How to Start a Successful and Enjoyable Book Club

author platform Apr 16, 2020

Four or five years ago a friend and I started a book club.

As I look back now at what worked and why we’re still going strong, I realize it took us about a year and a half to really establish a solid group of people with a format that works.

In order to be successful and enduring, a book club needs to be just a bit more organized than a casual get-together with an unstructured conversation—that will either quickly fall apart, lose momentum because it’s not a priority for people, or dissolve into gossiping and/or bickering about politics. So I’m suggesting some simple tips that worked for us. These ideas will help you to create a fun and worthy-of-your-time book club. I promise if you follow these few simple rules, the biggest problem you’ll face is what to have for dessert.

·  Decide what kind of book club you want to be. Our Book Gang (that’s what we call our book club) has done both fiction and non-fiction and we don’t worry about length. We have made it a point to choose a good Halloween book for October and a sappy Christmas book for the December holiday season but that’s as far as our schedule goes. Every month it’s up for discussion on what to read next. Be careful that one person does not always get their way. Tap into everybody’s wants and lists. But this is your book club, do what you want.

  • Establish times and schedules. We meet monthly and our meetings are usually 90 minutes long. At the end of each meeting, we pull out our calendars and plan the next meeting.

  • Determine the general number of people you want in your book club. Too big and it loses its intimacy and some people are less willing to share. We have a group of about 24 but we average from 8-12 people per meeting—our Christmas event will usually get most everybody out though. We’ve left it open because people come and go.

  • Keep it casual. A book club meeting should be relaxed and friendly. The last thing you want is for a member to feel too intimidated to share their thoughts. We have also established a rule to avoid political discussions. You don’t want any member to feel uncomfortable.

  • Be a good listener. Some of the best book club discussions happen when the group is divided in their opinion, but a truly great meeting requires the open-mindedness to understand somebody else’s dissenting point of view. A debate can be invigorating, but only if everybody gets an equal chance to speak – and when it’s not your turn, keep your ears open, and your mouth closed.

  • Have a list of talking points and discussion questions ready. The host of the book club has the responsibility to keep the discussion on point and moving along. Not every book will require this but be prepared in case the discussion starts to lag.

  • Go on a field trip. Take your meeting on the road or supplement it with an outing related to the book you are reading or the interests of your club members. Author talks, book launches, museum and art gallery exhibits, and even restaurants can be fun places that help nurture your relationship with the books and with each other.

  • Read the book. I have to admit I like to listen to the book as I commute to and from work. As often as possible, try to read or listen to the entire book. And if you don’t manage to finish the book, don’t fake it. Attend the meeting, offer whatever relative perspective you can, and actively practice the Be A Good Listener tip.

Book clubs seem to be on the rise again. Oprah started the latest book club trend and now Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, NFL star Andrew Luck, and even Jimmy Falon jumped on the bandwagon for a short period of time. But remember, this is your book club, do what you want and what works for you.

Check out their lists. Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Book Gang page and join the conversation.

Remember, this is your book club, do what you want and what works for you.

Good luck and happy reading.

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