Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How To Start a Book Club

Okay, so it appears I'm in a bit of blog idea slump. It's weird how some weeks I feel like there's so much to write about I could do two posts a day easy, and then there's weeks, like now, where I can't think of ANYTHING book related to discuss!

But remember that thing I did a long while back called BIP Bingo? We had a list of tons of blogging ideas for the Blog Improvement Project, remember? One of them was to post a how to article, and I thought since my sister is contemplating starting up her own book club, I'd post my tips for that to help her and anyone else thinking about it. Book club is something I've been doing for seven years now and like the picture says, I totally love it. So, are you ready?

How To Start a Book Club

1. Find interested people. Talk to people at church, in the neighborhood, at work, the bookstore, the library, other moms at the park, or the preschool. If you are a blogger, you can find other bloggers in the area (something that has been a blast for me!) and gather them together. I'd say you really only need three or four people to get it going. Some clubs cap it off at a certain number too (probably around 10 or so) but I find an open enrollment policy is much nicer. It's also fun to get new people to stir things up a bit now and then.

2. Decide on a set place and time. I think in order for a book club to be successful, you need to pick a day and time and stick with it every single month. People need to not wonder every month... is it happening? Or, when is it happening again? Our book club is every third Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (Thus our name, The Third Thursday Book Club!) Of course there are instances where we need to be flexible and change up the time, or move it to the next week or something, but I think that ends up happening only once or twice a year. As far as place goes, I find it works to have it at the same place every month too. Many book clubs rotate houses, or restaurants and this is really fun, but it means you'll need to be especially organized to make sure everyone knows where.

3. Decide what sorts of books to read. Do you want to stick to a certain genre? Or read all sorts of things? Do you want to read new books, or classics? Do you want to included children's books or YA, or ban them altogether? Is non-fiction allowed or is that all you want to read? Will you be okay with huge fat books, or will everyone drop out if you read big ones? This decision, of course, can be anything your unique group of people will want to do.

4. Decide how to get the books. Will you leave it up to the book club members to get their own books. The library? Buy them? Borrow them? This is all pretty much the normal route. But, you may want to check your library and see if they have book club sets. We are very lucky here to have two libraries that have a huge selection of book club sets. I check out the whole set (12 to 15 copies of the book) and then hand them out to the book club. They check out longer than regular books in order to give us plenty of time to read them, discuss them and get them back to the library. It works amazingly well, and hopefully there's more libraries out there doing this same thing.

5. Choose specific book titles to read. My main suggestion in this is two fold. First, make sure everyone has a say in what books you choose. Many book clubs have members take turns choosing the book and hosting the meeting. Others create a list of potentials and then take a vote. This is my favorite way so far. I'ts a blast to see what people come up with! The second suggestion is to plan your reading list quite a bit ahead of time. For us, this is so we can reserve those book club sets (some are extremely popular and hard to get!) But it's also great for people if they are buying books in order to keep their eyes open for a sale, or suggest them as gift ideas, or request from online swaps, etc. It's good to have some time to get your hands on them.

6. Be organized. Create an email list, keep it updated. Decide how you will remind everyone about meetings. A newsletter? A Goodreads group/Facebook group/or blog? Phone calls? Old fashioned paper invites? (I love to do this now and then!) Keep track of books you've read as a group, and books people talk about for potential reads. Make a list of book discussed and email it back to everyone. (I discovered this one last year and we had lots of fun with it.) Make lots and lots of lists!

7. Talk about books! This might seem obvious, but this is one of the hardest things about book clubs... staying on topic! Of course it's okay to talk about other things and that's all part of the fun of the whole night out, but the main focus should be the book you are there to discuss and then books in general. Have questions and thoughts ready to throw out to people (there's tons of places online to find questions), but let things go where they may for the most part... regarding the book anyway! It's an interesting balance and I like it when that balance seems to be... well... balanced.

