Book Club for Beginners

I’ve always loved reading, and even wrote about how it’s my self-care last month. I set yearly reading goals and share my progress over on Instagram. When a friend of a friend was new to Knoxville and looking for a new book club, a whole group of women raised their hands and said they wished they knew of one for themselves, too. Being the bibliophile that I am, I jumped at the opportunity to talk about books with other people (instead of just my poor husband, who gets run downs and analyses on books he has not nor will likely ever read). I decided if my group needed a book club, I’d jump on the initiative train and start one.

Your tribe may also love reading and want the opportunity to discuss books with you. Here’s how you can start your very own book club:

  • Poll your people.

    Ask around, either in person or online. Find out who likes to read, what they like to read, and how often you’d like to meet.

  • Set the tone and ground rules.

    Are you looking for friends to chat with while sipping wine, bouncing from topic to topic? Do you want to incorporate a dinner club aspect, where everyone brings a side? What genres of books will you read: a little bit of everything, mystery, romance, fiction, strong female protagonists? Will your discussions be chatty or academic in nature? Where will you meet? How will you choose books? You want to make sure everyone is on the same page so no one is disappointed or blindsided. While you’re at it, go over how hosts will be chosen. You’ll likely have introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts, and people with larger and smaller homes, so you’ll want to be sensitive and discreet when asking someone if they want a turn hosting.

  • Food and drinks.

    Determine ahead of time if you’ll have snacks, a meal, wine, or non-alcoholic drinks. Will the food be themed with the book choice? Anything is possible! 

  • Select a meeting time and place. 

    You could meet at a library, restaurant, or friend’s homes. Depending on the size of your group, you may be limited in your choices. It’s recommended to have 15 people or fewer to make sure everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the book discussion. My (brand new) book club is planning on rotating hosts, with the host selecting the place (typically their home or the library, or possibly Chick-fil-A, because moms) and three possible books. Then we’ll vote on which of the three books we’ll select.

  • Choose a time and date. 

    Not everyone will likely be able to make every meeting. My book club has chosen to meet monthly, on a Thursday. We may try and meet the first Thursday of the month, so it’s easy to remember.

  • Decide what to do about childcare.

    If you’re meeting at someone’s home, you can potentially get a group babysitter and split the cost. Or, you can arrange childcare independently and all meet solo to have a night off!

  • Set up a notification system.

    You can use a mass email system, simple Facebook post, or even create a Facebook page with hosts as admins and polls to choose books. This method also allows you to share the location, if it rotates with the host, in a private manner.

  • Choose your first book!

    Once you’ve covered all the groundwork, you can select your first book. Typically whomever begins the book club hosts first, so follow the plan you’ve crafted about choosing a book, and get reading. Come up with a few questions about the book to get the ball rolling during the discussion. If you’re at a loss, check Google for some reading guides to help you. Some books even include one at the end of the book!

  • Remember, what happens at book club stays at book club.

    Kidding! Mostly. Remember that when people share personal insights into how a book has impacted them, they’re really just sharing with the group — not the group’s spouses and children. Be respectful and present: really listen to other viewpoints and learn more about your friends.

  • Have fun!

    Reading is such a joy, and getting to share it with other people just makes it better. Enjoy your books and time with friends. You may not always remember each book, but you’ll make unique memories with your friends as you gather to discuss them.

Far Away Friends

If you don’t have friends physically nearby, start an online book club! Your tribe can choose books electronically, all read it together, and then do a group Skype or conference call to chat about the book. You can even make similar snacks to have more of a similar experience, regardless of how many miles are between you. You can even take photos of where you’re reading your books to share with each other — in the park, on a train, etc.

Book Suggestions

Some books lend themselves more to than others to discussion. Here are a few of my favorites to consider for your book club! I’m an equal opportunity book worm, so there’s a little bit of everything in this list. You can also check out this GoodRead’s List for book clubs.

  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple (Fiction)
  • My Not-So-Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella (Fiction)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Classics)
  • Close Enough to Touch, Colleen Oakley (Fiction)
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah (Fiction, Historical)
  • The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty (Fiction, Historical)
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (Mystery)
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (Classics, Mystery)
  • Of Mess and Moxie, Jen Hatmaker (NonFiction, Christian)

Have you ever been in a book club? What are some of your favorite tips for new book clubbers?

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