Six Tips for Starting a Book Club

books-1478715-1280x960It was really quite easy. I was working on my master’s thesis, on Moby-Dick, and thought, “If I’m going to be in this book for the next year, I’m taking my friends along with me!” I put the call out, and had a few friends who were interested. I was going to have us do it as a quick-crash summertime bookclub, four weeks through Moby-Dick, but that proved too much. My friends wanted to drag it out. And they were cool with dragging it out. Nine months later, and three of them made it to the finish line, to the end of the novel, and are much better people for it, of course!

Why not continue it? We thoroughly enjoyed our time together, meeting at a local brewery, pulling our books out upon the table, conversing for hours. The only request was that it turn into a “real” book club (i.e., not Moby-Dick), and so we decided on the book-a-month model. We set up some rules, invited some other folks, and the Brewpub Book Club was born! So far we’re on our eighth book, and show no signs of slowing down.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  • Have someone take the lead. When we were reading Moby-Dick, I was leading the “book club” like an undergrad class. Our book club now is much more democratic, but I still take the lead on sending out emails, setting the times, etc. (And we’re a lot less scholarly and more casual.)
  • Set up some rules. Some rules include: We meet the last Thursday of the month. We won’t roll over one month’s book into the next – no extra chances if it’s not read. Please come even if you haven’t read the book, but you may be left behind in the conversation.
  • Give everyone a chance. One of the things we’ve done is go around and give everyone a chance to pick a book, based on seniority – basically how long he or she has been coming. It makes it personal, it gives some buy-in, and it allows us to get a glimpse into our friends’ favorite books.
  • Have some writers in the midst. A few people in our book club are writers, which adds a lot of different points of view to the discussion.
  • Be serious. We don’t get together and drink wine and never crack the book. I’m a writer, a reader, an English major, as so are most of my friends. We come with our A-game, which makes it a better experience for all.
  • Tie in some local events and creative outings. We’ve had the chance to go to some readings from the writers we’ve read. We’ve also done theme dinners that relate to the book we’re reading. We also took a walking tour of one of our books, too. Keep it creative!

I realized I’ve missed the chance to blog about some of the great conversations we’ve had about our novels. I may do so retroactively, but here’s what we’ve read so far:

  • Everything Matters!, by Ron Currie, Jr.
  • Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  • My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok
  • For September: Rhinoceros, by Eugene Ionesco

Do you have a book club? What tips do you have?


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