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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#MomGuilt

mom guilt. most of us moms have it. in fact, I’ll even go as far to claim that 99.9% of us do. working moms may experience it due to balancing the demands of their job as well as parenthood; they also may feel guilty for not spending “enough time” with their children and missing out on their developmental milestones. we SAHMs get it too: hey, since we’re home all day, don’t we have time to maintain an orderly house, cook elaborate meals, and make sure the kids are fed and watered? dear lord, if only.

comparing ourselves to other parents as well as wrestling with feelings of inadequacy and failure probably have been around since adam and eve. of course, adam and eve were the only parents at the time so they didn’t have anyone else to compare themselves to; but they probably felt like pretty crappy parents (for lack of a better word) when their son, cain, killed his older brother, abel. i understand that this is a rather severe example but imagine eve’s anguish, shock, and sorrow upon realizing that one of her sons extinguished the life of another. in the meantime, i get worked up if penny ends up having a shorter-than-usual nap: i should’ve fed her more; i should’ve put her down earlier; i should’ve, i should’ve, i should’ve.

i beat myself up over any, and every little thing, that may go “wrong” in our day-to-day life, and i know many moms do too. the thing is, we know we are being unreasonable and overreacting but we can’t help it. there’s a little voice that nags me saying i could’ve done a better job handling a meltdown, preventing penny from tripping over a toy and hitting her head, and so on.. and yeah, maybe i could have.. but take a mental note and try to move on, right? instead i let it steep and the feelings of regret and shame gnaw at me. whether we are first-time moms or are wrangling five kids, we are always going to struggle because that’s what life is about. we think we got this parenting thing down one day and then it throws a curveball at us and says, “gotcha!” nothing is ever easy, and maybe that’s a good thing… at least, in parenting, because it’ll motivate us to put our best effort into it instead of being complacent or negligent.

boy, does penny keep me on my toes and test my boundaries every single day particularly as she gets closer and closer to the “terrible twos.” i don’t want to just throw her under a label and dismiss her behavior and actions because of what may be expected at a certain age. that’s why i try to hard to redirect her behavior, shower her with positivity and encouragement, and attempt to curb my own frustrations and anger.but hey, i’m only human too.. i lose my cool, i admit it. and it’s something i pray about constantly: learning to be patient but also remembering that penny is not yet two years old and still becoming aware of how amazing and vast this world is; it’s a lot for a toddler to take in and i’ve got to be poised and level-headed to guide her in being a patient and loving person.

just remember that this parenting thing will never really get easy. our generation may have it harder than the past ones because of social media. everywhere we turn, we are force-fed images of people appearing to be “the perfect parents.” but we need to remember that everyone struggles, even the rich and famous. my friend shared an article the other day about chrissy teigen opening up about her struggle with postpartum depression. and she feels guilty because she knows she has it good: money and help (her mom lives with her and she has a nanny) so she was mentally preparing herself for the backlash she will unfortunately experience from those who think that celebrities are above us and shouldn’t complain about anything. i readily admit that celebs and the uber-wealthy do seem to have it easier than us normal folk for many things but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that they’re human too. postpartum depression doesn’t handpick who it wants to affect; everyone’s susceptible.

many women are their own worst enemies.. and each other’s enemies. we should all be helping one another instead of bringing each other down. ever since i became a mom, i quickly saw how lonely and scary being a mother really was. your entire life shifts to accommodate this tiny human and it’s a huge adjustment. friends who don’t have kids can’t truly understand until they have one of their own, and when they do, i can’t help but think, “ha!”

i organized and planned a gno tonight with 10 other women. most of them are mom’s and many of them also don’t know one another; in fact, i am the only one that knows every single person because i put the event together. knowing what it feels like to be a first-time mom (or a mom, in general), i wanted to create a fun girls’ night out where we can not only relax but network as well. maybe it can turn into some sort of mommy’s group and we can do monthly gno as well as reaching out to each other for events and play dates. as much as i am excited to go out, i am experiencing the tiniest twinge of guilt for leaving penny at home. heaven forbid, i miss her bathtime and bedtime routine – i’ll only be gone for a few hours, but there it is.. that little voice.. “aw, you’re leaving penny at home? but she’s been so attached to you lately.. and you won’t get to kiss her good night.” i’d like to think that what i’m feeling at this moment is more that i’ll miss her instead of feeling guilty that i’m going out. yes, she can drive me nuts but i do miss her even when i step out to run an errand solo.

so, i’ll go out tonight – 34 weeks pregnant and all – and enjoy being around other women while relishing a still-hot meal and taking the time to truly relax because, you know what? i deserve it. hey little voice, what now?

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my little helper hands me the eggs