How to Start and Nurture a Book Club
Where do I find members for a new book club?
How you choose your members will depend on what kind of book club you want: are you looking for a close group of friends with similar tastes to your own, or a more diverse group who might be interested in books you would never have thought about? The latter will probably produce more lively debates, and could open your eyes to new genres and subjects — many book club members find this to be a rewarding experience.
Many people form their core book club group with close friends or co-workers, but there are hundreds of places you can advertise your group for free to attract new members: your local bookstores, libraries, church groups, and online through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads. Take note, though, that you might want to exercise caution about who you invite: one distracting or over-powering member can ruin the whole group’s dynamic. Discuss at the very beginning how you will choose new members.
How do we choose which books to read?
Whether or not your book club has a designated “leader,” it’s best to give everyone a say and set out guidelines at the very first meeting about how books are chosen. Some groups will plan their entire year in advance, while others will choose each book as they go. From the start, decide whether you will stick to one genre (Classic literature? Environmental books? Biographies?) or allow a wide variety. Discuss whether brand-new books (ie. expensive hardcovers) are allowed, or if you should stick to books that are widely available from the library or as cheap paperbacks (or even as e-books for some members). Most of the time, groups will either take turns choosing a book, or make a list of suggestions and vote on the best one.
Where should we hold our meetings?
If everyone in your book club knows each other fairly well, you might decide to take turns hosting meetings at each member’s home — even outside in the backyard, if weather permits (or if it’s a workplace book club, you probably have a convenient office space you can use). If you’d like to meet at a more neutral location, many of the spots we recommended for advertising your club might also work as meeting places: ask your local bookstores, libraries, and churches if they have rooms available once a month. You could also meet at a favourite bar or restaurant, as long as you don’t get too distracted by your food! Consider setting aside some time at the beginning for eating and socializing, and then settle into a more focused book discussion afterwards.
How can I be a great book club leader?
When it’s your turn to lead your book club’s meeting, there are plenty of things you can do beyond just reading the book to cultivate a lively discussion — though of course it all begins with reading closely, and even making notes (on post-its if you want) to remember key passages and ideas. Leading up to the meeting, it might help to motivate your fellow bookclubbers by sending them emails to pique their interest, including comments like ‘I can’t wait to hear your reaction to the decision character x makes in chapter 6!,’ or even linking to interviews or videos of the author. During the meeting, go around the room asking every person their reaction to the book, and encourage everyone to speak up if they disagree with someone else’s point of view — often the most memorable meetings are those where opinions are split in many directions.
And of course, you can always try one of our Bookclub-in-a-Box discussion guides for inspiration on the themes, symbols, background information, and discussion questions about the novel.
How to Take Your Book Club From Basic to Buzz-worthy
• Serve themed food based on the culture or topic of the book. (Visit the Book Cooker blog for some mouth-watering examples of food paired with specific books, including an Ethiopian recipe for Cutting for Stone.)
• Plan themed outings: see the movie based on the book, visit a restaurant that serves authentic cuisine from a specific culture, or attend readings by local authors.
• If you know of authors who live in your city, try inviting them to a meeting about their book — many authors are happy to take part in a discussion with a roomful of loyal readers. (Just ask the Birmingham Foodie Book Club.)
• To promote discussion and create interesting background noise, try playing the audio book at your meeting as guests arrive. You can download many audio books from your public library for free!
Book club problems? Bookclub-in-a-Box can help!
For existing groups that need specific ideas for discussion topics, questions, and background information, Bookclub-in-a-Box is at your service — our discussion guides can help.
• If your book club discussion tank is running on empty, Bookclub-in-a-Box has historical information, character outlines, and important themes!
• If some members have not read or finished the book, Bookclub-in-a-Box has enough interesting material to create an eager reader out of an indifferent one!
• If members simply hated the book under discussion, Bookclub-in-a-Box has sufficient perspective to shape what could be your liveliest meeting yet!