Starting up your own book club? Congratulations! You have just made an excellent decision. Here are a few tips on how to make sure it is a great success.
And let’s be honest, wine plays a very important role in every great book club.
Why start a book club?
Before you start recruiting for the A team, have a think about why you want to start your own book club. Do you want to meet new people? Do you want to broaden your reading list? Or do you just want a chance to use those new wine glasses in your cupboard?
All are valid reasons for starting a book club, but they will directly affect the rest of your preparation for the club, so make sure you have this question answered early on.
Note: If you are looking to break into the industry of book publishing, creating your own book club can be a perfect way to show off your passion and set you apart from the crowd for that all-important foot in the door.
What will you read?
Now that your motive is locked down, you need to choose the reading list. There are many ways to go about this:
Allow each member of the club to choose a book: This can be a great option if your motivation is to broaden your reading list, as you will no doubt get some choices you would have never considered.
Choose the list yourself: If you have your own set of books in mind (particularly if you want the book club to be focused on a specific genre), this could be the option for you. This also allows you complete control on which books will be discussed each month (this is not a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy and you’re the cheertator!)
Utilise recommended reading lists: There are so many great recommended reading lists out there, curated by some of the best in the literary world. Why not use one of these lists, or a combination of lists to comprise your own? Penguin offer a wide range of reading lists, as do Waterstones and many others. Or make your selection based on winners of one of the annual book awards, such as the Costa Book Awards, the Man Booker International Prizes or the Pulitzer Prizes. A full list of major book awards can be found here.
Who is invited?
It’s time to send out the call to your future members. But who will they be?
You can keep it small with just your close friends, which could help to keep everyone comfortable enough to share their opinions. If you’re wanting to use the club as an opportunity to socialise then invite your workmates and friends, and you can tell each person to invite a friend of their own.
Or you could advertise for your club online via your social media accounts, relevant Facebook groups or via a GoodReads account. You could also advertise at your local library or on your borough message boards.
When will you meet?
Generally, book clubs meets once a month. But you can tailor your meetings to suit the needs of your group. Some clubs assign a certain amount of paragraphs per week with a weekly meeting to follow.
However frequent you choose to have your meetings, it will be key to give the members of your club plenty of notice for upcoming meetings. Utilise calendar invites, scheduled email reminders/tweets etc to keep everybody updated.
Where will you meet?
Ah, now to choose a location and anxiously wait for people to arrive… Make the nail-biting a little easier by considering the following before choosing where to meet up:
Commute time: While it’s not likely that you’re able to please everybody, try to choose a location that is central and close to public transport.
Functionality of location: If your group consists of non-drinkers, maybe a cafe would be more suitable than a bar. Equally, a busy and noisy location will be an issue when trying to hear each other speak.
Cost factor: An expensive cocktail bar could be an issue for groups of people with varying incomes. Keep the location affordable to suit everyone’s needs.
Depending on the size of your group, consider holding the first meeting at your house, and from then rotating host duties. This will keep the costs down, ensures the noise level is appropriate for conversations and (if alternating hosting duties) will mean everyone will get to benefit from no commuting at some stage.
Other options for locations could be a meeting room at your workplace, your local library or even a nearby park (but who can trust the weather in the UK to make outside plans in advance!)
You could also choose to hold the meetings online, particularly if some of your members live further away.
How will the meetings run?
Okay, so you’ve managed to gather your group together to discuss the first book, success! But wait, how do these meetings actually go?
As the leader of the group you will need to run the first meeting, but you could choose to rotate this role in the future (which would work well if your reading list is made up of member’s own choices).
It’s important to prepare some questions and topics to discuss in advance of the meeting. As you are reading the book, note particular passages you would like to discuss with the others.
It is a great idea to check online for discussion guides on your book, as it is very likely someone has already helpfully created this. Lit Lovers has over 3,500 guides for this purpose. There are also many generic fiction discussion topics and non fiction discussion topics online that can be utilised for any book. Google is your friend out here!
It may also help to start off with an ice breaker activity to get people talking. Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk. You can also make up trivia games and prizes to spice things up, especially if the book hasn’t sparked up a lot of discussions.
If your meeting is held online, you can utilise sites like SurveyMonkey to run polls on the book. This is particularly useful for those who may not feel comfortable speaking their mind.
The main thing to enjoy yourself! Not every meeting will be a success, keep your expectations realistic and focus on having fun and making sure everyone feels welcome to share their opinion.
And if all else fails, there’s always the wine!
Below is the latest reading list for my own book club. This list was formed from a mix of member’s choices and prize-winning books.
Thanks for reading, I hope this article is useful for you.