…or The Brooksville Book Babes.
8. Send out monthly reminders for every meeting. Don’t rely on peoples’ memories. Use email, phone or postcards, so make sure you keep an up-to-date contact list.
9. Keep a journal. It’s a nice way to keep track of all the books you’ve read and what you thought of them. You might include photo highlights of special meetings or trips to hear an author speaker.
10. Give back to the community. Collect dues and donate books to your local library, or sponsor a scholarship for youngster in a literacy program. Schedule reading times for nursing homes patients.
Starting book clubs takes some initial work up front to get them off the ground. But once up and running, you’ll be surprised at how they take on a life of their own. Good luck…and happy reading!
About The Author
Molly Lundquist is owner of LitLovers (http://www.litlovers.com/), an online resource for book clubs and solo readers. LitLovers brings together Molly’s life-long love of reading, writing, and teaching. The website includes a large list of in-depth reading guides, book recommendations and reviews, free online literature courses, international book club recipes, and plenty of “how-to” tips for book clubs, including tips for kids book clubs.
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