I seriously love my book club! It is probably one of the best things I have done for my own personal wellbeing. One night a month where I get to be free… Free to drink a little wine, free to say a few curse words, free to not be on a schedule. Just plain free and I love it! (Please don’t make me feel bad about this freedom because every other day of the week/month I have crazy anxiety that has me locked down to a schedule.) But the book club is my free; be myself, interact with other adults place!
I tried joining other people’s book clubs, I tried creating my own book club, I tried going to community book clubs at bookstores or the library. But I was never satisfied; those people were not my people. I wanted to create a book club that could become my free place. And I think I have finally done it. My current book club lovingly referred to as NWBC has been going strong for over 4 years. Below are 10 tips on how to start your own book club. These are tips I’ve used to create and continue to enjoy my own book club. I hope you’ll find some useful tips here.
How to Start a Book Club:
- Talk to your friends:
Think of your group of friends. I am a firm believer in having friends for different parts of your life. I have discovered in my life that I don’t have one best friend who I do absolutely everything with. Instead, I have a few friends for this and a few friends for that. Having different friends for different things allowed me to create a group full of diverse people who are into a lot of different things.
It would have been pretty easy to think of all my friends and invite everyone to join my new book club. Instead of inviting everyone, I made sure to only invite people to join the book club who I knew were avid readers and who I have/who have asked me for book recommendations. Then I just asked them. “Hey, I am thinking of starting a book club, would you want to be in a book club with me?”
2. Have a place to meet:
When I first started the book club, my friends and I were all young professionals, and what do young professionals like to do after a long, hard day of work? DRINK WINE! A friend and I joined a nearby wine club and we held our meetings in the tasting room. I loved having the book club at the tasting room because we drank for free (perks of the membership) and it was such a fun atmosphere. But, after 3 years we’ve outgrown the little tasting room and we now meet at my husband’s office in his conference room.
There are a lot of book clubs where the meeting is at a different person’s house each month. Every month the host and location changes and the hosts are in charge of making food and the general meeting. However, this wouldn’t work for our group because most of us are parents to small children (remember what I talked about earlier, freedom?) Who wants to clean their house, cook food, and be at home for their one night out a month? NOT ME. Plus it wouldn’t work for our group anyway because we all live in different places with varying driving distances between 30-45 minutes away. So having the ability to have the meetings in a consistent and centrally located space makes the most sense for us. But if it makes sense for your group to take turns hosting, do that. Just do whatever is going to work best for your group.
Side Note: everyone brings some kind of snack or food and the book picker brings the wine for the night.
Here are a few suggestions for places to meet for your book club:
- Tasting Room at a wine club
- Coffee Shop
- Library (usually can’t drink and might have to pay a fee if you’re going to have food)
- Your office
- Your house
3. Decide on a method of communication:
There are tons of ways to communicate these days’ social media, email, text messages, etc. For us, it works best to have a book club group text. The best part of using a group text is you get real-time answers. If I send a text asking if this day works for everyone, I get an answer almost right away if not within an hour. With social media, I might not get an answer for days. But whichever method you choose, remember this will be the way you communicate with all members, you will send reminders, send out after meeting notes (which book was picked for the next month, when the next book club is, etc.)
4. How many people can be in your book club
I always thought the more the merrier, but that isn’t the case for us. I’ve found 8 – 10 members is really the magic number. Too many members’ equals a lot of side conversations during book discussions, and too few members’ equals not enough conversations. After I asked my friends to join the book club we had about 4 members. It was fun and intimate, but little focus was actually on the books because if 1 or 2 people didn’t read the book then the other two were basically the only ones having a conversation… Boring.
I asked a few coworkers whom I really connected with. “Hey, I have this book club and we meet once a month at this winery. Would you be interested?” I was able to pick up another 3 members that way. Then I asked people who I knew through my husband or people I met in the community. For example, a woman who was new to my husband’s company and new to town or my son’s pediatrician who moved here not long ago from Colorado.
5. Know when to kick people out of your book club:
I feel weird writing this tip, but you will see, every group will have a flake. We had a huge flake that would show up to 20% of the meetings and of that 20% would only have read the book 5% of the time. She just brought the group down. Or they would place bets on whether or not she would show up. THIS DOESN’T MAKE A FUN BOOK CLUB.
So, I simply texted her privately and said something along the lines of: “You have been so busy and we’ve been missing you at book club. I don’t want you to feel pressured to come since your life is so busy. Is it ok if I remove you from the book club text?” To which she responded, “Actually that would be great, I have been so busy with ______________. I will let you know when things slow down and I can make it to the book club again.” I have actually had to ask this of 3 girls over the 4-year span of the book club. But no one has hurt feelings and we understand that life is busy. But it does bring the book club down if they are constantly missing it.
