How to Start a Realistic Book Club

Over a glass (or three) of wine last weekend, a few of my friends and I decided that it would be a great idea to form a book club. Since this small gathering was at my house, and I was doing much of the wine pouring, it was generally decided that I would be the one to form the club.

What to choose?

I have never formed a book club, nor have I ever participated in a formal one, unless you count my college senior seminar in English Literature, all those many years ago. Nope: I don’t count it either.

So I have done some research on the issue, and have found that there is almost no end to the websites offering advice on how to start a book club. There are plenty of clubs already out there; professional, or at least established ones, run by on-line groups or local libraries. There are even a few sites that offer professional book club hosts: you know, people to get the conversation started, moving, and on course.

I quickly decided that none of those options were for me. Even if I had the money to spend on a professional book club host, I wouldn’t. And in groups with strict guidelines or rules regarding behavior or discussion points, let’s admit it: I’ll be the first to screw up and get kicked out. This girl just wants to have fun with it.

Therefore, I came up with a few loose guidelines for our little group (I use female references only because no men are in our group – adjust as you see fit):

Members: The first thing that the original few of us did was compile a list of women that we thought would make a great group that we would want to hang out with. Women who like to read and are capable of stringing together a coherent sentence, obviously, but also women who are positive, upbeat, friendly, fun, and ‘normal’. No downers or negative Nellies – no chronic complainers because, let’s be honest, who would want to come back after the first meeting? Life is too short.

Hosting: Take turns, unless someone absolutely wants to play hostess every time and no one else cares. For some, it’s an excuse to run the vacuum once a month. For others, it is an excuse not to.

Picking the book: I am told that the book should be the choice of the hostess (and I tend to agree), who may wish to keep the purchase price (or library availability) in mind. It also shouldn’t be too long – give these busy working mothers or full-time mothers something they actually have a shot at finishing. The hostess also probably shouldn’t pick a title with a higher than R rating. That is, unless you have decided beforehand that you are that sort of group, which we did not. There won’t be anything like the Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy
for our group. (Plus, we, I mean my friends have all already read it.)

Rules: Geez, well I guess there have to be some. Respect the hostess, her book choice, and her home. Bring the food or beverage as requested, out of respect for others, and host when it is your time. Common sense anyone?

Food and Beverage: Some clubs pick a theme based around the book being read. I think that’s a nice enough idea, depending on the book. (In that case, I would need to research books about Napa Valley, or perhaps something German because I do love a good Riesling.) Seriously though, lots of good food and wine can make any guest forgiving of your book choice.

Frequency: No more than once a month, but no less than once every two months. Seriously? The women in my group are almost all mothers. We will need a chance to finish the book, and to pay our husbands or partners back for a lovely ladies night out, but not so much time that we forget each others’ faces.

One idea that I did note as borrow-worthy is this: when sending out her invitation and book choice, the hostess also includes a link to a book-seller where the choice can be bought. No worrying about where to get a copy of the book.

There you go: my rules. That being said, a friend is letting me tag along with her to a book club meeting next month. I’ll see how her friends run their group, and then give this whole thing a shot.

If any of you have any tips on how to run a fun book club with friends, please let me know.

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This entry was posted by lisa on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at 8:30 am and is filed under Fun in the Woods . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Jenna says:

    For me, I’d need the CHEAP (“frugal” maybe?) book club. Rather than busting a gut to read the very latest hot gotta-talk-about-it-at-the-watercooler title, I’d need to read what the library has on hand. There are many, many wonderful books that don’t make the NYT list. Beyond the Earth and the Sky by Jamie Zeppa was a terrific book, but not well-hyped (is my guess). My other thing with book clubs is I like to talk to people about what other wonderful hidden gems they’ve read–not necessarily spend all the time picking this month’s apart. I don’t know if there are any worthy ideas here but just my dos pesos. Oh, and I don’t particularly like reading from a device; I’m gonna be 55 years old soon and I like actually books.

    • lisa says:

      Very good points. My favorite books (my primary reading, actually) are usually the ones that I borrow from someone who borrowed it from someone who borrowed … Hardly the latest hot stuff.

  2. Sounds like a great idea Lisa . I tried to start my own book club but the only one who showed up was Rocky . And all he wanted to read were books about places like the Catskills and Katmandu and those great classics like The Cat-cher in the Rye and the The Great Catsby . Terrible I know , but I just couldn’t help myself ! Seriously though , hope it works out for you and sounds like fun .

  3. Big Daddy Jeff says:

    Now I’m curious what the first book will be! Please be sure to let us know when it is selected!

  4. Aunt Rachel says:

    Darn, no R books. Will you have to read a book in prep for the party you are crashing next month?

  5. I think if there’s enough wine at this book party , Lisa won’t have to worry about being prepped . What do you think Rachel ?

  6. Sarah says:

    This is such a great post! I think that one of the most important things is knowing what everyone wants out of a book club – some people just want to drink some wine and have a chat, while others might want to be a bit more in depth with their literary criticism. As an English Lit student I really love a good book… it’s just hard to get through them when you hate it!

  7. Faye says:

    I love the whole concept of getting to read a good book and then sit around talking about it. I was an English Lit major too (in undergrad). Loved it! Hopefully everyone else in attendance will have the same level of interest as you do – in either the book, the wine or the food.

  8. hair loss says:

    Everyone loves it when individuals get together and share opinions.
    Great blog, keep it up!

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