Organizational Tips

How to Start a Book Club

Jun 17, 2019

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Anna Ford

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Would you like to read more? Are you interested in discussing the books you've read? Want to meet new people? Or deepen ties with friends and see them more regularly?! If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you should start a book club! Book club adds a fun, new dimension to the already enjoyable experience of reading.

 

If you aren’t sure how to get started or what it will take to lead a book club, don’t worry, Bookclubz can help. Our online tool for book clubs can help you get started and stay organized. Bookclubz makes the organizational aspects of being in a book club painless, so members can seamlessly integrate and make book club a welcomed habit in their lives.

 

Here’s a step by step guide to getting started and a few tips to help keep your book club going strong.  

 

Step 1: Just do it!

 

Create your club on Bookclubz. Email or text the unique invitation link to those you’d like to invite. It’s ok to start with a small group of friends or potential members that you know are interested in joining a book club and will likely be committed. You can discuss your club’s membership and growth strategy at your first meeting. Once you create your club’s page on Bookclubz, you can then use Bookclubz to communicate with your members and schedule your first meeting. This can be done on your club’s meeting page by “Creating a Meeting.” You can choose the first book and date as the host, or you can poll your members find a time and date that will work best for everyone. If you have a great first book club book in mind, go for it! You can also use the polling feature on Bookclubz to suggest several books and let your new members vote. Bookclubz can also help you track RSVPs and message your guests.  

 

Step 2: Take care of business.  

 

At your first meeting, it’s a good idea to establish a few ground rules. Not every decision about your book club needs to be made at your first meeting, but you may want to ask yourself and your club’s founding members these important questions:

 

1. How often will we meet? Most book clubs meet monthly, but this is not a hard and fast rule. My book clubs aim to meet every four to six weeks. We aren’t perfect about this, but we do make a point to roughly schedule, or make a plan for scheduling, our next meeting while we are all together. Other clubs meet on the same day every month, for instance, “our book club will meet on the last Thursday of every month, mark your calendars for the year!”

2. Where will we meet? It is common for book clubs to meet in members’ homes, and for the host to rotate for each meeting. Some clubs meet in the same location every meeting, in our outside of personal homes. Consider a brunch book club, meeting at a different café or coffeeshop every month. Or, perhaps you’d like to try a restaurant for evening book club meetings. Free public spaces, like your local library, also make for great book club gatherings. If your club members live far apart, or will have trouble coming together in person for every meeting, virtual meeting platforms like skype, zoom.us, or gotomeeting.com might be the right meeting place for you.

3. Can anyone invite new members? How large do you want your club to be? Is the goal to deepen relationships with existing friends or build a new community through book club? The average book club has ten active members. Keep in mind that not every member will be able to make every meeting. I have been in book clubs with as few as four members, and I know of book clubs with over 50 members! My book clubs tend to have an open door policy; if a member has a friend that is interested in joining or that they think would make a good addition, they are welcome to invite them. You may want to vet members more carefully. Or you may want to post the link to your club in public forums with “the more the merrier!” mentality. All good things to consider at your first meeting.

4. What types of book will you read? Decide if your book club wants to settle on a specific genre like literary fiction, nonfiction, mystery, historical fiction, female authors, international perspectives, etc – or if you would you rather mix it up each month. In my personal experience, it’s good to establish a theme for your book club, but keep it open to some variety.

5. Will your discussions be more social or literary? Just how important are the books?! Can you attend a meeting even if you haven’t read? What proportion of your meeting do we want to dedicate to a literary discussion, or to catching up in general? Talk about these things up front!

 

Step 3: Let the discussion flow.

 

If you’ve never been in a book club, it’s natural to wonder, “what will we talk about?!” You’ll quickly learn that stimulating a lively discussion need not be a concern. If a group of people read a book and convene to discuss it, it’s unlikely that there will be a lull in conversation!