6. Know Who is Choosing the Books:
Honestly, this was the hardest part of the book club in the beginning. When we first started I literally had no idea what I was doing. Which means people would make a suggestion and we would vote on it. But it wasn’t always a majority rules kind of thing, causing some members to feel they were never able to recommend books and leaving people with hurt feelings.
The way we pick books now is simple. Each month a different person picks the book and the members either read it or they don’t. For example, let’s say that you started your book club in January; you would be the first book picker. Then you would create a list of the months that follow and who would choose a book for that month. Then once everyone has picked a book, you would recycle the list. Make sure if you’re adding new members you give them a month to pick a book too. To accomplish this I only go 6 months out (if we only have 6 members). Here is an example of our list:
- July – Echo
- August – Abby
- September – Leslie
- October – Lisa
- November – Jenna
- December – Jody
- January – Tara
- February – Holly
I am always leaving room for new members because I love people and I know there are a lot of people looking to make connections with other like-minded women–which can be hard. So when I like a person I have a tendency to ask if they want to join my book club. But remember when you do this, keep in mind the number of people you want to have in your book club (STEP 4)
7. Have Book Choosing Criteria:
When I started the book club, everyone was a broke young professional. Meaning none of us had any money to go out and purchase a book, especially if we weren’t sure it was going to be good. Therefore everyone agreed the only way a book could be chosen was it had to have enough copies to check out from the library.
In the beginning, we had a few people who only read the book copies, a few who read eBook copies, and a few who listened on audio. (I will tell you now, more than 75% of the book club listens to the books rather than actually reading it. We are almost all moms now and there is just no time in the day to sit down and read an actual book when you have a million other things to do. #momlife.) This means if you pick a book it needed to have at least 2 book copies available, 2 eBook copies, and 3 downloadable audio copies. Now since most people listen to the audiobooks the availability needs to be 5 downloadable audio copies, 2 book copies, and 2 eBook copies.
So have ground rules for choosing a book, availability is really our only rule. But you can set ground rules for:
- Reading level
- Topic/Subject Matter
- Price (if you choose to purchase the books)
- Publication Date
8. Always Have Backup Recommendations:
As the leader of the book club, there will come a time when someone cannot think of or find a book to recommend. Especially because all of us refuse to purchase the book and only read/listen to books that are available from the library. With such strict guidelines, people can get frustrated if the book they choose can’t be the book we read.
To help solve this problem I have a list of books saved in the notes section of my phone. There are over 50 books on this list. (I usually find book recommendations on the What Should I Read Next podcast, Pinterest, Goodreads.com and other book blogs.) When someone is having a hard time, I just ask what kind of book they are looking for (light-hearted, suspenseful, romantic, etc.) then give them a few options that meet all the criteria and let them choose.
9. It’s OK If Not Everyone Read the Book:
This one took me a little time to adjust to. Why are people a part of book club if they aren’t reading the books. The answer, they want to be part of something. But maybe they didn’t like the subject matter of the book. Or maybe they didn’t have any time to read to the book. There are tons of reasons why they might not have read the book. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean they don’t like the book club or don’t want to be a member, cut the girls some slack! Just take things in stride and maybe they will read the next book. But part of the reason for creating the book club is to get people together, so harping on the fact that one or two people didn’t read the book is just a waste of your time and ruins the whole thing. (However, keep an eye on how many books they don’t read. Because if its constant it can sometimes bring the other members down.)
10. Give Your Book Club Some Structure:
When I first started the book club the girls used to make fun of me for bringing a printed list of questions. But now it’s their favorite part (or maybe I am projecting and they just like the food and the talking about life part.) Having a list of questions specifically about the book really helps to give everyone a voice and makes sure everyone gets to share their opinion about the book. It also helps you dive deeper into the book, the story structure, the characters, etc. Plus another big thing to consider is people’s personalities. Some of your friends might be more introverted than others, causing them to not really participate in the conversation. Having a structure of asking specific questions helps everyone have a voice and an opinion about the book.
I hope these 10 Tips for starting a book club help you get your friends together to talk about something awesome, reading! If you already have a book club, did I miss anything? Are there any other tips you would add to this list? If you don’t have a book club, are you going to use these tips to get one started with your friends? Which tip did you find to be the most helpful? I love hearing from you so please feel free to leave me a comment!