How to Start a Book Club

10 Steps and Tips for Getting Your Book Discussion Group Going

Women having champagne at book club
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Have you wanted to join a book club but haven't been able to find one that is just right? Why not start your own? A book club is a great way to meet new friends and read good books. This step-by-step guide will help you start a book club that can last for years.

How to Start a Book Discussion Group

  1. Get together a core group - It is much easier to start a book club with two or three people who already have some connection. Ask around the office, play groups, your church, or civic organizations. Sometimes you might find enough people to start a book club right away. Often you'll at least recruit some help in completing the rest of the steps. 
  1. Set a regular meeting time - An ideal size for a book club is eight to 11 people. As you can imagine, it is often difficult to coordinate that many people's schedules. Go ahead and set a regular meeting time and date for your book club with your core group. For instance, meet the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. By setting the time before advertising the book club, you avoid playing favorites when working around schedules and you are upfront about what commitment is required.
  2. Advertise your book club - The best advertising is often word of mouth. If your core group doesn't know of other people to ask, then advertise in your circles of interest (school, work, church) with fliers or announcements. 
  3. Establish ground rules - Get together with your potential book club members and set the group's ground rules. You might want everyone's input. However, if you have set ideas of what you want, then set the rules with your core group and announce them at this first meeting. The ground rules should include how books are chosen, who hosts, who leads discussions and what kind of commitment is expected.
  1. Meet - Set a schedule for the first few months and start meeting. If the book club is small at first, don't worry about it. Invite people as you go. Some people will be more likely to join an already established book club because they feel less pressure than they would as a founding member.
  2. Keep meeting and inviting people - Even if your book club is an ideal size, from time to time you'll have the chance to invite new people as other members move away or drop out. Hopefully, you'll always have a core group, and together you can reload.

    Example Ground Rules for Book Clubs

    • Hosting Duties: You may decide to rotate hosting duties. The host may select the book, lead the discussion, and provide the meal or select the restaurant or coffee shop where you meet and perhaps provide appetizers and drinks.
    • Food and Drink: Food is not required, but it helps the discussion roll and makes the book club meetings more fun. Some book clubs meet at a different restaurant each month. Sometimes meetings are held in people's homes. (Check out this sample book club schedule for some suggestions).

    How to Choose Books

    Some groups vote on what books they are going to read at the beginning of the year. Others let the host for the month choose. You can also use the bestsellers lists or a national book club such as Oprah's Book Club as a guide.

    No matter how your book club chooses books, you also need to decide if there will be any restrictions on the choices (ie, just fiction, paperbacks, etc.). Try these book club reading recommendations for help finding great reads and ready to go questions.

    You may want to base choices on whether they are available at the library or have a long waiting list, and whether they are available in electronic format or audiobook format.

    Leading the Discussion

    Be prepared with discussion questions. You can search for these online for most bestsellers. Shy about leading? Check out this guide to leading a book club discussion.