So, You Want to Start a Book Club

There is a lot to think about when starting your own book club. We're here to help you think it out and get your books in a row.

What kind of book club are you looking to start? Silly as it may seem, you will want to let your participants know the expectations going in. Do you only want to discuss books or is it more of a social gathering involving books? Are you open to expanding the discussion to events at large, or do you want to focus on the specific topics and themes from the book at hand? If you have something specific in mind for your book group, it is best to share that up front before your first meeting so that people understand and can know if they want to join or not. Maybe give your group a name to share the general feel up front.

What is this book club going to read? Is it a themed book group, where you only read historical fiction or biographies or are you up to read anything? Are you going to follow a celebrity book club, like Oprah or Reese Witherspoon? Who gets to pick the books? Is it a social justice themed book group or a LOLs only book club? This is something you may want to discuss with the group before choosing your first book, again so everyone is on the same page and no one is disappointed or disgruntled. There are many options for book clubs, so you need to know what you are trying to accomplish with yours. As for choosing the books, you can just choose, but that doesn’t always create cohesion in the group. Alternatively, you can have an order that everyone chooses in or a random draw from nominated titles. You may want to make sure there are discussion questions available for the books you’re considering. (The library can help with that!) You also want to pay attention to how members can access the books chosen. Are they available at the library or do people want to mark up their paperback copies as they read? Do people prefer physical books or are ebooks an option? The library has several options to make sure that your book picks are available.

Next, who do you want in your book group? Is it going to be an excuse to spend more time with your friends or do you want to invite coworkers so you can get to know them better? Are other members welcome to invite people too so that you are pulling in acquaintances and friends-of-friends? Do you want to meet new people all together? Or maybe you want a parent-child book club. The purpose of your group will dictate whom you invite to your group. If you are more interested in a social time with food and drink where you just happen to have books, you should focus on inviting your friends. If you want to learn something or expand your friend group, then you might invite coworkers or have friends invite others. If it is important to you that everyone finish the book before coming to discuss it, that is something else you want to share in advance and can influence who is invited to the group.

The last important thing to think about when starting a book club is where you want to meet and how often. Are you considering meeting at your house and if so, is that always where you’re going to meet? How about in a café or restaurant? If you don’t know everyone in your group, you can always meet online using Zoom or Facebook, etc. If you are thinking of having food and drink at your meeting, make sure you consider people’s dietary restrictions and allergies. A lot of book groups meet monthly or bimonthly, but it’s really up to you how often you meet. Look at your schedule and ask your members how often they can handle meeting. If you’re choosing longer, weightier books, you may want more time between meetings to finish them. If you are choosing lighter novels and it doesn’t matter to you if people have finished the book, you could meet more frequently.

If these are all questions you hadn’t considered, and it seems a bit overwhelming, you may want to try joining someone else’s book club before starting your own. The library offers a few you can try out or look online to see what’s in your area. This will help you get a feel for the order of a meeting, if you want a theme, and how much social time you want to incorporate.