how to start a book club

I have always been shy. painfully shy in my adolescent years, in fact. as the years passed, the combination of a growing urge to want to be heard and not wanting to hide in the shadows of others encouraged me to be more social. I still am fairly reserved especially around a large group of people, and, to many, this fact may seem more like a revelation. some have expressed doubt that I actually am shy. this may be because I am an extroverted introvert. not quite sure what that means? read here.

as a child, I sought solace in reading. my first distinct memory of reading is when I was around 4 years old. I recall being amazed at how words could bring pictures to life. over the years, I stuck my nose in a book whenever I could. everyone knew me as a bookworm. it got to the point where I kept receiving books as gifts, and though that was appreciated I still wanted toys and dolls like any other child.

still, not much could bring me as much joy as a book could. some of my favorite series growing up were the berenstain bears, the babysitters club, ramona quimby, and sweet valley high. and my all-time favorite book is j.d. salinger’s the catcher in the rye. for those who know me, I did not forget harry potter. that series is in its own category of greatness. I used to just pick up a book from the series and start reading. after the 14th go, I lost count of how many times I had read harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone.

in recent years it has been difficult to find the time and energy to read what with raising two children and this little thing called life. however, the desire to read more books never left my mind. what if i was in a book club? better yet, what if i started one? I had discussed this idea with another mom friend who had been itching to start one as well, so I finally created a group on facebook and invited friends who I thought would be interested.

I began this book club back in january and so far we have read five books. we just started our sixth this week.

when you create a book club, you want to think about these factors:

  1. group setting: where will discussion take place? in person? online?
  2. size of group and its members: do you want a large group or an intimate one? who’s invited? is it an open/closed group?
  3. general rules and guidelines: you want to have some sort of set rules so members know what to expect and how to participate.

here is what I decided for the three factors:

  1. I chose to have my book club as a closed facebook group. I invited friends that I thought would be interested, and I also encouraged them to invite other friends. we decided to have weekly discussions on the group page (mondays at 8:30pm) after having read a set number of pages. after a book is completed, our group meets up in person for a final discussion which involves much laughter, gossiping, eating & imbibing.
  2. I didn’t want the group to be too big but I did invite a large number of people because I wasn’t sure who would be interested and committed enough to participate. we have about 15 people that are in the group but only around 8 that are active. we all agreed that this small group is more to our liking because keeping up with everyone’s responses in the facebook group chat is challenging! the notifications keep going off and we have to find the next comment.
  3. who’s the moderator? there needs to be someone to keep track of the time and the comments. our group poses two questions weekly that pertains to the reading. we spend a half hour on each question (8:30-9pm for question 1 and 9-9:30pm for question 2). if members still want to discuss questions further, we do so after discussion for question 2 is completed. but after 9:30pm, members are free to leave the discussion. in our group, usually the person who volunteers the questions for that week is the moderator for the discussion.

our group is a democracy: we decide everything together such as choosing the next book (members suggest titles and we vote via a poll), how many pages to read for the next “assignment”, changing the date/time of a discussion if necessary, and having members offer to post questions for the reading. the only things I did on my own as an admin & main moderator was to come up with a group name (reading between the wines) and the general rules and guidelines.

as for the rules and guidelines, how strict/lax are you about participation? most of us do participate in every book, but sometimes our schedules don’t permit us enough time to be able to read a set number of pages every week and participate in a group discussion. therefore, we have members joining in the discussion when they can (up-to-date on their reading, of course) or just waiting to join in for the next book.

as for choosing the discussion questions, some books have questions in the back of the book. however, we did find that these questions tend to spoil the book since they’re meant to be used after the book is completed. most of the time, we come up with questions on our own (after one of us has read most or all of the set number of pages) or we use our go-to which is “what is your favorite passage or quote?” personally, I like questions that require the reader to go back into the book to reflect a little more deeply on the reading.

some other general rules to consider are use of offensive and foul language and respecting others’ opinions – these are more of an issue the bigger and more public your group is though.

we also thought it would be to fun to celebrate reading a book by having a meet-up along with food and drinks. most of the time, we meet at a designated restaurant to catch up on each other’s lives, and, of course, to discuss how the book ended. our last meet-up was at my friend, katie’s house since she recently had a baby girl (natalie, age 1.5 months), but usually we try to choose a central location since some of us live an hour away from one another. if we do hold it at someone’s house, it turns into a potluck.

another suggestion for the meet-up is to, at least, have one person bring a copy of the book for group photos. I love to document (clearly) so a group photo is a must! a meet-up is also wonderful to be able to meet other members, some of whom you may only know through the online discussions.

at this point, some of you may be a bit overwhelmed! it does seem like a lot of work initially but once you decide how the group will be managed and run, i promise it will be fun (unintentional rhyming there). and that’s the important part: have fun. you obviously wanted to create, or be part of, a book club because of your love for reading. so, don’t forget the main objective in being a part of one. there really isn’t a point in being a part of something if it’s not enjoyable.

I hope my tips have been helpful in motivating you to start a book club! feel free to share any of your useful advice and even book suggestions!

happy reading!

 

photos from our most recent meet-up (7/29/18)

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1. we forgot the book, and 2. missing courtney and lori

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lemon cake balls made by karen

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taking turns playing with genevieve

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new mama & baby natalie

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me holding our current book

here are the books we’ve read so far:

1. little fires everywhere – celeste ng

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2. the secrets she keeps – michael robotham

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3. tell me i’m wrong – adam croft

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4. landline – rainbow rowell

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5. the alice network – kate quinn

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6. the last mrs. parrish – liv constantine* current book

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7 thoughts on “how to start a book club

  1. I am beyond happy that you decided to start a book club!! I’ve always wanted to be a part of a book club due to my love of reading and being able to share this love with other book “nerds.” As the admin, you’ve done a great job developing the format. I ❤️ our club.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes I do love being in a book club! I always find that I tend to start books and never finish them (even before having a baby) so this keeps me reading to the end! Thanks for including me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a total bookworm so it goes without saying I ❤️ book club. Love exploring books I wouldn’t normally read on my own. Great job with the club and to many more good books!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My favorite part of book club is meeting up to discuss the ending. It’s great to see everyone in person and do some catching up. We’ve gone to some super cool spots. The format for this book club works out well for me. It would be tough to commit to a weekly meet up. So glad you coordinated. ❤️ Book club.

    Liked by 1 person

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