Tip Tuesday-ish — Starting a BookClub

So it’s Wednesday!  What could be more fun than doing tips since I didn’t get to them yesterday?  Scuba Diving maybe or laying completely alone in a flowered valley at the top of a lonely mountain while birds fly overhead and I am never ever woken up by a three-year-old asking me not to smell bad.  By the way, she needs to get her nose examined as badly as Magoo needs a new tuning knob.  I smell sweet as a peach.

And I belong to a book club. 

Tess has asked for a Tip Tuesday where we discuss the ins and outs of setting up a successful book club.   Here are a few things to focus on:

1.  Who?  Who are you gonna invite?  If you are drowning in friends, are you going to limit membership to make the group more manageable?  If you’re new to the area (notice I did not say you have no literate friends), how will you find like-minded readers to join you? Do you even want like-minded readers?

The group that I helped set up 2 years ago had an open enrollment.  I emailed everyone I knew who I thought might be interested and told them to pass the word along.  It was sort of a shotgun blast approach because it was more important to me that everyone felt included than to invite only my bestest friends.  We ended up with a really nice variety of members and I got to know people with opinions vastly different from my own, something that I think makes a great book club. 

You might want to consider handing out a flyer at your local moms group, church or bookstore.

2.  What?  What do you want your book club to be?  Is it a social club with books on the side?  A dinner group, where the book may or may not be mentioned?  A 500-level graduate class in English literature where you must own a complete print copy of the OED to attend?  Set clear expectations early on for what the book club will be.

Ours was about the book.  We got together for 2 hours, eating and socializing for the first half hour and then once book discussion began, we got down to business.  It was an escape from mommy life and a chance to stretch our brains.  Personal anecdotes were shared only in relation to what we were reading.  We decided to save the poop stories for play group.

3.  Where?  Do you have a church or school room where you can meet or do you prefer a more homey atmosphere?  Should one person always host to maintain a sense of consistency or do you want to rotate houses?

We rotated on a volunteer basis.  The person hosting was not necessarily the discussion leader.

4.  When? How often?  Do you meet weekly?  Monthly?  Bi-monthly?  Annually?  Everyday on the internet?  When is enough?  How busy are you?

We started out meeting every other month but went to a one-book-per-month format.  We felt that most people were cram-reading the book during the last few days before the meeting anyway so we might as well have twice as many opportunities for people with scheduling conflicts.  It worked nicely to pick a standard night so we always knew when it would be. 2nd Thursday of every month.  Be there or be square.

5.  How?  Set up clear guidelines for the group so you know what to expect and someone doesn’t unknowingly violate some unspoken law, upsetting the tender feelings of Bertha the book club Nazi who thinks she knows exactly how things should go.

Our group chose the books together.  At the beginning of the year, everyone would offer a couple of suggestions.  We’d anonymously vote on them and assign them to a particular month.  If your book was chosen, you were the discussion leader for that meeting.

We set up rules for how long the meeting would be, what type of books we wanted to read, what type of discussion we should have, how stringent we’d be on membership requirements.  Basically we weren’t stringent.  Our main rules were that every opinion needed to be heard with respect and that anyone could come whether they’d read or not, as long as the discussion stayed on the book.

Food was always low-key and potluck.  The person whose home we met in would provide drinks, dishes and utensils.

What has worked for you in your book clubs?Š

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11 Responses to Tip Tuesday-ish — Starting a BookClub

  1. chilihead says:

    I was in a book club for 8 years and just recently quit. Our BC slowly became less about the books and more about the social and we couldn’t quite reign it in. After *really thinking* about it (for about a year!), I decided I didn’t wasn’t looking forward to it any more and decided to get out.

    However, there were some things that did work for us:
    1. We limited the group to 12 and each person chose a month to host.

    2. Two months before it was your turn to host you brought three books to choose from. After a brief synopsis of each, we all voted and chose the book to read.

    3. When it’s your month you lead the discussion, host at your house, and provide food. We originally started out just having snacks, then it moved to a dinner-type thing. Always wine.

    4. As people leave we discuss possible replacements. This is really how our group changed. Ladies would invite a friend then end up moving. The friend was still in the group, but the original “inviter” was not.

    I was able to read many books I may not otherwise have picked up. I shared some of my favorites with people who never would have thought to read that genre. I definitely ate fabulous food and had wonderful wine.

  2. That’s basically how our book club runs, except the person who’s holding the next meeting at their house gets to choose the book. We all have somewhat similar tastes, so nothing has been a book we didn’t like, but may have outside what we would have selected ourselves.

  3. My wife and I started an online book club that we kept going for about a year. We allowed anybody join who wanted to follow our posted guidelines. Our guidelines weren’t all that strict, but basically said that anybody who wanted to could post on-topic, relevant, and polite comments.

    We also wanted to keep the books we were reading inline with our standards, so we set some loose restrictions on the types of books we wanted to read. Basically we said that we didn’t want to offend a mostly conservative audience. By that we meant that books that were graphic in their portrayal of violence, or books with explicit sexual content were the type that would offend a mostly conservative audience.

