Starting a Book Club? Here’s 8 Things to Think About

What do you need for a book club? People and books – that’s about it! But here’s a few things you may want to think about as you’re getting ready for that first meeting.

Who is invited? Is anyone in charge?

Did you have the idea for this book club alone or with a friend? If it’s the latter, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page. Are you keeping it small, or is more merrier?

Most book clubs function as loose democracies, where decisions are made as needed and no one has to feel like they’re running the whole show. But some groups may decide to choose one or two people to be in charge of the admin or other little details to make sure nothing falls between the cracks.

What will your community presence be like? Will you advertise?

If more is indeed merrier, how well do you or other members need to know new invitees? It might be okay for you to bring an interested friend along, but make sure you have a feel for what the group’s response might to inviting a loose acquaintance into the fold.

On the other hand, does the group want to advertise on social media or local community forums?

How and when will you select each book?

In my last book club, we had a running TBR list (i.e., an actual paper list, which was lost at least once) we added to as members suggested titles. Unless most of us were desperate to read a certain book ASAP, we’d choose one from the list each month – so we only really knew what was next as we went.  

Other reading groups may choose books on an annual or biannual basis, especially if they’re bigger, more distributed collectives, since it makes it easier for everyone to plan ahead and know what’s coming even if they miss a meeting or two.

How often will you meet, and when?

How often you meet can affect how many books you read each year, so don’t be afraid to adjust over time.

Check in with the group after a few meetings to chat about your reading goals and if/how the club contributes to them. If you meet every other month, it could give speedy readers time to work on their own TBR lists alongside the set book – but those who need a meeting to spur them on could worry about falling behind on their own goals. 

When you meet will be dependent on the type of book club it is (community? professional?) and everyone’s availability. Some kind of consistency is usually appreciated, since it makes it a little easier to anticipate meetings. Try sticking to the same time or the same day of the week.

Where will you meet?

Is there a café you can all meet at after work, or are you heading to the library on the weekend? Or would you rather stay virtual right now?

The pandemic spurred on services that support remote workforces, but with the increased and ongoing demand, you may find some virtual communication options are beginning to limit free accounts. For example, Google Meet recently reinstated a 1-hour meeting time limit on free users.

Whether in-person or online, make sure a) everyone is comfortable with the chosen meeting location and b) any accessibility issues have been addressed.

What format will the meetings take?

A “wine club with a book problem” might prefer a more relaxed routine, especially if you want to encourage a mix of conversation and book discussion. Or you might prefer a little more structure, with social time at the beginning as members arrive, followed by club admin, then book discussion.

Try to stick with the chosen format for at least a few meetings to see how it’s working. Then if you discover you’re constantly skipping or forgetting something, adjust accordingly.

What resources might you need?

Wait, so… what are you going to talk about? And are you just talking?

Depending on your group’s interests and the types of books you’re reading, you may want to bring something besides yourself and your copy of the book. Do you need discussion questions – general and/or specific to the book?

If your focus is on professional development, are you working on anything together or individually to test what you’ve learned? Are you an artsy group who needs a book-themed craft each meeting? Should the craft be food-related? Speaking of…

Will there be food/drink?

Whatever time you usually hold the meeting, people are probably wondering if there’ll be snacks involved. Don’t leave them questioning.

Are you in a book club? How do you pick your books?

This post was originally published on the How2Conquer blog.

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