One of the best things about reading is it allows you to head off into your own world, away from the stresses of reality and into a magical place, all of your own. So, on the one hand, it’s the perfect solo activity, but on the other hand, it’s so much fun to talk to others about what you’re reading!
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a great book, I can’t help but discuss it with pretty much everyone I meet. And while friends and family are pretty patient while I describe every detail of the plot and the characters, I’m sure it can be annoying too.
Should I start a book club?
If all this sounds familiar, then it could be time to start a book club. Book clubs are the perfect place for people who are excited about reading to get together and share their thoughts on the wonderful books they read.
If you’re lucky, you might already live in an area where there are existing book clubs you can join. But every book club is different, and it might not be the right fit for you. Or perhaps you’ve searched for local book clubs and come back with nothing. If that’s the case, then I highly recommend you consider starting your own.
Don’t worry; starting a book club isn’t nearly as daunting as it sounds. Setting up a book club yourself means you can shape it into whatever you want it to be.
There are endless setups to choose from. You can keep it cozy and casual and meet in your living room, or if you have a larger group, you might prefer to host it in a community center, or even a bar or a coffee shop.
There are also no rules about what to read and how you have to read it either. The future of your book club is an open book (excuse the pun).
So let’s dive into this ultimate guide on how to start and run a book club.
Step 1: Decide On A Theme for Your Book Club
There are endless possibilities when it comes to choosing a theme for your book club. Remember, you don’t have to stick to the same theme forever; you can mix it up as the months go by to keep things fresh and exciting.
As I said, there are no rules here at all, but here are a few suggestions to get you inspired:
Try a new genre every month. This is a great one if you and your members are interested in a wide variety of genres, as it keeps everyone happy, and you can try out genres you might never have otherwise read. Who knows, you may find a brand new passion for sci-fi or fantasy that you never knew existed!
- Stick to One Specific Genre
If you and your book-loving buddies are passionate about a particular genre, then it makes total sense to stick to it and explore it in depth.
- Work Your Way Through a List
Why not pick a “Top 100 Books to Read Before You Die” list and work your way through these iconic titles one by one? It’s a great way to challenge yourself and your book club members to read the classics, both old and new. Of course, it might mean you end up reading some books you’ve already read, but if a book made it onto a list like that, it has to be worth a re-read!
- Read Your Way Around the World
Travel vicariously through the stories you read by choosing a different book from a new country each month. It’s a great way to learn more about culture, language, and lifestyles across the globe from the comfort of your own home.
Whichever theme you choose, there are ways you can add a little extra pizzaz to any book club and make your meetings much more fun, social, and inviting for everyone.
Consider adding a secondary element to your meetings; for example (my personal favorite), create a “Books and Wine” club. Each week you could choose a different wine to “pair” alongside whatever you’re reading. The same idea can also work with beer.
If you and your book club members are avid bakers, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your tasty treats too! You could invite a different member to bake each week, or you could all attempt the same recipe and have a kind of “bake-off” competition running alongside your book club.
Check out these awesome book cookie cutter shapes!
Another popular idea is a Books and Crafting club. You can work on individual crafts or all work on a group project together while you discuss the book you’re reading at the same time.
Step 2: Assemble a Group of Avid Readers
Once you’ve decided what kind of theme you’d like to start with, it’s time to assemble your members! Of course, you could always switch Steps 1 and 2, and assemble your members first and then decide on a theme together. But doing it this way might help to avoid any disagreements.
If you already know what kind of book club you’d like to create, you’ll have a better idea of who to invite. If you’re sticking with one specific genre, you can assemble people who are also super fans.
If you’re going to keep it broader, then inviting a wider range of people with different tastes and preferences will help to keep things interesting.
Where you find your members is totally up to you. Many people stick to inviting their friends and their friends of friends, which makes sense, especially if you plan to host it in your home.
But you might choose to advertise your book club to the general public and host it in a public space. If there are no organized book clubs already in your locality, this could be a great thing to do for your community.
Step 3: Work Out the Logistics
Where will the meetings take place?
It could be in your home each time, or perhaps every member can take turns hosting if you all live relatively close by.
If your book club is bigger and open to the local community, then ask around to see what spaces are available to use, for example, an event space, a coffee shop, or even a bar where you can all enjoy drinks and snacks while you discuss your current reads.
