Starting Your Own Book Club

At first it might seem intimidating—the idea of starting a book club. After all, there’s a lot to think about, and so many books available to read. Where does one begin?
            
As you begin to narrow down your options, you may discover this is the perfect time to organize a club of your own. With four book clubs under my belt, I believe I’m starting to get the hang of it now. That said, each group is as different as the people and the books that come to the table.
            
Keeping these seven questions in mind when forming a book club of your own might prove to be beneficial:

1.      Why start a book club?
It’s essential to answer this question before you work out all the other details.  Initially, there is quite a bit of work that goes into organizing your group. Take a moment to ask yourself how important this venture is to you and why. What do you hope to gain from this endeavor?  Of course sharing a love of books is the main reason why most people start a book club. Likewise it’s a way to grow a community, bringing people closer around a theme or book. This is the reason I started two book clubs at different housing facilities in town—with the hope that a community would come together around a book discussion. So far, so good.

2.      Who to invite?
This relates back to the first question. If you know the purpose of your book club, you’ll know the people to invite. Perhaps it’s a “come one, come all” group. My Senior Center group is this type of club; it is open to the community. As long as the participant picks up the book from the library ahead of time, she can drop in and join the conversation. On the other hand a small group might be your preference. After the birth of my first daughter, I craved adult conversation, so I reached out to some mothers in my church. We ended up with a group of 8-10 to start. If you plan to keep your group intimate however, you might decide to close off membership at some point.

3.      Whether to name your group?
This might seem like a silly idea, but some groups like to have a distinct identity. According to www.readinggroupchoices.com, people use a lot of creativity when naming their book groups. Better Than Therapy Book Club and It’s Not Just About the Food Book Club are a few sample titles. Then there’s Marmaladies, Litwits, Book Broads and John (poor John), and the one I’d jump at . . .Wine, Chocolate & Books. How’s that for the perfect combination?

4.      When to meet?
This depends upon a few factors. How strong are your readers? Can they breeze through a 300 page book in no time? Are they retired, so they have mornings free every other week? The key is to survey the group to see what works best. Ultimately it comes down to what works for the leader and the majority of the members. It’s possible that you may lose a reader or two along the way because the meeting time is no longer feasible for her. In this case you can decide whether to have a “once a member, always a member” policy, in the event that someone wants to return in the future (i.e. when her child actually sleeps through the night).

5.      Where to meet?
Often times you can use a library room for free, if you sign up ahead of time. There’s also your local church, synagogue, café or bookstore, if you prefer to keep the meeting in a public place. This is best for an open group. For closed groups, where all of the members are friendly with one another, there is nothing like a home meeting. Your choice may depend upon whether you want to serve refreshments.

6.      Who will run the meetings?
In many ways it helps the meetings to run smoothly when one person is in charge of facilitating the discussion questions. If you started the book club, you should feel free to take on the role of a leader. This means that you can step in when there are gaps in the conversation, but if the conversation is flowing naturally, don’t interrupt. The trickiest part of being a leader is the handling of difficult personalities. Also, there may be one or two people who dominate the conversation. The art of leading book club is making sure everyone who wants to gets a chance to share.

7.      How to choose your book titles?
So many books, so little time. Anyone who is an avid reader faces this dilemma. Which books to choose? After running several book clubs, I have come to the conclusion that some books are best when read alone, while others must be shared. A good mystery may be a great read, but it might not lead to a valuable discussion once you know “Who Done It.” Typically I search for books that are well-written, but they may have been overlooked in the shuffle. For several of my book clubs, I’m unable to use the hottest sellers because twenty copies won’t be available through interlibrary loan. To generate a book discussion, I’d recommend the following resources: the author’s website, the publisher’s website, Books and Authors and NoveList (databases through www.norwoodlibrary.org), litlovers.com, bookclubgirl.com, readinggroupchoices.com, and goodreads.com
           
Keep in mind the best book club involves preparation, participation and a good sense of humor. Or course chocolate helps, too! 
            
Here’s a few fun book titles to go along with your book club:
            The book club cookbook : recipes and food from your book club's favorite books and authors / Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
            Off the beaten page : the best trips for lit lovers, book clubs, and girls on getaways / Terri Peterson Smith