How to Lead a Book Club Discussion

Friends discussing books together

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Whether you are an outgoing extrovert or the shy one in the group, you can lead your book club in an engaging discussion by following these few simple steps.

What to Do Before the Meeting

Read the book. This may seem obvious, but it is the most important step, so it is worth stating. It is a good idea to plan on finishing the book a little earlier than you might otherwise so that you have time to think about it and prepare before your book club meets. If you get to pick the book, here are some recommendations for engaging books that are likely to promote discussion.

Write down important page numbers (or bookmark in your e-reader). If there are parts of the book that made an impact on you or that you think may come up in the discussion, write down the page numbers so that you can access the passages easily while preparing and leading your book club discussion.

Come up with eight to ten questions about the book. There are some general book club discussion questions that should work on most books, especially popular selections and bestsellers. Print them out and you are ready to host. You can also come up with your own questions using the tips below as a guide.

What to Do During the Meeting

Let others answer first. When you are asking questions, you want to facilitate discussion, not come off as a teacher. By letting others in the book club answer first, you will promote conversation and help everyone feel like their opinions matter.

It's important to note that sometimes people may need to think before they answer. Part of being a good leader is being comfortable with silence. Don't feel like you have to jump in if no one answers immediately. If needed, clarify, expand or rephrase the question.

Make connections between comments. If someone gives an answer to question 2 that connects well with question 5, don't feel obligated to ask questions 3 and 4 before moving to 5. You are the leader and you can go in whatever order you want. Even if you go in order, try to find a link between an answer and the next question. By connecting people's comments to the questions, you'll help build momentum in the conversation.

Occasionally direct questions toward quiet people. You don't want to put anyone on the spot, but you want everyone to know their opinions are valued. If you have a few talkative people who always jump right in, directing a question to a specific person may help draw out the quieter people (and give the more animated people a hint that it's time to give someone else a turn).

Rein in tangents. Book clubs are popular not only because people like to read, but also because they are great social outlets. A little off topic conversation is fine, but you also want to respect the fact that people have read the book and expect to talk about it. As the facilitator, it is your job to recognize tangents and bring the discussion back to the book.

Don't feel obligated to get through all the questions. The best questions sometimes lead to intense conversations. That's a good thing! The questions are there simply as a guide. While you will want to get through at least three or four questions, it will be rare that you finish all ten. Respect people's time by wrapping up the discussion when the meeting time is over rather than pushing on until you finish everything you planned.

Wrap up the discussion. One good way to wrap up a conversation and help people summarize their opinions of the book is to ask each person to rate the book on a scale of one to five.

General Tips

  • When writing your own book club discussion questions, avoid questions that are too general, like "What did you think of the book?" Also, avoid questions that have simple yes or no answers. You want to ask questions that are open-ended and help people talk about themes and how the book relates to deeper issues.
  • Do not make dismissive statements toward other people's comments. Even if you disagree, take the conversation back to the book rather than saying "That's ridiculous," etc. Making people feel embarrassed or defensive is a sure way to shut down the conversation.
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Your Citation
Miller, Erin Collazo. "How to Lead a Book Club Discussion." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Miller, Erin Collazo. (2021, February 16). How to Lead a Book Club Discussion. Retrieved from Miller, Erin Collazo. "How to Lead a Book Club Discussion." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).