Thinking of starting a book club? Or maybe you’ve already started one and want more tips on how to keep the book club going. Book clubs are such an excellent way to kickstart your reading life by creating accountability and giving you an outlet to discuss books you loved (or hated) with like-minded people. It’s also a great way to make new friends and socialize with new groups of people. But how do you get started? And once you get going, how do you keep a book club running smoothly while still having fun? Here are some questions to ask yourself and tips to consider as you’re hosting a book club.
How Are You Going to Meet?
The first thing you need to consider when you’re putting together a book club is how you’re going to meet. Are you hosting a virtual book club, or are you meeting in person? During the COVID pandemic, a lot of book clubs have decided to turn virtual, and thankfully there are online platforms to help facilitate that. Bookclubz is an excellent online tool to keep your book club details organized, vote for books, schedule meetings, and more. Book Movement is another great online organizing option. If you’re meeting online, you’ll also have to choose an online video platform to use.
If you’re meeting in person, make sure everyone in your group is comfortable with the meeting location and—especially during pandemic times—make sure any and all safety precautions are clearly outlined before meeting.
Next, consider how often you want to meet. You’re probably really excited about starting a book club and want to meet as much as possible. That’s totally understandable. But you want to stay realistic about how much you can read and how often everyone can meet. Perhaps monthly would work best for everyone, or even every other month. Discuss this with your group to figure out what works best for everyone.
You should also carefully consider how big you want your club to be. While we can all probably agree that you need more than one person to constitute a club and that 100 people is probably way too many, there is no specific number of people that makes for a perfect book club. Figure out what works for you, and when you’re first starting out, maybe err on the smaller side so it’s easier to stay organized. Smaller groups also give room for every voice to be heard.
What Books Are You Going to Read?
So you know the who, how, and where of your book club. Now you have to figure out what you’re going to read. There are many ways to choose books for your club. Some book clubs allow each member to take a turn choosing a book for the whole book. Other clubs nominate books and then everyone votes. However you decide on your books, try to think of a way to decide on books that allows everyone in the club to feel involved in the decision process.
You’ll also want to decide what kinds of books you’ll read. Are you theming your club around a certain genre or style of book? Will your book club cover different themes? A lot of this will depend on the group you’ve created and your book club’s shared interests. Again, try to consider everyone in the group and the club as a whole so that everyone feels involved.
So what kinds of books should you read? The best book club books deliver a compelling plot that’s a fun and fast read. But they also include themes and concepts that make for an engaging conversation. Here are some examples of books that are book club favorites:
Homeland Elegies is the story of an immigrant father and son searching for where they belong in post-Trump America. This book is a wonderful option if you're interested in mixing discussion of real-life events in with discussion of a compelling and personal story.
Circe is a beautifully imagined feminist retelling of Greek mythology. This story is filled with romance, magic, and emotion that will get your book club talking.
Pachinko is the perfect pick for book clubs who love historical fiction and family sagas. This award-winning novel follows the story of a Korean family who immigrates to Japan in the early 1900s.
If your book club is interested in trying a short story collection, consider How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. These thought-provoking stories explore the lives of working-class immigrant families.
Golden Girl might at first glance seem like a "beach read," but that's what makes it such a perfect book club pick. This book is a page-turner that is also great fodder for discussion of big topics like grief, death, family, and more.
What Will Your Meeting Structure Be?
So you’ve picked your book, you’ve got your meeting time and place, and you know who’s coming. Now…how exactly is this discussion going to go down? One thing that can sometimes happen at a book club: you get so excited about socializing and catching up with each other that you forget to discuss the book! Of course, you’re supposed to have fun and chat, but you did come to talk about a book, after all! On the other hand, you don’t want to get so structured with your book discussion that it feels like you’re back in English class at school.
So how do you balance your book club chat to keep it fun? There’s a lot of different ways to do it. Sometimes one person leads the discussion. Other times, it’s fun to have everyone bring in their own questions and discussion points so that everyone gets a chance to voice their opinions. Definitely allow for some off-topic discussion, but it can help to have someone designated to bring the chat back to the book when you’ve been off topic for too long. On the other hand, don’t feel so committed to your list of book questions to the point where it feels like you are checking questions off a list or completing homework! It might take a couple of meetings to strike the right balance, but you’ll get there.
Other Book Clubs You Can Reference for Ideas
Want more ideas for books to choose, discussions you can have, and other book-themed activities you can do with your book club? Celebrity book clubs and other online book clubs make great references. You can check out a list of celebrity book club picks here. You could also check out Reese’s Book Club and Oprah’s Book Club for lots of inspiration.