If you’ve been reading this awesome blog for a while, then you’ve read many references made to “Dan”, Mariel’s husband. Well, I’m his slightly older (and much less hairy) sister, Rebecca, here to share my best tips for starting a book club that’s fun and successful.
I live across the country from my brother, sister-in-law, and the rest of my fabulous family, with my husband and our two sweet little girls. When we first moved away, I was determined to find some great friends who could help fill the void of having no family close by. I quickly realized that the girls at church who I targeted as “potential” friends all belonged to a book club. I’d never been in a book club, but I was intrigued. I love reading, I love learning and I wanted to make friends … so I got myself invited to the club. That was more than six years ago, and I’m proud to say I’ve been a part of a book club ever since. I currently facilitate a book club that is going on its third anniversary. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way that may come in handy if you’re contemplating starting or joining a book club.
10 Tips for Starting a Book Club in 2022
1. Rotate locations
I’ve found that having the members of a book club rotate hosting works best. This gives you a chance to really get to know people in their own home, and people feel more invested when they’re asked to host on occasion. The book clubs I’ve enjoyed the most aren’t just about the books. I love growing closer as a group, learning from each other, and getting a little break from daily life. Changing book club locations is a great way to help that happen and to keep things fun and new!
2. Have the host chose the book
This takes the pressure off of you having to choose all the books. Plus, it provides a lot of variety. The ages of the women in our book club range from early 30s to mid-80s, so the books we’ve read and the discussion we’ve had have been very diverse. If anyone needs some book club book ideas, have them check out this list… favorite assigned books from ACTUAL book club members!
3. Set standards
All members of the book club need to discuss what “material” is acceptable for a book to contain. I give more leeway to a biography that contains language that is true to the story than I would to a novel that carelessly throws in profanity without any purpose for it. It’s also a good idea to read or skim through the book before suggesting it, but that isn’t a requirement. Even reading lots of reviews on the book helps! Readers will often give you insight on any potentially offensive material, which will help you in deciding what to choose.
4. Encourage variety
Many book clubs have a theme, but I’ve found that leaving it open provides a lot of variety and helps push me out of my reading comfort zone. We’ve read everything from Jane Austen to C.S. Lewis to Glenn Beck – and everything in between. There are so many places online to look for book ideas that I won’t even try to list them here (but of course, check out the link shared in tip #2.) I’d also suggest asking your local library for reading lists, asking friends for suggestions or just keep a running list of books as you read about them in magazines, see them at the book store, etc. Here are some of my personal favorite book club picks from my years in the club.
5. Choose free or inexpensive books
I didn’t ever want someone to be precluded from joining our book club because they couldn’t afford to, or didn’t want to, buy a book each month. Before choosing a book, I ask the host to check local libraries to see how many copies are available. Or, we try to find books that can be purchased used on Amazon or other used book web sites for a few dollars. Another great resource for basically free books is BookMooch and Paperback Swap. Oftentimes, Kindle books are cheaper, which may be helpful for those with a tablet. Books on Amazon will have a Kindle option on the listing, if it’s available.
6. Be consistent with the date
We’ve chosen the second Thursday of every month for our book club. Consistency is key. We may not always know the exact date, but you know you can plan on book club each month at the same time. In three years, we’ve only ever missed two months – once in December (Christmas) and once in August (summer vacations).
7. Serve themed refreshments
This is a fun tradition that has made our book clubs really enjoyable and unique. The host tries to serve refreshments that are either mentioned in the book or are somehow connected to the theme of the book. We’ve had tea parties after reading “Pride and Prejudice” and devils food cake after reading “The Screwtape Letters.” Some books are easier and more obvious than others, but it’s always fun to see how the host gets creative.
If you can find a way to work in any of these favorite book club refreshments, the night will be a guaranteed hit: Avocado Feta Salsa with Homemade Parmesan Pita Chips (way easier than it sounds!), Chocolate Cherry Fruit Dip (serve with sliced green apples), Fried Avocado with Salsa Ranch (these will disappear SUPER fast, so have something else to serve too!!)
8. Have discussion questions ready
Many books will include discussion points at the end, and there are many web sites with questions you can print off and bring with you to book club. Our discussions inevitably branch off onto non-related topics, which is all part of the fun. However, there’s often a lull in the conversation, and having questions in mind helps get the topic back onto the book. Don’t be too strict though. After all, you’re there to socialize and get to know each other.
