5 Tips for a Successful Book Club (The Best of Book Riot)

Much of the good ship Book Riot is off at Book Expo America this week, so we’re running some of our best stuff from the first half of 2013. We’ll be back with reports from BEA next week and our usual array of new book-nerdery.

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Let’s face it, book clubs are fantastic in theory, but they’re really hard to pull off successfully in real life. However, whether you’re an avid reader or not, it’s a fun excuse to share ideas (and some wine) with a few friends. Many of us have been in book clubs that have crumbled quickly, or felt a bit more like school than a social activity (see my 10 ways to kill your book club for more on that). But what if book club was actually fun instead of stressful? What if the books were actually interesting instead of just impressive? Here are a few tips to creating a successful book club.

1. Choose a demographic. If you are planning to read only chick lit, don’t try to make it a couples book club. This goes for you too, guys… not willing to read anything fiction or that doesn’t have a war, sports event, or serial killer in it? Don’t join the co-ed group that might want to mix it up. However, obsessed with war? Can’t get enough Young Adult? Then find others who adore the same genres and go from there!

2. Try to pick books that are under 400 pages. Somewhere around 300 pages seems to work best, long enough to be meaningful, short enough that people can finish. Honestly, most book clubs are more social than literary, but that’s part of the fun! The book is just a great excuse to get together. So, save your Tolstoy for your own reading challenge and choose books that have quick, engaging plots. It will always be more fun to get together with a group that has actually read the book rather than two people who have and five people who didn’t get past chapter three.

3. Be realistic with your schedule. Every month is a lot even for avid readers. Most people have a list of books that they would like to read, so if you are having book club every month it means they are having to put those books on the back burner (or are reading those books instead of the book club selection). Aim for every other month for a good balance (or even once a quarter if you’re ok with a bigger gap). It’s also important to keep to a time schedule. Two hours is a good amount of time to plan for. The first 45 minutes or so can be for #s 4 and 5 (below) and then the next hour and fifteen for the book. If you’re leading, keep people on track so that the night doesn’t drag on.

4. Incorporate food. Feed people. Make a sign up sheet and rotate who is bringing what. Trying to get home for dinner after work and then speed over to book club makes for some late people, puts off the discussion, and has everyone leaving later than they had planned (and less likely to want to come back).

5. Allow for some hang out time. It’s pretty hard to jump right into the discussion of a book the moment everyone arrives – it makes for a school-like atmosphere.. Allow time for people to decompress from their day and catch up with each other. This is the perfect time to eat (#4). Afterwards you can move away from the table and offer drinks to signal the time to start chatting about the book. If you are leading the night, refer to #3 – best to have people leave wanting more time than leave after having spent the last half hour devising a plan to get out of the next book club.

Are you in a stellar book club? What are your top tips to making one last?

(Also, here are contributor Kit Steinkellner’s tips for book clubs.)

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