How to Start and Maintain a Book Club

Suggestions for starting a group and keeping it strong

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Book clubs don't run themselves! Successful groups select good books, have interesting discussions, and foster community. If you are starting a book club yourself, you may need some ideas for creating a fun group that people will come back to time after time.

Check out this step-by-step article for ideas on how to start a book club and make it an engaging place to be.

Choosing a Genre

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Choosing a book can be hard. There are countless great stories out there to discover, and having members with different tastes can make it even more difficult to decide on a book.  

One way to go is to create a theme for your club. By having more of a focus, you will narrow down the books to choose from by a lot. Will your group focus on biographies, mystery thrillers, sci-fi, graphic novels, literary classics, or another genre?

If you find limited your club to one genre to be too stifling, you could change the genre from month to month, or year to year. That way, your club can still be open to a mix of genres while making choosing books that much easier for you. 

Another method is to choose 3 to 5 books and put it up to a vote. That way, everyone gets a say as to what they will be reading.

Create the Right Atmosphere

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It may be a good idea to decide what kind of book club you want to develop in terms of social level. Meaning, will meetings be a place to socialize on topics other than the book itself? Or will your book club be more focused?

By knowing what to expect, it will attract members who enjoy that atmosphere and come back again. It won't be fun for someone seeking a laid-back conversation to find him or herself in an academically stimulating environment, and vice versa.

Scheduling

Diverse group of friends discussing a book in library.
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It is important to consider how often your book club will meet and for how long. When choosing when to meet, make sure there is enough time for members to read the portion of the book that will be discussed. Depending on whether one chapter, one section, or the whole book will be discussed, book clubs may meet weekly, monthly, or every 6 weeks.

When it comes to finding a time that works for everyone, it is easier to schedule when there are not too many people. Having 6 to 15 people tend to be a good size for book clubs. 

As for how long the meeting should last, one hour is a good place to start. If the conversation exceeds one hour, great! But make sure you cap the meeting at two hours max. After two hours, people will get tired or bored which is not the note you want to end on. 

Preparing for the Meeting

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When preparing for a book club meeting, here are some questions that you should consider: who should bring food? Who will host? Who should bring refreshments? Who will lead the discussion?

By taking these questions into account, you'll be able to keep the stress off any one member. 

How to Lead a Discussion

Happy diverse group of friends discussing a book in library.
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You want to discuss the book, but need help getting the conversation going. Here are some tips for getting the conversation started.

The discussion leader could ask one question at a time to the group. Or, have a handout with up to five questions that everyone will keep in mind throughout the discussion.

Alternatively, the discussion leader could write down a different question on multiple cards and give each member a card. That member will be the first to address the question before opening the discussion up to everyone else.

Make sure that one person is not dominating the conversation. If that happens, phrases like "let's hear from some others" or having a time limit can help. 

Share Your Ideas & Learn From Others

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If you are a member of a book club, share your ideas. You can also read stories from other book clubs. Book clubs are about community, so sharing and receiving ideas and recommendations is a great way to make your group flourish.