Filed under: Bookworm
One of my New Year Resolutions this year was to start a book club. I did some research (Google), talked to a book club expert (RA) and got some much needed advice from another book club attender (Janet). Without their input I would still be floundering on this whole idea. I looked over my notes and sent out a query email to 20 friends, crossing my fingers for a favorable response. I was surprised when every single one of those friends responded with “Book club! Yes! I’m in!”
So, now we have a Book Club. We meet once a month, have a mix of men and women, single’s and married couples. There are many hard core readers and some more recreational readers. And, to be honest, there is at least one who I think is just relishing in the thought of socializing with individuals who have big brains, lots of ideas, and enjoy a good debate. Regardless, it’s a great mix of personalities and points of view.
After one very successful book discussion under my belt, I decided to detail out my process for starting my own book club for both my own historical/journaling purposes as well a nicely numbered list of informational items for anyone thinking about starting their own book club.
How To Start A Book Club
1. Send out an email to a handful (or a triple handful) of friends to gauge interest. Be clear that this is a book club, not a monthly dinner party or cocktail hour. The expectation is to read the book and attend the meeting prepared to discuss. Be clear about whether or not members can bring friends or invite others who may be interested. If you are still looking for members, consider putting up a flyer at the bookstore or library, putting up a Craig’s List notice, or putting it out there on Facebook or Twitter to find more interested parties. My book club has over 20 people, if we average 12 attending every month I will be happy.
2. Decide where, and how often you want to meet. I have a large apartment perfectly suited to throwing parties, so I will be hosting Book Club. I also wanted to meet monthly with the knowledge that every person may not be able to come every single month. Our group opted to have Book Club the second Thursday of every month. Other options including alternating the hosting location among member’s homes, or even using a room at the library, church or bookstore to have your discussion.
3. Decide what mix of books you will read. Some book clubs do all their readings from one genre–sci fi, romance novel, biography, memoir–and others have rules on content or length. Because we have a good mix of personalities, I wanted a good mix of book titles as well. I think a page limit is a good idea, so we are shooting for books always under 400 pages and trying to alternate heavier subjects with lighter, easier reads.
4. Decide if you want to choose books that no one has read before or books that a couple of members have previewed and recommend for reading. We decided that we could go either way. Our first book came very highly recommended from a fellow bookophile, and our second book is a very popular memoir at the moment (though I can’t remember if anyone has read it yet).
5. Decide if you want to be the moderator/discussion leader for all titles, or if the person who suggested the book is the discussion leader, or if you want to hire someone to lead your book club. Our group picked my book choice to discuss at the first month’s book club meeting and I will be the moderator for that. Moving forward whoever suggested the title we are reading will also be the discussion moderator.
6. Decide what format you want your book club to take. After reading almost two dozen articles and blog posts on how to start a book club, I decided to have a two-to-two-and-a-half hour meeting in the evening on a week night. The first 30 minutes will be for socialization, chit-chat, and a few light appetizers. The following 60-90 minutes will be a formal discussion on the book. If you don’t want to chit-chat before hand, you can come only for the discussion. If you haven’t read the book and don’t want to hear all the spoilers, you can come before or after the discussion. The discussion is followed by 10 minutes of administrative/house keeping items including reminders of next months’ book and moderator/discussion leader and then people are free to hang out and (hopefully) polish off the dessert platter. At our second meeting (first book discussion) I handed out reminder book marks for next month’s book with a picture of the book cover, date, time and my address.
7. At our first meeting I asked everyone to bring a couple of book suggestions they would like to see discussed. We opted to schedule out a few months ahead with books and moderators, and decide the rest at a later date. It was really helpful to have a good list of books to chose from, and it was a good exercise to have the attendees think about what they wanted to read. Our first few months cover a novel, a memoir, science fiction, and a non-fiction book.
8. Make sure you keep track of all the books that have been suggested, and by whom. You may need that list again. I made a Google doc of the books we have scheduled and others that are up for consideration. I also made a Google calendar with our book club meetings and a reminder email set for 2 weeks prior and 2 days prior, several members have subscribed. You could also use Evite or another, similar service to keep people in the loop and on top of your discussion schedule.
9. I always think food is a good idea for a get-together. At our meetings we will be having a mix of salty and sweet, healthy and not-so-healthy appetizers and snacks. That is in part because I think all parties need finger food, but also because I really like making things that people love to eat. I’m kind of selfish that way I guess. If possible, I would love to include food that somehow relates to the book. For example: if we read The Help I would serve (poop free) chocolate cream pie. RA pointed me towards this book and I can’t wait to dig in to it for some ideas.
10. At some point during your first meeting (and at any subsequent meetings), someone needs to quote Fight Club. “The first rule of Book Club is: You don’t talk about Book Club. The second rule of Book Club is: You don’t talk about Book Club.”Clearly, I talk about my book club and post it all over the internet. I think this would be more accurate: “The first rule about Book Club is: You show up at Book Club. The second rule about Book Club is: You read the book for Book Club.” Sadly, it just doesn’t have the same rhythm or gravitas.
Our first book club discussion was on My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. We talked non-stop for over an hour discussing religion, art, history, talent, and family relations. The book was universally loved and I have already ordered the follow-up book The Gift of Asher Lev. Also, I should note, that I have awesome friends. Of the 22 or so who were invited to Book Club, 20 showed up at our first book discussion. The mix of personalities, backgrounds, and points of view is what made this evening so awesome. Thank you, my friends, for helping me keep my resolution with such class.
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