When I first moved to the D.C. area a few years ago, one of the first things I did was look for community. I had gone to a very small, private liberal arts women’s college and missed the close sense of siblinghood I felt there. The local library seemed to focus on book clubs for seniors, so Meetup was my go-to. There were an abundance of options when it came to book club ideas—classic book clubs, book clubs that also talked about wine, feminist book clubs, mommy book clubs—so many more than I could have imagined. Ultimately, I joined a young adult speculative fiction book club that met Sundays for brunch once a month at a nearby diner. Not long after, I started a job that had me scheduled Sundays, and I had to bid the group adieu—but it left me thinking about what other kinds of themed book club ideas readers might enjoy.
Many of the ideas I’ve come up with probably already exist somewhere in the world. They may not be near you, however, and I hope at least one of these will perk up your interest and compel you to start a book club of your own. If you do, let us know—shoot us a tweet at @BookRiot and tell us how it went!
19 Unique and Totally Awesome Themed Book Club Ideas
Coming Soon to a Theater Near You
It may be a little obvious for the first on a list of book club ideas, but: Read books that are soon to be on the big screen with this theme. More and more books are adapted each year—particularly, it seems, young adult novels—and there are more than enough to keep your book club calendar full as the seasons turn. Enjoy popcorn and other common movie concessions at your regular meetings and then watch the movie together, either in the theater or on the small screen. Check out our adaptations archive for ideas on where to get started.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Celebrate holidays around the year with books that take place during the holiday of the moment or otherwise represent it. “Lesser” holidays may be a touch more difficult to find, but never fear—try using subject heading searches with your library’s catalog to find your group’s next read. Check out our list of five books to read on Labor Day to get started pronto.
Peter Pan Called; He Wants His Book Back
As a children’s librarian, it’s a little wild to me how many adults refuse to read children’s literature or think that it’s somehow less-than. Attitudes have shifted some (to be truthful, sometimes to the intended audience’s detriment) when it comes to adults reading books for younger people, but it’s still rare that I see an adult browsing what we call “juvenile fiction” (generally novels for school-aged children) or picture books. However, like many movies intended for kids, juvenile fiction and picture books often include winks and nods for adults to enjoy, too. Even when they don’t, children’s writers can still tell a hell of a story. Head over to our children’s archives for more than a few ideas for your first book.
You Better Work, B*tch
A few places I’ve worked have had regular meetings over leadership and professional development texts during the work day, but why not extend it to your weekends, too? (Because you’re not getting paid? Okay, I get it, not everyone loves their job as much as I do.) Whether you’re reading general nonfiction about professional success or checking out a memoir detailing a specific kind of job, you’re likely to learn a lot you can apply to your own career. Sharing with others not only helps to solidify the content, but you’ll also have the benefit of a new network to draw from when it’s time to start throwing your hat into the job searching ring. Find some books that will make your work-life better here.
Books on Books
There’s no dearth of books about books. Whether you’re looking for the history of them, how to read them like a *insert bookish professional here*, or crafts to make from them, the answers to all your bookish questions are out there in—what else?—books. Double up on your love of them with this themed book club and make it even more bookish by meeting in a library or bookstore and enjoying book-themed refreshments. Get started with one of these 100 must-read books about books.
Play It Again, Sam
Sometimes, it’s just not enough to reread your favorite story again and again. Sometimes, you want a little different perspective. Try a book club on retellings, where your old favorites do new tricks. Whether they’re gender bent, happen in a new setting, or tell the same story from a different character’s point of view, retellings can be a lot of fun to read and dissect with an added layer of an original piece to compare to. Check out our archives on retellings to figure out which your group should read first.
Memory, All Alone in the Moonlight
One of the things that comes up fairly frequently in public libraries is seniors interested in writing their life story as a memoir. And one of the best ways to learn how to write a memoir is to read plenty of them. Why not start now with a memoir book club? Find out what you have in common and what you never knew about memoirists famous and obscure. Find dozens of memoirs to get started with in our memoirs archive.
Let’s Get Cookin’
I’ve heard about a lot of success around cookbook book clubs. While I personally can’t read a cookbook cover-to-cover, there are certainly books of recipes that are also personal memoirs or contain other content that make it worth it. The fun of cookbook book clubs is not only do you learn lots of new recipes, but there’s also a great opportunity to try one out on your book club friends. Book club is now a potluck thanks to this fun theme, so, pass the salt? We have lots of suggestions for great cookbooks to kick off your delicious endeavor.
Around the World in 80 (or More) Books
Thanks to the internet and other modern means of communication and travel, the world and how we see it is becoming increasingly global. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that we immerse ourselves in each other’s cultures respectfully and sincerely. One of the best ways to do that is to go right to the source, so why not try a book club where the goal is to read books written by authors outside of your country? There are so many stories waiting to be discovered out there. Check out our global reading list here.
Alternatively, consider reading books set only in your area. You may not broaden your horizons as much this way (although you may discover you know less about where you live than you think!), but there’s a benefit of book club field trips with this idea. While not all settings are real (looking at you, Derry, Maine), authors will often name landmarks or other notable places to help get the reader situated and you can visit those with your club on a fun outing. Play tourist in your own area, stuff your face full of local delicacies, and maybe even buy a souvenir or two. If you live in the States, try this list of books around America to get started.
