How To

Starting Your Book Club: Tips for Success

Lewis Parsons

Staff Writer

Lewis Parsons spends his days as a librarian based in scenic coastal New England. He got his start by reading the Atlas (really). Terry Pratchett dragged him along the rough adolescent years, which he spent immersed in Discworld. Along the way he discovered science fiction by way of Mary Shelley, . He thinks Gilgamesh is the greatest story ever told. He writes about games libraries at @LewisP7641

A book club can be fantastic. Starting your book club can turn a solitary hobby into a social one. A good book club has a sense of camaraderie, while at the same time allows people to bring their own opinions and thoughts to the fore without a fear of being shut down. That being said, healthy debate is vital to the health of a book club.

I have been a part of, and run book clubs. Successful ones, ones that never got off the ground, and ones that went through peaks and valleys before crashing. And they were all great. Here are a few things I learned for when you’re starting your book club.

Book clubs need leadership

While someone should never dominate the book club (more on that later) someone needs to take charge. This can be as simple as picking a book, or it can be someone that organizes and keeps things moving in a discussion, and brings in the whole group including the new person or the person who might not be as comfortable talking. It is also important to keep your group together and communicate, gather an e-mail list and keep the discussion going online.

The people are the draw, not the book

Anyone can read the book your group is reading, but the reason they joined the book group is the people they’ll meet along the way. Always keep this in mind and prioritize the group dynamics over agonizing over making sure you pick the perfect book

Don’t let the book club be dominated

Not by you or by any one individual or clique in your book club. This happening can be a huge turn off for new arrivals, and can smother your group before it gets off the ground. How to avoid this? It’s easy to see if it is happening, asking pointed questions at other group members to get them engaged and letting them feel involved, taking charge yourself,, and maybe even a polite side chat with the offender. They often might not even realize they are doing it and are just enthusiastic!

have your book club Meet somewhere fun.

The destination can be a huge boost to your group. Rather than sitting in a circle uncomfortably, meet at a fun hip restaurant, pub, or a coffee shop. However, be careful and test it out yourself first, a loud rowdy environment might not work for most groups.

Have a twist for your book club.

Give your group an interesting theme, base it on the location you meet, a genre or maybe books that take place in your region.

Add a unique twist to make it yours. Have a movie night, have your group cook a dish from the book and share it in a potluck. Read a local book and invite the author. These type of changes can set your book club apart and redefine it. Some people may have an image of a book club being staid, boring and old-fashioned.

Have fun!

Much like a dreaded assigned piece of reading. What was an enjoyable hobby can start to take on the feel of a high school class. If you feel this feeling creeping in, take a short break from the group and strike out and read outside of the group’s focus.

Want even more inspiration for starting your book club? Find all of our resources here, or check out book club discussion question ideas