If you want to start a book club, plan ahead to ensure success.
If you are a reader who is interested in discussing a variety of reading material with a group, follow this advice to form a successful book club.
Eight to ten members is an ideal number for a book club. Invariably there will be book club meetings when not all of the members can attend, or have not read the book. You want to have enough members so that when this occurs the discussion of the book will still be lively.
Picking a diverse group of people to join your book club, will ensure an assorted selection of titles and varying opinions after the books are read. It is best to find readers of different ages and in different occupations. Inviting people to join who are not connected socially will keep the club from becoming a strictly social affair.
As the book club organizer, you will have to decide if the club should be co-ed, or only for men or women. There are advantages to both, and either choice will affect the title choice and discussion at the meeting. Although book clubs comprised strictly of women seem to be more the norm, having a mixed group of men and women allows discussion from both the male and female perspective which may be very spirited.
Time and Place
Once a core group of members is decided upon, a time and place to meet must be established, remembering that one day and time is not going to work for everyone. Perspective members should know the location and when the group will meet before they make a commitment to join.
How often should you meet? Meeting monthly works well for many groups. A month seems long enough to complete the reading, yet often enough to keep the members interested in attending. Some groups take one or more months off during the summer.
Once you have established a predictable day of the month and time, it is important to not vary from the established routine. Invariably there will be meetings when individuals are unable to attend because of other obligations, but once you start to change the date for one person, you will set a precedent; and you will lose the predictablilty of having an established date and time that members can count on. Consider your membership when deciding on the time of the meetings and look for a time that accomodates the majority.
You will also want to decide in advance where the group will be meeting. If it is an office group, the Staffroom during lunch may work. Some groups meet at coffeeshops or restaurants, and many groups meet in the members' homes. Some potential book club members may not want the obligation of hosting a group in their home; others may not want to incur the expense of a restaurant meeting. That's okay as long as everyone knows what the expectations are upfront.
Expectations for Members
Members should know before they join what the expectations will be for the book club. You will be smart to draw up some guidelines for membership before the first meeting and present them to the group for discussion. Obviously the basic expectation is that members will read the book before the meeting. But how will you handle it if members have not finished the book? Will you discuss the ending anyway?
If the group is meeting in individual homes, what will be expected of the host? Some groups do appetizers and wine, others do coffee and dessert. You don't want one member to be intimidated because another member has provided a full dinner. Discussing these sort of expectations before they become an issue will make the book club stronger.
Selecting Reading Material
One advantage of being part of a book club is reading material that you may not have chosen on your own.
If you are the organizer you may have an idea of the type of books you would like to have the group read and discuss. Perhaps you will choose to start a book club around a theme, such as biographies, mysteries or classics. Or you may want the group to have a looser selection of titles.
In some groups the member that is hosting a particular meeting chooses the title for that meeting. Other book clubs meet at a certain time of year and submit ideas to the group, and the list is established for the entire coming year. The advantage of this method is that people know in advance what titles are coming up and can put the books on hold at the library or find someone to borrow from.
Once you have decided to organize a book club, make a list of people that you think will be interested. Decide where and when the initial meeting will take place, and invite the people on your list to attend. Be aware that probably not everyone you invite will be interested.
At the first meeting set up the parameters for the group. As the organizer you may want to have a structure to present at the meeting, or you may want to have the group decide on how the club will work. Either way, consider the following questions:
- Where and when will the book club meet?
- How will the titles be selected?
- What is expected of the person hosting the meeting?
- How will new members be selected in the future?
- How much of the meeting will be used for socializing and how much for discussion of the book?
Most important, prepare to gain new perspectives from a diverse selection of reading material and shared discussions.