In the summer of 2009, I was searching locally for a book club to join but was unhappy with the options I found. So with a little forethought, I jumped into establishing my own book club with friends. Three years and 25 books later, we are meeting tonight and still going strong. Putting together a successful book club is easier than you might think.
the 25 books my book club has read
1. Determine who you are going to invite. I sent a wide invite to friends and coworkers, not making any assumptions about who would be "readers" or not. Our initial group was about 10 people; given people's schedules, this guaranteed attendance of at least 5 people for each meeting. Don't worry if your group starts small at first. As members enjoy themselves, they can start inviting their own friends and coworkers and your group will grow.
2. Determine the frequency of your meetings and set the schedule. I'd recommend evaluating your group and your sense of their schedules to set the right frequency. For us, every month seemed too frequent and every two months not frequent enough. We meet every 6 weeks or so and I set the dates a year at a time, avoiding holidays.
3. Find a meeting location. We have an incredibly easy solution for this within my book club: everyone is asked to host in their homes on a rotating basis. Based on the size of your group and frequency of your meetings, this could mean that everyone only needs to host about once per year. Coffee shops, restaurants and even community centers could be wonderful alternatives, as well.
4. Determine how the books will be selected, and who will be doing the deciding. The most fair and agreeable approach for my book club is that the host selects the book. This gives everyone an opportunity to participate in the selection process.
5. Narrow the focus of your book club. If you'd like the possibility of exploring reoccuring themes, or just want to help your participants to narrow their choices, consider establishing a theme or other guidelines. For example, my book club typically only reads 20th and 21st century novels, with the rare non-fiction mixed in. For even more focus, you could select a genre like mystery, chick lit, or even young adult fiction. How fun might it be to meet with friends to discuss old favorites like "The Babysitter's Club" or "Nancy Drew"?!
6. Establish ground rules. Consider establishing a rule around what types of books are not allowed. I established a rule that while non-fiction is allowed, we will not be reading non-fiction that focuses on politics, religion or business. Our only other rule? That we ask you to still read along if you've already read the book selection.
7. Set the structure for your meetings. Will they be structured and guided by the host? Will you allow more "open" discussion based on the interest of the members? Or a blend? There are wonderful resources online to find discussion questions to help guide your book club discussion. My personal favorite is Lit Lovers; and Book Clubs Resource has also been very helpful.
8. Lastly, determine how you will send invites and collect RSVPs. An easy and free solution is to use FaceBook; we have a private group where everyone can post messages and through which I can send the invites. evite is another great electronic choice that only requires your members to have email addresses. Don't have a tech-savvy group? Paper invitations are always an option.
Tonight, my book club meets to discuss Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, an absolutely thrilling read. If the weather cooperates, there will even be a bonfire! We all have very busy schedules, but we value this time together and appreciate the push to find the time to read. It's truly been a fulfilling experience participating in a book club. If you love to read, I'd definitely encourage you to jump in and start your own book club.