Tip Tuesday-ish — Starting a BookClub

So it’s Wednesday!  What could be more fun than doing tips since I didn’t get to them yesterday?  Scuba Diving maybe or laying completely alone in a flowered valley at the top of a lonely mountain while birds fly overhead and I am never ever woken up by a three-year-old asking me not to smell bad.  By the way, she needs to get her nose examined as badly as Magoo needs a new tuning knob.  I smell sweet as a peach.

And I belong to a book club. 

Tess has asked for a Tip Tuesday where we discuss the ins and outs of setting up a successful book club.   Here are a few things to focus on:

1.  Who?  Who are you gonna invite?  If you are drowning in friends, are you going to limit membership to make the group more manageable?  If you’re new to the area (notice I did not say you have no literate friends), how will you find like-minded readers to join you? Do you even want like-minded readers?

The group that I helped set up 2 years ago had an open enrollment.  I emailed everyone I knew who I thought might be interested and told them to pass the word along.  It was sort of a shotgun blast approach because it was more important to me that everyone felt included than to invite only my bestest friends.  We ended up with a really nice variety of members and I got to know people with opinions vastly different from my own, something that I think makes a great book club. 

You might want to consider handing out a flyer at your local moms group, church or bookstore.

2.  What?  What do you want your book club to be?  Is it a social club with books on the side?  A dinner group, where the book may or may not be mentioned?  A 500-level graduate class in English literature where you must own a complete print copy of the OED to attend?  Set clear expectations early on for what the book club will be.

Ours was about the book.  We got together for 2 hours, eating and socializing for the first half hour and then once book discussion began, we got down to business.  It was an escape from mommy life and a chance to stretch our brains.  Personal anecdotes were shared only in relation to what we were reading.  We decided to save the poop stories for play group.

3.  Where?  Do you have a church or school room where you can meet or do you prefer a more homey atmosphere?  Should one person always host to maintain a sense of consistency or do you want to rotate houses?

We rotated on a volunteer basis.  The person hosting was not necessarily the discussion leader.

4.  When? How often?  Do you meet weekly?  Monthly?  Bi-monthly?  Annually?  Everyday on the internet?  When is enough?  How busy are you?

We started out meeting every other month but went to a one-book-per-month format.  We felt that most people were cram-reading the book during the last few days before the meeting anyway so we might as well have twice as many opportunities for people with scheduling conflicts.  It worked nicely to pick a standard night so we always knew when it would be. 2nd Thursday of every month.  Be there or be square.

5.  How?  Set up clear guidelines for the group so you know what to expect and someone doesn’t unknowingly violate some unspoken law, upsetting the tender feelings of Bertha the book club Nazi who thinks she knows exactly how things should go.

Our group chose the books together.  At the beginning of the year, everyone would offer a couple of suggestions.  We’d anonymously vote on them and assign them to a particular month.  If your book was chosen, you were the discussion leader for that meeting.

We set up rules for how long the meeting would be, what type of books we wanted to read, what type of discussion we should have, how stringent we’d be on membership requirements.  Basically we weren’t stringent.  Our main rules were that every opinion needed to be heard with respect and that anyone could come whether they’d read or not, as long as the discussion stayed on the book.

Food was always low-key and potluck.  The person whose home we met in would provide drinks, dishes and utensils.

What has worked for you in your book clubs?Š

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