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Start a Book Club

START a book club and meet new friends, travel through time and history, see the world through the eyes of narrators, authors, and readers, and engage in lively discussion. Years ago a few refugees from other book clubs and wanna-be book-clubbers decided to form a book club. We didn’t all know each other or how to set up a book club, but our kick off with Big Stone Gap was successful and even included a phone interview with author Adriana Trigiani. After nine years and 90 books, we finally ended that chapter. But years later, I’m ready for another book club and have more ideas how to kick it off.

WHO: Find people who want to read and talk about what they read and have the same commitment level. The group doesn’t have to be an exclusive tight-knit party from one locale. As a matter of fact, that kind of clique isn’t as fun as having a variety of ages from different neighborhoods. The emphasis should be BOOK not CLUB.

WHY: Determine why you’ve all joined. If it’s because you’ve never read a book and you want to start with War and Peace and Moby Dick, that’s admirable, but is it realistic? What’s your goal? Then come up with a group name and sentence that defines what you read. It helps other book “groupees” know if your club is a good fit. Maybe Monday Moms who love Mysteries or Fabulous New Releases under 300 Words. There’s even a book about a book club called The Wednesday Sisters! Consider what your group wants to read: non-fiction, or fiction, genres, content, the length of books, and authors.

WHAT novels: Determine how the book-of-the-month is selected. Here are a few options:

  • Each reader determines one of the reads for the year.

  • Each reader submits Amazon reviews and a vote is taken online (A tech-savvy member might use or at the next meeting.

  • Each reader brings a book to a meeting and the group votes from the selections.

Schedule the books four to six months in advance so readers can order more than one book at a time, get on the library wait list, or read ahead if they have extra time.

WHEN: Keep it simple and consistent and set book club simply as the first Tuesday, or second Monday, or fourth Thursday of the month. Though summer is a great time to read, it might not be a great time to meet. If vacations or December events present challenges, be flexible but change dates well in advance.

WHERE: Take turns hosting. Set dates and locations six months in advance and at the same time as books, facilitators, and snack people are chosen.

HOW: Rotate responsibilities. If each meeting has a host, snack person, and facilitator, you’re assured of at least three readers for discussion!

  • Host: The host merely provides the house and chairs. (He/she had to clean up, move the kids to the basement, and enlist some spousal help ---- the host deserves a break).

  • Facilitator. Each book should have an “expert,” perhaps the person who selected the book and wants to research it more fully. The expert comes with background information on setting, time, historical period, author, and questions or prompts to keep the discussion lively.

  • Snacks: This person brings the treats, which can at times be flavored by a menu in the book. Enjoy popcorn and cotton candy while discussing Water for Elephants. Filipino food during In the Presence of My Enemies (non-fiction book set in the Philippines) And French delicacies mentioned in meals from The Nightingale. ( has suggestions for that!) Food can add fun and culture if it’s kept simple.

Besides these rotating posts, there are ongoing maintenance roles that last as long as a person wants to do them. The secretary keeps all contact information and shoots out a reminder before each meeting. The librarian keeps a record of previously read books on a site easily accessed by book club members trying to select the next reads.

Before THE END of our group, we enjoyed a personal visit from Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks (March), read three unpublished manuscripts by local authors, hosted phone conversations with three authors, covered classics as well as new releases, and a variety of fiction genres. We explored memoirs, mysteries, and how-to books. We even read young adult fiction and included our kids in summer book club meetings.

What twelve books will you read in the next year? Share your reviews for rewarding, “read-eemable” books or any additional tips you’ve learned about book clubs. Looking forward to hearing from you!

(our new puppy Finn was searching through Tom Sawyer to find his name....)

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