Our Reading Lives

Throwing a One-Time Book Club

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Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

Are you in a book club? I have a love/hate relationship with them. As a former English major, I’ve yearned for the opportunity to discuss books critically ever since leaving school. As a result, I joined probably five or six book clubs in the last eight years. And some of the book clubs were great! In fact, many were! I met so many of my friends through them and read some of my favorite books. But there was one thing that consistently bugged my type-A, Ravenclaw personality. So many people wouldn’t read the book.

book club discussion questions

I get it. Not everyone reads as much as I do. And people have busy lives. But in most of my book club meetings, regardless of whether I was living in Tennessee or NYC, someone wouldn’t have read the book. More than once, I was the only person who read the book or at least the only one who finished. And I loved the snacks and the drinking wine and monthly catch up sessions.

But I also always really wanted to talk about the book. We’d always try, but sometimes we wouldn’t want to leave someone out or spoil the book for people who hadn’t read it. And I’d leave still itching for my literary discussion fix.

My solution is the one-time book club.

For about a year, I pondered the idea before deciding to test one out. Last spring, I picked out a book and emailed a curated group of friends inviting them to read the book and come to a brunch book discussion. I gave them two and half months of notice. And I made one unbreakable rule: don’t come if you haven’t read the book.

I used A Wrinkle in Time for my test case, because it’s a personal favorite and I thought people would be hyped on it because of the movie. And guys, here’s my not-so-humble brag: this one-time book club was everything I wanted and more.

Twelve friends came, and they all read the book. All. Of. Them.

We ate brunch. We drank bloody marys. And we caught up on our lives/jobs/dating misadventures. But we talked about the book for most of the time. I had a list of questions to guide the discussion, but we barely needed them. One of my friend’s husband read the book even though as my friend said, “He never reads anything I tell him.”

So after eight years of looking, I’ve found my ideal book club mode—the one-time book club. And I’m definitely going to try another book club brunch this fall. If you have any suggestions for what book I should choose, leave them in the comments!