How to Create an Amazing Book Club
I’ve been a part of many book clubs of varying success. I've thought a lot about what has made certain book clubs special and others easy to let go. I’ve never been a part of a conventional book club that was successful – the kind where everyone takes turns picking any type of book and everyone reads the same book per month. If anyone else has found success with this approach, you are amazing. Send me an email and tell me how you did it!
Have a Theme
The best book clubs, from my perspective, have some special them or original focus. The first book club that I belonged that was amazing was called “the Happiness Club.” We read one book throughout the course of a year called “the Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. Each month, we focused on creating individual mini-resolutions based on a theme. January was “Energy,” February was “Relationships,” etc. Within those months, we read other books based on our individual resolutions and worked on healthy life habit resolutions as well. Every month we were learning from each other and gaining tips on just living our lives better.
One of my favorite book clubs that I belong to right now is more of a “Book Exchange Club.” We all bring the books we’ve read that month, talk about what we liked or did not like, then we lend them out to other members. While we all end up reading more diverse books that we might not pick up on our own, we’re never forced to read something that we have absolutely no interest in. Plus, who doesn’t want to save money on books?
A book club with a large membership might seem like the key to success, but the more members you have, the less it feels important to read the book and show up. Then again, you don’t want to have so few members that a few absences will force a meeting to be canceled. In my experience 6-8 is a perfect number. Any more than that and it doesn’t feel as intimate and personal. Less than that and you will need 100% perfect attendance.
Use Social Media
Set up a private Facebook page for your book club. This is a great way to build a sense of community among the members, promote the development of friendships among those that do not already know each other well, and it allows discussions to continue in-between your official events. If you find a great book you’re excited to share with the group, you can post it right away. For one book club, we voted for the meeting dates a month ahead of time so that we had the highest attendance possible.
Vary Your Location or Pick a Neutral Venue
A single hostess is bound to be tired after a few months of organizing snacks, etc. While many groups find success hosting in members’ homes, my personal preference is to meet in a coffee shop or bar/pub. Unless you are living alone, it is hard to host a book club discussion when you can hear kids fighting in the other room. Even the presence of a well-meaning spouse can fracture the feeling of intimacy for a group of friends talking about deep subjects. It's also more of an event to go out for a mocha or cocktail. Ideally, pick cheap venues with low ambient noise and vary the location if group members are arriving from different distances.
Consider an Annual Commitment
Unless you are starting a book club with people that have prior experience with such groups, it may feel intimidating for some people to join. One book club I belonged to was an annual commitment. The finality was good because it allowed members to exercise a gracious exit if they were done at the end of the year without feeling like they were offending anyone. It also helped foster a sense of commitment to each other that we would stick with the group until the natural sunset.
Focus on Fun
Don’t force big life issue discussions, especially when a group is new. While these intense moments of connection within the group can be the most rewarding, you’re not going to have those moments for many months. People need time to feel comfortable with each other. Wait a while before you try to tackle the books that will provoke discussions about death, grief, divorce, addiction, or any other topic that you wouldn’t ordinarily bring up with someone at a cocktail party. Be patient – those moments will happen.
Have you had success with creating a book club? Share what made the club special in the comment section. I love getting ideas from others.