How to start a book club

Summer’s here! What better time to lounge around with your nose in a book? And what better time to get together with friends to discuss your favorites?

Why not start a book club? You can do it, even in the midst of a pandemic. You may need to get creative with a meeting space until it’s safe to gather in person, but it’ll be worth the effort.

I love to read and talk about books so much that I’m a member of three book clubs. Since March, we’ve met via Zoom and in members’ back yards, safely six feet apart.

It’s easy to start and manage a book club. Check out these tips I’ve bundled together from my involvement in these very different clubs, which range in size, members’ ages, and reading choices:

Launching the club:

  • Invite your friends to join. I recommend keeping the number at 12 members or fewer. When there are more people, participants tend to break into smaller groups and chat during the discussion.
  • Name your club. Many clubs are identified with their location, such as my neighborhood club, North Forke. Others have cute names, like Bookworms, Book Sitters, and Page Turners.
  • Agree on a meeting time. Club meetings can be held days or evenings. Whatever works for all.
  • Track down the perfect place to gather. It might be in someone’s home, in a clubhouse, or in a church Sunday School room. North Forke meets in a different home each month. This works great because we have 12 members, one for each month of the year.
  • Decide how often you want to meet. Most clubs gather monthly. Four weeks between meetings gives members plenty of time to read the book.
  • Determine if refreshments will be served. North Forke is structured so that the member who hosts the meeting in her home also provides refreshments. Most members provide something sweet, something salty, and fruit. The last time I hosted, I made homemade ice cream, and offered bowls of peanuts and strawberries.
  • Agree on the best way to select the books to read. The hosting member of North Forke chooses the book. The next meeting’s host announces the book selection a month in advance. Members of my other two book clubs agree on the selections together each month—majority rules.
  • Work out who will lead the meetings. In one of my book clubs, the same person leads each of the meetings. We take turns in my other two clubs.

Running the club:

  • One member needs to serve as the club’s communicator. It’s a good idea to send out a reminder, either by email or text, a week before the meeting. The message should remind members of the date, time, and location of the next meeting, which book will be discussed, and who’s in charge of refreshments, After the meeting, the communicator should send out a message with a little synopsis of the meeting, thanking the host, and reminding members of the next meeting.
  • When selecting books, ensure there’s a good supply at the library because some members won’t want to buy a new book each month. Note that many libraries have pre-packaged book club kits that contain 10 books and a list of questions.
  • You can use the library’s questions, make up your own, or Google Book Club Discussion Questions for your book selection. There are also websites that post general questions for a starting point, such as “How did you like the ending?”
  • Feel comfortable speaking up if something’s not working in your club. Is someone monopolizing the conversation? Has someone selected an inappropriate book? Know these disagreements will happen. It’s best to address them sooner rather than later to avoid hurt feelings or the continuance of an uncomfortable situation.

I wish you the very best in starting a new club. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below.

And, if you’re already a member of a book club, do you have any recommendations for launching and running a successful club?