Wherever you choose to hold your book club meetings, bear the following things in mind:
Is it quiet? No one wants to be shouting over background noise while you’re trying to discuss a plotline.
Is it comfortable? As in, are the seats suitable to sit down on for at least an hour or two? Is it warm or cool enough so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves?
Will you be interrupted? For example, if you choose to host the book club in your living room, are your kids going to be running in and out of the room? Or will someone want to watch TV while you’re halfway through discussing the plot?
Consider a Virtual Book Club
Thanks to the global pandemic, virtual is the only way we can get together in many parts of the world right now. Luckily, most of us are at least semi acquainted with platforms like Zoom and Skype nowadays, so hosting a virtual book club should be pretty straight forward.
There are also tons of virtual online book clubs that you and your friends can join, for example, Reese’s Book Club, headed by the actress Reese Witherspoon, or The Guardian’s Reading Group. Some require you to use the camera on your laptop or smartphone, and others work in a comments style format.
How often will you meet?
Some book clubs take place weekly, but most people find this is much too fast-paced. Our busy lives don’t always allow us as much time as we’d like to catch up on reading, and you don’t want your members to feel rushed.
The standard meeting frequency is once a month. This gives everyone a little breathing space and allows people to catch up if they’ve missed a few chapters. If you’re reading a particularly long book, consider extending the time between meetings, say to 6 or even 8 weeks.
How and who will choose the books?
This might depend on your chosen book club theme. For example, if you’re working your way through Pulitzer prize winners or a Top 100 list, this is already decided for you.
If not, the most common way is to let a different member pick a book (within the theme, of course) each time. This makes it fair for everyone and lets the group experience books they might not have automatically chosen to read themselves.
It can sometimes feel a little daunting to choose a book for everyone to read and discuss, especially when you’ve never read it before. You don’t want to pick a dull or boring book that everyone will hate or a book that covers a subject that’s particularly sensitive for one or more members of the group.
Luckily, there are a few methods you can use to help you and your book club choose great books, at least most of the time.
- Discuss your interests as a group.
Your first meeting might be a little get to know you session, where everyone has a chance to introduce themselves if they don’t already know each other.
This is the perfect way for members to share their literary interests, their favorite authors and genres, and their hopes for what they’ll get out of the book club. Once everyone knows a little more about each other’s preferences, it’ll be easier to nail down a book that will at least please most people.
- Read other book club reviews.
If you’re not sure if a particular book will be suitable for your book club, always read the reviews before you suggest it as a candidate. There are countless reviews online from other book clubs that will give you a flavor of what a variety of people thought.
You can also head over to Goodreads and check out the full synopsis and read reviews from readers around the world.
- Pick a trusted author.
If you have a favorite author, this could be a great starting point. Choose a title that you haven’t read yet, but you already know a little about. You’ll likely be able to anticipate the style and theme of the book before you even start reading, which makes it a safer choice.
- Get online inspiration
If you’re still stuck for ideas for the perfect book to read as a group, head online. You can find book club inspiration in countless places, including, but certainly not limited to, Penguin, Goodreads, and of course, Oprah’s world-famous book club.
As soon as you type “book club recommendations” into the google search bar, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Step 4: Hosting a Book Club Meeting
The time has finally come to gather together and discuss the book of choice.
Since most people love to talk about their current reads, the conversation will likely flow pretty easily, but it’s a good idea to have some conversation starters and questions up your sleeve to kick things off.
These questions will depend largely on what book you’ve chosen, but here are a few generalized questions to break the ice.
How did the book make you feel? Did it make you laugh, cry, or did it make you feel angry or confused?
How did you identify with the protagonist? Did you find yourself rooting for them throughout the story?
Did you have a favorite character from the book? Or a favorite chapter or part?
What did you think of the ending? Was it wrapped up in a neat little bow, or did it leave it on a cliffhanger?
Did you have any favorite quotes from the book that will stick with you now that you’ve finished it?
Once you get going, you’re bound to establish a routine for your meetings that works for everyone. Being a member of a book club can be such a valuable part of our lives. It enables us to share our love of reading and build bonds with each other that can even lead to long-lasting friendships.
And if being in a book club is so great, then running one is even better.
I hope this guide has helped to take away some of your fears or apprehensions around starting and how to run a book club. It’s much easier than you think, and anyone with a true passion for reading can do it.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and assemble your future band of book buddies today!