8. It's not book club without food. Suddenly, there's lots of books and websites out there that will help you pick a food to serve that goes with the theme of your book!Very fun to try, but might get some book club hosts stressed out just a bit. So I say it's fun to have some themed months, some months with very simple snacks, and maybe even some months going out somewhere for food. You can take turns bringing food, or have potluck snacks or have a holiday theme instead of a book theme for some months. The ideas for food at book club is endless.

9. Be consistent and persistent.  When I first started a book club, the first few months, lets say the first year actually, was a bit dicey. There were moments when I thought it wouldn't fly, and it was discouraging. But I kept bugging people and inviting people and then made sure it actually happened every month, even if just one other person showed up. There will be moments like this, but just keep it up and before you know it, you'll have so many come that you won't have enough seats for them!

10. Have fun! Don't worry if everyone doesn't actually read the book. Everyone won't usually read every book. No worries. And especially don't worry if everyone doesn't like the book. Enjoy everyone's different tastes. Book club is the best when everyone doesn't agree and there are opposing points of view shared.

Well, for what it's worth, those are my book club suggestions! I hope it will help those of you who are thinking about getting one started. Back to school time is a perfect time to go for it! Let me know how it goes. Also, let me know if you are a seasoned book clubber and can think of other suggestions that I missed. I would love to know what you do and get some new ideas myself.

If you are interested, here is the list of books the Third Thursday Book Club has read (and is planning to read) to date. Maybe it will give you ideas for books to read if you are stuck with that particular part. Enjoy!


  1. This is super helpful! Thank you Suey! I have been wanting to start a book club, and you have just motivated me to get it done. Thank you!

  2. What a great post! That was very helpful, especially #9.

  3. Alright, three things:
    1- I totally know how you feel about having off and on blogging weeks...and I've only been doing this for a few months!

    2- These are all great "rules" I'm so glad you stuck with it and that I came and keep coming. Seriously, thanks!

    3- I'm so glad you have a list of books we've read. I'll be using it for a future post.

  4. I am so off on my blogging game right now too. Although school started again and my mind and wrapped up in lesson plans. Ugh.

  5. Ang: Awesome! Seriously, you have to come back and let me know how it goes!

    Mouseprints: Weren't you pondering getting one started? Or did you already go for it?

    Jenny:I'm so glad you kept coming too, even during those rough times! I look forward to your post about our list. Fun!

    Kristin: Yes, perhaps mine has to do with school craziness too. Lots of changes around here and my kids are all having anxiety. I'll be glad when the newness wears off and the routine is settled.

  6. THanks for all the hints! I tried to see who was interested by using facebook and only got two responses: one for it and one against. I also checked the library for book club sets and boy was that dismal! They only had about 10 sets and of books I had never even heard of, except for Pride and Prejudice. So I am feeling a little discouraged about my plan to start one... I think I know why young singles don't do them... they are too wishy washy! I think I might join yours...

  7. Megs: Send me a list of the ones they had, and we'll see if I know any of them and can tell you which ones to go for. Bummer that you didn't get a better response. Did you ask around at school? Maybe some teacher's would be interested? You can join mine! Yes! Maybe we could Skype you in! :)

  8. These are all great ideas. Getting the girls from my book club together or even to all read the same book is like herding worms.

  9. Oh this makes me miss your book club! I haven't done anything on getting one started here, but there are a lot of interested readers in the ward...

  10. This is a great list of tips! It's funny, my book club meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month too. My biggest complaint about other book clubs I'm been in, is that they don't stay on topic. If I'm in a book club, I do want to talk about books.

  11. I didn't know libraries carried book club sets! That's got to be amazingly useful. only, do they just have sets for new-and-popular books, and classics, or a wide variety of titles?

  12. I finally managed to get a first meeting arranged! Hopefully we have a good turn out this Friday!! I am so excited to make this book club work! Thanks again Suey!

  13. This is a great post!! You run The Third Thursday Book Club so well, and I'm so glad to be a part of it.

    I was asked to start a neighborhood book club a few months ago, and some months have been better than others. Reading your experience with your first year made me feel a lot better about it. :)



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