The members you choose will define the culture of your Book Club. Do you prefer a close group of friends with similar tastes in books as yourself? This will most likely result in a highly social and relaxed atmosphere. If you are looking to have a Book Club that engages in lively debates you may prefer a more diverse group of members with differing opinions—many book club members find this to be quite rewarding. Many people start their Book Club by gathering close friends or co-workers, but there are many places you can advertise your group in order to recruit new members: your local bookstores, libraries, religious/community groups, and online through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. You want to be cautious with who you invite: one distracting or over-powering member can dramatically change the group’s dynamic.
Many groups either take turns among members choosing a book, or make a list of suggestions and vote on the best one. Tips on Choosing a Book. Whether or not your Book Club has a designated “leader,” it’s best to give everyone a say. Set guidelines from the start as to how books will be chosen. Some groups plan their entire year in advance, while others choose each book as they finish the previous. This decision should be based on the structure and nature of your group. To avoid headaches later on, decide whether you will stick to one genre, have a theme, or read a wide variety of titles at your first meeting.
If everyone in your Book Club knows each other fairly well, you may want to take turns hosting meetings at each other’s homes. If you are starting a workplace Book Club, you can host it in a convenient office space or local coffee shop. If you’d like to meet at a more neutral location, some suggestions to look into are: your local bookstores, libraries, and religious organizations, community buildings, school buildings, etc. For a more social group, meeting at a favorite bar or restaurant is also a fun option, as long as the location isn’t too loud or distracting! Consider setting aside some time at the beginning for eating and socializing, and then settle into a more focused book discussion afterwards—this should be taken into consideration regardless of your chosen location.
There are many sites designed to host online meetings. If you are looking to host a video or audio conference meeting where everyone can discuss from their various locations, we suggest trying sites such as: Skype, Oovoo, or Google Hangouts. All of these are easy to use, user friendly and can be accessed from any device.
When it’s your turn to lead your Book Club’s meeting, there are plenty of things you can do beyond simply reading the book to create a lively discussion. In the days/weeks leading up to your meeting, you may choose to motivate your fellow book clubbers by sending them emails to pique their interest in the book, such as including comments like ‘I can’t wait to hear your reaction to the decision character x makes in chapter 6!,’ or even linking to interviews or videos of the author (this is easier to do if you are reading a newly released book). During the meeting, go around the room to make sure everyone has a chance to discuss their opinions and reactions to the book. Encourage everyone to speak up, even if they disagree with someone else’s point of view—often the best meetings are those where opinions and interpretations differ. For more discussion ideas, check out our Reading Group Guides available for a large selection of titles.