How to Start a Book Club

*Brought to you by Bookish (our sister company)!

So, you want to start a book club. Sounds easy, right? Think again. Putting together a book club is trickier than it sounds, but we’re here with some pro tips to help your literary circle thrive.

Focus on the members
One of the reasons why book clubs fail is that members don’t read the material. For your first book club, we recommend starting small and extending an invitation to two or three friends who you know are serious about diving into a new book each month. A small club also means it will be easier to coordinate schedules when it comes time to plan meetings and to find common ground when picking new titles.

Pick the right book
A bad read can be the kiss of death for a book club. Some clubs choose to set a page limit, to ensure everyone has time to read the book and to stop anyone from picking Infinite Jest (which clocks in at over 1,100 pages). Some blacklist genres that few are interested in. But we think the best thing to do is to encourage your members to make thoughtful choices and listen to the other readers. You might find a classic that no one has read, or you might learn that they’d prefer to read new books (in which case a trip to your local indie bookstore could help make the selection easier).

It should go without saying, but don’t force anyone to read a book they don’t want to. If someone takes a hard pass on a book, let them skip that month or be open to changing the selection.

Be flexible
You may want to dive in with meetings twice a month, but that can be tough to schedule if you hope to have all of your members attend. Start by getting together once every 30 days, and don’t fuss over meeting at the same time or day each month. The books and discussion are what really matters, not having a set schedule.

Accept all formats
Kelly likes hardcovers, Kirsten reads paperbacks, Elizabeth loves ebooks, and Catherine prefers library books. So what? Pick books that are easily accessible to all of your readers and let them dive into the story in the format of their choice.

Location, location, location
Bars and restaurants may seem alluring, but are often loud and can make discussions difficult. You want a place that is comfortable, quiet, and welcoming. Very often, the best location for a book club is in the home of one of the members. If that doesn’t work, try a coffee shop or even a park if the weather is nice.

Wine and dine them
Half the fun of a book club is getting to eat and drink with your friends. Whether you have everyone contribute or leave the prep to the host, ensure that each meeting has enough food and drink for everyone. And, of course, be mindful of dietary restrictions and allergies.

Discuss the book
This should go without saying, but book clubs can very quickly turn from a discussion on metaphors and foreshadowing to a catch-up session between old friends. It’s tempting to let the conversation flow organically, but it’s best to be prepared with a list of discussion questions or thought-provoking comments. Many popular book club reads have discussion questions you can find online, or you can ask each member to come up with two questions to pose to the group.

Think outside of the box
The traditional book club structure may not work for you and your group. Don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. Our editor is in a book club that takes its inspiration from Tequila Mockingbird. They read a book and make the corresponding drink at their monthly meetings. Another member of the Bookish team is in a book club that assigns a theme each month (rather than a single title) and allows members to read a book that they feel fits the theme. If a standard formula works for you, go for it. If you want to try something different, don’t be afraid.

Branch out
Is an author coming to speak at your local bookstore? Take the club on a field trip! Is there a writer’s walking tour in your city? Go for a stroll! Attend library events, go to festivals, and don’t keep your club shackled to a living room.

Have we inspired you to start your own book club? Gather your friends and then browse NetGalley or our winter previews for a look at the best books out this season.

Read more articles by Bookish here!


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