How To

How to Start a Book Club That Doesn’t Suck

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Rebecca Renner

Staff Writer

Rebecca Renner is a writer and editor out of South Florida. Her essays have been featured in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Glamour. A seventh-generation Floridian, Rebecca's main area of study has been the ecology, culture, and downright weirdness of her home. When not reading, hiking, blogging, traveling, exploring, or playing with her dog Daisy Buchanan (and never sleeping!), Rebecca binge watches TV shows like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and plots world domination via Twitter. Twitter: @RebeccaRennerFL Blog:

Looking for a fun way to enjoy books and meet new people? Start a book club! But there is more to starting a book club than you might think. To help you make sure your book club is on point, here is a short guide about how to start a book club to help you make yours perfect.

How to Start a Book Club That Doesn't Suck | | Book Club | Reading Life | Book Clubs | Books | Reading | #Books #Bookworm #Reading #Bookclub

1. Figure Out Who You’re Inviting To Your Book Club

The first thing you should do is figure out who will come to your book club.

This will be the most important choice you make, because it will affect everything else about the book club, from where and when you can meet to which book you read.

There are many kinds of book clubs, and the people who come will depend on the kind you choose. You can invite as many as you want, or you can host a simple two-person book club.

2. Define The Purpose Of Your Book Club

Do you want to learn something new? Do you want to bond with coworkers? Maybe you want to catch up with friends, meet new people, or even a mix of these.

This should include deciding on the tone and theme of your club. Find some of our favorite book club themes here. Feeling fresh? Find a pun-tastic book club name.

3. Decide If You’re Meeting Online Or In Person

If you want to learn something new or meet new people, consider starting a group on Facebook, Goodreads, or your preferred social media platform. Opening up the group to people in your community will bring in new faces. You can also create a group on Meet Up or put up fliers at local coffee shops and libraries. If you’re inviting people you know, text messages or even cute handmade invitations will work, too.

Then, think about who your guests are and where they might be most comfortable. If your group is there to meet new people, consider a public common area like a park, recreation center, or library.

More intimate gatherings can take place anywhere from a wine room to a local coffee shop. For groups of friends catching up, it might be fun to meet at a friend’s house. You could treat it like a bookish dinner party or pot luck. There are so many options.

Next, how will you communicate if you don’t meet online? If you already have a Facebook group, that makes things easy. Other options for communication include email lists and texting. Find even more suggestions for book club apps here. Some people also love a blended book club, with meetings online one month and in-person the next.

piles of antique books

4. Figure Out When Your Book Club Will Take Place

Sometimes fitting a book club into friends’ schedules can feel like musical chairs. It seems like every date works except for one person. The easiest way to get around this is to plan in advance and keep to a schedule.

Choosing one day every month would work best. This gives everyone time to get the book and read it. If your guests have busier schedules, think about meeting every other month. When scheduling, remember to allow enough time for most people to read the book you chose. In other words, don’t expect your guests to finish War and Peace by next Tuesday.

5. Create A Process To Nominate Books To Read

If you’ve been thinking about starting a book club, you probably already have a book in mind. (Or twenty.)

But here’s a caveat: There is nothing worse than a book club dictator: you know, the kind of person who doesn’t take suggestions, who rules their book club with an iron fist. Don’t be that person. Figure out a way to make choices democratic.

What do you need to keep in mind for a book club pick? A few factors to consider when picking a book for your book club include:

  • Topic
  • Length
  • Reading level
  • Price
  • Publication date
  • Availability on different readers (eBooks and audio options)

Look back to who is attending. If a book choice might cause fights or make certain guests embarrassed, consider a different choice.

Don’t forget about restrictions publication date might put on your book club. If you choose a new release, the book might have a long waiting list at the library. This might put the other members of your book club who can’t afford a new hardback book in a tight spot. Be considerate and look up all checkout and purchase options before you settle on a book pick.

What if someone disagrees with the selection?

When you’re learning how to start a book club, you’ll find out fast that disagreements about books can get heated. Trust me, I know.

But as a leader of your book club, you need to take things in stride. For those who disagree, offer another option. If the purpose of your book club is to get people together, there’s no reason you all need to be reading the same book. Two mini book clubs meeting at the same time might make people happy.

6. Give Your Book Club Discussions Some Structure

How can you give everyone in your book club a voice? Be considerate of the reading preferences of others, and give everyone a chance to put their book choice in the ring.

It’s tempting to get everyone together and talk about it, but odds are some of your book club guests will be more introverted than others. Give everyone a chance to be heard by using an alternative method of voting. One of the best ways to do this is to use technology.

With websites like Survey Monkey, you can easily make a quick poll, and your book club guests can vote anonymously.

Wondering what questions to ask? Check out our book club discussion questions post that has 40 of them.

7. Find A Trusted Site For Book Club Reviews

Not sure what to read? You’re on Book Riot, silly. We have all the suggestions. Start here.

Some of my personal book club suggestions are The Mothers by Brit Bennet, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, and H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

two people talk in a coffee shop


8. Think About How You Will Conduct Your Book Club

Finally, once you’ve figured out how to start a book club when it comes to the nitty gritty stuff (when and who and what you’re reading), it’s time to think about it on a bigger level. Why are you hosting it and how?

Some book clubs are more social than academic. Make it clear to your guests which kind you’ve planned. There is nothing worse than showing up to a book club having not read the book, except maybe showing up and being the only one who finished it.

For more book-centric book clubs, plan out how you will discuss the book. Many books have book club questions in the back. You can rely on those or formulate your own. If you want to discuss the book and then do something else, make sure you have your other activities planned. Trivia, games, and prizes are all a fun way to spice up your shindig. Be sure to check out the author’s website. They may have merch you can use as party favors or other ideas of activities that tie in to their book.

Speaking of authors: did you know that many of them are willing to chat with book clubs? Even outside major cities, authors use Skype and Google Chat to answer questions and engage with their readers. All of this info will be posted on their website.

two people stand in a library behind a book entitled happy

Other Considerations For How To Start A Book Club

After reading this article, you’re probably thinking: what else could there possibly be? Well, think back to your guests. Even if you’re just meeting them for the first time, it’s more than likely some of them will have special needs that should be accounted for. Heading those off will be easy.

Ask yourself these small questions to make sure you’ve created the best book club possible:

  • Is the location you’ve chosen accessible? Make sure your chosen location has wheelchair ramps and room inside for everyone to move around comfortably.
  • Is your location loud? A bar with live music might not be the best place for conversation with your hearing impaired guests.
  • Is there food everyone can eat? You might love pizza, but your lactose intolerant friend may not feel the same. Asking everyone to bring a dish or meeting somewhere with a variety of options would help take care of all of your guests.
  • If your book club starts to fizzle out, use the recommendations here to reboot it up again.

Remember that you’re there to talk about something very personal: reading. You want all of your guests to feel welcome and to be comfortable sharing.

What other tips do you have for how to start a book club? Want more? Find all of our book group resources here. 

Photo credits in order of appearance: Jan Mellström on UnsplashChristin Hume on UnsplashJosh Felise on Unsplash