So you want to start a book club? Here's everything you need to know to pick a book, find a time and place, and more.
Starting a book club is a lot like throwing a party. Prepping for your event can be as elegant and involved or as simple as you want it to be: Just keep your group in mind while making decisions and consider each member’s likes and needs. With a little bit of foresight and planning, you will be able to create a book club that every member loves.
Know your audience
Every decision you make about your book club will be based on who’s in it. A book club for your friends at work will be very different than one you put together at your community center. To understand what your members may need or want out of a book club, think about their ages, schedules, and backgrounds. Getting input from your club members will be helpful, too. Ask what each member wants to get from the book club (do they want more gossip time or to talk only about the book?) and what kinds of books they typically like to read.
Choose a book
If you’re already friends with the people in your book club, you may have a good idea what they like. Maybe you were already talking about a popular book, and that’s how your book club got started. If you don’t already have a book idea, the best way to choose one is to take a vote. Have everyone in the club add a book to a list. Then, each club member should rank the books according to which one they want to read the most. Tally everyone’s favorites to get started. You can go back to this list when you need to choose your next book. If you don’t know your members well, classics and books on the bestseller list are safe bets to start.
Figuring out a time when everyone in your group is free is often harder than picking a book. For some book clubs, it’s helpful to share a list of nights that everyone can meet regularly (like the second Tuesday of every month). If your schedules don’t line up, plan to have your meeting date rotate from month to month. Maybe have it on the first Wednesday in November, but the first Thursday in December. Make sure everyone is on the same page about how often you want to meet. An online calendar tool like Doodle will make sharing schedules a breeze.
Find a spot to meet
For groups of friends, meeting at someone’s house may be ideal. But if you’d rather plan a night out, find a local coffee shop or wine bar. Great conversation is a vital part of every book club, so try to find a place that is quiet enough to talk and big enough space for everyone to sit. If you’re planning for a larger group, schedule a space in your community center or library. Depending on where you live, you could meet in a park or at the beach, too.
Plan food and drinks
Book clubs can be a fun excuse to get together and drink wine. If you’re with your friends, figure out who is bringing which foods and drinks ahead of time. You could decide to play host and create the whole spread yourself. Or you could do things pot-luck style and have your friends sign up for specific dishes.
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Themes can add some spice to your shindig. Partygoers can bring medieval-style fare if you’re reading a fantasy book. You can even have a contest to see whose dish best fits the theme.
Just make sure everyone is included. To help guests with allergies, remind everyone bringing food to fill out an ingredient card to set with their dish.
Decide on games and discussion
As the host, it’s up to you to start the discussion and plan any activities. An easy staring point: Some books come with book club guides printed in the back or online (authors may also provide them on their websites). Try these as conversation starters or bring them out if the discussion starts to slow down. You might also ask your guests to write down a few questions ahead of time. And don’t feel beholden to just talking about the book. Bring in some games. For example, you might decorate cookies, or create some book-related trivia.