The definition of a book club, or as some like to call it a “book group” is,
a group of people who meet regularly to discuss books that all the members have read.
I’m fortunate, because I have a built in group of friends that read similar books to what I read, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Joining or creating a book club can feel like an overwhelming task, daunting even, but I’m here to help. I’ve created five easy tips and tricks that can help you navigate and create a book club that are all listed below.
1. How to Add New Members to Your Book Club – In order to ensure you create a conversation that is rich with detail and thoughtful discussion, you’re going to need members that come in all different forms. Expand your book club by using this handy thing called the internet. Put a call out on Twitter for new members by using both the hashtag #bookclub and your city in a hashtag (example, #Toronto). You could also use Facebook to post a message about your desire to add members to your book club, just be sure to make a note that people are welcome to share the post so you get a wider reach than just your family and friends.
If the internet isn’t your thing, make use of your local library, local newspapers or your workplace. Make flyers. Put your email on it and wait for all the emails to roll in. There are always people looking to expand their friend circle and book clubs are a great way to meet new people and get the opportunity to discuss a great piece of literature. Win-win.
2. Meet Once a Month (and Make Sure You Meet on a Weekday) – People lead busy lives, but it’s important to make time for yourself… it’s also important to make time for great books. You can get a lot of reading done in a month, even if it’s just promising yourself that you’ll read 40 pages before you head to bed. That’s why your book club should make a plan to meet monthly. If you allow for too much time to read a book, it almost guarantees people will forget about it and then half the members will show up not having read the book, or in some cases, not reading it at all. So make a plan with your members to meet on a monthly basis and ensure that your meet up date is on a weekday, because weekends are just way too busy. Who wants to reschedule three or four times because a member is away that weekend… not me. Pick a Tuesday or Wednesday date that works for all of you and stick to it!
3. Choose What Books You’re Going to Read – The reason you’ve joined a book club is so you can talk about books. Sometimes this discussion can take the form of a heated debate and sometimes it can be two hours of a love fest about the book. Whatever way the conversation goes, you want to make sure you choose a variety of books. Who wants to just read the same genre over and over again. NOT ME. So it’s important to give each member a chance to choose a book. Not only will this help to expand your mind, but it will also help expand your bookshelf. Choose the order of who’s choosing a book and stick to it. Each member will then be responsible for “hosting” and kicking off the conversation when you meet. If the host wants to get really creative with it, they can have a themed idea in relation to the books plot. You’d be surprised how fun it is to dress up like the characters of a book!
4. How to Create a Great Discussion – It’s important that when you get to your monthly book club you have some sort of direction, otherwise, you’ll just end up drinking a lot of wine and catching up with your friends. One great way to guarantee that they’ll be a lot of discussion is having each member of the book club come prepared with a few questions that popped up for them in their reading. This way everyone will have an opportunity to speak and a direction is set in place.
Another helpful tip is search for discussion questions for the book prior to the meeting. You’d be surprised how accessible reading group guides are for book clubs. Many times they live on the publishers website, but sometimes with a quick google search, you’ll automatically have 10-12 thought provoking questions that will help to create a lively and fun conversation.
5. Have Fun! – The reason you started or joined a book club is so that you can meet new people, have a thought-provoking conversation about books and get to have a nice night out each month. There are a lot of perks to having a group of you come together to catch up, you get to consume some delicious treats, drink some much deserved beverages and have a fabulous night out. But it’s important to remember that when you enter a room, not everyone is going to have the same opinion as you and that’s okay. Sometimes someone might say something about the books theme or a character that makes you shake your head in disbelief. This does not mean you should attack them or make them justify their statement in an aggressive manner. You have a right to disagree, but approach it in a meaningful and respectful tone that creates an educated debate, rather than a brawl. Always remember, that you’re there to have fun and to learn something new. So walk in ready to have a lively discussion and maybe one too many glasses of wine.
Recommend Book Club Picks
If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie – He’s been called the author to watch and with good reason. Michael’s Christie has written a heartfelt and beautiful depiction of a young boy named Will who’s spent the majority of his life living inside. His Mother, Diane, is a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Then one day, Will, protecting himself with only a helmet, ventures out the front door. What happens after his first steps beyond his front door forever change his world.
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels – The Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Sean Michaels creates an elaborate semi-fictional story of the man that invented the theremin, Lev Termen. The thread throughout the novel is the love and admiration he has for Clara Reisenberg, a young violin turned theremin player he meets in New York City in the 1930s. Often referring to her directly in the writing, we hop around in the text from his childhood in Leningrad to New York and then back to the scientific camps in the Soviet Union. Not only was this novel smart and well researched, it was like unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It had EVERYTHING. History, music, romance, suspense, war and more.
The Birth House by Ami McKay – This story is a story of growth and independence, but also about women coming together to make decisions about their bodies and their families in a time when their opinions didn’t hold a lot of statue. The bond that is formed between Dora and the “out of towners” is heartfelt and sincere, especially after they form “The Occasional Knitters Society”. It’s an unforgetable tale of a town that struggles with the pull between old and new medicine and what ultimately ends up happening will leave you left with bated breath.
Unless by Carol Shields – This is a story about Reta Winter and her daughter Norah, who drops out of school and makes a permanent home out of the corner of Bathurst and Bloor wearing a sign around her neck that reads the word, “GOODNESS”. Left to decipher why her daughter would do such a thing, Reta is forced to examine her life, her writing (she is an author) and the world as a whole. Carol Shields is a talent like none other and should be read by everyone.
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill – Since it’s publication in 2007, this book has become an international bestseller and now a CBC six-part mini series. The book is about an eleven-year-old girl named Aminata who was abducted from her village in Africa and enslaved in South Carolina. This is a story that is not easy to read, but was very much a reality not too long ago. A fantastic, heartbreaking novel that is sure to create lots of discussion.