9. Distribute a six-month schedule
I’ve found that scheduling out six months in advance works really well. I have people pick which month they want to host, and then I follow up a couple of weeks later to get their book selection. This gives people plenty of time to obtain copies of upcoming books and to pass them around within the club. It also means I only have to do a schedule a couple of times a year. I do send out an email reminder about a week before each book club, and I include the schedule for upcoming books.
10. Keep a record of books read
This was a great tip from a friend who’d been in a book club for ten years and had a document listing all the books they’d read that could be sorted by title, author or date. I started a similar document three years ago, and it’s so fun to look back at what we’ve read. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, and hopefully learned a lot in the process. It’s also helpful for new people joining the club so they don’t choose a duplicate or similar book.
I hope these tips inspire you to start and/or join a book club soon! Happy reading!
Like this post on starting a book club that people love? Check out:
- 15 Books That Men Love – Suggested by the Men in My Life!
- 30 Books to Read Out Loud to Older Kids
- Children’s Books Your Kids Need On Their Bookshelves
Great ideas Rebecca! This way I won’t feel guilty if I do read a book! Great post!
That really does sound fun. I think we could all use a mental escape from motherhood!
Thanks, Becc! Can’t wait to read more of your upcoming posts…hint-hint.
Janelle Beenfield says
Thank you for this post. I have always had an interest in starting one and this is a great way to help me get started. I am calling my friends right now!!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have wanted to start a book club but didn’t know where to start. This is a great help!
I’m part of a book club at church and we try different genres every months, sometimes it’s hard to find a book that’s appropriate because we’re not sure of the content…do you know of any sites that have reviews of books that are church appropriate for book clubs? It’s always hard to find a YA appropriate book, that’s our genre for next month and we’re meeting tonight to discuss.
Kelli Bullock says
Hunger Games, Leviathan, and Uglies are the ones i could cime up with off the top of my head.
Try commonsensemedia.org this is a great site to find age appropriate stuff of all kinds.
Christa – There is one really awesome web site called http://www.focusonthefamily.com that has a section under the “Parenting” button that has book reviews that cover content, themes and worldview of fiction books, but not their literary merit. They even list any Christian themes mentioned in the book and any language that is used. They don’t pass any judgements on the books; they just provide the facts. Their list is currently limited to “books for teens and tweens,” but several classics and other more adult books are included in the listing. I hope that helps!
The Wangsgard's says
Great post Becc! Love your picture of you and your girls!
Wow, your suggestions were spot on! I am in a book club that has been meeting for over 5 years and you said everything I would have said! It did take us a couple years to figure out that a record of what we had read and who hosted was neccessary. Another thing we had an issue with is inviting new people – gain the approval of all members before bringing someone new. You never know who has a history with who (or how bad, yikes!)
Jocelyn Christensen says
Hey Rebecca!! Good to see you on here, what a surprise!
Angie Jensen says
I have wanted to start a book club for awhile but needed ideas, this was very helpful. Thank you.
You bet! Thanks for stopping by, Angie!
Hi Rebecca & Mariel!
I started my second book club after moving out of state away from the first one I started. We are coming up on our one year anniversary and I found this post when searching for some ideas on how to revamp some things. I loved reading your suggestions and agreed with most, but find that every group is different. Different things will work best depending on the group.
For instance, a specific date and/or six month schedule would never work for us. I’m glad it works for you though! I’m going to suggest doing more themed meetings, so thank you for that tip. Sometimes it’s hard to rally this group of women and I think themed food and drinks would make things way more fun.
I mostly just wanted to comment and add that Goodreads has been a wonderful source for me and my book clubs. Not everyone uses it, but those that do have really enjoyed making their to-read lists and always having suggestions to bring to the group. They also have good summaries and reviews and I forever find myself browsing to find new books to read.
That’s a great tip to use Goodreads. Thanks for your input!
Peggy Hardesty says
These tips are great and I’d like to give you two more: I told everyone in my book club right from the start “Come to book club even if you haven’t read the book. Don’t tell me you can’t come because you have a headache or are tired”. Also, there should be a promise of confidentiality. Book clubs can get off on all sorts of tangents and it’s easy to get pretty personal. . . .
Those are great tips! Thanks for adding them, Peggy!