Starting a Book Club? How to Do It Right – and Make It Last

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A good book is something to be shared. Many people enjoy passing along used paperbacks to friends, but if you truly want to share your reading experience, there is no better way than through a book club. Can’t find a book club to suit your style or schedule? Form your own with a little help from Fayette Woman.

Planning
First off, you need to ask yourself why you want to start a book club in the first place. Are you looking to deepen existing friendships through literature? Or perhaps you are stuck in a reading (or friendship!) rut and want to broaden your horizons?

Consider your approach. Some clubs are highly social, while others tend to be more academic. Will you take the traditional route of relaxed, open discussions or are you more interested in semi-scholarly conversations?

Membership

It’s best to start with three to five people you know well. Invite them over for a preliminary meeting to discuss the type of book club you envision. Then brainstorm to come up with a handful of titles to consider for the first “official” meeting. Ask them to invite one or two friends to the first meeting, preferably people from outside of your normal social circle. The more diverse, the better.

It’s best to keep the size of your book club from eight to ten people. That gives you enough people for discussion when three or four are absent, but not too many to make discussions chaotic.

The Meetings

Most book clubs meet monthly on a weekday. What time you meet will largely depend on your members. If they’re stay-at-home moms or retirees, then mornings will probably work best. If most of them work during the day, then you should plan for an early evening meeting.

Will you lead the discussion at each meeting, or will you ask members take turns? You’ll also need to think about location. Will you host your meetings in your home (or alternate with other members), or will you meet at your church or local public library?

Will you serve refreshments? If so, consider asking members to each bring an appetizer or dessert so the burden isn’t solely your own. Keep in mind that it’s fun to pair food with books. For instance, you could serve chips and salsa for books with a Hispanic theme, such as Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna (Harper, 2009).

Book Selection

What kind of books will you read? Fiction or nonfiction? Or maybe you prefer to limit your group to a specific genre, such as Mystery or Romance? If you are looking to expand your reading, I recommend switching it up. Reading possibilities in fiction are endless, so start with a fiction base and throw in a nonfiction title every three of four books. I like to read a classic once or twice a year too. Take suggestions from your members and vote on them, or take turns being responsible for the monthly selection. Be open to reading something you normally wouldn’t read.

Care & Feeding

It takes care and feeding to keep a book club going strong. It is essential to keep your members informed. Send out monthly meeting reminders via email or set up a phone tree. Take a field trip together once or twice a year to keep things interesting. For example, if your group read and discussed The Lacuna, take a group trip to The High Museum of Art to see “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting,” a special exhibition featuring some of the best examples of Kahlo and Rivera’s art. (Exhibit opens in Atlanta on February 16, 2013 and remains on view through May 12, 2013.) Also, many authors come to Atlanta for book signings and discussions; consider selecting a book from an author with an upcoming visit, then take a “field tip” to hear him or her speak.

Book clubs are wonderful for meeting new people and expanding your knowledge of books and authors. With proper planning, you can create a successful book club that engages your members and keeps them coming back for more!

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