 

A little preparation can always help to focus and lengthen the discussion. If you are the designated discussion leader, your preparation could be as simple as preparing one question to ask the group to kick things off. The conversation is likely to flow freely from there! The meeting host may also want to consult online reading guides on Bookclubz or often found on book publisher’s website for a lengthier list of discussion questions specific to the book at hand. Here are a few examples of discussion questions that could come up at any book club for any novel:

 

  • - Which character could you most relate to? What did you think of the character development overall?
  • - Did you think the book was well written? Did any specific literary techniques impress your, or fall short?
  • - Did anything in the story line surprise you? Make you laugh or cry?
  • - What aspects of the novel resonated most with you, personally?
  • - Did reading the book inspire you to do more research on the author, the setting, the history, or culture that the novel is set in?
  • - If this book were to become a film or television show, which actors do you envision playing each character?  

 

Be kind and respectful as your members share their thoughts on the novel you’ve just read. Book club is an intimate experience (even if the discussion is purely intellectual). The way you and others relate to a book is deeply personal, and so, the discussion of how life experiences shaped one’s reading or how life views were shaped by a novel can be a surprisingly enlightening exchange. Keep this in mind as your book club forms and you plan meetings that will cultivate open, accepting discussion.  

 

Step 4. Keep things going.

 

The most difficult aspects of book club organization are often scheduling meetings and choosing what books to read. Members are busy. And even if you’ve  decided upon a genre or theme for your book club books, tastes will vary. Remember, through Bookclubz, you can poll your book club to choose dates and vote on books for future meetings! Your book club is more likely to meet on a recurring basis if it is easy to manage membership, schedule meetings, discover, choose and track books. Bookclubz makes all of these tasks much easier, but your book club will need some leadership to keep things going strong. This is where you can enlist help. Find members that will be as committed as you and are willing to take turns hosting or serving as your club’s administrator. Coordinating a book club is a labor of love, so find a member or two that is as passionate about your book club as you are.

 

Step 5. Have some fun.

 

The act of gathering around books is a universal activity that not only stimulates reading and builds community, but gives us permission to have fun!

 

My advice: don’t take it too seriously. Through book club you can hold a space for both thought provoking discussions on literature and socializing. If you are looking for ways to spice up your book club, or ensure that there is some lightness to your meetings, here are a few fun tips:

 

  • -If you are serving dinner or hosting a pot-luck, choose a theme for your meal based on the book!
  • - Get out a bit. My book club commits to one outing a year. We often plan it around an author event at our local library or book store and meet for drinks and a light discussion beforehand. Or we go to the movies if a book we’ve read comes out on the big screen.
  • - Give thought to a wine pairing for your book.
  • - Lastly, look to our dear friends at the Literary Hostess to make your book club meeting an event. They have hosting tips galore, guides for food, music, decor, and discussion questions for many popular books. Tricia and Kimberly know how to put the fun in book club hosting.

 

Step 5. You be you!

 

Every club will have its own style and cadence. It doesn’t matter if your book club is made up of five close friends or one hundred complete strangers, if you meet for the love of wine or literature. At book club, bonds form, perspectives broaden, ideas take hold, support systems emerge. Your club’s quirks, characteristics, an specialness will develop over time. Here are a few traditions that define my book club. Perhaps they will inspire yours!

 

  • - At every meeting, we conclude by allowing each member to rate the book on a scale of 1-10. Members share their rating and why they gave it.  While the rating system is arbitrary, it allows us compare books we’ve read over time. Sharing a reading at the end of the meeting gives even more quiet member a chance to speak and everyone can reflect on how the discussion affected their rating.
  • - As previously mentioned, we rotate hosts and go out once a year outside of book club! The host of each meeting prepares a simple meal and members bring beverages and dessert.
  • - Every August we read that year’s Pulitzer winner.
  • - We mix up fiction and nonfiction.

 

On a final note, let your book club come together naturally and let Bookclubz make the organizational aspects a breeze. If you have more questions about how to start and sustain a book club, please don’t hesitate to ask. Serving book clubs is behind everything we do, an we’d love to help you get started.

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