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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For this year’s NetGalley Book Club week, Something to Read About: The S&S Book Club has pulled together some of their favorite book club picks for the Fall 2016 season. From historical fiction to mystery and suspense to narrative nonfiction, they have a recommendation for any book club.

Request to read these fantastic titles before they go on sale!

The German GirlThe German Girl: A Novel
by Armando Lucas Correa

“It’s rare to find a book that, after just one sentence, grabs you so completely that you cannot put it down, but that’s exactly what happened when I read The German Girl. This stunning novel tells the story of Hannah Rosenthal and her journey from Berlin as the Nazis rise to power to the decks of the St. Louis on its ill-fated voyage to secure asylum for Jewish refugees to Hannah’s uncertain future in Havana. Interspersed with Hannah’s story is that of Anna, Hannah’s great-niece, who years to learn more about her dead father. As the two of them connect and discover their shared histories, they manage to find peace. The German Girl is a brilliant mediation on how the tragedies of our past impact generations to come.”
—Hillary Tisman, Associate Marketing Director, Atria Books

 

Irena's ChildrenIrena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from Warsaw Ghetto
by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Irena’s Children is the powerful account of Irena Sendler, remembered in history as the “female Oskar Schindler” who saved the lives of 2500 children in Nazi-occupied Poland. Irena was a woman who risked her life and the lives of her loved ones simply to do what she thought was right, even though the world she lived in at the time may not have viewed it that way. It’s a powerful story of what it really means to be a woman empowering herself to make a difference.”
—Melanie Mitzman, Imprint Marketing Manager, Gallery Books

 

 

 

FaithfulFaithful: A Novel
by Alice Hoffman

“You may know Alice Hoffman from her beautiful historical fiction like The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers, but in her new novel, Faithful, she’s turning to present day to tell the story of Shelby Richmond. Once an ordinary teenage girl, Shelby’s life is turned on its axis when a terrible car accident destroys her best friend’s bright future. As for Shelby, she walks away with little more than a hairline fracture, but enough guilt to plummet her into a deep depression that lasts for years. Faithful is her emotional journey back towards happiness, love, and hope—with the help of an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful night. Book clubs are sure to fall in love with Shelby’s endearing sense of humor as she finds her way back toward happiness.”
—Erica Nelson, Associate Marketing Manager

 

Twilight WifeThe Twilight Wife
by A.J. Banner

“Three years after a diving accident stole her memories, marine biologist Kyra is rebuilding her life on an idyllic island off the coast of Washington. Kyra’s adoring husband Jacob tends to her every need and gently tries to help her remember the happy times they’ve shared—from their wedding to their plans for a family—but when flashes from her life before the accident begin to surface in her dreams, Kyra starts to wonder if her perfect life with Jacob is all that it seems. The Twilight Wife is a suspenseful and atmospheric novel of memory and love, filled with psychological tension and twists that will keep you reading (and rereading) late into the night.”
—Meredith Vilarello, Associate Marketing Director, Touchstone

 

 

The Girl From VeniceThe Girl From Venice: A Novel
by Martin Cruz Smith

“I have long been a fan and constant reader of Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko series for years, so I was more than curious about the standalone The Girl From Venice. I wasn’t too surprised, but pleasantly reassured that Smith’s gifts extend well beyond the deft Renko books. The Girl From Venice is both a race through Mussolini-occupied Italy and a sweet love story that complements fellow World War II favorites All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, all underscored by the delicate prose of one of our modern masters.”
—Stephen Bedford, Senior Marketing Manager, Simon & Schuster

 

 

 

River at NightThe River at Night: A Novel
by Erica Ferencik

“A thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction, The River at Night will make your heart race as fast as the rapids themselves. What begins as a simple wilderness excursion with four friends looking to escape the challenges of their daily lives quickly becomes a nightmare that leaves them fighting for survival. As readers never really know who the friends can trust, you’ll be left gasping until the last page.”
—Melanie Mitzman, Imprint Marketing Manager, Gallery Books

 

 

 

DarktownDarktown: A Novel
by Thomas Mullen

“In 1948 Atlanta integrated its police force. The newly hired black officers were tasked with upholding the city’s laws–among them, Jim Crow laws. What must it have been like for those officers? This question haunts Thomas Mullen’s riveting novel. When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up dead, black officers Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it and risk their jobs—and their lives—to solve the crime. Darktown explores important questions about justice, which isn’t always black and white.”
—Hillary Tisman, Associate Marketing Director, Atria Books

 

 

 

SiriusSirius: A Novel About the Little Dog Who Almost Changed History
by Jonathan Crown

Sirius is a delightful novel about one special fox terrier whose extraordinary life leads him into very important circles during World War II. After Sirius aids his Jewish owners, the Liliencrons in fleeing Germany in 1938, they end up in California—where Sirius, being the charismatic and highly intelligent pup that he is, begins a career as a canine movie star. There, he comes into contact with everyone who’s anyone in Tinseltown—from Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant to Rita Hayworth and Jack Warner. But after a series of exceptional events as World War II unfolds, he winds up at the right hand of Hitler himself and is challenged to aid the German resistance and derail the Führer.”
—Erica Nelson, Associate Marketing Manager

 

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