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other
What if—now, hear me out—we didn’t all read the same book for book club? What if we all just committed to reading a book—any book—prior to each meeting, and came together to talk about it with everyone? If there’s a surefire way for a book to get popular, it’s word of mouth, and this method is awfully efficient. Titles may appear more than once, providing ample opportunity to compare thoughts and you’ll probably never find yourself without something in your TBR again.
A Little Night Music
Inspired by all things auditory? Why not a music for another of our book club ideas? Read biographies, memoirs, fiction, instruction, or whatever strikes up the band in your heart and pair it with a good listen to the music at hand. Better yet, include this activity as part of your regular book club meeting: Each member composes a playlist to share with the group they think best represents the book. Upload it to a Google Doc or other shareable platform so everyone can find it. Music really does bring people together. Find 100 ideas for books about musicians here.
Speaking of all things auditory, sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to sit and read with your eyes. Or maybe you just prefer audiobooks over print. One of the exciting opportunities with an audiobook club is that the group gets to discuss not only the usual aspects of a book, but also the reader’s approach—were you surprised at where the reader emphasized words? Did her nearly imperceptible pause between sentences change the meaning of a passage for you? Is that how that’s pronounced? Did you prefer this reader over another of the same book? Possibilities are endless for audiobook club discussion, so hit play! Find our audiobook archive here.
Want to read the best of the best? How about giving a read to some award winners? Maybe you want to know what the latest and greatest is or want to revisit some old awardees (and perhaps ask, what were they thinking?), and this is the time to do it. It’s sort of like watching all of the Oscar winners, except longform. And there are any number of awards to choose from—children’s literature, adult literature, translated pieces, on and on. Do a broad selection or focus on one award—whatever suits your group is the right way, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Get a taste for a few of the many awards out there with our archives.
Most of us have that teetering stack of books or shelf packed to its absolute capacity around our living spaces. You’ll get to those books someday, you tell yourself, as you head to the library to pick up a hold of the latest bestseller. (And perhaps they were even remnants for past book club ideas.) Sure you will. Try this strategy to shave a few titles off your TBR: Each book club group member takes a turn selecting the next read. The only catch is, it has to be something they already own! Of course, others in the group might then go and purchase the book themselves, but, hey, at least they’re reading the books. (Commiserate on your TBR here.)
Play It Again, Sam, Part II
Retellings are great, yes—but what about rereading the original? Maybe you tried 1984 when it was assigned to you in high school in the five minutes before class started, but you’re older now (even if class only started ten minutes ago—eyes on the teacher, you rebel, you), and wiser. Maybe you just weren’t at the right place in your life when you first read Homegoing. Or, maybe you were, but a reread certainly wouldn’t hurt. It’s kind of incredible how many things we notice about a book, turning the pages a second time. Find a book most of you have read before, or that just one of you has, and revisit it—does it stand up to the test of time? Is it as you remembered?
Back to School
If you’re an adult with children, you might be biting your nails thinking about the reading list your kid has no doubt lost at the bottom of their backpack and not thought about since the bell last rang. (Or maybe you’ve got nothing to worry about, but—huh, they’ve been assigned Beloved!) Why not take a page out of your kid’s notebook and read summer reading and school year reading assignments with them? Whether they join you at book club or stay home to write that paper, that you’re sharing this could bring you closer together. Don’t have kids? Fear not! Ask around your social circles to see if anyone can share a syllabus or reading list with you. Still no dice? Check your local libraries, book stores, and department stores—they often have local reading lists available. (And may even have more book club ideas for you!)
No one said you had to read books at book club. Have you ever considered a fan fiction book club? If there was one thing that brought me and my college friends together, it was bonding over this or that Harry Potter fanfic—the best of the best, the worst of the worst, and everything in between. Find out what canon you and your friends all love and then climb aboard the Internet Express because you’re in for a wild ride (especially if you’ve never read fan fiction before). Fan fiction is pretty accessible—no worries about going to buy the book or get it from the library. Of course, few are available as audiobooks, and you may have to commit to a massive print job if ereading isn’t for you. Read one-shots (single-chapter stories), drabbles (flash fiction, mostly), or full-on epic reimaginings of your favorite characters and settings. And, who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to write some of your own. Find out more about fan fiction here.
Local Author Series
Authors aren’t typically the same level of celebrity as, say, Chadwick Boseman. They might even be wandering around your local grocery store, basket in hand, making their way through life just like you. Because they are just like you, mostly. They just happened to have written a book. If a quick google of “(your town) authors” doesn’t yield much, keep an eye out for local events (especially at your library) featuring these authors. Read their books, contribute to the local economy by doing so, and then next time you see your book club’s author wandering about the store, share a secret smile with yourself—or even let them know how much you all enjoyed their book, if they seem receptive to an interruption.
So, there they are: 19 themed book club ideas. Inspired? Tweet us at @BookRiot to tell us about your awesome book club achievements! Want to be in a book club, but maybe not start one? Find out how to find a book club.