    We had good success with young adult type books, but we floundered when we tried to read books outside that genre. People mostly didn’t read them and therefore didn’t comment on them.

    This reminds me. I want to get our book club up and running again. Maybe after the baby comes… 🙂

  4. Kristine says:

    WAHHH! I was sick last night and missed book club!!

    This is the 5th month we have been doing it and essentially it runs like you have described. I like the idea of voting on the books, it would allow the majority to choose the kind of book that appeals to them.

    It is a nice social / intellectual outlet for me.

  5. Amanda says:

    Thanks so much for your (everyone) advice for a book club. I have been hosting a book club at my house for the last 2 years and quite frankly I am tired of it. I am ready to revamp the whole thing and start over. We have been following the Deseret Book time out for women book club because we get a 30% discount on select books and I love reading the church books. However I think we may try some “gentile” 😉 books for awhile. Some that might be available at the library.
    I will be using some of your suggestions and I hope that we will have more success! Thank you!

  6. Tess says:

    I appreciate your expert tips on this here subject. I feel like I’ve let that part of my mind wander into just reading feel good fiction sometimes, and I want to meet some other people who will help broaden my reading base.

    I think I’m going to go to the library and see what kind of book clubs they have going on there.

  7. LammyAnn says:

    I love book clubs… Every place I move to, I investigate to see if our ward is doing one….
    The first one I attended, we generally had cookies or croissants etc. but the next place we did pot luck style, in a theme.
    I have read some books I would have never read, but enjoyed;
    I have read some books and said “NEVER AGAIN”;
    and I have read some books I thoroughly enjoyed.
    It has been wonderful…and a great way to stay mentally challenged.
    There isn’t one in our ward right now…so maybe I should instigate…? hmmm
    Food for thought.
    Great thread today.

  8. Jen says:

    My book club is similar, though I sometimes feel we stray too much into the chit-chat and not enough on the book. I got connected to it through some of my co-workers, and what I love about it is the diversity of the women involved. We range in age from 26 to 70+, and we run the gamut of the political and religious spectrum too. It has made for some interesting discussions in the past! But I think it’s good for me to stretch myself by actually having friends who are from a different generation, a different background, and whose views and taste in books differs from my own. That’s part of what makes it great.

  9. KYouell says:

    I wish the book club I belonged to was like Jen’s. I was 10 years older than anyone there (I was 38 when we started) and the only one married, then I was the only one pregnant, and finally the only mom. It sucked. Really they just wanted to drink and talk loud. It actually got to the point where I stopped going because my ears would ring on the drive home… and there were less than 10 of us. Also, way too much complaining about how old they were and that they had no men and were getting too old to have kids. They just were a bad fit for me.

    I hope to someday have the energy to join one that works well, with a lot of diversity.

  10. jenny says:

    a group of us from a mother’s club started a book club about six years ago. We started as an extension of the mother’s club but now only one of the twenty five or so book clubbers is still part of that group. We have sort of an open invite policy…a ‘come check it out, here’s what we’re reading’ sort of thing. Some people stay and others disappear. Twenty five may seem like alot of people but mostly there are 12-15 of us that show up regularly.

    At the beginning of the year you volunteer to hostess and then we have a lottery drawing for which meeting you’ll take. We meet about every six weeks…the hostess chooses the book. No guidelines, no rules…pick what you want. No one has chosen anything too off the wall, there’ve been lots of things I thought I’d hate but ended up loving.

    Everyone usually brings a little something snacky to eat, wine is served. The book discussion usually lasts an hour or so, depending, and then we ending up chatting. Generally, we also bring the other books we’ve been reading or will be reading outside of the bookclub choice too.

    *sigh* I smile just thinking about going. I lucked out with this bunch.

  11. Carolee says:

    I’ve been in a book group for about 13 years — though some people have come and gone, the core group has stayed the same, even though as a whole, we don’t really have a lot in common or do things together outside book group. I joined through a community women’s association that doesn’t exist anymore. I’m the only LDS woman and the majority of women in the group are older than me. But we’ve gotten to know each other very well and we enjoy our discussions, though they aren’t always quite as much in depth as I’d like. We meet on the second Tuesday afternoon each month. There are about 12 women in the group, so we each host about once a year. The month we host, we choose the book, and we have total control over the choice, though we sometimes will ask the group if we’re trying to decide between books. I’ve read a lot of books I wouldn’t have chosen, but there have been very few that I felt weren’t worth the time. Generally the only problem we’ve had is when someone will choose a book that someone else outside our group suggested when they haven’t read it themselves, and then we’ll get into it and realize it wasn’t a great choice. So we’ve recently put in a request (not a requirement) that the “chooser” have read the book before putting it on the list. We try to have the books for the year chosen by the beginning of the year, though sometimes we’re just a few months ahead. When we host, we do some research on the author and also usually have some critical reviews to summarize and have some questions to get the discussion going. When we get together, we visit for about a half hour, then discuss for an hour or so and then the hostess serves a yummy dessert. Oh, and in December, we usually go out to lunch together. I always look forward to it!

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