Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer
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20+ of Your Best Tips for Making Book Clubs Better

S. Zainab Williams

Executive Director, Content

S. Zainab would like to think she bleeds ink but the very idea makes her feel faint. She writes fantasy and horror, and is currently clutching a manuscript while groping in the dark. Find her on Twitter: @szainabwilliams.

This Riot Recommendation is sponsored by Grand Central Publishing.

Grand Central Publishing presents the Instant Book Club Sweepstakes!

Enter for a chance to win 10 copies of an Instant Book Club Sweepstakes title for your book club. Seven lucky winners (one winner per title) will receive 10 copies of a pre-selected title to share with their book club. And download the free discussion questions for happy reading.

No purchase necessary. Ends May 30th at 11:59pm EST. Official Rules apply.

From the books you choose and the people you invite, to the snacks and wine you serve, sussing out what makes a book club run like a well-oiled machine can be a tricky business.

We asked you to share your best tips for making book clubs better, and you responded. Here are more than 20 of your tips!

  • Meet at a different restaurant each month
  • Choose your books seasonally
  • Switch it up between fiction and non-fiction
  • Appoint the person who chooses each book the discussion leader
  • Rather than ask if the readers liked the book,  ask if they are glad they read it
  • Book groups for adults: don’t forget the wine
  • Consider backlist books
  • Encourage people to come even if they haven’t finished or read the book (but maybe warn them if you’re going to discuss spoilers)
  • Make sure everybody’s book selection gets a turn by throwing titles in a jar and drawing them out when it’s time to choose again
  • Go beyond asking whether you like a book or not
  • Prepare questions beforehand to get the discussion going
  • Consider diversifying your book selections using the Read Harder Challenge
  • Mix it up! Invite people who want to come for the party and people who are all about the book discussion
  • Take some time to talk, laugh, and eat to give late arrivals buffer time
  • If the book discussion is going really well, give the event another half hour (and have dessert while you’re at it)
  • Develop traditions. Here’s a good one: “I print out quotes from the book on slips of paper. Everyone selects one and wraps it around her glass to use as her wine marker. At the end of the discussion we go around and read our quote and say a little something about it. I have been guilty of taking two quotes a few times!”
  • Start the meeting with thumbs up and thumbs down (also acceptable: “thumbs at 1 o’clock, 3 o’clock and variations between also known as meh thumbs.”)
  • Try hosting a themed book club to draw crowds that are interested in the same things
  • Take turns hosting, so no one person bears the burden of getting ready for guests
  • Have a potluck so one person also doesn’t bear the burden of providing all the food
  • Choose a writer whose work is not so popular

    And these excellent tips came in from a radio book group, broadcasting as part of a radio reading service for people who are blind or vision impaired:

    “We started our group because we realized that if you are blind, it is not easy to go out to a book group at night, so we decided to bring the book group into our listeners’ homes. Our listeners know which books to borrow from the Talking Book Library ahead of time, and we make sure all our choices have been recorded by the Library of Congress. We have 5-7 volunteers in the studio discussing the book and listeners can call in and join in the discussion with us; we broadcast once a month. We have to make sure we have no “dead air” and unfortunately we cannot have wine or food because we have to stay very focused! We make sure we have plenty of notes, quotes, questions etc. We have no format, and make our one hour program just like a book group you could find anywhere. We make our choices as eclectic as possible because of our diverse audience and we love it when our book is one of our listener’s choices. It’s great fun and our listeners love it!”